When I look at the list of Steam’s best selling games in 2017, it appears that this is what most people want: Multiplayer gaming today appears to be nearly exclusively about going to interesting virtual places, meeting interesting people online, and then killing them. In games that have some form of collaboration (to kill other players), collaboration is often the weakest point of the game, leading to much toxicity and hate. Hate towards your team mates, not the opponents, mind you. I’m a bit depressed about what our gaming behavior says about us as the human race.
Where are the massively multiplayer online city building games? Multiplayer online survival games in which people cooperate instead of torturing each other? Why did MMORPGs basically die out as a genre on Steam? How did humanity evolve and create civilization in real life, but fail to do so in virtual worlds? I really think that game designers missed something big here: In real life the incentives obviously favor collaboration over bashing each others head in; how great could a video game be if it could manage to reproduce those incentives and create virtual worlds in which people want to cooperate?
There was grouping and cooperation in the old MMOs and I doubt if humanity devolved in a decade (though there wasn’t “white privilege”, “manspreading” and “gender nonbinary” a decade ago).
The first reason is the removal of death penalty and hard content. Players were forced to cooperate as being outcast from the “society” for “being a dick” meant no progression in a game. A player in original EQ who was excluded from all groups for being horrible could pretty much delete his character. Now actions have no consequences, so there is no need for the other person, therefore no need for you to present yourself positively to him.
I have an obvious solution for this problem: bring back death penalty and hard content. However there is a reason these were removed. You remember fondly the old times where competent players grouped together and took on hard tasks. Arthasdklől was excluded from all groups for being a lolspamming, below-pet DPS player and he wasn’t that happy. While I do believe that death penalty and hard content is getting a renaissance in the form of hard survival games and ladder PvP games, I am resigned to that AAA MMOs that plan to have millions of players will not have these.
The other problem is that you can access any player via phasing, automatic grouping and megaservers any time. Even if you are an all out loot ninja, you can find new victims who don’t know you. And there are always “friends for hire”: goldsellers, account trainers, paid boosters gladly “cooperate” with you in-game.
For this, I have a perfect solution: limit trading, communicating and distributing loot to your guild. If you play with randoms, you can’t trade, can only use emotes to communicate and must use the WoW Personal Loot system. This would prevent players from being a dick to randoms and also forces them to work positively with their guild to avoid being replaced. Of course this would also need to limit guild sizes to prevent everyone just join a huge, lifeless guild.
The civility in real life isn’t a gift from above, but comes from the risk of punishment, both economic (be fired) and social (no one talks to you). Remove these in the name of “accessible gaming” and “casual friendliness” and you get a cesspool.