18 Sep 2011

Smile Week: Gold-Plated Memories

It’s been a week since I started talking about the things I find great about MMOs. In that time I’ve looked at a whole bunch of stuff from how the games are built to how they’re supported. In the final post for the week, I wanted to talk a bit about one of the things that always stays with us from our time gaming: memories.

Over the time I’ve been playing Warcraft I’ve collected a whole bucketload of memories. There’s the time I ended up discussing jam-based artillery or the occasion I went on a bike ride through the jungle while being chased by dinosaurs. There’s even the tale of how my Warcraft journey began and where it led to.

My best MMO experiences have been defined by the people I’ve played with and the things we’ve got up to. Phil Carlisle, Namaste CTO dropped me an email on this theme at the beginning of the week that I’ve been itching to share with you. Here’s what he said:

I used to play EQ1 back when it was the “next big thing” and was going around the offices of Team17 alongside games like quake, action quake, halflife, carmageddon etc. Anyway, I didnt really do it hardcore like some people, I was doing it more socially. One day myself and my teammate Colin Surridge, who I’d been working with for a few years were playing and he was like level 30 and I was maybe 10-13 or so. We meet up in Freeport? the newbie area. Him as a halfling druid I believe and me as a human enchanter.

So I’m sitting there doing my usual thing of changing myself into a coin bag and watching all the newbs try and pick me up. I get bored of that, so I go and stand near the exit. Colin comes up to me and we start chatting (I think he was working in a different office at the time). We stand there chatting and decide that we will start buffing people as they walk out to the newb area to start off killing bats/rats etc. He casts spirit of wolf (extra speed) and I cast a bunch of buffs (enchanters were mainly buff class if I recall). Anyway, we do this for maybe an hour or so. Just happily stood near this gateway randomly casting buffs on people coming and going.

It was just a really nice evening. Occasionally people would ask why, or thank us, or just generally be cool. But it was that social thing of kind of being together in a laid-back social setting, doing something mildly interesting with our hands while chatting, something that was a really positive vibe.

I guess you have to be in the mood for these things. But I think those random acts of kindness in MMO’s are really telling. Because so much of the rest of the game is about non social activities, or about mechanistic grinding.

I dont really know how you push people towards doing more of that kind of thing. Societally it doesn’t really happen, maybe we’ve forgotten what it means to be kind to people without reward? Actually, no, thats not true, plenty of people are like that, but its definitely not the norm now.

Also picking up the Smile Week flag was Stubborn of Sheep The Diamond, who wrote about three areas: what he’s learned from Warcraft, how it amazes us and how it keeps us playing.

The in-game experience of who we play alongside is one aspect of MMOs. The other side is the community that’s sprung up around these games, either fans of the games or fans of the genre. Since I started blogging about Warcraft and onwards to MMOs, I’ve constantly been amazed by the enthusiasm and kindness of the players outside of the game.

The community that got me started was BlogAzeroth, a forum where I learned a lot about blogging as well as getting regular ideas for new topics and items to discuss, and to whom I owe a great deal of thanks. I a similar vein I’m also a fan of the Twisted Nether Blogcast and their keen desire to help Warcraft bloggers. My only lament is that there isn’t a similar resource for MMO bloggers in general, although there is the very good MMO Melting Pot.

On the subject of podcasts, there’s also All Things Azeroth. Medros’ show was what inspired me to launch my own podcast. Through that I met Pewter, a fantastic person in the gaming community and a brilliant friend who’s put up with me despite my egocentricity, eccentricity and general moments of madness.

Any discussion of the MMO community wouldn’t be complete without a huge thanks to the legion of MMO players, developers, journalists and fans of the genre I’ve interacted with on Twitter. You’ve made being part of the MMO scene an incredibly positive experience, with your support, help and guidance being invaluable.

You all are a fantastic bunch of people and it’s my sincere hope that whatever games we go on to play, whatever worlds we find ourselves on, that we’ll meet up from time to time. Until then I invite you to pull out that old film projector inside your mind’s eye, dust off some memories and watch them play back behind the eyelids.

And smile.

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