No! Not THAT Community!
In this day and age of online gaming we have begun to see gamers build a sense of community online. From Halo to COD, Warcraft, gamers are meeting total strangers from all walks of life and building friendships just from playing together. Groups of people create guilds and/or clans, or just get on around the same time and shoot the shit. So the misconception that gamers are loners or hermits gets thrown out the window. Yes, they in their day to day lives some gamers might just be anitsocial or keep to themselves, but when day ends and they come home to the recesses of their rooms or man caves or what have you, they have a group of friends awaiting them online.
But what is it that drives this sense of community? Why is it that some games have this great sense of community, whether competitive or just good ole comradery, and some just fall short? Well for me to answer this question I should define, or give my personal opinion, on what makes a good community.
1) A GREAT GAME - Kind of an ubaduh, but needs to be said nonetheless. How could you ever have any community if your game is absolute trash. Bad games seem to have the worse communities, if any at all. How could there be a common bond if we just don't like playing the game. If it is trash you still will have a community on your hands. There will be a common bond: an online community who will dog your game in various message boards, reviewers, people with pitchforks and torches, etc.
Bring us the heads of Lucy Bradshaw and everyone else at MAXIS!!!!!!!
2) PLAYERS - When I say players, they can fall into several categories. The casuals, the hardcore, the MLG's (yes I have to have a category for MLG itself because they're just a whole 'nother level so I'm not even gonna get started on that one). Point being, these specific types of players will gravitate towards others like themselves; sort of like a high school cafeteria (jocks, nerds, band members, etc.). Sure you have the gamers who will get online by themselves just to play, but the majority of people are in parties (well....... on Xbox, yeah; PS3 they'll just find each other). If a game ever gets critical acclaim, the people they thank first, 8 out of 10 times, are the fans, the gamers. The gamers make or break a game, period.
3) WHY ARE WE HERE? - When you get online there's a reason that you and your friends are doing the same exact thing, besides the fact that you might be similar, personality-wise. You all probably have something already in mind going in. "You feel like doin some CTF or some regicide?", "wanna do this raid with us?", "Super GT's at Fuji?" Sure, sometimes we just like to fool around online and do some random playlists, but the majority of community gamers stick to their guns when it comes to playing online. For example, MsHeartAttack plays nothing but Search and Destroy on COD; nothing else. Its not a bad thing, she just knows what she likes, and while doing that makes new friends as well (plus the fact that she's a youtube celebrity doesn't hurt, but still makes friends, regardless). When I play GT5, I spend the majority of time on Nürburgring, not because I'm not good at any other tracks (You should see me at Cape Ring and La Sarthe!), but I just love it; its the most difficult track and I wanna continue to push myself at that track. For the games we love, and we do love the whole game, there are some specific gametypes that we just tend to stick to. We'll venture out every now and then, but we all know why we're gettin on in the first place.
That's it. To me, these are the things that make a great community in gaming. And just from this criteria we have a lot of games with great communities. Halo? In FPS's the Halo franchise has defined the community; has been the template, in my opinion, of how to create a great FPS community. Look what has come out of it. Forge, Red vs. Blue and many other Machinimas, thousands of clans, the list goes on. COD? That one's a little tricky. If this was strictly a numbers game then COD would have a better community just out of the sheer number of people that get on. And COD has got the same things going that Halo does as well. But, to be honest, Halo is a bit more relaxed, an everyman's game. I can go in by myself or in a team and not worry about anything. But with COD there's more dedication, not to say that Halo doesn't have dedicated players, but with COD there's just a lot more of them. That's their main community; the hardcore/MLG (do you even MLG?). I feel like if I sucked ass in a game of Kill Confirmed my 12 year old teammate would be telling me how bad my K/D is. Community, yes, just not my kind.
See these kids? They just got a K-9 Unit and a VTOL Warship and are kicking your adult asses.
I'm a racer, so naturally Gran Turismo 5 is my game (as I have stated and will continue to state). But Gran Turismo, a little too often, gets compared to the Forza franchise. Forza 4 was the better game in the year those two came out (and this is coming from a GT fanboy). But all in all, Gran Turismo still has the better community. Why? Simple. Gran Turismo is a driving simulator, and with every incarnation one thing has remained the same. Gran Turismo actually teaches you how to drive. They give you tools and techniques to tackle any race. I felt proud knowing that I got gold on every single license test so that when I do go online I won't be a complete noob wrecking everyone on my way to 1st place. While Forza, visually is the better looking of the two, and has many customization options, it just puts you in races. Yes there's a driving line you can use as a guide but nothing else. Its not going to break down the Nürburgring into sections and coach you into tackling the Green Hell. Its just gonna stick you in a race and say good luck. So when I did go into online lobbies in Forza, all I got where a bunch of people who'd wreck each other without a sorry or anything. The GT community is a serious yet relaxed one. We take our shiz seriously, but we also have fun and keep the gentlemanly spirit of racing. That's not saying that GT doesn't have its fair share of douches. Every game does. But the majority of us are serious racers. Hell, we have a site dedicated to our glorious franchise were we can talk cars, share tunes, organize races and series, etc.: GTPlanet.net (Shoutout to Jordan Greer, the owner. A great man who gave GT fans a virtual home away from virtual home.)
I'M GOIN FAST! AND MY CAR'S STILL PURDY!
If you're an online gamer you have a friends list. The reason you built that friends list is because you play the same game with someone else in the same lobby. If it was an even better experience you added a bunch of friends. Congratulations! You have your own community amongst the game's community. Its that damn easy. For a lot of us we have different perspectives as to what makes a great community. My friend Ash says a great gaming community is made of "passionate and enthusiastic gamers that are always willing to help and offer a hand to their fellow gamers. As long they are mature (to some degree), open and non biased (I hate fanboys) I'm happy" And I agree, (maybe not the fanboy part, because until Kazunori Yamauchi makes a terrible GT, I'm gonna be drinkin his Kool-Aid lol) But I also believe that it's a healthy balance. The games make the community, and the community makes the games. Without one there is no equilibrium. I have met a lot of great friends thanks to Xbox Live and PSN and will continue to do so as long as I have great games to share. So venture on gamers, and build our communities up, not down (you f*#*ing trollers).