15 years isn't a long time to say that you've been around gaming in general- or even to say that you've been around online gaming, but it is a long time to say you've been around MMO (massively multi-player) games. I was 19 at the time, working for a call center contracted to America Online and CompuServe (R.I.P.)
Tech call centers were the place to be at the time. Sure, on the surface you were just taking calls and troubleshooting hardware and software that would very quickly become irrelevant, but it was the collection of people that were pooled together in that same place. You had people from all walks of life, but more importantly you had a huge, gradient melting pot of hobbies and interests that ranged from "I hate computers but they hired me anyways" to "I'm a hacker and this is just my day job to pay for my ISP".
You have to remember, information had a harder time spreading then. AOL was...well..shit - and the early web pages were still overly focused on self identification while the search engines were still young (I think I used Alta Vista, which was at least decent if you used your +/- keyword logic well). But as far as really connecting people and groups together, well, that was pretty non-existent - unless you made your site through some kind of shared hosting like GeoCities, or you were savvy enough to hook into a Webring, or stumbled upon a portal page riddled with links to other sites - (50% of which were broken links at any given time) - and all of it was being delivered to the average consumer at something like 24.4 kb/s while tying up one of their physical land lines, so the amount of surfing possible in one night was a fraction of what I do in an hour on my iphone while streaming the latest Rogan podcast.
But not at the call center. There, we had a T1, baby. Off calls and on breaks, the call center became a hub of information exchange. It was the people I met there that got me into my very first hosted site, 37thchamber.com, hosted out of a then-young Dimensional Communications. It was there that I discovered HTML, and Active-X, and FutureSplash. It was there that I discovered online gaming beyond first person shooters. It was there that I discovered Everdark MUD.
It was there that I discovered Meridian 59 - my first MMO. The first MMO, by standard of a fully graphical interface. I was late to the MUD scene. They already had the idea of a multiplayer, persisted world under their belt, but they were all Text based. More "choose your own adventure" in that you had to imagine the scene around you. You had to interact with text as well, no mouse. This could be frustrating at times - trying to guess at what the command interpreter was expecting and having to word it just right to get a reaction.
So the MUD pros were really just those people who, either by trial and error or by networking with other people playing at the time, had come to figure out exactly how to get around, exactly what to type for each quest, etc. They were the masters of macros, binding keyboard arrow directionals to the in-game movement commands that were based on the cardinal directions (n,e,s,w) so they could zip through the world map 90-degrees at a time like a Tron light bike rider.
Meridian 59.. and other early graphic based games like EverQuest and Ultima Online reset the playing field for everyone. We had to port over skills we learned in the FPS world like mouse looking and negotiating terrain in a 3d environment. These early days of MMO were, in general, slow going and pretty lonely because the greater population of players were getting used to just being in the world, like a toddler still learning how to walk and talk. There was lots of dying to level 1 beetles, rats, and wolves. There was lots of "where the hell am I" in towns that predated highlight paths, waypoints, and minimaps with tracking.
But something happened after those first few months and years while people were still getting used to their Avatars. They progressed to a point where they were able to get around ok - but things were still pretty hard to find without considerable exploration. And some encounters were simply too tough to go it completely alone. Guilds quickly became the glue that brought these individuals together. They were more like families, with a great deal of focus around contribution and nurturing of its members.
Invitations were taken under serious consideration - guilds back then didn't just "take anyone with a pulse". There were officer interviews, trial periods and whatnot to make sure that a potential member really did fit within the family system. The fastest you could get in is if you were related or had someone with pull directly vouch for you. Leaving a guild was unheard of and not usually without a great deal of drama. Early on, these things usually occurred over something serious - relationships gone bad, personality conflicts, gossip, etc. Many times, even if the person left, it was really just a cry for help, and after a few days of cooling off and talking things out, they were back in.
And this was life for a while, at least for general questing, crafting, and small dungeons. It wasn't until the concept of raiding came to be that guilds realized that the family style "no one left behind" system had its short-comings. Until raiding came around (and arguably even during early raiding) - the rules were simple. Some people understand things faster than others, and it was their job to teach the rest the necessary skills to win. There was considerable discussion before each raid, hell before each pull, to ensure that everyone understood exactly what their role was and what was expected of them. If there was a wipe, analysis was done after each attempt to really troubleshoot and look for areas of improvement or efficiency. But the important thing was this: The people involved were the given. The variable that would not change unless there was a gross imbalance of classes (not enough healers, etc) going on. If you were on the team, you were on the team and you were, eventually, going to get it down and succeed.
For some guilds - this SOP worked well. Not to toot my own horn, but the guild I led (Illumin Cathari) used this model to train some of the best players on the server - many of which went on later to become guild leaders and "uber guild" officers themselves. We grew ourselves from the ground up - one member at a time - with patience, training, focus and did I mention practice?
There was a competing model that was starting to develop around the same time. You see, when you build a guild as family first, performance second, the cost you pay is in the ramp time. You are not going to be the first guild on the server to hit end game content. You are not going to be the guild that only needs to raid 2 nights a week because you can blow through all the content in 6 hours. You're going to be the guild that struggles to fill slots, that has to run lower end dungeons to practice certain techniques. You're going to be the guild that has to wipe and reset many, many times before everyone can get it down.
Other guilds saw this issue from a different angle. They recognized that every guild had a gradient of players from the completely novice up to the gifted. Rather than cultivating players, they decided to harvest the top 10% of several guilds to form new guilds, like a permanent all-star team that didn't have to deal with anyone below the curve.
It started, as most things do, with competition for resources. Another interesting aspect of old MMOs was the idea of open raid content. "Instancing" didn't exist - raiding zones were simply there for anyone to enter, regulated only be a respawn timer. The entry fee was literally a guild's ability to "break in" and secure a foothold in the zone, which involved having to blindly zone in to an area that usually had a lot of trash mobs that were ready to swarm, and having to try and pull to a safe spot on one of the zone walls to establish a safe base of operation and proceed from there.
Let me try to paint the picture for you on how this worked from the angle of one of my favorite EverQuest raids: The Plane of Fear.
Imagine a giant, open zone full of hill country, about the size of Hillsbrad Foothills (for those of you familiar with WOW). You zone in by taking a portal - literally a loading screen - that drops you on top of a hill far out in the zone. All around you, patrolling randomly, are dozens and dozens of raid-level elite mobs with aggro radii almost as far as you can see. Now imagine that each one of those mobs are communal - that is - if they see you, others around them can chain aggro.
You are part of the break in team - which consists mostly of tanks, healers, crowd control experts and, most importantly, people who can feign death if things get too crazy. Everyone calls out who to assist off. Failure to assist will lead to broken cc's which leads to a wipe. Everyone buffs up around the entry portal and.... 1...2....3.... click!
Loading, please wait....
(Did I mention there was no vent or team speak? all you had was chat. Oh, and remember that you're doing all this over your phone line, so crashing while you zone in is a common occurrence the happened the most to healers and tanks)
Welcome to the Plane of Fear!
Before your screen fully loads, you are already getting beat on by the first mob that saw your crew zone in from a mile away. More are coming. One of the tanks has managed to taunt the scareling off you, but not before it nearly killed you with a backstab. The tank gets a worse fate - after a few seconds of holding threat, suddenly he completely vanishes from your field of vision. The scareling has teleported him away from the break in area, placing him within aggro range of even more mobs over a different hill nearby.
You realize now why your raid leader said: "Get to the west wall." at least a dozen times. Getting to the wall cuts the raids aggro range in half, and people who get teleported hopefully won't go too much further from the wall.
The zone wall is a steep incline, running up the side you wonder how your toon would ever really be able to have a foothold, but getting to the top, you turn and look down at the situation as it is unfolding around you: a scene of barely-controlled chaos, like a car that's lost its breaks careening down the road whose only saving grace is not needing to turn yet.
One of your friends, an Enchanter, is standing towards the middle, surrounded by motionless mobs. Every 5 seconds he has to pick a different target and "mesmerize it", effectively stunning the mob for about 15 seconds before it wears off. He's struggling to keep up, there at 6 of them he's having to track, and there are no "spell timer" mods or addons to help him. He just has to stand there and keep mental count of which mobs are about to break free.
Slowly the rest of the team begins fighting the loose mobs that are being tanked near the wall... it takes a good 2-3 min just to kill one, so if everything goes well, this group will hold it together and finish them all off over the next 30 min, securing a foothold on the south-west corner of the map.
Welcome to the Plane of Fear.
The nature of the rest of the zone is similar... the raid leaders have to decide a direction (towards a boss) and the raid has to progress, precariously, through the sprawling hills pulling and dealing with the hordes of trash mobs between. Typically, this involves having the bulk of the raid stay still in a secured area, and sending out scouts (druids, rangers, monks) to fish for pulls. Most of the time a person will discover too many mobs... and when this happens the scout is instructed to NOT lead the train of mobs back to the group, but instead die safely away from the raid so that the mobs will reset.
Sometimes the death isn't in vain... as the mobs wander back from the corpse at random intervals, if you're lucky you get a sickly gazelle that hangs around longer than the others, and a secondary scout can pluck it as a single pull and lead it back to the raid to kill. Sometimes.
And this is the progress of the raid. Inching along a vast zone full of trash until arriving at a boss location, usually a temple of sorts with even MORE trash mobs surrounding it, requiring more careful pulling before you can engage the boss itself. Hours and hours of fun for everyone.
Exciting eh? Now take all of that - all of the effort that your group had to put in just to break into the zone, and add to it the element of competition. Your raid zone is not your own instance. Other guilds that want to break into the same zone, can. Other guilds that want to establish their foothold so that they can out-pull your team to get to the bosses first, do so without regard.
Now, at first, it was an honorable situation.
If two guilds showed up at 7:00 pm for the reset, questions were asked and negotiations were had.
Are both guilds present, in force, ready to rock?
Did one guild clear out the plane last week, thereby making it only fair that they take turns?
What if the guild that's ready to go is incapable of securing the entrance - do they really get to just wipe all night long until they give up, forcing other raids to just wait on standby until they succeed or fail?
As I'm sure you can already imagine... this "what's fair" negotiating and behavior did not last long. Guilds who had experience lost patience with guilds who wanted to try it for the first time. High-functioning, competing guilds argued over whose turn it was, lamenting about how nothing of value dropped the week before, or how they totally got screwed by a server reset.
This gave way to the "asshole" guilds who, regardless if your situation, would show up in force and, without any coordination beyond their own, hop in and start pulling - even if your guild was clearly the one that entered first and established the initial foothold.
The asshole guilds knew that they had the expertise and gear to pull faster than you, so they were perfectly willing to compete for bosses and "leap frog" others to get ahead within the zone. This led to "anti-asshole guild" behavior, like purposely aggroing a bunch of trash and running it over to the competing raid's camp to effectively "train" them with mobs and cause a wipe.
This retaliation may have left the smaller guilds feeling vindicated, but it had the negative consequence of involving the GMs who sided with the idea of competition, but did not look favorably upon harassment like mob-training. Their message was clear: If you can't negotiate the zone control with words, you just have to get better at competing for pulls.
Which takes us back to the family structure of guilds. Whether you were a good player in a family style guild who aspired to one day even SEE the Plane of Fear with your guild, or you were a good player in a guild that managed to raid but had to compete with other capable raiding guilds, week after week you saw the top end gear being distributed to only a select few who could manage to make it happen consistently. This lead to the great guild mergers and the collapse of power.
Greed is a motherfucker. Not only was there the psychology of competition, but even within successful guilds there was a developing sense of entitlement. It's clear in any kind of team structure that there are some individuals who do more of the work than others - and for some of these guilds, there were people who were basically being carried by a core group of people who were performing above and beyond. It didn't take long for these elite-minded individuals to get together and share the similar tales and come to the eventual conclusion: Instead of competing internally and externally - let's just make our own guild and get the best of both worlds.
And so it was, on my server as I'm sure it came to be on others, that the top raiding guilds each had splinter factions break off and form new ones based almost entirely on a meritocracy. Careful consideration was also given to class balancing - even IF you were an excellent Monk, if the guild already had 2 good ones in it, you may not be let in just to prevent saturation and gear competition.
The guilds who really suffered were the mid-sized ones that were trying to home grow their operation - and I'm not just saying that because mine was one of them. Think about it: The top players from the top guilds break off and form a new "uber guild". This guild was made of players who were willing to part from their original family guilds in pursuit of end game gear and content goals. Many of them were nice, but most of them tended to be more selfish, asshole types with a sense of inflated pride and entitlement that comes with being on the all-star team. This guild tramples on all the others over content. They can afford to have people do nothing else but sit and "camp" for the appearance of bosses, and their skills and resources allow them to mobilize quickly when they do spawn.
So now here you are, a skilled player, still teaching new people to your guild how to pull properly, or how to heal, while all of this is going on. Then one day you log in and a representative from the uber guild catches you in whispers: "Hey, I heard you're a pretty good cleric - how would you like to join us?". Wow - you think - this is like getting called up to the majors! You're excited, but torn - how do I leave my family? I'm the best cleric in the guild - if I leave, their progression will fall behind weeks if not months...
Situations like that happened a LOT, and it was extremely frustrating because it really did establish a sort of caste system within the mmo community. New players usually started out in small guilds where they learn nothing, but get the hang of the game. Then they want to do "cool stuff" so they try to apply to the uber guild(s). The uber guilds turn them down because they aren't good enough to join or they have no room. The player then "settles" for joining a mid-tier family guild (like mine) where they wait and learn all the valuable skills to perform well at a high levels, and then eventually the uber guild recruits them and they leave. The rich get richer, and often times they don't even have to invest the time and energy it takes to build quality players.
But even as shitty as all that might have been - it established an eco system that was still based on two key human aspects: Notoriety and accountability. Sure, it sucked that a mid-level guild could never aspire to be on the same performing level as a conglomerate uber guild, but individuals form these guilds were looked upon favorably by the uber guilds - and many of us were allowed to tag along on uber guild raids and pick up gear when they were short players or had extra epics. Players also had a clear progression path, from novice to expert, to aspire to. And finally, like I mentioned earlier, many of the people we trained later went on to be officers and guild leaders of uber guilds, because they started out with solid foundations.
Fast Forward to the Present
This week I just picked up RIFT, marking my 10th...that's right 10th MMO to date. It's actually in playing the early release of the game that prompted me to write this blog post. Let me set the stage for the situation that lit the spark:
I've leveled a couple of toons to level 20 now (20 of 50), trying out the different archetypes to see which one most interests me to stick with. At around level 17, characters generally have their 3 talent trees and points spread throughout with one class being the most dominant. It's around this level that you can finally get a feel for the role. In line with that, the game also presents players with their first dungeon experience to test their characters out in: Iron Tomb.
Now think about this for a moment. For the first 10 or so levels you were just getting used to the world in general, how to get around, how your class works, etc. For the next 5 you've got the solo-questing thing down and your fleshing out your character's abilities and starting to see some early pvp and limitations. 17-20 your getting this first dungeon to try out probably your first true group encounter where, especially as THE tank or THE healer, the success of the dungeon depends heavily on your direct contribution.
Is it going to go perfectly the first few times around? Probably not.
Might there be wipes? Most likely.
But you gotta start somewhere... right?
Cut back to reality:
We enter the zone. Tank announces that this is the first time tanking in an instance, so he's going to mark targets and asks the dps to focus on the mob order. I type "kk, np" as a brief reassurance that I at least will follow his instruction so he can practice tanking. No one else says a word.
First pull - 3 mobs. I open up on the mob marked "1". The other DPS opens up... with whatever aoe attacks they have. The mob labeled "3" runs off and starts to beat on one of the other DPS who aoe'd.
The healer, having to heal both the tank and the DPS that pulled threat, pulls threat himself and the mob is now on him. I run up and Repelling Shot mob "3" away from the healer and hit it with a snare just as mob "1" dies and everyone else moves on to mob "2".
The tank, seeing mob "3" get rocketed back into his range, turns and starts trying to get threat back on mob "3" while everyone continues to attack mob "2". Mob "2" eventually loses threat on the tank and turns to hit one of the melee, but dies soon after. Everyone proceeds to finish off mob "3", and combat ends.
Sloppy, but we won. No one says anything. Everyone just moves up for the next pull.
Second pull - 3 mobs. As the tank pulls, another 2 mobs that were on patrol come winding around the corner and aggro. 3 becomes 5. I try to "misdirect" some of the adds onto my ranger pet to buy time, but it's no use, the other dps have already used the opportunity to spam their aoes and subsequently die. Healer dies immediately after. Then the tank dies. When my pet dies, they all aggro me. I drop a snare trap and book it for the zone out.
Sloppy, but it was a bad pull.
Before my screen can finish loading, I zone out to find that at least one person from the group has already dropped out of the party without saying anything. Moments later, a second one types "fail tank", and drops. I begin typing "Wow, one wipe and everyone quits?" and before I can finish my sentence and hit enter, the rest of the party is gone without a thing said.
10 seconds later, still sitting there astonished, I see the healer announce in the general chat "LFM IT". I see 2 of the other DPS also announcing "DPS LFG IT".
It was as if the Men in Black themselves had materialized out of no where and flashed the memories of everyone in the party except for me and the guy who managed to utter "fail tank" before leaving. There they all were, shouting for groups in the zone like nothing happened.
You see, not only was I shocked at how quickly they gave up - I mean literally 3 minutes into the dungeon - but I realized something deeper: The lack of /ragequit. Other than the one guy saying "fail tank", there were no harsh words. No words at all after the sloppy pull, no words at all after the wipe or before leaving the party. Just... nothing.
This is a new psychology that has been developing over the past... almost year now, and I began seeing it in World of Warcraft although I wasn't consciously aware of it until now. Long before this point, the sense of loyalty to a guild or a group was destroyed with the advent of instancing, cross server queues, and pugging, but even then there was at least a sense of SOME communication, angry or not, that aimed at identifying whatever issue was going on and at least trying to put forth an attempt to remedy the problem before calling it quits.
So when the group wipes - sure, maybe the days of calmly looking through the logs and talking about what the tank could have done better are long gone - but at least for a while there was the "3 min heated debate" where someone says "fail tank", prompting the tank to defend himself with "fail dps - I told you guys to focus on 1 mob at a time because I was learning" with the healer reinforcing the point "dps if you pull threat on adds, I'm not going to heal you".
A heated debate where, even if everyone agrees to disagree, internally people still made adjustments and in most cases were able to correct (without admitting fault, of course) to see the dungeon through to the end.
Now sure, it wasn't all puppies and cupcakes. In some cases a person was so fail and such and asshole about it when called out that no amount of debate could help, in which case that person was asked to leave or is kicked out of the group and replaced with someone with a better attitude. Again, maybe a 5 min ordeal tacked on? 10 max?
But now.. now it's like people can't even be bothered to deal with that 5 min inconvenience, or having to troubleshoot or type out a debate at all. Their time, apparently, is so valuable and their view of everyone else (or themselves) is so dismissive, so dehumanized, that the entire group may as well be a random bad hand of poker dealt to them with no chips on the table. No feeling, no opinion, soon as you look at the cards and see the 2-7 you have to work with, you don't even bother to Check on your turn, you just automatically fold and wait for the next hand.
This behavior wasn't unique to this one instance - I actually have 2 level 20 characters in RIFT that I've taken into the dungeon, and even into the early battle ground where the goal is for one team to take and hold a flag (shard) for as long as possible to generate points for their side. If the other team gets the shard early and racks up an early lead, you can physically watch everyone folding their hands one at a time as every respawn generates less and less people even bothering to run out onto the field (much less go for the shard).
I scaled this observation back to World of Warcraft and realized the same thing was happening there. I realized that in most battle grounds where my side has given up.. I'm the only one even talking shit in bg chat - and when I do, I'm not even met with counter arguments anymore. Just the occasional "lol", "just give up" or "u mad?" comments which completely diffuse any potential discussion.
Here's another aspect I find particularly baffling: In WOW specifically, they have daily "random heroics" which you can queue for (cross server) dungeons. Completing the dungeon gives you a bonus daily reward of points which are then used to by the top-end gear for the current expansion from the vendors... so it's always good to run at least one random heroic a day.
WOW, just like most MMOs, suffers from a non-uniform distribution of players across classes. There are significantly more people who play DPS classes than Tanks and Healers, but the dungeon randomization queues are designed to ensure that each group gets 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 dps when they are formed by the match maker software. Now, even with the 3:2 ratio, there are still so many more DPS than support classes that when Tanks and Healers queue, they will almost always immediately find a group, whereas a DPS has to wait in excess of 30 minutes to find an opening.
To deter quitting, Blizzard has additional mechanics built into the game. If you leave a group or a battleground early, you are considered a "deserter" and have to wait a minimum amount of time (10/15 min depending) before you can even queue again, and then you go to the back of the line. So for a quitter that's a DPS class - you're looking at 30 min to make it into your first group, a 10 min debuff for leaving early, followed by another 30 min wait before you get called into a new group.
That's well over an hour of time between dungeons - which (to people like me that live in reality land) represents the minimum effort time I should be willing to invest in cultivating a group that isn't going well. If I can help them hobble through the dungeon within even 45 minutes, I still will come out on top vs. telling them to piss off and leaving group and waiting for a new one.
Now - you would think that having to sit around for an hour would be enough to promote a least an angry but tolerant community of people who run random heroics... but the bizarre reality is that it doesn't.
I have had situations in Warcraft where - I'm not shitting you - DPS have left the group without as much as a single pull happening.
Literally, after waiting 30 minutes, the dungeon pops, I zone in, the rest of the group zones in, and the mage says "lol tank only has 110k health", and then drops the party. If you don't get what he said - the mage basically zoned in and assessed, within a mere glance, that the tank will have problems in the dungeon just by looking at his maximum health and determining that it is lower than average. But rather than try, or even ask if the tank has all his appropriate gear on, or appropriate spec... without seeing if the healer is well geared and capable of carrying him... without any consideration at all beyond a perception... he's willing to drop group and spend another 30 minutes waiting for a new one at a later time.
What's even more insane is - sometimes rather than re-queuing to fill that last gap with another dime-a-dozen dps, in that and other instances the mere suggestion that the tank or healer are in question is enough to influence other members to do the same - drop without even so much as attempting a pull.
And when the tank and healer drop, you're left there with your thumb up your ass waiting for more of those rare support roles to become available for your instance.
One thing I have to admire about these... lets call them binary players... is actually their lack of rage. I mean the first thing to go in group dynamics is compassion - patience usually gives way to contempt and when contempt is in play, people begin do demean those that they feel are failing at their role. But even in the worst /ragequit situations, the general feedback can be gleamed from their rant and there is at least SOMEthing to consider, even if it's just that they are misreading the situation.
This new "silent quit" style is nice, I guess, because there is no animosity; which I guess means less stress which I guess is a good thing - but damn. Could you imagine trying to learn a new skill and the only feedback you get is whether or not everyone around you stays or leaves? Or being a stand up comedian, telling your jokes and getting only completely neutral looks as the return?
And yet this is the reality that the mmo community is evolving towards even now. A new game like Rift is supposed to be a reset - the newness and unfamiliarity of the environment and game mechanics which causes people to want to work together more and grow with each other, (at least until people start hitting max level). You would think...
But instead, it's like all the habits that were developed elsewhere simply carry over with the individual, completely stunting the natural progression that should be occurring - especially at the level of the FIRST dungeon a new character has access to in the game where they SHOULD be making their mistakes and learning.
I'm still not sure if this evolution is an eventuality or something we should fear. I often have to weigh the changing of a mindset vs. simply having the contrast of experience. I mean in a sense the reason why I care so much is because of the years of experience that I lived through up to this point - in a strange way much like our immigrant ancestors that go on incessantly about saving money and the value of a dollar, where as I don't blink twice about the fact that it's hard to get out of a restaurant for under 10 bucks a person or that the cars I like are all more than $25,000.
I guess I wonder about more than just the dehumanization effect within the game is if this psychology carries over into the real world. I mean, do these people try out a new sport or a hobby, and if they aren't immediately good at it, do they just give up? Do they practice enough to get into their first competition, and then as long as they keep winning they'll keep playing?
And what if they suck at those hobbies, or their job, do they even know it? No one seems willing to provide real feedback - or maybe they just don't hear it? Does their boss give them negative feedback and they just blank out, taking none of it to heart and just quit, or nod and move on passively? Are they even equipped to deal with the consequences of failures where you can't just walk away and try some other time or not at all?
Maybe it's just me.
I mean, maybe back then everyone just took this MMO stuff way too seriously, investing too much thought and interest in the other human beings sitting at their keyboards on the other side of the wire.
Maybe MMOs should have just been a game like any other - something you can drop and walk away from at any time since it has no real world consequences one way or another.
Maybe massively "multi-player" is just a euphemism for a single player RPG inhabited by slightly-more-advanced NPCs rather than players - clever AI, but warranting no more attention or regard than a robot servant or a pet hamster in the real world.
Maybe it's the effects of machines and humans, and I'm just noticing it more than others. Maybe this dehumanization is something we are inherently capable of, which is why there is a deeper part of our nature that wants to bond, emotionally and physically, with other people like our families and significant others. Remove that proximity - remove that personalization - remove the consequences of having to tell someone face to face that they are failing, and we become cold and machine line, making purely strategic choices to maximize our chances for success without regard.
And finally, and ironically enough, here I sit - writing this about the dehumanization within a game, all the while typing it out to the empty void of a blog where it is uncertain who - if anyone - will read it much less want to comment on or discuss it further. The comedy of it is that 100% of the comments that get submitted here and on my core website are from fake bot accounts pretending to tell me my posts are awesome, then linking to whatever product they want to endorse.
What a mad, mad world.