Beyond parties, raids, and guilds, you will inevitably encounter other players who share some of the same interests, likes, and dislikes as you, people with whom you’ll end up chatting even when you’re not in a dungeon or on a quest; the kind of people where you don’t even notice the hours flying by as you swap stories, joke, and play together. In other words, you’ll make friends. Making friends and going on adventures with them is part of what makes World of Warcraft so much fun.”
Counting my friends
The question is: is this true? I figure it was back in the early days of WoW; at least I’ve been told so. But is this still valid?
I went to myself and did a quick count where I recalled how many friends I have in WoW right now. How many players are there who I chat with, not in raid channels about practical issues, but in whispers about nothing-important at all? How many players do I know who give me a personal greeting as I log on, who will tell me what they have for raid snack, who will notice if I seem to have a bad night and ask what’s up? How many players do I know who might ask me to do something together in the game because we enjoy each other’s company rather than to achieve something?
I ended up with around three. And I suppose three are better than none, but it’s far, far from the social platform that Blizzard makes us believe that WoW is.
The silent club
On one hand I can agree with Copra, who complains about the lack of social tools in WoW of today. There are no natural meeting points anymore - group quests removed and the LFD tool turning PUGs into speechless, anonymous let’s-get-it-over-with experiences with strangers you’ll never meet again. If you don’t already have friends as you enter WoW, you’re not likely to get any new.
On the other hand I wonder if it isn’t a little bit unfair and too simplified to blame Blizzard for this as for so much else. Haven’t the players got something to do with it? Isn’t this more about what we want and how we act in game?
Wolfshead has a new post about on the issue of group play (or the lack thereof), as a part of his ongoing crusade to “bring back the good community experience that once existed”. He compares the modern MMO experience to the gentleman’s club pictured in the Sherlock Holmes series, where talking is strictly prohibited.
“It occurred to me this has become what many solo gamers find appealing about MMOs. They are just places where they can go to relax, unwind and not talk with anyone. But what happens when the majority of people in a virtual world are escaping to such a silent club?”
And if I go to myself: how much effort have I, Larísa, put into trying to get to know more people? If I roll an alt, do I look around for new players in the starting zone to possibly connect to? Do I spot players who struggle and offer them a helping hand? Do I add them to my friends list and next time I see them come online, do I whisper them and ask them if they want to play with me for a while?
As long as I don’t lift a finger to do this, as long as I behave pretty much in game as in real life, keeping most people at a safe distance, who am I to complain? You can’t really expect friends to fall from the sky right into your hands.
Where to find friends in WoW
But let’s come to the point of this post, namely that maybe we’re missing something as we’re discussing the lack of opportunities to make friends and build communities in the cataclysmic version of Azeroth.
You see: I actually do have quite a few WoW friends, it’s just that they don’t play on my server. They’re people in the blogosphere, readers and writers, who I’ve exchanged my most personal thoughts and experiences with for years. We’ve followed each other through bad times and good times, sharing our proudest as well as our worst moments, opening a window into our minds.
I’d dare say we know each other pretty well by now - better than I know many of my guildies, and If I’d ever find myself guildless for some reason, I’m pretty sure that someone would offer me a new home.
I believe that you still can make WoW friends, even if the game is turned into a silent gentleman’s club, but you don’t necessarily make them the traditional way, as you bounce into people when you're out in the world on adventures.
There are better places today for meeting people. If you want to make friends, you won't find them in /trade or Goldshire. You'll find them in the blogosphere, in the forums or on Twitter.
Perhaps this is something to include in the game guide for beginners? Don't look for WoW friends as you're logged into WoW. Look for them in the offline community.