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Individualism and Collectivism in WoW and other MMOs

August 21, 2012

Dear Reader,

After hearing a discussion on the topic of how individualism and collectivism in global societies affects us in a variety of ways, I began to wonder how different MMOs were affected by the same.  WoW, for example, is a highly individualistic game, even in later stages where grouping is required.  Rift, I feel, made a strong attempt to make a more collectivist game, as did Diablo 3.  Each MMO we play falls on a scale with individualism on one end and collectivism on the other.  I thought it would be interesting to have a variety of bloggers respond to that topic, and put out a collective call to do so.  Hopefully starting today you’ll see a few of these posts pop up on a variety of sites, and if your a blogger yourself who I accidentally overlooked in this discussion, feel free to respond, as well.  Towards the weekend, I’ll put out a correspondence collecting all of the posts from around our community for ease of location.

First and foremost, we may need a quick summary of what the hell I’m talking about.  This chart does a good job at summing up the different ways of thinking.

The wikipedia pages have fair summaries, too, if you’d like more information.

I think that most MMOs want to be collectivist spaces but repeatedly miss their mark.  I believe this is getting better in most games, though, as certain individualistic mechanics are being replaced with more collectivist ones.  Clearly, some MMOs revel in being intentionally highly individualistic; EVE, for example, has made its mark specifically because the mechanics center around individualistic interactions.  In fact, I suspect that a lot of Gevlon’s discussions of play to win vs. play for fun boil down to these basic philosophies.  That’s not to excuse “morons or slackers,” as they’re individualistic players, not collectivist ones.  Still, as I’m getting older, I suspect that part of my shift towards more social gaming is additionally a shift in this philosophy, as well.

WoW is a highly individualistic game.  Despite the fact that the highest levels of play require group effort, even within those settings individualism is king.  Players have helped to build that environment.  Add-ons that highlight individual’s contributions, such as Recount, emphasize the individual over the task.  I’m sure many of us have had wipes because someone was dpsing to push their numbers up when they should have interrupted something instead.  Additionally, loot is distributed in a very competitive environment that often emphasizes individual contribution over task completion.

To be clear, none of this is “wrong” or “bad.”  As I pointed out, some games make their niche in designing themselves around those environments.  However, many MMOs pretend the second M, multiplayer, is a driving factor for their game being “fun.”  More and more, we’re seeing MSORPGs come out, games that are played online with other people, but through which you’re never required to participate in any social functions.  Those games are defining themselves as more individualistic games, and some people prefer them, and others do not.

MMOs, though, primarily do not mean to define themselves that way.  We’re seeing progress on many fronts, too, to make games more collectivist.  Loot distribution in D3, for example, was given to the individual for completing a task.  Beyond completion, no more competition was necessary.  I believe Star Wars works the same way, and I believe WoW will, too, in its future raids.  Eliminating that level of individual competition helps maintain the focus on the group and maintain harmony.

Some games are also limiting the production of add-on programs.  Not all of them, unfortunately (TSW), but other more modern MMOs (like Star Wars) are maintaining the focus on the success of the group rather than the individual.  Again, some people prefer this and some don’t.

Mostly Made-Up Scores:

If I were to score games on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is highly individualistic (it’s 1, of course it is), and 5 was highly collectivist, I’d rank the games I’ve played as follows:

WoW:  1

Loot systems, early solo-play training, and competitive add-ons make this game a haven for individualistic tendencies.  I would argue that extreme high end guilds are not highly individualistic, though, as their focus is more on the group than the individual, but they’re a tiny minority of the game.

DDO:  3

Most dungeons require grouping.  Lack of add-ons means the focus is on group success or failure, not individual.  Loot, though, is still competitive.

Star Wars: 2

I would give Star Wars a 3, but its tendency to disproportionately ramp up difficulty if you play with larger groups means the game is built for solo play.  Still, its light/dark side system allows for collective decisions to be made for the cutscenes while individual rewards are given for your personal speech choices.  That’s sort of a wash in my book.  The loot is individualistic in the dungeons (IIRC), but I believe I’d heard its collectivist in the raids.  If that’s correct, it’s another wash.  As a result, it gets a more collectivist score than WoW, but not by much.

Rift: 3

To be honest, I don’t remember how loot is distributed in this game, but I believe it was individualistic/competitive loot.  Grouping is organic and encouraged through world and zone events.  No add-ons, again, emphasizes overall success or failure.

The Secret World: 2

The game gets very hard to solo consistently around halfway through, forcing you to group more often.  The loot is still individualistic, though, and the game will allow add-ons.  The first damage meters already exist, a month after the game was released.  In come the math eaters.

LotRO: 2

Nothing really new here, as it has individualistic loot, some areas that need grouping, but no addons.

D3: 4

D3 gets the most collectivist score because it has no add-ons, heavily emphasizes grouping at harder difficulties, and has individual loot.  I’d give it a 5, but I have hopes for more collectivist MMOs to come around, and besides, it stinks.

Some potential controversies:

Does forced grouping make a game more collectivist?

Honestly, I don’t know.  My feeling is that it does simply by the nature of having to play and work together with others.  Some might argue, though, that being forced together makes people more resentful and individualistic.  I know when I first played DDO that one of its “failings” was that we had 4 but needed 6 to do a lot of the dungeons.  We didn’t want to have to group up.  I’m not sure if that would be true any more.  I’m certainly open to hearing opinions on this topic (as I am with all topics).

Do add-ons make a game more individualistic?

I think so.  Others would argue that knowing where a problem is and fixing or excising it is actually more group oriented.  There’s a strong case there, and it may very well be my Western individualistic upbringing that’s informing that decision.  I don’t know.  My experiences, though, are that add-ons bring more disharmony than harmony.  Once again, in high-end raid guilds, this may be less true, as knowing how to correctly use the data is a major problem in most hostile groups.  More advanced groups can better interpret what they see and deal with it in a more group oriented, harmonious way.

What do you think, dear reader?  Do you agree with my scores?  Disagree?  Why or why not?  What games do you like, and are they individualistic or collectivist?


Stubborn (and scoring about 3 on the scale)

51 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2012 9:07 am

    Very interesting topic. I’m going to have to think through this to provide anything meaningful but two immediate responses:

    1) Rift has add-ons, has had them for quite a while. Check Curse.

    2) I’m not sure that the D3 loot style does not encourage individualistic behavior. I understand your point but the counter is that I am free to do what I want and I will be rewarded. I don’t need to work for the benefit of the party as I will be rewarded anyway – even if I manage to leach a strong group by just hanging toward the back. Corner case, naturally, but that’s where we can engage on the hard points.

    I also think, expanding on point two, that Vanilla WoW could be considered much more collectivist. I ran a healing Priest in those days (in addition to Warlock and Mage) and you were very dependent on groups, even if only pairing-off for zone quests. With classes much more homogenized and multiple specs each character is much more capable of being an independent actor in modern WoW.

    This was even more pronounced in raids and instances where people would have to play a specific class to provide a specific capability to buff. Who remembers Paladins in the old days?

    • August 21, 2012 9:39 am

      Tarnation – I was more worried about how DDO had changed than Rift since I stopped playing, but that’s still news to me. I don’t know if I just played so early their weren’t any add-ons or if Trion actually changed their stance, but I THOUGHT I remembered them saying no add-ons at release. Still, there’s been a lot of MMOs I’ve jumped in to over the years, so I may just be addled.

      I don’t think it encourages it; I thinks some people game the system. Clearly the implication is that the group’s success is what matters. Particular individuals may find themselves in a position in a strong enough group to get away with leeching, but late in the game on higher difficulties, I think it would be hard to have an extra dead weight member in a party. I was playing with 4 solid players all of whom were doing their job and we were struggling during later acts on high difficulties. So, I don’t disagree with your example, but I think we need to look at the game’s intent vs. individual player’s behavior.

      Good lord I remember paladins. Having to organize who buffs what on who every 2 minutes was an enormous pain in the rear.
      It may be that WoW was more collectivist in Vanilla; I missed that phase for the most part, only starting to play right before BC came out. I think the individualistic behavior had begun to solidify by then.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • August 21, 2012 10:23 am

      There was debate a launch but they changed that position fairly quickly. Hard to have a WoW-style raid game without boss mods, cool-down timers, buff/debuff monitors, and the rest. The (good) use of DPS monitors for spec-tuning also helps.

      One other thing for you to consider comes from Rift. When the game launched you were awarded a Gold/Silver/Bronze when closing a rift depending on your contribution. Rather similar to GW2 and the DE system. They changed that when some players (Bards…) realized that they could just stand away from the fight and spam the same buff to gain gold. With a 1 second GCD, compared to 1.5 for everyone else, it was the perfect way to leech on other peoples effort. Basic human nature, I’m afraid, is always going to come through.

    • August 21, 2012 12:06 pm

      All of that had escaped me; Rift was one of only 2 MMOs I didn’t ever get to max level in, and as a result, I’ll admit to a vast gulf of ignorance. It seems perhaps I gave it a higher mark than it deserved, but again, I want to emphasize the intent over the individual players’ behaviors. They fixed that problem, so they’re clearly intending to be more collectivist.

  2. Imakulata permalink
    August 21, 2012 9:51 am

    I’d like to ask a question, what is your opinion on features that support grouping? To clarify it, these features are different to forced grouping and (possibly coincidentally) as the MMORPGs move from forced grouping to enable soloing, they also move to enable grouping, however contradictory it might seem.

    If it’s still not clear, the soloing features would include cheap self-healing abilities (e. g. food in WoW) or presence of high xp/hr areas that do not require grouping; the grouping features would include auto-forming of groups or lack of kill/loot stealing.

    Sorry for digressing a bit; my primary question was about group auto-forming. (Note I’m talking about groups of players working towards a common goal which they will be all rewarded for, not necessarily parties.) While it definitely helps grouping, some players feel that it “cheapens” grouping by making it TOO available. My question is about your opinion – I noticed you marked Rift as more collectivistic because of this feature but do not mention WoW has similar feature (with greater extent – not just for the group quests but for dungeons and easier versions of raids as well) and mark it as the most individualistic game of the bunch. Is it because you consider auto-grouping as a feature that is not relevant to the individualistic/collectivistic scale?

    • Imakulata permalink
      August 21, 2012 10:24 am

      As for addons – or combat log what was probably what you meant – I believe it is neutral towards the scale. The log is a tool which can be used to strengthen the individualistic or collectivistic nature of a group depending on what purpose they’re used for. That might also explain your note about differences in high-end groups as (in my experience) the high-end groups tend towards the collectivistic end of the scale.

    • August 21, 2012 12:08 pm

      There’s more than just combat logs that shift towards collectivist and group, but I’ll admit that’s the primary concern. I’d agree that its neutral, but its use by a majority of the people I’ve come in contact with in my many years makes it more individualistic. For every parser who carefully interprets the data to get useful information that’s disseminated in a helpful and respectful way, I’ve probably met 100 epeeners, elitists, and basic jerks who misuse the data. That’s why I put it more towards individualistic; the way most people use it.

    • Imakulata permalink
      August 21, 2012 4:32 pm

      Thanks for the explanation; I still think that it’s the careful parsers or epeeners who are acting with collectivist or individualistic intent, rather than the tool itself but I believe I understand what you mean.

    • August 21, 2012 12:05 pm

      Not at all; I marked Rift high specifically because of the world auto-grouping. Dungeons require grouping no matter what, so making dungeon groups easier to find certainly helps the players group, but since it’s “forced grouping” anyway, I’d consider it more of a convenience mechanic. That’s not to say it doesn’t help, but the unintended consequences of turning other players into disposable resources has increased individualistic action within LFD, and while we could again say “look at the intent, not the individual player’s outcome, the feature’s been around so long with many complaints about the lack of accountability within, that at this point I think Blizz has had time to “fix” the feature but has not, indicating it’s working as intended. That’s why LFD doesn’t get many marks for increasing collectivistic action.

      If you’re referring to getting credit for hitting quest mobs now in WoW instead of having solo tagging, I’ll admit that slipped my mind and might push Cata up to a 2. However, that’s not been implemented in a majority of the game, so it’s only the expansion that gets higher marks, not the game as a whole. Similarly, MoP may greatly increase its collectivist side, but unless they retroactively implement those features through past expansions, it only shifts 5/90ths of the game.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Imakulata permalink
      August 22, 2012 9:33 am

      I actually thought the group quest mob credit was implemented for all quests but I have to admit I didn’t check it thoroughly.

      As for auto-grouping, our discussion made me wonder about one thing: Are transient/temporary groups collectivistic at all? In other words, maybe it’s not groups that are a collectivistic feature per se but permanent ones. (While I’m not sure about all the criteria you listed, the ones I am sure about seem to confirm this hypothesis.) I still see permanent groups, especially in endgame, as collectivistic without a doubt.

      The problem for collectivistic games is the MMOG audience grows older and as many players move on with their lives, they simply find themselves unable to maintain their group relationships to the extent they used to. This can be solved by MMOGs refocusing on the younger audience (similar to what the early ones did) but I guess it’s harder to gain a foothold in such case.

    • August 22, 2012 1:23 pm

      I like where you’re going with this, and I think you’re right. A lot of what I’m describing is definitely more transient versus permanent, and I can definitely see how individualism and collectivism would related between the two. I think that can help in defining what I think of as “individualistic” features of WoW, too – the LFD, for instance, is clearly just for transient groups. A lot – though not all – of people who abuse recount data for individualistic means are in more transient groups, too. Very nice distinction!

    • Imakulata permalink
      August 22, 2012 9:34 am

      I’d also like to thank you to make me think about the opinions I hold. 😉

    • Imakulata permalink
      August 22, 2012 3:27 pm

      I’m not sure if the last post was intended for me but if it was, you have a wrong person. I don’t have a reddit account and I’m sure I haven’t told anyone I had.

    • August 22, 2012 5:18 pm

      Yeah, I replied to the wrong person – I’ll take care of it. Thanks!

  3. August 21, 2012 1:35 pm

    Just a remark – forced collectivism does not work well (be it in games or in real life). Trust me, I’m from Eastern Europe 😉

    • August 22, 2012 1:28 pm

      Yeah, that’s why I’m very unsure about how even forced grouping translate. I can see good coming from it, but I’ve certainly seen a lot more bad.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. August 22, 2012 3:48 am

    I think the whole individualistic vs Collectivist argument strongly resounds with the whether or not a game is promoting a sense of community I had a post a while ago about how important it can be and how a game could promote it.

    I think these days many games promote a far more individualistic style of play and in mo’s I think that is quite disappointing. Also I would have to argue that diablo at later levels can be highly individualistic as until recently it was rather discourage to group with others while grinding for upgrades due to the magic find being normalised between the group.

    One game I would rate highly though in a sense of collectivism is Tera..pity end game killed that feel

    • August 22, 2012 1:10 pm

      I agree; I think, too, that the community is largely in the hands of the players, so even games that try to make a sense of community can be shifted towards more individualistic play.
      I’ve gotten some other comments that D3 isn’t as collectivist as I’ve painted it, and I’m certainly willing to concede that I may not know what I’m talking about beyond getting to level 60. Since the new patch will be making, essentially, 160 levels, that’s a drop in the overall bucket.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. August 22, 2012 8:30 am

    its tendency to disproportionately ramp up difficulty if you play with larger groups

    I do wish you would stop trying to advertise that one-time bug as some sort of game feature. 😛

    Here is my own contribution.

    And I have to agree with Tobold that EVE would be a heavily collectivist game, considering that it’s all about being part of a corporation.

    Very interesting subject in either case!

    • August 22, 2012 1:13 pm

      Fair enough: I won’t bring it up again. However, I will say it was hardly in only that instance that “enemy reinforcements are arriving” scaled the difficulty up. I can’t comment on how much, as we didn’t go back through them, but surprise elites in pull after pull is stupid design that cheats players from being able to strategically pull, and there were many, many of those during the leveling process. I think that one instance simply made it more starkly clear to use because we had the third person join after we’d began; in the others, we all started together.

      Test it out – seriously. Get a group of 3 during some of your “solo” instances, have 2 go in and do about half, and then have the 3rd come in and see how it changes. If you report back that it’s not like that elsewhere, I’ll believe you; I just found through my experiences that it was.

      Yes, without having played it and having only really read Gev about it, I can certainly concede that I may be getting a HIGHLY biased point of view on the subject.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • August 23, 2012 4:47 am

      Maybe I will test it. 🙂 But from past experience with doing the same mission alone, in a small group or in a large group, I think I only ever saw a single one change in a noticeable way, and that was that it spawned two extra gold mobs in the entirety of the phase. I just can’t say that that ramped up the difficulty significantly, nor that it’s a “tendency”. I also read the official forums a fair amount, and for all the complaining that people do about everything under the sun, I’ve never heard of this particular problem anywhere else.

      Also, just to be clear, I’ve never played EVE myself either – I’ve just found the way people who do talk about it to be very consistent in that everything they say about revolves around their corporation.

    • August 23, 2012 4:02 pm

      Those surprise elites, when you have only 3, as I think that’s the cutoff and that nothing more happens when you have 4, are precisely that I’m complaining about. I don’t like the idea of repeated surprise elites as that prevents good use of strategy. If they’re changing the pulls anyway, why not just let the elites be there to be CC’d. If they don’t want one or both of them CC’d, have them put a buff immunity on them or the like. I also consider adding two gold mobs to every single pull when you’ve got a 3 person group a bit too much of a ramp up, since it’s clear that’s what they decided for 4 person groups, as they don’t add any more with 4 people. 1:1 scaling per person would make a lot more sense, or just increasing the mobs’ difficulties without adding a ton of new mobs that appear out of nowhere. Is my Jedi blind? Why couldn’t I see them hiding behind that pillar, especially when I stealthed over behind the pillar to sap a semi-elite?

    • August 23, 2012 7:55 am

      Shintar – that’s interesting. One of the problems I had with SW:ToR was running in a three person group. We had an easier time completing full group quests than two player quests because the two player pulls consistently spawned one or two golds once the fight started. We all knew how to cc and did so consistently but the extra spawns threw things into chaos. I did notice that this tended to happen in either instanced areas (especially class quests) or caves rather than pulls like the Jedi huts for the daily.

      If they fixed that problem, and add and end game other than ‘roll an alt’, I’ll have to think about trying it again.

  6. kaleedity permalink*
    August 22, 2012 8:52 am

    I was going to bring up Imakulata’s point, but I hope I’m remembered as more of a collectivist when it comes to my recount use in grouping 😛

    I’ve never played it, but I have a good feeling that FFXI would probably score a close 5. Solo play mostly isn’t feasible and you’ve got a basic combat system that relies on skill chains. Your basic rotations involve skills that others players use.

    I think specific activities in these games is kind of a big deal when it comes to this subject, too. WoW has never really been a single game; the solo play, the raiding, the small group play, and the different flavors of PVP all have radically different interactions. There’s hundreds of hours of solo gameplay designed with no player interaction in mind, and then you have a team deathmatch that emphasizes timing your cooldowns and responses together. The damage I did on my 3v3 team is meaningless if one of my team mates goes down first, and every opponent has a huge grab bag of an ability set compared to the autoswing and 3-4 spells of a dungeon boss. That kind of distinction is meaningless in some games, like D3, where there’s really only one game to play.

    Also, specific details can very much impact the scale of individualism vs. collectivism, such as instant, basically anonymous queuing in WoW’s LFD compared to doing dungeons on your own server before that system was implemented. Battlegrounds were made significantly more individualistic when cross-server queuing was enabled even if the game types remained identical. There are huge swathes of players that would prefer to lose a difficult match quickly rather than try to compete, whereas stubborn and even counterproductive resistance was pretty common before the cross-server change, mostly in order to save face against your familiar opponents or to annoy them as much as possible at every given chance.

    In other news, I’m probably jumping on the GW2 bandwagon this weekend, though I don’t know which server yet. That game might be an interesting discussion on this subject with what they’re trying to do with no healer/tank archetypes in a classic mmo setup, but it might end up like the older games in practice. Hard to say at this point.

    • August 22, 2012 1:21 pm

      This coming from the guy who refused to put out soulstones until windflurry totem was put out (:

      For the most part, I agree with you, but once again, when we look at the majority of the player base – who does pug raids, bgs, and arenas, I’d again argue that overall the game is quite individualistic. High end play, like serious 3v3 teams, competitive raiding, and rated bgs I’m sure has more of a team feel, but every time I see the numbers for people in those activities, it goes down. More and more people are playing with and for only themselves.

      I also agree that Blizz has implemented feature after feature to increase convenience at the cost of community. The unintended consequences of those features are almost all highly individualistic.

      As for GW2, Lonnie and I decided to wait on that one for now. We’ll probably play, but since we’re “Grouping” in secret world but have nothing to do when it’s just the 2 of us, we’re shopping around. We’re hoping for Torchlight 2 soon, but it’s not looking good. We might do GW2. I’ll let you know if we do.

      Good to see you!

    • August 22, 2012 5:19 pm

      Also, K, if you’d link tomorrow’s post on Reddit under the post from my Monday’s correspondence, I’d appreciate it. I don’t have – nor do I want – a Reddit account, but some points were brought up there I’d like people to see that I addressed. I suspect you’re the one who linked some of my other stuff, as I remember you telling Bobbi and me you were on Reddit (I think). If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable doing so, let me know, and I’ll figure something else out (i.e. just man up and get an account myself).

    • kaleedity permalink*
      August 23, 2012 10:49 am

      I do have a reddit account, but I focus a lot of attention on the less traveled subreddits (ie. /r/diablo3strategy instead of /r/diablo). Don’t count on me to make announcements in the big cesspool communities or the like; I’d be as apt at making new threads as you are 😛

      It’s really difficult to create a good community on reddit. There’s a thin line between running a 4chan wannabe and running a really insular community in subreddits. It’s a better site for announcements than discussion, generally.

    • August 23, 2012 3:58 pm

      No worries; I was under the impression it was you that had linked me there a few times. If they see it, fine; if they don’t, that’s fine, too.

  7. August 22, 2012 11:04 am

    I find it sad that you only list American games – with the US (if I remember my international psychology well) being the most individualistic country in the world. It would be very interesting to compare the individual and collective values of US vs Japanese and Korean (countries that are becoming more individualistic but are still very collectivist by Western standards) MMOs.

    I don’t think Western games can be very collective because they’re targeted at a Western audience who may idealize the CONCEPT of collectivism, but, in practice, will shun being dependent on others and forced into a pre-determined role.

    I’m also not sure if collectivism can be really translated into any video game, because the kind of escape into the imagination is fundamentally individualistic. The notion of choosing a character and role is also individualistic. In collectivism, you’d be assigned to a task out of luck of the draw, which wouldn’t be very fun.

    • August 22, 2012 1:27 pm

      Well, I certainly don’t want to make you sad! (:
      TO be fair, you’re right that all the games I list are Western, but technically TSW is from Funcom, which I believe is in Norway.
      Regardless, your west/east point stands. I haven’t played a lot of games from Eastern developers; I think Vindictus may be the one exception, and it’s a highly individualistic game up until where I stopped playing. That may change later in the game, but I can’t vouch one way or the other. I think you’re quite right that the market may be self-selecting in America towards more individualistic games in the same way that many game self-select for adolescent males (according to Koster) simply based on their design.

      I’m not sure about your final point, though. There’s certainly cooperative games that have a collectivist focus. Admittedly, they’re mostly board games, and you were talking about video games, but I’m not sure the same concepts couldn’t be translated to the video game world. It’s an interesting thought, either way.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • August 23, 2012 8:43 pm

      @ Ophelie: wonderful dimension you added to this by bringing up the differences between games across cultures. I also hadn’t considered the escapism portion being inherently individualistic.

  8. Samus permalink
    August 22, 2012 5:19 pm

    I don’t think your discussion of what constitutes collectivism vs individualism matches up with your analysis of games. Just because some things require group members does not make them collectivist. I need gas for my car, but that doesn’t mean I regard driving as a team effort. Yes, I might need a tank to do a dungeon, but I only care about my performance and my reward at the end. If he fails to perform his function, booting him for a new tank is no different than changing a flat tire. Some people might not agree with that, but that is their own outside feelings, not the design of the game. The Gevlons of the world run more efficient groups in all of these games.

    Also, your scale seems to weigh the existence of add-ons as by FAR the most important factor. We could argue about whether or not this affects the game, or is simply a symptom of individualistic games. But certainly, I don’t see how you can seem to give it at least double the weight of any other factor.

    These games are all incredibly individualistic. Most of them should be getting a 1, with a few 2s. Giving D3 a 4 is just crazy. Like every other game, the design is such that all you care about is your individual loot. The decision to include others is not collectivist, it is simply because that is the optimal path to your individual goal.

    Guild leveling in WoW is one of the few examples I can think of for actual collectivist goals, it just didn’t pan out. A truly collectivist game would reward guild items in raids, not individual loot.

    • August 22, 2012 11:17 pm

      If everything’s getting a 1 or a 2 on a scale of 5, then the scale’s broken. If it helps you to think of it this way, consider the scores 1.0 to 2.0 on a scale of 5. Me, I’m happy with stretching the middle a bit for lack of a better option.

      I agree that simply requiring group members doesn’t make a collectivist approach. LFD is an example of that. However, when achieving a goal that benefits everyone in a group requires a group, then I’d argue it is collectivist. As Imakulata pointed out, that makes transience vs. permanence important. More on that tomorrow.

      I find your view of other players as no different than car parts to be precisely what ruined LFD. It’s not so much that view, but the behavior that careless and rude people take a result. If you’re a polite and intelligent person, then having that view isn’t too much different than being particularly friendly; you’re still going to behave about the same way to a group of total strangers. However, that view persists among most of the rude and cruel, and LFD made it easier to get away with treating people like flat tires.

      Efficiency, to me, was WoW’s greatest mistake. I think a lot of their newer and newer content gets away from efficiency, allowing the smaller population of efficient raiders compete for end-game achievements while the vast majority of other players just enjoyed themselves. Having been a big fan of efficiency for a long time myself but having developed a distaste for it, I can’t really find anywhere to fit in any more; casual guilds drive me nuts with their inefficiency and hardcore teams drive me nuts with their focus on it.

      Separating “outside feelings” from the internal workings of a game is like claiming that professors can grade essays completely objectively. It simply can’t be done. No one entirely separates their emotions from anything; I’m sure you feel elation upon downing a particularly challenging encounter and frustration when you don’t. Acting like others’ emotions are irrelevant in your decision to behave one way or the other seems out of place in a discussion about a game. Fun, after all, is an emotional frame of mind, and I think we can agree that games should be fun. If you’re saying that you just don’t care, well then, so be it; LFD makes sure you don’t have to.

      So we may agree on some things and not on others. Such is life! (:

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Samus permalink
      August 23, 2012 4:04 pm

      Again, I say Gevlon runs the most successful groups in not just WoW, but all of these games. Any social element is IN SPITE OF the design of these games. You are sitting in a room with all the chairs facing the wall, praising the room for the great conversation you still managed to have.

      Every game on that list is based around the core concept of gaining individual rewards. None of them provide any meaningful collectivist goals.

      It is like going into a gun store and rating the guns on how child friendly they are. The scale isn’t “broken” because they all get the lowest score. They ARE all child-unfriendly. All of these games ARE all incredibly individualistic.

      There are a few games I would consider far more collectivist (but still not 100%), games like Left 4 Dead or Minecraft, where the goals are team oriented and individualist play is less effective. I still wouldn’t give them a 5, but certainly they are levels above D3.

    • August 23, 2012 5:10 pm

      Your miss a logical point, though. Success (from above) and efficiency (from your previous post) are only one way to play a specific part of the games. The very fact that they are MMOs with features that encourage community development disproves the idea that the games are solely designed around individualism.

      That said, I agree that most game mechanics – regardless of their intent – tend towards individualism. I think your chairs in a room metaphor is relatively apt, actually, as it’s the devs that put more than 1 chair in their in the first place. See my point? So I don’t think we’re really in disagreement about that so much as about the broadness or narrowness of game goals. I play for more than just one reason – success – though, so no matter how you argue about why you may play, it’s not going to change my mind, nor will I attempt to say that “success” isn’t the main goal. Of course it is, but it’s still only one goal of many.

      Your gun analogy is flawed. I am unfortunately from the Southeastern United States, and I can tell you from experience that some guns are more child-friendly than others. There are guns for all shapes and sizes, all ages and genders. So the gun thing doesn’t work nearly as well as the chairs thing, but I see the point you’re trying to make. Still, I’ve already addressed it. If you want to think of my scores as decimals between 1 and 2 on a scale of 5, that’s fine. I’m happy with stretching the middle to more greatly differentiate the scores. Statistically; that’s sound; the scale doesn’t need a lot of stuff above or below the highest and lowest scores; more specific data can be derived by narrowing the scope. My wife, the statistician, confirms that. I think you’re more upset about the accuracy within the possibility space of collectivist games, and once again, I don’t think we’re really disagreeing, just expressing our perspective in different ways.

      Incidentally, I’ll refute your argument about “no collectivist goals,” too. Harmony is a goal of collectivism. Any feature designed to increase harmony within a group is a collectivist feature, and games where maintaining harmony within a group is necessary has a collectivist goal. That may not be as obvious as “success,” but when your success is based on being able to maintain harmony, as many hardcore groups that aren’t Gevlon-esque individualistic (which I applauded him for many times on his site for that guild design, I might add) need to maintain harmony by “avoiding drama.” Clearly there’s ways around it, but once again, when we look at numbers, I’d say a majority of guilds don’t do what Gev does. That’s not a judgment on whether they SHOULD or not, just that they don’t. Clearly collectivism, then, has some limited reign there.

      As always, thanks for the comment. I love a good debate, and I did like your chairs/room metaphor. I really think that reveals precisely the problem in many MMOs; they’re trying to put people together but doing many things in their design to separate them. The gun thing, though… well, I was shooting by about age 7 – on a child-friendly gun.

    • Samus permalink
      August 23, 2012 9:38 pm

      I tried to think of something that some people in American wouldn’t still regard as “kid friendly.” We really need to re-examine ourselves.

      Anyway, I think the central issue is, does requiring other players to help reach individualist goals make a game collectivist? I don’t think it does. Even in highly individualistic societies, you go to a mechanic to fix your car, a baker for your bread, etc. That’s not collectivist, that’s just a free market exchange of services. And I think a group in any of these games is the same thing. You need a tank to perform his job, in pursuit of your own goals.

      You might get along with the others in your group, just like you might make friends with your mechanic. Being individualistic doesn’t mean everyone has to hate each other, it just means that our ultimate goals and concerns are for ourselves. Which completely describes all of these games.

      Just look at the chart you linked. Nearly all of these indicators most definitely point to individualist for all of these games, particularly the last one. The task completion is more important than the relationship within the game. You can choose the relationship as more important, but you are choosing the relationship over the game itself. Within the game, you are severely punished for doing so.

      Only the task matters to these games. You would never wipe at the end of an instance, but get the reward anyway because you made some great friends. The game only cares if you down the boss, it cares nothing for any relationships you may have.

    • August 23, 2012 11:26 pm

      Ain’t that the truth. To be frank, I don’t own a gun now that I’m an adult, don’t hunt, and basically have no interest in that area of “defense” or whatever one might label it. My upbringing was what it was, though.

      You echo my own question from the first post: Does forced grouping create collectivism? I admitted there I wasn’t too sure. Again, I don’t think we really disagree as much as we simply have drawn different final conclusions from mostly similar evidence. Nor do I think individualism equates rudeness; I pretty clearly defined my thoughts on that in an earlier comment.

      And once again, I point to your play style. You argue that task completion is more important than relationships. In some guilds, it is. In others, it isn’t. I’m simply not sure which there are more of, but I do know hardcore raiding is WAY down whereas guild membership is not. Perhaps we draw different conclusions from that data.

      Lastly, the reward IS the great friends. That’s where you’re passing my point by. The game enables that to happen just as much as it enables you to kill the boss and get loot. To ignore one is to pretend you’re playing with automatons, which, in a high end guild, you may be. Regardless, the game enables both. It’s not a squad based game where you play everyone or the computer plays your AI pals.

      How you approach the game is going to clearly define what you get out of it, but it doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t allow others to find different things. It’s not called a theme park because there’s only one ride.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Samus permalink
      August 24, 2012 12:18 am

      I’m not saying it is my play style, I am saying it is the play style the game was designed for. Just because you ignore the design of the game in favor of socializing, does not make it social game design.

      When a kid pretends a stick is a light saber, I don’t give credit to the tree. All of these game companies made individualistic games, whether you use them socially or not.

    • August 24, 2012 9:05 am

      I can see we’re not making any headway on either side here, so I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I am saying its your playstyle, and that mine’s different, as a result, we approach the game differently. You keep making bold statements that the game is not designed for socializing, but that ignores chat channels, voice, guilds, and the fact that it’s a place people from basically anywhere in the world can meet.

      You have to know that hardcore raiding is a vast minority; why is your inclination to think that the majority are using the game “wrong” other than that’s the approach you take to playing? Individualism, after all, doesn’t promise objectivity or logic.

  9. August 23, 2012 8:40 pm

    I’m late to the party, but I definitely plan to make a blog post in response to this. Great and interesting topic you have brought to us! I’m just not sure I agree with your conclusions here. Hmm. Let me mull this over the weekend and see if I can’t make an adequate counter point to some of the things you listed here. Thanks for this article. It’s a really great perspective on this dichotomy in MMOs.

  10. August 24, 2012 10:31 am

    Addons make the game more individualistic, absolutely. They make the meta-game perhaps collectivist with the coordination between creators and distribution etc.
    Interesting article, agree with the scores in general.

    • August 24, 2012 10:59 am

      That’s a really interesting, subtle distinction. I wonder if separating the game and the metagame wouldn’t begin to resolve some of the arguments surrounding this topic.

      Thanks for the comment!


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  4. Collective Individualists, or Individual Collectivists « In An Age
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  7. On Individualism and Collectivism in MMOs | T.R. Red Skies
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  9. Individualism vs. Collectivism. Or: Glorified MMO misconceptions | MMO Gypsy - Wandering online Worlds

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