Massively multiplayer misgivings

lonerTeam player, me? Well, whilst within a work environment, i’ll happily be a team player; a cog within the corporate wheel, fulfililling my place within the big picture, but once i’ve relinquished the day job and it’s time for leisure, everything changes.

Put simply, i’m not naturally a team player – left to my own devices, i’ve no interest in team activities: i steer clear of joint initiatives and keep out of group pursuits as much as possible. It’s always been like that and, to be quite honest, although it’s probably not the best way to be, i’m perfectly happy with that state of affairs.

The same holds true for games – i’ve always taken the solitary option, avoiding anything remotely multi-player or collaborative wherever possible. Coming to think of it, given the choice i’d have probably devised my own versions of solo Monopoly and Scrabble, given time!

This is particularly the case when it come to the sort of online platforms that are part and parcel of our everyday lives these days. Whilst i quite like the concept of MMOs, i really don’t enjoy the prospect of either joining forces with other players, or for that matter, entering into mortal combat against other people. If i could just be allowed to bumble along, enjoying the quests, slaying the occasional orc and so on, i’d be happy, but involve other people in my own little digital bubble and i’d sooner be at home playing solo Scrabble, thank you very much.


Mini Turismo!

If i look back over my – somewhat limited in scope – gaming history, my self-imposed exile becomes pretty obvious – for years, Tomb Raider was my forte: a game i could become completely embroiled in, without every having to connect with another real person. Similarly, i’d while away the hours designing ever-more complex exhibits in Zoo Tycoon, where the only human interaction i ever had to worry about were the antics of the pixellated people who crowded my walkways and food concessions. Then there were the driving games… Gran Turismo, i loved – even to the geeky extent of owning a steering wheel and pedals, solely to play just that one game; once again a solo pursuit where the only opposition was computer generated. That sadly fell by the wayside when the person i shared a house with at the time insisted on joining in – racing against me in split screen mode – something that spoiled the fun immensely (even though i kicked her arse at it!). Now even those games have options to link up with other enthusiasts, by way of the .net, as indeed do most virtual pursuits… completely anathema to me.

Perhaps i’m just somewhat different to most people – i have friends who like nothing more than to hook up with other gamers for a spot of online competition, but for me at least, cyberspace is a solitary place.

Which, of course, poses a the unavoidable question: how on earth do i manage to tolerate an environment like sl, which is so insanely collaborative and socially-centred? Without others, sl is a sterile and utterly banal place – it is only the contributions, creativity and company of other people that make it the vibrant, stimulating and sometimes shocking platform that it is. If everyone were to have the same attitude as myself nothing would ever happen and the virtual world would be an incredibly empty place.

It does seem something of a contradiction that somebody as fervently antisocial as me should embrace sl and feel comfortable doing so, and i think that must be something to do with the inherent nature of our computer-generated world. Even on a busy day with 50k+ concurrence, sl is a mostly empty place – you can wander the equivalent of miles without seeing a soul if you pick your locations carefully; better still, it’s remarkably easy to avoid coming into contact with anyone, should we so desire. Maps and radar play their part, as do alts, auto-response and privacy settings.

More importantly, sl seems to encourage a strong ethos for sharing, without any expectation for anything in return, ie. people create things with the understanding that others will gain a degree of enjoyment from experiencing them in the absence of the creator. What makes this work so well is that the creators themselves are quite likely off enjoying somebody else’s creations, whilst you are enjoying theirs. When i create builds it is with the expectation – even hope – that during the many hours i’m absent from sl, complete strangers will be making the most of the things i’ve put together – for someone who shies away from company, this is a risk-free type of social interaction; one which places no obligation on me, neither does it make demands that are in any way an imposition.

japan bridge5_001Finally, it is perfectly OK to be a loner in sl. There are no requirements to sign up to factions, families or federations and there is no necessity for reliance upon others to achieve goals, neither is there any for others to be reliant upon oneself. We can, if we choose to, become completely self-centred, lone wolves with no alliances or any need to socialise – and no-one will bat an eyelid.

To become a total hermit is a bit hardcore even for me, but it is possible. Personally, i’ll put up with, even enjoy company when it’s there to be had; i’ll even collaborate and work with others towards a common end, should the need arise; but i’m quite happy to be left alone to my own devices, without having company foisted upon me, and – counter-intuitively, for a social network – sl facilitates that premise quite nicely, thank you very much!

s. x

Measure me in metered lines in one decisive stare
The time it takes to get from here to there
My ribs that show through t-shirts and these shoes I got for free
I’m unconsoled, I’m lonely, I am so much better than I used to be
The Weakerthans – Aside


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