Every so often, the discussion comes back to how grouping tools are ruining World of Warcraft's social aspects. The arguments are usually the same, talking about how before the Dungeon Finder people had to have active guilds or set up groups via trade, how the servers had a sense of community, how you have to get out there and put groups together and make friends in order to play WoW, and how that's lost now. And whenever I see this argument, I remember sitting in Shattath, sometimes for hours, trying to get a group for Shadow Labyrinth.
People never really seem to remember those times when they're talking about this. Now, I've made a lot of friends in WoW over the years. Through server x-fers, through tiers of raiding, through old school days of dungeon running. I talk to a lot of these people to this day, and I've raided actively since the days of Molten Core. And yet, when people bemoan the tools that have been added to this game all I can remember is sitting in Shattrath, doing the "LFG Shadow Labyrinth" shuffle, looking at other people also looking for groups. Watching those groups demand that any new DPS have CC (warriors didn't) and that any new tank be an AoE god (warriors weren't) so they didn't have to use that CC they wanted you to have.
Should we all cool our heels in the city?
The secret of grouping before LFD was, it happened intermittently. Sure, I ran all those dungeons, when I was lucky enough that people were on that I could round up, or when I was unlucky enough to be on and be harassed into it by people needing a tank. You rarely 'made friends', you just ran some dungeons with some people you either already knew in your guild, or with strangers you came together with via trade chat desperation. If your schedule was off, if you weren't good at dealing with the stress of negotiating with four other people, or if you just played a class that didn't have x or y flavor of the month utility, well, you'd get a group eventually when those four people got tired enough of waiting assuming no one better suited to their arbitrary demands logged in.
I joined and left and joined guilds during that time. I played as a lone player in a small guild, and as a geared player in an incredibly active guild. I experienced the highs and the lows of the nature of the game before Dungeon Finder. I put together groups, and was recruited to fill a role in a group, and made friends in the game. And I find the nostalgia for the time utterly devoid of merit. The idea that Blizzard should bring back this kind of play does not work for me at all. I ran hundreds of these dungeons before Dungeon Finder.
It was not 'mandatory socialization' it was busywork. To this day, I run dungeons with friends in exactly the same fashion as I did back then, the only difference is if we don't have a healer or some DPS online, we can pick up those roles with ease using the Dungeon Finder tool, so that kind of socialization still exists. I don't have to spend 35 minutes hanging out in Ironforge looking for a healer and a DPS for a dungeon and hoping someone will log on. I don't have to beg my friend who plays a healing class to heal instead of DPSing, which is what she wants to do, because we can't find a healer. I don't have to spend several minutes cooling my heals in Shatt while the group realizes they're not going to get that third mage they want and takes a DPS warrior begrudgingly.
Mandatory socialization is not socialization at all
Zarhym's point is apt. I think sometimes we forget that the tools added to the game since the middle of Wrath of the Lich King are just that, tools. Dungeon Finder and its direct descendent Raid Finder are tools to make grouping and pursuing content easier. If you find yourself lacking in socialization, get some for yourself. In a way, having the game force you to be social means that the social aspect of the game is false - it falls apart as soon as the game is no longer forcing you to participate in it. Genuine social bonds of friendship, once formed, stay in place even when you're on another realm, or in another guild, and can even endure across the factions. Tools like Real ID and Battletags have in fact caused socialization to flourish for me. I crack jokes to people who are raiding the same raids I am, say hi to folks I haven't seen in a while, sign up to tank a cross-realm PuG just to help people I know out. In a way I think the social world I encounter when I log into World of Warcraft is larger and more vibrant than it ever was because I'm not forced to say goodbye forever when my circumstances change.
As for the silent dungeon phenomenon, well, I've had some groups where I wished people would stop talking, groups where no one spoke and we simply moved through the monsters like threshing machines, and groups where one person made a crack about Thrall needing to spring for a mount and suddenly the floodgates were open and everyone was chatting in-between, and even during, pulls. In a way I think it goes back to the effort you put in now that the game isn't holding your hand and imposing socialization on you. For some people, not being forced to communicate much is incredibly freeing, and for others it's baffling to try and talk without a clear idea of what you should say.
If you want to make friends and run dungeons with them, do it. These tools don't prevent that. They even actively facilitate that. And the friends you make will be stronger friends because they're not just there because they have no other way to get their Karazhan key.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!