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Playing Alone First

June 14, 2013

Dear Reader,

I had an interesting realization recently, somewhat in regards to my buddy’s recent admission.  You may remember that he had secretly leveled a character in a game we were going to play as a group, Path of Exile, keeping it hidden out of fear of being chastised.  Instead, when he admitted it, I was perfectly fine with it; if he enjoyed the game enough to play it through multiple times, that spoke very well of the game.

I was discussing the situation with him the other day, and something he said brought about this realization in me.  I’ve often made a blundering error, it seems, in how I’ve approached games.  I play them with my friends; then, when we’re done, I play them alone.  I almost always lose interest very quickly as the loss of the social aspect makes the game seem lonely and far less fun, regardless of how fun it actually was.  Instead, it would make a lot more sense if I played games alone first, as he did with Path of Exile, then played with my friends; in that scenario, something’s being added to the game rather than subtracted.

I unknowingly was doing this with my re-entrance to Guild Wars 2 recently; I had picked up my Mesmer and was fooling around alone, but then my wife decided to join me.  It had been long enough that I was enjoying the mesmer well enough, but when my wife joined, the game was reinvigorated by playing alongside her.  By playing alone “first” (even though in this case it was after playing til the end with a buddy and then stopping for several months), the game seemed even better.

I wonder how often I’ve accidentally and unfairly pulled the carpet out from under games by playing them with others first, then returning alone and finding them lacking.  I wonder, too, how much better a full game would seem a second time around with a group; I’ve never really had that experience, so I’m going to give it a try next time I get a chance.  For now, I’ll have to keep enjoying myself by playing with others in the games we currently occupy.

What about you, dear reader?  Is this a trend you’ve noticed?  If not, is it something that you, too, may have been unknowingly doing?  Or does the alone-or-with-others aspect not affect your enjoyment of a game?

In other news, I had a surprise visitor stop by from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning.  He’s a friend I knew in NY who was driving to California and called to see if I wanted to have dinner.  I offered to let him crash (which I suspect was his intent, but that’s fine with me, anyway, as I have a guest room for a reason), and he hung out an extra day.  Since my wife’s out of town, I was conversing with my cats too much, and having him around for a full day of games was great.  We played Illuminati, Ascension, Munchkin, Kingdoms, St. Petersburg, Chess, Canasta, and Grass (I think in that order).  He won his fair share, but I did win in Chess, which I failed to do twice the last time I saw him, so that was even better.  It was nicely refreshing to have company and play games that aren’t electronic.

Also, I’m leaving today (will have already left by the time many of you see this) to visit my grandmother in Tampa for her 90th birthday.  As a result, I suspect Monday’s post will at least be delayed if not outright missed.  We’ll  have to see.

Have a great weekend!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and again travelling – or traveling, both are acceptable.  English is a foolish language.)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2013 5:27 am

    I guess it depends what type of game it is and how much social gameplay I expect. Generally I’d say you are right. In the case of D3 I played it once for the story and then I was done with it I hung around a friiend of mine to do a few funny achievments or just to pass the time together but it did not really revive it untill I joined another group which definetely has prolonged the game for me (not that I could play it as a main game for more than say 2 or 3 months).
    Then again I started playing Borderlands 2 with my girlfriend and mainly play it with her but I do not find playing it on my own when I have the time any less enjoyable since I am lookng forward to a new class and build and some specific encounters where I am seeing if my theories about a build pay off.
    It is very similar how I approach alting in general: It is more of a question of seeing how you can adapt to some challenges you have already seen or play your clases strenghts in certain encounters and that is very satisfying. WoW had some quests that I found easy or hard on my Rogue (back in BC) and I always wondered how I’d fair with another class doing them for instance.
    Also I sometimes like in the case of Borderlands 2 (I am terrible with shooters) that not having my girlfriend there helping makes the game more challenging and fun (in a different way).
    So I thnk whether you subtract something or not by playing alone is all a matter of perception. Sometimes you add something new as you subtract something else as in the case of BL2.
    Enjoy the celebration!

  2. June 14, 2013 8:05 am

    I suppose the short answer is – no. In most video games adding people, as a regular group, seems to drain some of the enjoyment as the play-style shifts to what is acceptable to the group as a whole and the web of social obligations starts to regulate time and content decisions. I’m all for getting a group of people together and kicking back with a board game or RPG but the online medium just doesn’t strike me as particularly conducive to social connection.

    • Samus permalink
      June 17, 2013 2:53 am

      I somewhat agree with this, but I think this depends on the game type. For instance, with WoW questing, the game is simply designed to be done solo. You can add another person, but it is already so easy that just makes the problem worse. And most quests are designed in a way to actually take longer (now you need to college 20 rat pelts instead of 10, and the spawn usually isn’t big enough so you have to wait for respawns). I would point to GW2 as a good example of doing this right (as discussed here I believe).

    • June 17, 2013 8:03 am

      WoW below level cap is the definition of a solo MMO, I’ll agree there. I’m mostly thinking of games like the ARPGs or, to a large degree, GW2. In either you really don’t lose anything by adding people, in a game mechanics sense, but you are now bound to group decisions. Some people are very social and find anything done with others is better than being alone. I can fully understand why that personality type would prefer adding people to any type of game. I’m basically a solitary person so this is easy for me, I just group when I feel like it with people I like – but I do everything solo at some time, it’s just more fun that way.

      I do wonder if some social people don’t initially run games or new content in an MMO to remove some of the performance anxiety. If you know what’s coming you aren’t going to do the headless chicken impression when the monster jumps out of the closet.

    • June 17, 2013 8:55 am

      @rimecat: is the last paragraph not a bit contradictory? At least to me who likes playing with other people as much as I can and when it fits my time schedule. I from personal experience find that to social players forming a group is more about trying to keep the group together by being positiv even in the face of adversary and not reaching that “Kick”-button as soon as things go wrong.
      The impression I have social players will always run new content in a group because performance anxiety is not that big a thing. It’s much easier for them to say: “Hey I’m new to ths place can you give me a crash course” because they like playing around people and are as such used to it.

      Sure palying with a group adds things like the “web of social obligations” to the game but the type of players I label as social or have experienced as being social are also those that go out of their way to keep the group intact and making things fun for everybody, because they enjoy the game first and formostly in a group. That also means to have tolerance with other people when they can’t make it to raidnight, instead of say yelling or grouching.

      But maybe we have just totally different definitions of the social player as what you described in the two comments was to me more of an achiever than a socialiser.

    • June 17, 2013 10:47 am

      Note the qualifying “some” in the sentence, roguekish. I know that there are people who like to share the horror movie moment where the monster jumps out and everyone screams together. That is a fairly easy group to identify, basically the opposite of the group I inhabit. I also think that there is a difference between ‘social’ and ‘extroverted’. I know more than enough people who want to be in a group but aren’t all that interested in standing out in the group.

      To clarify the question: Is there a middle ground group who prefer to game socially but only when they are comfortable with the content? Given the proliferation of sites like Icy Veins I’m not sure it’s much of a question but I am still curious what people think as these discussion seems to be dominated by people on the poles. For me, assuming that this is a large (perhaps majority) group explains much of WoW’s design.

    • June 17, 2013 11:22 am

      I think you are somewhat right although I’d like to throw in that you don’t neccessarily have to be “extrovert” and want to stand out in the group in order to be what I described. But I digress and that’s another question.
      Anyway to answer yours I do think you are right there is that middle ground but I do not thinkn it s solely responsible for sites like Icy Veins. It is merely the product of people sharing information with eachother in order to make challenges easier (or in the case of WoW were progress is kind of a race, to make progress quicker), or become better at the game it’s human nature and internet just expands the sharing capability exponentially.
      If you think about it we share all sorts of knowledge and skills since day 1. It’s learning made more efficent.
      That said it clearly plays into the hands of that middle group, yet I do think that the phenomenon of walthroughs and guides is something that does not arrise from that group just the group gets more attention due to them.
      I also don’t think it neccessarily has to be that only the middle group benefits of said sites. Sometimes you have to see the whole thng e.g. a bossfight to appreciate it or to find other challenges in it. For instance I frequently read the end before the beginning of a story or skip to the twists and then backtrack because that makes me think about the whole story on the metalevel and I can appreciate it more. And I do think that, to take this back to a raid encounter, on a very small level walkthroughs work the same way.

      Anyway thanks for your thoughts and sorry I totally missed the “qualifying ‘some’ in the sentence”!

  3. kaleedity permalink*
    June 14, 2013 9:02 am

    I enjoy learning a game on my own and then carrying people that are trying to learn how to play a game.

    This might make me a jerk.

    • June 14, 2013 1:25 pm

      You can’t help but carry people, methinks…
      Also what’s up with the baby.

    • kaleedity permalink*
      June 14, 2013 3:09 pm

      Things seem good. Expecting August.

  4. June 14, 2013 12:30 pm

    Very much my experience. For example with SWTOR the first time, I played with a friend and loved it. Then solo’ed to cap (from about level 26) and it lost its shine. Same with Rift as well and several other games. It’s much better to maybe test the waters in a game solo and then get friends on board than the other way around as you say.

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