Social Architectures in MMOs
Death Penalties Weed Out "Bad" Players
Some players pointed out that severe death penalties were also effective filters. Since dying slowed down (or reversed) your ability to level up, only players who understood the game mechanics and could play well were able to advance beyond the mid-levels. This created a high-end culture of players who had shared expectations of each other.
I made some of my best online friends through EQ, but then the learning curve of EQ was such that by the time you were of a certain level you were expected to perform a certain way. In WoW, PUGs are dreaded because that learning curve has been removed. It's double edged sword. WoW definitely brought MMO's and gaming into the mainstream, however it feels, in retrospect, to be at the cost of the close knit groups/guilds/friendships we once had. [F, 34]
Games that had a steep learning curve tended to keep players who have generally more patience. The benefits or requirement of grouping in game creates bonds. In World of Warcraft, the content and mechanics were simplified to a point that just about anyone, in fact, even children could take up roles in group tasks for the benefits (loot, xp, etc.) However, I believe this was part of a major problem. The freedom was great to an extent but it also put too many people of varying skill levels together for the frustration of all. [M, 27]
The Blame Game
Not all respondents felt that a severe death penalty led to more positive social interactions. For example, some respondents noted that attributing blame was more important when raid or group wipes were catastrophic. And that the blame game tended to sour the group's experience.
From my experience, I found that the death penalty in the original EverQuest doesn't so much form bonds as break them. Because no one is really willing to accept blame (with the exception of a few high-end guilds), it is shifted to someone other than the victim. [M, 15]
When a group dies it often becomes a blame game. In games with more severe penalties (e.g. AO's XP-loss) the group first spends 5 minutes to decide who's fault it was, that person then complains for 5 minutes and tries to blame another, which turns into another 5 minutes of the group either ganging up on the second blame-victim or telling the first one that he's a noob and should not even be playing... so after 15 minutes all tempers are flaring, many feelings are hurt and the group falls apart. [F, 33]
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