If I want to avoid chatter about real life events, I have to go to an RP Server, leave General, Trade and probably Guild channels. And to play it completely safe, stay out of battlegrounds and PUGs.
It wasn't like this in other MMOs I've played. For example, EQ worked better as a total escape. We've been reminiscing a lot lately about EverQuest here at WoW Insider. As far as game mechanics and lore, WoW is definitely superior. But the immersion into Norrath was much more complete because of the EQ community.
For one thing, roleplayers were respected. In fact, most of the players I knew did a minimum amount of roleplaying -- even if it was just a constant check by the guild leader to see if his robe made his butt look fat. In WoW, roleplaying is ridiculed on all servers except RP designated ones.
But more than that, the escape was respected. People rarely spoke about sports, politics or religion and I never once heard anyone mention Chuck Norris.
I think WoW is a much better game than the original EQ, with better backstories for the races and better lore in general. So why do the WoW players spoil the immersion more than the players of other MMOs? I have some theories:
Separate RP Servers?:
If roleplayers mingled with "normal" players, there might be less Out Of Character (OOC) activities generally. Or there might be more OOC chatter just to grief the RPers. Thinking about it further, I bet the latter is more likely -- unfortunately.
Too much lore?:
The legacy of the previous Warcraft games, the extensive backstories of races and NPCs, the plethora of stories told through questing -- it all adds up to a very rich world. Games without so much history may force the players to fill in the blanks themselves and help create the immersive atmosphere. Or I could just be rationalizing why I have no backstories for most of my WoW characters.
Too EZ mode?:
Levels are easier to get in WoW than most other MMOs. Because we can get to the end so quickly, many of us don't stop to smell the Azerothian roses. The speed at which we run through the content may make the game seem less like a second world and more like an online boardgame. Not that boardgames are bad. I love boardgames, but they don't really transport you to another place like an RPG should.
Based on RTS instead of RPG?:
I'm not saying the RTS Warcraft games aren't immersive. The story lines are amazing. But it's hard to feel a part of another world when you log onto Battlenet and get decimated by some stranger in what seems like seconds (link goes to NSFW language). The people who came from an RTS instead of an RPG background may not see the value of immersing in another world.
I think this is the main reason so many players don't even try to keep real life chatter out of the game. The WoW playerbase is huge and full of people who never played MMOs, never played RPGs and never played old-school pencil and paper roleplaying games. As popular as EQ was, it never had anywhere close to 9 million players. It was a relatively small community where a large number of regular players on each server knew each other and most of them were there to play a Role Playing Game. WoW's accessibility to a much wider audience attracts so many different kinds of people that the same RPG customs just aren't followed.
We want to be like the cool kids?:
Are old-school geeks afraid to show off their leet RP skillz because they won't fit in with the new popular crowd? I'd hate to think that, but I know I'm very guilty about OOC chatter, too. I think it makes more sense that it is hard to communicate with the people around you if you are speaking like a genuine Azerothian and they are speaking like normal Earthlings. We all perpetuate the real life speak in game just so we can get our group tasks done and relate to our guildies and online friends.
I never thought I'd miss EQ, but reminiscing about what a true escape that game was has softened the memories. I still love WoW and will continue to escape there happily when less preoccupied with real world ickiness. And I know there really isn't any way to convince 9 million players to say things more in-character. There also isn't anything I can do about strong winds spreading fires near my home. So I'll just play Tortuga Hold'em on the Pirates of the Caribbean Online Beta and be thankful that my family and I are well.
And I hope that any fellow Angeleno readers are also unharmed by our latest disaster. May you all be less picky about your escapist activities than I am and enjoy your time in Azeroth.
Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.