After reading the first couple chapters of T.L. Taylor’s Play Between Worlds I was struck by the collaboration aspect of EverQuest. The concept of a guild isn’t exactly new to me, as they also exist on console games like Halo 4 and COD. However, the idea that random players will often team up in pickup groups or friend groups to protect each other and progress through more difficult areas is a very cool concept. For the longest time my impression of MMOGs was shaped by the South Park episode “Make Love not Warcraft,” where Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny gain a ton of weight and pimples as they spend countless hours alone on their computers leveling up in WoW.
Apart from the headset, nothing about this picture suggests any level of social interaction. Taylor’s description of EverQuest really changed my perspective though. At one point she recalls her experience playing as a Barbarian Warrior (a character responsible for taking direct damage from monsters for the sake of the group), saying “When a teammate came under fire- and… died- it was hard not to feel more pressure to improve my skills to prevent such a thing from happening again” (16). I’ve never before had an experience like this playing video games. This isn’t to say that I’ve never played any games that require some level of teamwork (such as big team battle in Halo 4). However, individual players in Halo 4 generally share similar abilities, negating the need to group up based on different players’ strengths and weaknesses.
Another aspect of EverQuest that I found to be very interesting was the idea of trust, both within guilds and the game in general. Taylor covers so many areas in which trust and loyalty could potentially come into play within EverQuest (i.e: guild members “borrowing” equipment from their guild’s bank, the idea of higher XP guild members always getting the better ideas, the concept of “kill stealing,” and much more). It’s not surprising to me that the ability of EverQuest players to both help and hinder each other’s progress creates a very complex social network within and outside of the game, as people generally don’t begin to trust each other prior to developing some sort of relationship. Throughout my history of playing video games, I’ve never played one that required me to put my faith in others. I have, however, had similar experiences in the board game Risk. The timing of this blog post is pretty amazing, because I played a game of Risk with my roommates last Sunday. The amount of treaties that were made throughout the game, and subsequently broken, was borderline ridiculous. The desire to trust one another combined with the knowledge that betrayals are inherently part of the game resulted in a very unique social gaming experience. The dialogue never stopped and people constantly attempted to demonstrate good faith through their moves, but in the end we were all just waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.