Moving on with this summer’s gaming Mooc at Coursera involved leveling the character I created in LOTRO. Due to lack of time I managed to take it up to level 17. That meant being able to buy a house of my own – yeah!! – as well as spending the amount of Turbine points I gained through gameplay to purchase the riding skill. Still, no riding horse at the moment, I am afraid. I am also trying to figure out the auction house dealings; things in World of Warcraft were so much easier, in my opinion… Please note that for week 4, you need to be a level 20ish player to accomplish the peer assessment tasks, so it’s best to level up well in advance. Anyway, here’s a screenshot of my lovely house:
During questing, especially when it came to instances joined by other NPCs, some glitches were present but nothing too problematic. The narrative in the game draws ample reference from the books and Tolkien lore, something which renders the gameplay enjoyable. Still the tedious “kill 20 boars” and “fetch 20 bat feathers” tend to spoil the fun. Moreover, I found storage options rather frustrating. Apart from your bags, you will soon see your bank slots and house vault filling up quickly. Now, here’s a screenshot from a rather tricky quest:
The summer festival was on during the second week, so we were given the chance to opt for a screenshot in those surroundings. The other option was to participate in our kinship’s fixed gatherings which took place twice so as to accommodate the needs of almost all kinship members. I chose option 1, because I couldn’t make it to the kinship games:
Furthermore, we were tasked with writing a short essay on the topic of the social aspect of MMORPGs. During week 3, peer assessment ensued and that meant having to review 3 such essays along with their screenshots and proof of gameplay. Here is my take on the subject:
Write an essay (200 to 400 words) on your impression of the social dimension of MMOs. If you’ve played other types of online games (shooters, RPGs, etc.), feel free to compare the nature of the social interactions you’ve had in these formats. Do social interactions enhance or diminish your experience of the narrative? Do you feel a bond with other players, and if so, how would you compare that relationship to others in real life?
The social aspect of MMMORPGs – a short testimonial
Being a gamer in pop culture is at times depicted as having “no-life”. Unfortunately, a gamer is commonly regarded as rather being anti-social, kept in a confined room all day and having minimum contact with peers by many. Questionably, MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft or LOTRO immerse the player in a virtual environment so much, that interactions seem “fake” or simulated to the outsider.
Speaking from personal experience, not only is this not the case, but recent scientific studies have also shown that online gaming is increasing, not limiting, the social lives of players (Taylor et al. 2014). The nature of social interactions in-game is mostly chatting or what one would call “small talk”. Interacting in a virtual massive world with complete strangers means wasting no time, however. Therefore, most of these discussions are usually practical or helpful ways of understanding gameplay, e.g. asking for advice regarding a particular quest. Nevertheless, once part of a kinship or a guild, the framework rapidly changes to sharing more personal insights on one’s life and daily routine. In essence, you make “friends” within the game and much to one’s surprise these friendships can be long-lasting and profound. It so happens that often social relationships of the kind extend to real life circumstances; people from game communities meet up in person, even when they hail from different countries.
The experience of the narrative in-game is often enhanced by virtual social gatherings like large-scale raids. Taking down a “boss”, takes a lot of energy, effort and explaining, thus all members of a party must be up to speed, whom they are fighting and why. In addition, people extend their knowledge of lore and storytelling to people outside the game, describing their gaming experience much like they would do with a movie or a TV series. In retrospect, talking within the game becomes talking “about” it, as well, influencing relationships to others in real life, regardless whether they are themselves gamers or not.
Taylor, N., Jenson, J., de Castell, S. and Dilouya, B. (2014), Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19: 763–779. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12054