I’m a big believer in the social fabric of MMOs. The internet was a tremendous communication platform; I was a geeky introverted kid in the Midwest U.S. on a computer talking to people half way around the world when I was in university. As someone who barely traveled, this was mind-expanding. To think I could talk to people all across the world was simply astounding.
MMOs built upon that. People we’d never meet can become close friends. This includes people who might not have a lot of social opportunities offline: people who suffer from anxiety and depression, people who are just massive introverts who can’t handle a lot of in-person interaction, or people who are physically ill can make connections that would have been impossible a few decades ago.
Yet, online designers often overlook this element. In the rush to cater to the established Achiever crowd, or the rush to optimize key performance indicators, we can lose sight that there are people behind the names and dollars we collect. We ignore their emotional well-being and consider relationships as a side-effect of our design. But, let’s take a closer look.