There’s A Big World In Here

Blizzard's eagerly anticipated, and much delayed, StarCraft II

I have, like most of you, been playing video games all my life. I love them; the same escape that you can find in a book or a movie but so much more immersive, the teaming up with your friends to overcome challenges in co-op or putting your game face on and taking your friends out. The main draw to gaming for me has always been community because, let’s face it, playing video games can be a pretty lonely passion. The ability to battle it out online with your friends or work with them is fantastic and that’s the main reason I’m always drawn the Massively Multiplayer Online game or MMO, because you know we love our acronyms.

As you know, there are quite a few types of gamer: the casual gamer who is happy playing some Wii sports to pass the time or the odd flash game on a website, or the hardcore gamer that would happily spend the rest of their lives pwning n00bs in Counter Strike or MW2. There is even the achievement hunter now who will sink shamelessly to the very depths of the gaming toilet to find their latest score of points.

I’m part of another group; a group I would describe as the Social Gamer or maybe the MMO gamer. Social gamer sounds catchier though, so we will go with that. The type of gamer who is happiest in their little virtual world killing three hundred bears and only getting four bear pelts to give to some guy who is going to make a new hat, and the type who loves nothing more than roaming game worlds with friends or clans or guilds hunting for the most elusive treasure. We are the gamers who, if computers had never been invented, would probably still be playing D&D with a pen and paper. Sure, social gamers may not be the coolest, but they are the most passionate about the games that they play. You will find not find a more dedicated community than the one based around an MMO. If your first thought when buying a new game is “who else is buying this?” then you’re probably a social gamer too.

Of course there are pros and cons to becoming a social gamer. A major advantage when playing this type of game is the updated content that is usually provided regularly to keep the player base happy and entertained. This is something that a lot of console game developers currently do in order to make sure you keep playing Mass Effect 2 or Bad Company 2 with the release of DLC, and this additional content keeps the player from drifting to any other game. A drawback to this is having to pay a monthly subscription to most MMOs. This fee usually covers server cost, the cost of building new content and any updates or fixes that might be needed but many people are still put off for this and rightly so in some cases, after all, why should you pay for something you’ve already bought? I guess it works the same way as Xbox live. Sure you bought a console for £200 or whatever, but now you want additional content and the ability to play with your friends which is extra. With an MMO you’re buying a fantastic game with the promise that, if you subscribe, the game will continue to improve and evolve. They are constantly evolving and being improved (and sometimes broken) right up to, and after, they are released to the public, with the developers often using feedback from the community to develop ideas for new features and game content. This, I feel, is also unique to the MMO genre, with content in the game often being suggested by the people who play the game. You don’t often see that in console games.

There are some MMOs out there that have huge player bases. I can’t write an article about the genre without mentioning World of Warcraft, or WoW,a game so successful that it would probably take World War 3 to take it down. Personally I’m not a player, or a big fan, but I respect the game and its success as it has brought millions of gamers into the genre and that is only a good thing. Those millions drive the industry to produce bigger and better massively multiplayer games in an attempt to draw them away form World of Warcraft. Millions of pounds put into games in the hopes that they will become the WoW killer, something that helps create unique and fun games, but never really puts a dent in World of Warcraft.

There are also some risks involved in being a social gamer, especially when you’re dealing with MMORPGs. Let’s face it, games can be pretty immersive, so when you’re battling the Locust as Marcus Fenix or taking down the Covenant as Master Chief, you are pretty involved in that story and that world. Now imagine you have made the character yourself, it probably looks like you, and you have spent two hundred hours in a game building the character up… some people can get pretty hooked. They are the kind of people who maybe should be locked up and not allowed to play computer games.

With E3 just finishing recently, we were shown a number of new MMOs that will be out soon. Games like Star Wars The Old Republic, DC Universe Online and LEGO Universe that continue to innovate within the genre. For example The Old Republic becoming the first every fully voiced MMO, an unheard of move in gaming; hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue the player used to have to read through now played out as interactive cinematic. DC Universe Online’s control scheme and customisation options may prove to be the most deep and immersive ever seen in a video game, while LEGO Online is looking to improve the way the player views content in games, allowing the player to build their own LEGO items and buildings.

That’s why I love MMOs and social gaming; they are little worlds to escape into and, with the advances in the genre, those worlds are getting so much bigger and better. I’m off to find my Staff of Pwning +1…

Last five articles by Mark



  1. Edward Edward says:

    Great first article :D

    I have to admit, if multiplayer is a big factor towards the game, then I tend to engage the social gamer mode if I want to justify the purchase. However, that’s becoming less and less of a factor for me as I regress back into single player mode. Still, as long as games give you a good balance of single player and mutliplayer (including mass multiplayer and co-op), then its hard to fault them :)

  2. Kat says:

    I’m a social gamer, just not one that dabbles in MMOs. I’d be one of those people who become addicted and abandon real life. To an outsider it seems like it’s a struggle to find a group of people to play with and get to know, n00bs may be wary of trying to join guilds etc whereas the console gamers can simply join a lobby (admittedly 90% full of morons).

    Basically, what I’m saying is I’m interested in MMOs but I’d need a virtual hand-holder to guide me through and maybe pop round every so often to check I’m washing and eating :D

  3. Ste says:

    I play City of Heroes for a number of years and was lucky enough to fall in with the official nr.1 Supergroup (guild) in Europe. By official I mean it was top of the European leaderboards in terms of Prestige earned etc. They were an amazing bunch of people and it was those guys that kept me in the game for so long even when the game itself started to become stale.

    I still talk to most of these guys and girls, and I still frequent their forums from time to time, however I no longer play City of Heroes. I quit to concentrate on my final year at uni but now that I’ve passed I’ve not had the urge to re-sub my account.

    Nowadays I’m a massive single player fan, with the odd co-op game thrown in there for good measure. I’m all about story and gameplay at the moment rather than any particular social element.

    Nice first article, however it needed more bewbs!

    @Kat, stop being a pussy (no pun intended) and take the plunge into an MMO. You might be pleasantly surprised. Most MMO communities tend to be pretty n00b friendly especially the lesser known or less popular games. As for washing and eating, its ok to not wash until flies start landing on you and everybody knows that eating is cheating!

  4. Ben Ben says:

    I’m a strange one really, I love MMO’s and the social aspect behind it plays a big part in that, however social gaming over Xbox Live is something I rarely do, bit baffling really.

    @Kat Join my realm on WoW, I’ll take you for a ride on my mammoth :D I know plenty of good Mages that can conjure up some food or water, I’m a top of the line chef, expert fisherman and a master of making gems and jewellery.

    Oh god, it’s happening again :O

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’ve never really fancied getting involved with your typical MMOs such as WoW but I have to admit that, during various “staring sessions” in GAME (you know the ones… you spend an hour looking at the same rows of games over and over again begging for one to go “buy meeee, I’m great!!” and invariably leave empty handed) I have picked up City of Heroes maybe a half dozen times and almost bought it. It was never the subscription that put me off, as I can’t imagine how much it costs to support all those servers, but more the “online” and “community” aspect of it.

    I’m happy to play my XBox games in single player mode and then, from time to time, dip my toes into the murky waters of multiplayer IF the game is good enough to warrant it… but a game that exists solely as multiplayer where your life is swallowed if you take it seriously enough? I can’t justify it, especially considering the few hours I have every week to actually relax. If I had a Tamagotchi, I’d be arrested for neglect.

  6. Ste says:

    @MarkuzR – What was it about the community that put you off? Was it because its relatively small? I must admit that numbers have dwindled over the years, some people left when Champions online came about (most of them came back too) and I’m sure alot of people will defect to Marvel Online when that comes out. As with most lesser known games the community is there if your willing to have a little look for it.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    @Ste – it was simply the fact that it was an online multiplayer game… I’m a solo player through and through! The ratio of single player hours to multiplayer hours in my gaming history is likely around 1000:1 and that “1″ is only because everyone ended up playing Burnout Paradise and I saw that you could play as KITT otherwise I’d likely never have ventured in to multiplayer at all.

    I say that… but I did play LAN on C&C several times before, although I don’t really count that for some twisted reason. Even then, you’re talking maybe nine hours a year! I have signed up for the Fallout MMO but not sure if I’ll play it past the beta. If a subscription is in order, which I suspect will be the case, then I’ll have to pass on it as I can’t afford anything like that anymore.

  8. Mark Mark S says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I agree with Ste, many MMO communities are very welcoming to new players. Obviously you get the odd person who will use the anonymity of the internet to be an asshat. Still generally my experience has been a good one when going into new games.

    The cool thing is that many MMO games run free trials, which is a pretty good way to get into the genre. Personally if i was going to try MMOs i would probably go for one of the older game like WoW or City of Heroes/Villans because they have been updated over the years and both play very well.

    My favorite though, which i dont think i mentioned in the article, Warhammer Online :D

  9. Ste says:

    @MarkuzR – OOOOOO I C. I thought it was because you thought, meh its an old game, nobody plays it.

    @Mark S (too many Marks) Doesnt Warhammer Online now have a permanent free trial now? Dont quote me but I think you can download the client and have access to all content up to a certain level cap, then if you want to continue levelling up you need a sub. Not a bad idea really. I got Warhammer at release but it was massively disappointing for me. I didnt even get through the free month of play time.

  10. Mark Mark S says:

    Yeah thats right Ste, they have a trial that lets you play up to level 10 which is pretty much the first tier of the game.

    I like it, its got the mix of player vs enviroment stuff and player vs player just right. Whatever your doing your leveling up and working your way through the game. If you want to only do PVP then you can and still hit the max level, if you want to avoid it all together then you can do that too. The recent improvements to it have also made it alot more fun to play.

  11. Ben Ben says:

    Lord of the Rings Online just went free to play as well, which makes a nice introduction in the MMO genre, it’s a rather good game too.

    You only have to pay for extra things that bolt onto your account, micro transaction based, but by that time you’d have at least experienced the MMO world and what it has to offer :)

  12. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Hi New Mark. We have too many Marks. We must think of a name for you. Interesting first article, though I’m afraid I’m kind of like Mark. MarkuzR. Too many Marks!

    Ahem. Yeah, I only really do online play these days for rare games, with people I already know and like. The wider internet population scare the hell out of me, because in the past whenever I did venture out to attempt Team Fortress 2 or Unreal Tournament or something, I always seemed to get the server filled with complete arseholes. I’ve been tempted once or twice on Live, but there’s always some squeaky 12 year old with reflexes that cannot be human.

    I’m more of a solitary gamer. Because I’m anti-social.

    The one thing in your article I actually bridled at was the suggestion that social gamers are more passionate about the games they play than other kinds of gamer… I’ve got some games I’ve been playing for nearly 20 years, and if someone tries to be dismissive of their quality, they’ll get their face torn off. I know you were trying to make a point about the obsessive nature of social gamers generally, rather than demean other gamers, but it was still somewhat annoying. I’m all for being proud of the kind of gamer you are, and for being passionate about what you do and standing up and saying so… but not at the expense of making other kinds of gamer seem inferior. Maybe it’s just me reading too much into it.

    Either way, welcome, and look forwards to seeing future articles dude.

  13. Richie blucey says:

    Mrs Blucey is well into her MMOs. For me, I can’t think of a game that has been improved for me by playing it with randoms. Thankfully on the consoles this will be limited to 16 people.

    Given that Blizzard are having to publish the names of the forum users to make them accountable for their rudeness, I guess it’s not just the consoles that online pricks play.

    The concept of an MMO is good but in reality they are chatrooms where you grind levels. You could make an Aliens MMO and I still wouldn’t bite.

  14. Iain says:

    Personally, the idea of paying X amount a month to play a game puts me off a little. With live, the option of just playing single player and not shelling out for live is still available, or if you’re a PS3 owner you can play 64 player battles on games like Resistance 2 for no extra cost.
    The fact that most good MMO’s don’t really have a free trial as such also goes a long way to putting me off as well. Sure ABP offered 50 free hours, but you still have to buy the game to get them. I do occasionally contemplate getting a free WoW trial, but I don’t have much spare time as it is. WoW would probably steal my time, soul and wallet. The idea of MMO’s is fantastic and I have played through a couple and enjoyed them (City of Heroes/Villains mainly) and I get that monthly fees are essential for server upkeep, new content etc. but it’s still more money than I’d be willing to pay out

  15. Mark Mark S says:

    Yeah that is a main draw back about MMOs, the subs you have to pay to get into them. I guess im so used to paying them now and seeing the great additional content thats put in to the game as a result of me paying. For people new to the genre im sure it can be a pretty big barrier, although most games when you buy them will let you play the first month free.

    The free trial thing though is like buying a game without playing a demo and im sure there are plenty of games we have all bought based on just reviews and word of mouth. You will find the more established a game is the more ready the developers are to dish out free trials. Still many games do give free trials these days because you need to draw players in any way you can and giving them 7 days play time on the off chance they get hooked makes sense. The games without the free trials, are probably going to be rubbish and thats why they dont want you taking a peak without buying. Same with games that dont send out demos actually :D

    Oh and Preach, sorry mate, i didnt mean to belittle other groups of gamer. I was just making the point that social gamers are very passionate about the games they are supporting and playing. Ive seen players put large amounts of money into games companies to keep them running the servers, and even build their own versions of games that have shut down.

    Thats not to say solo players are not passionate. Face ripping is pretty passionate i guess :P You will need to PM me with the name of the game your talking about so i NEVER say anything about it for fear of face rippage.

  16. Samuel The Preacher says:

    No need to apologise at all Zero, I was being overly sensitive. A friend pointed out that I’d said something similarly generalised not that long ago myself, and I felt a bit of a muppet.

    There’s more than one face-ripping game out there, heh, but the main ones are the first X-COM game, Anno, and Fallout 3. Those are sacred.

  17. Lorna Lorna says:

    Really enjoyed this :) As someone who doesn’t play MMOs, it is always interesting to read more about them, we don’t get many articles on this aspect of gaming really, so nice one :)

    I have never really fancied venturing into the MMO waters, mainly because I am more of an anti-social gamer…the sort that you find errupting into rants when they discover that a game they have just bought actually has the audacity to come with multiplayer achievements. I suppose I enjoy the single player experience and part of it is perhaps balanced by the phobia of online arseholes, jocks, or meat heads. However, there are many times, such as on our limited ed boxset thread on the forum, that I look at the gorgeous editions of some MMOs and wish I played them.

    Long ago, I used to pour over magazine ads and all the bumph that I sent away for about some ‘play by mail’ type games. Basically you chose your chracter and then explored the start location. You had a number of assigned moves every turn and then sent them back to the company who would then send you more of the map back and what happened on those moves etc. Could never afford to play as a kid though, I just read over the character and concept stuff endlessly :) I wonder if they’re still around or have evolved into something like MMOs now?

  18. Adam Adam says:

    Welcome Zero :D Hey, only a month and a half late! That’s pretty good for me :D

    Nice to meet another Social Gamer :D I’m exactly the same with MMO’s, I can only play them with friends. If there’s a MMO coming out that I want to play but none of my buddies are in for it too, then I honestly stay away untill I can talk them into it at a later date. I started out in SWG and just didn’t get the game at all untill a friend literally took me by the E-hand and gave me the grand tour, explained everything in every detail to me and told me where I was going wrong. Once I’d got around to that and they were less embarrassed by me, they introduced me to their game buddies and thats where the family started!

    Even if you’re not playing directly with them, its nice to have them in the party, or in the chat box. It makes all the difference. The Guild I first ran with in Warcraft hated how exclusive guilds could be for having to be 60 and Tier 1 so we made it out mission to be the most inclusive guild out there. Every Friday we’d get together, all races, class and level and find something we could all do together. We’d go and bosh a world boss on the head together, even though we’d get roasted in an instant and we’d laugh our asses off just because we could do it together. We’d be able to show players stuff they wouldn’t see for another 30 levels and even then it’s content they may well of missed. We were very proud of the suicidal nature of our Friday events, so much so that we dubbed it Death Friday and it became infamous on the server with players eventually moving on into our guilds to advance their character but still asking to tag along on a DF!

    It’s a beautfiul thing in MMO’s and bless you for bringing it up :D

    Great first read Z

  19. Mark Mark S says:

    Has it really been a month? Crap i better write something send something else to the boss man.

    I joined my guild The Black Market, 6 years ago now and some of those guys have become my very best friends even though (some) live on the other side of the planet. People i talk to every day. Thats the great thing about MMOs.

    Oh and yeah SWG was the best MMO, the freedom of second life with the quality of a subscription MMO, based around star wars. Until certain folk broke it :)

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