My Romulan Has No Friends

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aka: ‘This is a Post About Being Intimidated By MMORPGs.’

There’s a difference between co-op games and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), and I really liked CC’s post a while back about how co-op games are a way to do something really fun with friends, or even keep in touch with friends who you don’t live near anymore. I commented about how while I enjoy co-op games I’m a bit nervous around MMORPGs in general, and we had a brief conversation later that I found really interesting. I kind of forgot about the whole discussion for a while, but recently a certain game got me thinking about it again, and I decided I might as well write a post on this.

I recently downloaded Star Trek Online onto my laptop. I’d played the game fairly obsessively a couple years ago – I learned about it at a convention; it was free-to-play and they’d just come out with a really big expansion. I spent a majority of that summer playing the game, and I even managed to get my mom invested in it (which worked out really well, since it meant she wanted to spend money for in-game purchases anyway!). I stopped playing after a while because I got into Mass Effect and other games, but I was reminded of it recently and decided to rejoin. Anyway, it got me thinking more about the dynamics of MMORPGs.

Basically, the general premise of Star Trek Online is that it takes place a ways in the future of the main Star Trek series’ chronology, at the very beginning of the 25th century. You can play as a member of the Federation, the Klingons, or the Romulan Republic, and you can take part in various storyline missions either specific to your faction or available to everyone. You get bridge officers for your ship and you design your own characters, the system for ships/weapons/items/research is extremely complex and detailed, and they even got actors from Star Trek shows to voice their characters for a few of the missions. It’s really engaging, and actually furthers the main story of the franchise in interesting ways. The part I’ve consistently had trouble with, however, is the word ‘multiplayer.’

One really nice thing about Star Trek Online is you don’t have to engage in interpersonal interaction. The missions are all able to be completed alone, and you can get your character to level 60 by yourself. You see other people flying around in sector space, or walking around on each faction’s home planet, or during special events. The game is built so you can do missions with teams of up to five people, so friends can play and chat together. And that’s great, and yes, I’ve played this game with my mom a few times. Shhhh. I didn’t have any friends who played. It’s actually really fun to play co-op.

But another major aspect of the game is the concept of Fleets, and you can get a lot of bonus material from that. Pretty much everywhere you go in the game, you see people with the name of a Fleet right there under under the name of their character and their starship. I suppose Fleets are kind of analogous to ‘clans’ or ‘guilds’ or something in other games – they’re groups of players who are associated with each other and go on missions together and get special ships and items and bonuses, and some have in-depth stories for their characters and groups. Friends play that way, I suppose. The problem is, I’m way too freaking terrified to talk to people or join a Fleet.

Especially as a girl gamer, especially as someone who even with a level 50 character and an intimidating starship is still insecure about my ability to actually play this game well, especially as someone who has seen the group chats in the public areas of the game and knows that there are a bunch of jerks who play, I don’t want to join a Fleet. I don’t want to join the Player vs Player queues or the PVE queues for group missions, either. I don’t want to constantly be on-edge about my interactions with others in a game that’s supposed to be for fun. I don’t want to be yelled at by people I don’t even know if I make a mistake, and have the mistake be attributed to the fact that I’m not a ‘real gamer’ or even that I’m a girl.

I understand that not everyone in the game is like that, and I understand that things are different in different MMORPGs, and that it’s probably better to join a Fleet in STO than something similar in another game. But especially as someone who has enough trouble talking to people in real life and has plenty of social anxiety, MMORPGs are honestly a bit scary.

Have you had a similar experience of being intimidated to actually join in the social interaction of a game, or is it easy for you? How much of that comes from previous experience, or your own personal background?

3 thoughts on “My Romulan Has No Friends

  1. I’m glad you liked my post from a while back! I actually recently made an account for Star Wars: The Old Republic a few weeks ago and played around with it a little bit with some friends from home. We mainly just stuck together since we were all around the same level, and we pretty much never wanted to interact with other players beyond walking by them in public areas. Reading your post, I realize now that I noticed a lot of things in my short time playing the game that parallel what you had written about. While I don’t think there are Fleets in SWTOR, guilds certainly do exist yet I never dared to join one. I also avoided any PvP queues as you had, and even avoided the chatbox in general. SWTOR had an option to disable it, so I kept it hidden for a large portion of my time in game.

    It was almost funny how different the game felt when I played it solo. Things felt bigger and more daunting, and nine time out of ten I just switched to a different game. Part of it was what I can only describe as the “tediousness” of the MMO and part of it may have even been my bitterness towards SWTOR for not being KOTOR 3, but I also think that a lot of my issues with the game certainly stem from similar concerns you wrote about above. I can understand why people enjoy MMO’s due to the ability to play alongside so many other people, but the genre just isn’t for me.

    At the end of the day, I hope you find games you enjoy playing!

    1. Edit: I’ve chosen this post as one of my “top choices.” I think you do a very nice job discussing a complicated issue, and how it effected your gameplay experience!

  2. I’ve avoided MMORPGs myself, though for somewhat different reasons. It feels like entirely too much responsibility for a game. You have to log on regularly to keep in good standing with your group and to make sure that you’re practicing, because god forbid you lose a step. You’ll get tossed out before you can say live long and prosper. Then there are the people that have been playing the game every day, for months or possibly years. They live for the game. They dream of this game. They’ll be goddamned if they’ll allow to so much as click your mouse before all of your units are simultaneously destroyed. It’s like having a damned cat. You have to feed it, water it, give it attention, and if you look away for even a second they’ll destroy something incredibly valuable. Either way, it’s never really going to like you as much as tolerate your presence, so why even try?

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