Online games used to be pretty novel. Taking the time to interact with strangers that lived all around the world was exciting, and so people took the time to actually participate and socialize. But, over time, the luster of meeting people and making new friends began to fade, rusted over by trolls, memes, and the gradual isolation of smaller communities.
It's kind of depressing, really. Now, what used to be so simple and easy, has become hard. Many of you might be left wondering, how do I make friends in an MMORPG? It can be tough and somewhat intimidating, but with a little charisma and some extra effort, you can easily overcome most of the obstacles. The fact is, there are plenty of people just like you. Maybe you don't have that core group of friends who plays together and finding one online seems awkward. It can be, certainly, but like any real relationship, it takes some investment and just a little bit of honesty.
No, You Say Hi First!
As MMORPGs have become more and more single-player friendly, they have also lessened their emphasis on the need for cooperation and, by extension, socialization. There was a time when you needed to run to a major city and shout for 20 minutes to gather a party for a dungeon. Now, you can just hop into the dungeon finder of just about any game and are instantly (unless you're DPS, sorry) paired with a group that spans multiple servers and communities. That means making friends can be incredibly tough—especially when that group you finally started having a great time with breaks up to head back to their respective servers after the dungeon has been completed. What it means is that, more often than not, you need to be the one to initiate the conversation.
This week, while playing some Final Fantasy XIV, I decided to try my best to be as social as possible. It was horribly awkward. But I kid you not, I actually met some great people and had some cool conversations. Sometimes it means stopping just to whisper someone saying that you enjoy their character's appearance. Other times, you might want to crack a joke or lament how boring that public quest you are all grinding is. But the biggest take away is this: Don't wait for someone to talk to you, reach out and start things. Even if people don't respond to your first few attempts, keep trying because eventually you'll find someone just as eager to meet some friends online as you.
Shop Around for a Guild
One of the last bastions of many MMORPGs social communities is the fabled guild, a place where people can gather to organize, talk, and have a great time. But here's the problem, people too often join the first guild they see, consider it mission complete, and then never revisit the subject ever again. But that guild you joined might not be the best place for you. Maybe people there aren't very talkative, or maybe they tend to be clique-ish and spend most of their time talking with each other making it hard for you to join the conversation. If that's the case, move along. You owe those people nothing, but you owe yourself the right to be a part of a positive social atmosphere.
Guilds can be tricky and, like the first piece of advice I gave above, sometimes all it takes is being the one to initiate conversations. Ask questions and get to know people. If after all of that, the guild you're a part of just doesn't seem like a very lively place, start looking around for another.
Too often I find myself settling down with the first community I discover in an online game, unaware that there are hundreds out there that could be much better suited to what I want out of an MMORPG. Shop around a bit, jump back and forth! Unless you're looking at top-tier raid guilds or something, most will be willing to welcome you back if you're honest that you just want to find the place that is right for you.
Do Some Good, Pay it Forward
Oftentimes, I'm guilty of sitting on my haunches wondering why something is the way it is without looking for a solution to fix it. I'll say things to myself like, man, I wish someone would throw events on my server or that we could organize a fun guild party. But the truth is, because I'm the one complaining about it, I should also be the one looking to solve that problem. Sometimes when you identify an opening, you need to be the one to fill it.
This can be applied to a ton of areas, from throwing server-wide parties, organizing silly events like underwear marches, or even being the one to try and organize dungeon runs or raiding schedules. I'm not saying that you need to become the administrator of your entire guild, but if you're able to take some extra time in your day to help inspire community building events, you're going to also meet people who, like you, want to participate in them.
You don't need to waste hours trying to plan a party, but working to encourage others to also step up and have some fun with you can be an excellent way to forge some great friendships. Organize a giveaway, play a game, or even just run dungeons as a group rather than relying on the party finder all the time.
Buy a Microphone
There was a time when talking via the in-game chat systems of many MMORPGs was the only feasible way to communicate, but that is simply no more. You'd be surprised how many communities have shifted over to voice chat services like Teamspeak, Mumble, or Ventrilo. It's more efficient than typing all the time, and it gives you a much better idea of who the person is behind the avatar.
But I also get that this one can be extremely tough. Not everyone can afford a microphone, likes talking to strangers, or has the ability to do so due to various responsibilities. If you can't, that's okay. Sometimes even just being on voice comms but typing your responses can be more than enough. Your goal is to get involved in the conversation however you can.
Just realize that a microphone can easily become the difference between a casual acquaintance and a great friend. That isn't to say you won't establish strong bonds with people just through typing (after all, MMORPGs have been doing that for decades) but having the extra dimension to your conversation helps.
Don't Be A Jerk
This one is hopefully a no brainer. But you know what, considering some of the people I've met online I cannot help but feel like it bears mentioning. The problem is that often times people don't realize they're being jerks. Maybe they just aren't self-aware enough to realize how their tone or what they're saying could be misconstrued. That's why you should always enter into every conversation with a bit of grace. Just because someone might have been a jerk to you doesn't mean you can act the same way to them.
But really, this just boils down to being a pleasant person to talk with and knowing your boundaries. Don't air dirty personal laundry for everyone to pick up, don't berate, tease, or mock other players and, as always, be patient. A lot of this really just boils down to intent. You don't need to treat each person you come across as if they were the Queen, but instead, always be friendly and mindful of how others might perceive what you say.
Help the Newbies
One of the biggest ways you can make friends in an MMORPG is by helping the newbies. Think about it: these are people who just started playing a vast and complicated game. They have no friends, no experience, and, more often than not, no clue how to play. While this certainly will require a touch of patience, by being someone who takes time to offer help to new players and steer them in the right direction, your friendlist will undoubtedly fill up before long.
The downside here is that doing this too often could also lead you to having 50 newbies asking you questions all day long, a task that could drain even the most patient of people. But taking a few hours each week to run around the starter zones or craft some low level gear to hand out for free—anything that could be seen as a kind gesture to a new player—will absolutely help you find some friends to share in your adventures with.
Unfortunately, most of the trendiest MMORPGs of this generation aren't exactly the social communities we saw in older generations. A lot of modern MMOs tend to emphasize experiences that don't really require any social interaction in order to appreciate. This means that if you're looking to make some friends, you're going to have to try a little bit harder than in the days of yore. That's okay, hopefully this list gives you some basic ideas for stepping out of your comfort box and building some relationships. If you have any ideas of your own or want to share your own MMORPG friendship stories, we want to hear them! Take our advice and jump into the comments and get chatting!