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Nerducation: Online Gamers Pt. 3

In this analogy, my guild and I are the Lords of the Dance.

For the last two days, I have led you on a journey to understanding why your gamer does not seem to want to divert his attention from the games of their fancy. Perhaps less “led” and more “dragged”, and maybe less “journey” and more “ridiculous, wordy torture” but you are at the very least more informed, yes? No? Well, here is part three, wherein I outline what makes Massively Multiplayer Games such an attention-hog. Last one, I promise.

If you missed the first two, somehow, you can re-live the magic here and here.

A Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) is different from a Multiplayer game largely as a result of scale. A massively multiplayer skips all of the queues and matchmaking to drop up to thousands of players into a single, continuous environment, leaving them to fend for themselves if they want to establish groups to play with or meet new people.

To demonstrate in layman's terms, imagine that you are dropped into the middle of an enormous convention center, where thousands of other people of similar interests reside with you. Without an overall sense of organization, people mill about, doing what they feel is important to them at the moment, and there is no single direction in which to travel. Regardless of your presence, this world continues with or without you.

Because of the scale of these worlds, developing groups with similar goals and intents can be extremely difficult at times. Imagine for a moment that as you peruse the offerings of the convention that you are struck with an overwhelming urge to dance. Now, you can dance if you want to. You can leave your friends behind, because your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance then they're not friends of mine. But the convention center has set up designated dancing zones that require at least five people. If you do not have five people, then odds are that a brontosaurus will crush you, which is a startling and unhelpful end to any burgeoning troupe. To make matters worse, you require special types of dancers. Sure, three out of the five people can freestyle, but one of them must be able to perform tap, and another should at least grasp the basics of moonwalking. So you stand there, surrounded by thousands of others, screaming at the top of your lungs that you're “Looking for group for the Safety Dance. Need 2 freestylists, tap dancer and Michael Jackson impersonator.”

The critical shortcoming here is that everyone else in the convention center is doing the same thing, but they do not want to do the Safety Dance. They want to do the kind of dancing where they throw themselves at the ground over and over again. It's their prerogative, but it won't get you any closer to achieving your objective.

This is where Guilds come in. Guilds are social groups that are created in the games interface that allows large groups of people with similar interests in-game to stay constantly connected. You recall this in your dance-plight and reach for your cell phone, opening a conference call with your 'guild'. You tell them that you are interested in starting a group for the Safety Dance. Those who are not currently engaged are thrilled. They, too, are trying to start a group for the safety dance! Perhaps you do not have enough people to fill up your five-man group, but it is certainly a start.

Now imagine this same scenario, but to stave off the wandering, stubby appendages of a brontosaurus, you must assemble forty people. Most MMO's can accommodate groups from 5 to 40 players, or more. The size of the group and the difficulty of that assembly process will play a large factor in determining your ability to take your gamers attention back. While Guilds can make the assembly process more expedient, it leads to another problem. All of the people that your gamer play with are frequent associates, just like co-workers, and these groups have the same dynamic functions as a board meeting. If you up and leave in the middle of the meeting, it can have a negative impact with your reputation with that group, as no one (as well as no forty) like to have their time wasted. And unlike Online Games, the matches do not tend to last only 15 minutes or 20 minutes, but can last several hours. Single raids can take multiple evenings to clear.

Fortunately, the gameplay in an MMO is usually much slower, and if you only need a minute or so of your gamers time, it's usually acceptable to ask your gamer to take a brief AFK (which stands for 'away from keyboard') to handle real life matters. If you need a few minutes, some groups are willing to wait for a player, or attempt to push on without them for the duration. If you need much more than that, you may have some difficulty, but if you make your intentions clear with a hand-written post-it-note slapped on the bottom of the monitor, under the screen, to remind your gamer that you require their attention after they finish, they will not soon forget it.

As always, urgent matters should be brought up in an urgent fashion with clear intent. If someone is hurt and requires attention, or if it is negative one-hundred-and-CRAP degrees inside as a result of a catastrophic heater failure, or if a fire is crawling up the shirt of your gamer and he has yet to notice, a bucket of ice-water down the back will usually shock any gamer out of any intense situation. If not, there is a slim chance that your gamer may be in a coma, and the authorities should be contacted immediately.

Keep in mind throughout that most gamers are very decent people, who are not intentionally neglecting anyone, and will likely be willing to help if approached thoughtfully. If they are not unduly antagonized, most will offer to help with a task at their earliest convenience (although you may have to remind them more than once).

The best suggestion I have for non-urgent requests is patience. Just as no one likes to be interrupted in the middle of a good book, good movie, good sport, good meal, or good phone call from a telemarketer in which you have him completely convinced that you are one of the original cast members from “The Munsters”, no one likes to be interrupted from a good PC or console game.

If you have any questions regarding this article or subjects for future Nerducation articles, feel free to leave a comment or to write to me personally.

For more info: Read this article series from the start, or feel free to leave a comment or email the author at the address in his profile.

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