Socialising through interests

I remember back in 1999 I tried becoming a member of The Well. I had to list a few things that interested me and wanted to ‘discuss’ – being a young student who had just been introduced to new ways of thinking, I registered that I was interested in conspiracy theories. I wanted to register something that I could get into heavy discussions about because that’s what The Well is all about – discussions – and I thought that I had plenty to say about the subject. Boy was I wrong! I got a few messages inviting me to join discussions and they were all filled with dreadful warning language like “You better be interested and not one of those fools who just sit and discuss conspiracy theories for fun!”. I never did join any of those discussion groups, they were all just a tad too serious for me and I ended up not renewing my The Well subscription because I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to talk about. Everyone was so extremely serious about their subjects of interest and I was just there trying desperately to become a member of an online community and I felt like a fool because there was not one particular subject I felt qualified enough to be a part of.

This was all very fresh in my memory when I entered The Sims Online. I felt that in order to integrate into a society, I needed some form of identity that would welcome people to talk to me. I ended up making a name that would entice some discussion. The name was, Dekcuf. It helped me in so many ways. People would ask where I was from because I had such an interesting name and when they realised that it was just a nasty word spelled back to front, I instantly got some respect and laughter which made people want to talk to me. Except maybe a few angry mothers who shunned me because their kids were in the same ‘room’.
Anyways…I thought about this because I read patternHunter’s interesting post “Hi, Stranger. Will You Be My Friend?” – where he/she discusses the problem with social networking sites.

“While there is a lot of both hype and potential for services like Wallop, Tribe, SecondLife, etc., they are all like bad parties where everyone is gathered in small circles with their backs to anyone new.”

The difference with MMORPGs (except for The Sims Online) is that you have an initiative to work together, but identity is still a major issue! We see different nationalities ganging up together in MMORPGs and age and sex has a significant value as well. I concur when patternhunter writes that “One of the benefits of a good host/hostess (other than attracting an interesting crowd) is his/her ability to introduce individuals to other individuals who are likely to share some kind of interest”.
But I guess I’m kinda odd there really – because what I enjoy most about socialising is learning new things and listening to different views on a vast array of subjects. I don’t want to be stuck in the Norwegian corner just because I’m Norwegian. I don’t want to talk gaming politics only with gamers. I enjoy diversity in my social spheres and I’m wondering if social networking sites and MMORPGs should maybe integrate systems into their worlds which makes it possible for diversity as well. In theory MMORPGs should really be a perfect forum there, because there is the common denominator of gameplay – but it really doesn’t.
But I’m rambling with my morning coffee now – need to get off my butt and get to uni! Work, work, work! But I want to PLAY!!!!

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