Crises, Trust and Bonding
Every MMORPG player can recall a high-adrenaline battle or surviving a fight with a handful of HP left. If an MMORPG can guarantee anything, it can guarantee that youíll be faced with many sudden high-stress situations where the group or your hunting partner needs to make very decisive actions. Maybe the cleric is low on mana when the room suddenly respawns, or you fall off a bridge in a dungeon and end up in the corner of a room full of purple-cons. These kinds of situations force the group to work together or perish. They force players to depend on each other, to trust each other and to work together as a team. These experiences are often very salient trust-building exercises for all the players involved.
Because most MMORPG players spend a significant portion of their free time playing the game, they become very emotionally invested to their characters and what happens to them. Most players are very serious as to what happens to their character, and this heightens the intensity of these high-stress situations. This pairing of emotional investment and frequency of trust-building situations in MMORPGs facilitate the "jump-starting" of solid bonds between players.
To succeed in EQ you need to form relationships with people you can trust. The game does a wonderful job of forcing people in this situation. RL rarely offers this opportunity as technological advances mean we have little reliance on others and individuals are rarely thrown into life-or-death situations. [m, 29]
Moreover, stressful situations in MMORPGs seem to bring out the best and worst of individuals. Most MMORPG players can recall experiences where another player displayed a remarkable degree of honor, altruism, self-sacrifice, betrayal or cowardice. This is not to say that players who act honorably in MMORPGs are honorable in real life, but because most players assume that other players are as emotionally invested as they are, they tend to feel that these honorable or cowardly actions give a glimpse into how this other person might be in the real world. In a sense, all of us would like to put our friends into simulated crises to see whether they would stand by us in a time of need. We would all like to know which of our friends we can count on. Unfortunately, we usually donít find out the answer until that time of need arrives. Friendships in MMORPGs go through this process almost in reverse. Instead of making friends and then slowly finding out whether they can really be trusted, MMORPG players are making friends with people who have demonstrated that they can be trusted because of their actions under spontaneous crises that required difficult decisions.
In EQ, we engage in difficult, sometimes dangerous and often life-threatening struggles. Even though it isn't RL - you learn a lot about the character of the person playing the game. Some are selfish and greedy in EQ and you figure they are similar in RL - others are eager to help and think of others over themselves - and I have found them to be the same in RL. The difference in between these friendships and RL is the ability to watch someone in action before allowing them into your life. Also, the fact that we are all unable to see out real faces prior to becoming friends - we can't prejudge someone on the basis of their looks. [f, 45]
They are able to prove themselves as trustworthy, or intelligent in the game environment Ö which I find to be just as taxing and valid as RL at times. [m, 26]
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