Grouping Today: Accessible Or Lazy?
Back in 2004, my average play session of Everquest was 4 hours. Aside from any sessions I may be able to sneak in during the day and apart from any social activities in the evening, my usual play time was from 10pm to around 2am. This of course was the beauty of being a student and a memory that I continually cherish as I’m forced to go to bed earlier and get up earlier every year. I think one day I’ll actually be going to bed when it’s still daylight outside and getting up when it’s still dark. Anyway, I digress.
Of course my point is that in those days my gaming sessions were a lot longer and, although I thoroughly enjoyed them, it was an absolute necessity (which fortunately I had the time to facilitate). Logging on, I would normally find myself either in PoK (the Plane of Knowledge) or Butcherblock depending on whether I was grinding LDON quests or adventuring in other parts of the world, such as Sanctus Seru. Soloing was entirely out of the question once most classes had past level 20 so the first call to action was finding myself a group. And that took time.
I usually set aside about 1 hour to find a group or put one together and then a good 2-3 hours for actual adventuring. Forming a group was tough work but very rewarding. My first port of call was always my guild and then, after that, my very long and healer orientated friends list. I found that by playing regular hours (I played on Stromm in 2004 which was a US server and thus perfect for my late night activities), I often bumped into the same faces over and over again, perfect for building up a host of reliable contacts.
If I couldn’t find a group to invite myself into, more often than not, someone I knew would be on and I’d be able to form my own with them. We then start looking for other players to join, usually by advertising in Out Of Character (OOC) chat. This required a lot of patience on everyone’s part and tended to involve us just sitting around in either PoK or the LDON camp in Butcherblock, waiting. And waiting. As I said before, I often put aside an hour for this process.
Finally completing a full group was then incredibly satisfying and we’d adventure for hours on end, most players staying a good solid 2 hours or so (it was usually considered rude to leave too early unless announcing it upon accepting the group invitation). Strangely enough, this was all before the term PUG was even coined and joining random groups of strangers was considered normal and necessary. I’d also struggle to remember more than a couple of bad experience I had in such groups.
But alas, how things have changed now. Today I will play a MMORPG for perhaps an hour a night during the week and maybe a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday. This is due more to circumstances and my, shall we say, “evolving” social and family life. Even then, I’m faced with certain ordeals that I never had to endure 5 years ago. PUGs are generally meant to be avoided, maintaining a full group of strangers long enough to complete an instance is often a luxury, and my friend’s list is shorter than what Ms Piggy could count on her trotters.
No doubt a lot of this is of my own making but I do find it odd how now we have to be forced and herded into grouping. Blizzard is introducing a spanking new LFG system which pulls people from across servers and instantly teleports them into their desired dungeon all in an attempt to bring back socialising and grouping. I think that I’m all for it because it will mean that I can group without having to break my meager gaming pattern but then I catch myself looking into the mirror at the man I have become and miss my former self and the depths of immersion, adventure and socialising I’d reach.
So here’s the question: are we just becoming more lazy now? Are we too satisfied with our soloing and quest grinding to even bother putting together a group? Or are thing just becoming more accessible and making our lives easier?