LotRO has one of the best gaming communities I’ve ever come across. Since I’ve started, I’ve encountered a lot of people and spent a good amount of time just chatting in OOC throughout the world. Contrary to what one would expect from prior-MMO experiences, I haven’t had one bad encounter yet. That’s right, even when I’m asking questions that grizzled vets would consider common knowledge, there’s been not one iota of n00b calling or being told to play another game.
What a relief. On other games (one in particular), it can be your first day in the game but you’re still going to get degraded for asking for advice. At one time, being a newbie (notice, not noob or n00b) simply meant you wanted to join the community. Nowadays, it’s a mark of shame to be hidden.
So, coming to LotRO and only receiving support and answers to those first questions was a very pleasant experience. As I continued to play, I found that even outside of regional chat, like on the forums or in /say, people were a lot more friendly. It’s actually one of the things that made me take the dive for a Lifetime Subscription.
It all begs the question though, why? What’s different about this batch of MMOers than that other batch? Are we so different?
In short, yes.
I think LotRO attracts a whole different kind of gamer and changes the rules of interaction. Let’s look at a couple of the reasons this may be the case.
First, and foremost, the IP is classic. And by that, I don’t mean it’s epic and well-known, though it may be, I refer to it in that sense because it comes from the collective literary group known as “the classics.” Let’s be honest, the younger crop of gamers (I’m amongst that group at a humble age 22) isn’t that interested in reading big novels. So, right off the bat, the people interested in the game will be coming in three groups: fans of the books, fans of the movies, and general mmo fans.
Fans of the books are likely older and/or of a more mature mindset than film and normal mmo fans. Inherently, this will mean that they’ll most likely have the rules of social etiquette a more in-hand. Likewise, as fans of the literature, they’re likely playing to be immersed in the world rather than the game and, in turn, are more open to RP within that context.
This leaves the other two groups. The fans of the movies probably find out pretty quick that the game isn’t as fast paced as the films or console games. These are the “visitors” that are likely to leave because of this. Those that remain do so for sheer enjoyment of the content. Following these folks are those that came because they enjoy the genre and possibly have friends playing. Their background is varied and hard to diagnose.
The last two groups are important. If we consider that most of the players took up the game for love of the IP and that most of those are familiar or well-read with the books, you have a majority of mature players seeking immersion. We know that people’s minds work with a pack mentality (hence the contagion of the yawn) and also that people want to fit in with the crowd. These three things combine to set an unspoken set of social rules that differ from other MMO communities.
In LotRO, being insulted through general chat is less likely to happen because the community is less tolerant of it. Whereas, in a game like WoW, the more open demographic allows for insults and more “problem” behavior. Frankly, most people there don’t seem to care. You can walk into Stormwind and see people spam just for the sake of seeing their words appear in a chat window. No real purpose, just because. The mature players are quiet and speak in short bursts outside of chat. They live with it because there’s no other way. That is the standard.
You’ll also see roleplayers ostracized. Because LotRO has taken the stance that all servers are unofficially RP (supportive of the IP and fans of the books), you suddenly have a much higher percentage of subscribers open to that style of play. On WoW and WAR, let’s say 95% of people don’t RP and 5% do. It’s therefore okay to “Ar-pee… wut?” them all day long because the population supports it. Well, suddenly that 5% jumps to 50% and the situation changes. Now, rather than speak out in detriment, most players that encounter it will either join in or keep silent. That is the case with LotRO and why we can function at a higher standard.
There are jerks in LotRO just like there are in any community. It’s the way the world works. Yet, we’ve established a nice little niche for ourselves. We’re a friendly and open community, even on the forums, where newcomers will visit first. Turbine caters to us as a real community and not a disjointed series of vocal minorities. Because of this, newcomers can check the game out and feel like they’re really joining something and not just playing a game. Community makes an MMO. Ours actively helps it, bringing in new players with open arms and offering them a pint of ale while they get acquainted.