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My father starting playing EverQuest a few months back. His description of it reminded me of a MUD with graphics. I have also played it once or twice so had a general feel for what it was like. What kept lingering in my brain was the attitude of the players. They all seem willing to help each other, as if logging onto the game suddenly turns them altruistic. Assuredly there are a few players here and there who are stingy or curt, but overall everyone is willing to help each other, form parties, cast spells, sell items at a discount, and at times just give money away.

This all seems wonderful, and the system works very well. People get along, they accept one another, as evidenced by the tolerance for horrible typing skills, and the few bad ones seem to eventually just disappear. The question is why? Why are people willing to do so much for each other? Here are the reason that are apparent.

1) Well defined goals and common enemies with no real competition: EverQuest has a well defined, though never ending, goal. Gain enough experience to get to the next level. The way to gain experience is to kill your enemies. With a few exceptions the enemies are NPCs. You gain nothing by being better than the next player. You only gain by killing the common enemy. Joining a party truly helps everyone.

2) Returning the Favor: When people first start playing EverQuest, they all tell me the same thing. I was doing poorly until person X helped me. Then I started gaining levels really fast and doing really well. Eventually they feel the need to return the favor, and they will help the next newbie.

3) Feeling of community: People like to fit in. When they join EverQuest or games like it, they will pick up on the attitudes and behaviors of the people around them. The community started with a core of altruistic people, and they have taught the first wave of newbies, who in turn taught the next wave. This enforces the behavior described in # 2.

4) Trust has no cost: Since the world they play in is an illusion (though some may argue differently) trust is free. If someone betrays you at most you have lost some experience or some money, both of which are just numbers in a database. Since there is no way to force a player to do something in EverQuest, you can safely ignore those who are bad. People like attention, they will either change their attitude and play nicely or never logon again. This decreases the bad ones overtime and reinforces the positive players.

Through these for patterns the altruistic players are given positive reinforcement, and the non altruistic players are either loners, or quit logging in.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 21st, 2001 08:22 am (UTC)
Ultima Online and player killers
I've heard, through conversations with friends, that Ultima Online never became viable because of the player killers. The player killers would run around and kill the newbies, and, I've heard, the game wasn't enjoyable. In EverQuest, you have an option to play in a player vs player mode or not. The point I'm getting at is: apparently the game only works if most the players are altruistic or most the players are trying to kill each other. I say that it works if all the players are trying to kill each other because there are three EQ servers that are dedicated to PvP and there's quite a few people on them. There's something like 20 servers where you get to choose, and most people on those are non-PvP. So, everyone in the game has to be of the same mindset.

The psychology of the game is FASCINATING! There's in-game marriages where the two people have never met in real life. In the game, everyone is beautiful and powerful. (Well, unless you choose to be an ogre or something, but they are in the minority by far.) EverQuest would be a really fun thesis for a psychology student. It's also kind of spooky. It's the closest I've ever seen to submersion in a virtual world. As technology advances, and the submersion becomes more intense, virtual worlds will be more seductive than drugs or tv when someone is looking for an escape.

It's weird that we're communicating through a webpage. My mom would have something to say about this, and the general deterioration of relationships in the age of the internet.
Aug. 21st, 2001 03:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Ultima Online and player killers

The last I heard, they actually changed the player killing on Ultima online. To address this problem.

I do not think that it is a detoriation, merely a metamorphasis. After all we still do see each other at Christmas and Easter. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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