For Great Justice!Ask Not What Your Game Can Do For You...For Great Justice! - RSS 2.0
A History Of Communities
Gamers exist in communities. Whether we're grouped by the faction we're a part of, the server we play on, the game we play, the genre of game we play - or some combination thereof - we exist as part of a community. We joke about it, make fun of the people that believe in such things and perhaps even dismiss it openly.
But, as games continue to become more complex, so do our interactions. Growing up, I could count on one hand the number of my peers that owned the same gaming system I did (ah, Fairchild, how I miss you). As time went on, gaming became more and more common. I would meet like- minded people at "cart-swaps," meetings of console gamers in the area where we would swap a game we'd grown tired of for a fresh (albeit slightly used) game we could waste hours upon. With the home computer, the BBS took the place of many of our cart-swaps, and although we'd still meet to trade games (now on floppy disks, and not always "used" - more like "bootlegged"), we still knew one another and took pleasure in being in the company of like-minded individuals. Our "area" might have grown a bit larger, but most interactions were still what we'd consider "nearby."
When the almighty internet arrived on the scene, we were no longer interacting with people even remotely nearby. Our interactions grew to involve people all over the world. You might be arguing about the effectiveness of the Overload button in System Shock with someone from another continent in a news group, hunting WADs for Doom through Usenet, playing a favorite MUD or just chatting with friends in ICQ.
When popular MMOGs hit the scene, gamers were already familiar with the concept of "community," but such a concept suddenly became much more relevant. Instead of people simply sharing the same interests as you, these people were now participating in your shared "world" and facing the same challenges as you - and sometimes they were the challenges you faced.
More Than Neighbors
The first MMOG community I became a part of was in Asheron's Call, in late 1999. I wrote about my (admittedly pathetic) attempts to be a viable combatant on the player vs. player server, Darktide, under the penname Kwip. My stories earned me a bit of recognition in the game, and I gained a number of friends through my mis-adventuring. Even outside of the game, I would often take the time to correspond with people through email or message boards. They'd offer playing advice, I'd reply with tales of abject failure. My girlfriend, Becky (now my wife), became a regular figure in my stories as Kwipette, and we were often joined by poor souls who were convinced they would be the ones to show me how to level properly.