I haven't been playing DDO full time in many a moon. Most of you know this. Maybe some of you didn't. It's more than a choice about playstyle, business model's and reaching the level cap. I made a conscious choice this past year to simplify my social life. If you were a friend who sucked up extraordinary amounts of my time without giving anything back, you were slowly weaned out of my sphere. If you tagged me repeatedly on facebook with whiny notes about how you needed a new gun in some myspace or facebook game, I hid your status updates and then deleted you. If you were a whiny brat on a forum, blog, podcast or in my game, I squelched you.
I decided 2010 would become the year I played assassin in my own life. My kill count grows large as I rack up the sneak attacks on unsuspecting window lickers.
My new diet resulted in some unexpected casualties.
One of the greatest and dismal parts of an MMORPG remains the community. You can choose to participate as little or as much as you want.
Historically speaking, forums are the dredges of a community. Vocal proponents of one persuasion or another can wile away their hours trolling threads. Typically they pounce with claws extended into the fleshy meat of a good discussion to throw in their two cents. Often this results in derailing of the original topic, hurt feelings, and perhaps a locking down of an otherwise innocuous chat about builds, weapons, spells or how much a developer has ruined their good time with a new patch.
In years past, I spent part of most days reading, learning and laughing at the DDO forums. I enjoyed the byplay with people, keeping up with the news, and I will admit to making a bowl of popcorn to watch threads implode. I started finding myself getting overly upset with the negativity on the forums. With my new found rogue super power, I took dead aim and lopped the head off the beast. At first I found myself twitching for my fill of vitreous word play, but after a few weeks I recovered from the shakes.
Game wise, things had come to an impasse. I didn't enjoy playing anymore. It took me a while to identify what had pulled me out of my delicious love of Stormreach.
In other words, DRAMA!
It started slowly. A guild I belonged to had a set of players who seemed to insulate themselves from everyone else. They raided together, rolled new toons together, and seemed to synchronize their watches into a rhythm that left the other 97% of the guild scratching their heads.
Eventually, it lead to most of us spending a good portion of our game time listening to the yelling of a raid leader who reminded us how little we knew abut the game, our builds and how inferior our gear seemed to be. People I had enjoyed a few hours everyday with began to log on less and less. Some left, others simply quietly rerolled toons and placed them in other guilds or servers, and still others found the need to violently vent their ire within the guild itself.
While I never felt entirely left out because, let's face it, I am simply too loud to ignore, I would turn on my computer and hover over the launch game button. More often than not, I found something else to do. Thankfully in the past year or so a bunch or really fun games hit the shelves.
In the end, I didn't log onto any of my main toons on Argonessen for a year and a half. The world didn't come to an end. I didn't find myself nostalgic for much either. While I missed a couple of my characters, I discovered I could continue their stories in other ways. I'd spent upwards of forty hours a week with a group of people and could only find a soft spot for two or three I actually wanted to reconnect with.
I have never been good at accepting bullies. Our guild leader's rabid pack of fans had begun to leave players out of runs they felt they weren't skilled enough for. It irked me. I have a habit of championing the underdog whether they want it or not. One evening suffering from a bout of verbal diarrhea, I ticked off the pack.
I knew in my own gameplay, I had rearranged real life events to make a raid night or make sure a player got flagged for the content. If we were in the middle of a run and I needed to start dinner, I'd end up letting an hour go by and ordering pizza because I didn't want to be the piker who left the group needy.
Yeah, I obviously needed an ego check. In the year and a half since I have been gone, I haven't heard from any of the people from my old guild. No one seemed to wonder where I went. Well ok, maybe they were listening to the podcast or reading the blog, but that's really only my own ego trying to justify my past behavior.
One of my best girlfriends remained in the guild and funneled me information on what everyone was up to. Seemed to be the same story over and over again. After a while, I would nod and make appropriate noises, but I wasn't really paying attention anymore. She put up with the guild for six months after I left before finally getting a belly full herself. Unlike me, she didn't abandon the server, she took her toons out of the guild and joined another.
It created a wave of discontent. She felt her time had been wasted on people who didn't care about her. It took another six months before her new guild imploded and they split off into another.
Which lead me to reexamine my own feelings. Are we that sensitive to community around us? How much of who we are in real life is bundled up in how well we perform in a fantasy world of pixelated avatars? Why in heavens name do we care so much what another player we have never and probably will never meet thinks of how we play a game?
Apparently, we care a whole heck of a lot.
When DDO launched the store, a common group question for any spell caster became "Why are you out of mana when you can buy pots from the store?" In a bad run someone would buy a shrine or rez cake. People were now being judged on whether they paid to play or were running around free to play. Who you were in game seemed to be tied to your wallet. Just another way to segregate people into "haves" and "have nots." Really, all it equals is more drama.
It's not just happening in MMORPG's. I heard from an acquaintance not long ago her husband had spent $250.00 on a facebook game. Firstly, I was pretty much unaware you could spend real life money on a facebook game, but ok you can. Secondly, they now sell cards for aforementioned game in target, gamestop, bestbuy and some convenience stores allowing you to be reminded you haven't harassed your entire friends list with repeated spams about farmville in at least 2 hours. You now can have that extra special plot of land you've been coveting.
I'm shocked and pretty much unable to justify spending actual real dollars on a piece of gear, potions or a top hat. Maybe free to play bothers me more than just the underlying reasons I've mapped out in past posts. Maybe I don't like being judged on how much money I am willing to spend. I pay my subscription and work hard towards goals. I snipe people on the auction house buying low and selling high to make in-game cash. I learn the quests, the story, equipment and builds.
And I left it all behind because some jerks took away my feel good.
I am obviously really needed the time off. I feel like shallow hal discovering it's not what you look like, but who you are that matters. In leaving, I hit myself below the belt, and didn't even realize I'd completely underestimated myself.
First off, I encourage everyone to go on a rogue assassin campaign of your own. Can you really know the 1000 people you have friended on facebook? Are the forums of your game of choice adding to your life or taking you for a ride? How emotionally tied are you to who you are on the interwebz? Does it really matter if you have the newest and greatest item in your game of choice? Are you less of a person if you walk away from a quest because your spouse wants to watch some sappy show on tv?
Is the drama it all creates really worth it?
I am back on Argonessen. Slowly, I have added a couple of toons to a new guild. It'll have drama. They all do. Loyalties will be tested and there will some sort of popularity contest at some point.
And I'm gonna ignore it all. I want to play a game and wile away a few hours. If I don't like you, I will probably not say a thing. If you pick on someone, I am gonna find a way to drop your soul stone off into deep lava. If you create drama, I am gonna squelch you.
In the great social experiment of 2010, I've figured out gaming really is fun. I have less friends than I thought, but I can count on the ones I have. I am not near as angsty as I used to be. Life is too short. You just need to enjoy your life. As an added bonus, I actually like soloing. Plus, I am kinda good at it. Who knew?
So in short, leave the Drama Llama to look for greener alfalfa sprouts in someone elses barn. You're worth it.
DDOcast 2.0 launched with Annefried at the helm. I joined them for their first show, along with thebrute, and had a blast discussing everything from crunchy builds to my favorite fashion item. Give a listen and support them in their new venture.
I am still obsessed with Fable 3. I think I am giving myself some form of game controller carpal tunnel. I may need an intervention.