The Ironic Soloer
Forgiving a moment's diversion back into my World of WarCraft addiction -- and with apologies to those who wish this game would finally get around to being exposed as the hopeless timesink that it is -- I have happily realized the way a compulsive soloer like me can play well with others. Just assume that your party is populated with foul mouthed NPCs.
It took me a while to embrace the new grouping tool introduced by Blizzard in WoW's most recent content update, but in the weeks since its release it has completely changed the way I play the game. At its simplest, here's how it goes: click button; wait a short time while you do other things; get automatically included into random group; teleport to dungeon; complete dungeon; get teleported back where you started with rewards and loot.
No fuss. No muss. It's elegant, simple, functional and addictive.
What is particularly nice for someone who holds an unreasonable anathema to playing nice with strangers, is that it's all business. Because of the cross-realm nature of the grouping tool -- meaning that you really can't build relationships with these people who usually aren't even on your server -- most people are very business like about getting the job done. Sure, there are horror stories out there about nightmare groups and painfully immature players, but most of the time I get into the instance, get down to work with barely a hello and leave having had no more communication with these tools to my success than a polite "so long, and thanks for all the loot."
This probably seems pretty awful from an outsiders point of view, but it is ideal for someone like me who, as I believe I have recently pointed out, is happiest with minimal drama. That I can just pretend that these avatars on my screen are just handy NPCs helping me clear out significant swaths of the game is just the suspension of disbelief I need to be able to take full advantage.
What is interesting about this, to me at least, is that by making the game more accessible to building groups of people, it has also made it easier to avoid actually working together in anything more than the most mechanical sense. Running these dungeons for emblems and loot is as much about building relationships with strangers as getting your oil changed at a Jiffy Lube on the other side of town.
And, actually, I'm just fine with that.