Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

F2P as a Recipe for an Awful Community?

I don’t play much League of Legends these days, but from time to time a friend convinces me to play a round or three in the evening. There are some things that I really like about the game and quite a few that I very much dislike. By far the worst are the other people you are playing with. The behaviour both towards team-mates and towards enemies is just awful in the game in general. When we played a couple of rounds on Friday, my friend and I discussed whether it might be the free-to-play nature of the game that attracts so many ill-behaved players.

The argument goes like this: Younger players in general don’t have as much money as older players and are therefore more drawn towards subscription-free (or even completely free) games. Older players in general are more mature than younger players. Therefore the community in subscription-based games is more mature than that in free-to-play ones.

Please note all the “in general” clauses in there because there clearly are very mature young players and incredibly immature older players just as there are young players with tons of money and older ones who can barely their internet connection fees. In general though I believe these arguments to hold true. The question is just how much of an impact this really has.

Clearly there are other things that make a community awful. You just have to look into shooters, especially console shooters, to see how little respect players can have for other human beings. These games are not free but still attract a much less civilized crowd of players than, say, RPGs. Sure, people are complaining about the World of Warcraft community as well, but I for one have never been tea-bagged in that game and rarely been insulted at all. And WoW has one of the lower quality communities among MMORPGs.

So there are other factors that define the quality of a community, but does the business model play a large role there or not? A comparison is hard to make, since subscription games are hard to find outside the MMORPG market. League of Legends is a DotA clone and pretty much all of those games have a pretty ugly base of players. All those games were free-to-play as well though, so we can’t deduct anything from that. I haven’t really played enough F2P MMORPGs to have a real opinion on how things work in that market. Maybe some Lord of the Rings Online players have an opinion on this? Did the player base as a whole loose quality since the game went free-to-play?

I’ve been called an elitist before (for example when I suggested paying to keep the casuals away (a post quite a bit more moderate than the title might suggest)), and surely it wouldn’T do my reputation any good if I would claim that one should use financial barriers to keep kids out of my games. It is a fact though that certain types of games attract a certain type of players that I don’t want to spend time with. Just as I avoid the clubs that are heavily frequented by 18-year-olds (not because there aren’t any people of that age that I could relate to, but because the percentage of those is very low), I avoid the games in which I have to interact with people that behave – in my opinion – improperly. I’m starting to think that F2P might be an indicator of such a game which in turn would make me prefer games with a subscription fee.

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