Posted in General

Let me be as antisocial as I want!

Over the past year or so, I’ve been coming to terms with the revelation that I am an introvert to my very core.  You’d think this would be something I’d have known since, say, high school when I’d lock myself in my room every afternoon and evening to read and play on the computer, but no.  Ironically, most of the characters in the books I read were very extroverted, and as such, I must have convinced myself that these were qualities that I had too.

So I’d find myself doing activities that extroverts loved — going to parties, concerts, etc. — and just hating them.  I couldn’t understand that on week-long mission trips why I’d go bonkers about four days into a nonstop social experience.  I’d bought into the idea that introverts = antisocial losers, and I couldn’t let that be me.

Except that I am an introvert, with all that that entails.  Part of the revelation I’ve had these past couple years is from reading essays from other introverts who have explained so well the nuances of this personality type.  That we live in a world of extroverts, but trying to conform to the 75% or whatever of society who are like that is like hammering a square peg into a round hole.  They explained that introverts do like social connections, can be leaders, and are often welcome members of any team.  It’s just that we approach life a little differently.

A good quote from The Atlantic:

“Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.’ Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.”

So now I know enough to give myself adequate alone time.  I know that having quiet time is necessary to recharge my batteries for the bursts of time when I do need to be outgoing and social (which is, of course, a large part of ministry).  And while sometimes I do really enjoy being around people, sometimes I don’t — and that includes part of my gaming experience.

It’s why the whole attitude of “You’re playing an MMO, and ‘multiplayer’ means you should group up and be social” irks me.  I don’t see that as a mandate that must be followed; I see it as an option.  One of the best aspects of MMOs is that they (should) give you options as to how you want to play that day.  Options to progress, options to set goals, options to be as much or as little social as possible.

And while some extroverts and devs may be stymied by the stubborn reluctance of some players to group, there might just not be any magical key that’s going to unlock that.  Make the rewards as great as you want and penalize soloing as much as you want, and players who want to “play alone together” will still find a way.  Maybe some devs get it, but sometimes I get the feeling that the attitude is the same as a well-intentioned friend trying to pull you to a shindig that you know very well you’ll end up hating.  “But it’s great!” they say.  “That may be,” you reply, “but it won’t be for me.”

Another quote from the aforementioned article:

“Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.”

That sounds so familiar, especially whenever people get into an online discussion of grouping vs. soloing, doesn’t it?  Personally, I do understand WHY people like to group, raid, and PvP, but I don’t always see a lot of understanding by that crowd as to why I love to solo in peace.

I’m not even against parties or grouping, I just don’t ever want to feel like I have no other recourse but to partake, just because someone’s dragged/forced me to do so.  Soloing PvE content is generally relaxing and recharging for my personality, whereas grouping and PvPing is not.  Those are acceptable in short bursts, but it’s not what I thrive on when I play.

And I honestly don’t know how many introverts engage in MMOs vs. extroverts.  I don’t know if the ratio is the same as in society or if it skews to favor one side or the other.  I do know that some people who admit to being introverts are far more social online than they are in real life, so that party personality you’re talking with may not be as such if you met on the street.

In any case, every time I hear a dev gush about how some new system or twist will suddenly open the floodgates to grouping and pull in all those reluctant groupers, I wince.  Maybe a new approach is called for, game design that considers not just playstyles, but extroverted and introverted personalities.

40 thoughts on “Let me be as antisocial as I want!

  1. These days, social activity in MMO’s just takes too much time for me. Free time is so precious that I just don’t want to wait for people.

  2. Good stuff. I’m an introvert as well, which I’ve always known, but recently I’ve started learning more about introversion as an orientation. I love people, but parties and dinners make me exhausted mentally – it’s just not the way I’m wired. Similarly, I love guilds in MMOs and welcome the chatter, but being forced to group for end-game content isn’t that fun for me.

    A great book to read on the subject is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She asserts that many leaders in the tech world… ie Bill Gates (Microsoft), Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Pete Cashmore (Mashable), and so on are introverts that find their strengths in helping people connect virtually, and that introverts are far more likely to be found online & using social media. It’s an interesting read.

  3. OMG It worked. Feel free to delete my last comment.

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. I can’t stand large crowds. It’s not a phobia. I don’t hid in my closet at the prospect of going to the mall or anything. But I am not generally comfortable being among huge groups of peope. While I enjoy small groups with people I like, I am often very quiet until I get to know people. I also hate talking on the phone. Ironically, I don’t get stage fright and am very comfortable speaking to large groups of people, whether lecturing directly or as part of a dramatic production. I actually rather enjoy it.

    So keep soloing in your MMOs, I be happy to play by myself with you.

  4. Rift’s open grouping works wonderfully for introverts. I was extremely skeptical about it before I tried it but it really does provide the best of both worlds. All the activities requiring a group become available to an individual without any of the onerous social responsibilities. With luck GW2’s open event system will continue this welcome trend.

    I usually come out as “Balanced” on Int/Ex tests. I just did two quick ones to see if that’s still the case and I rated “Balanced” on both. In MMO terms that means I like to be able to decide if I’m going to be social or solitary on a whim. It’s why I don’t like guilds much – socialization there can be too much of a requirement and not enough of an option.

  5. I don’t think that you can equate being an introvert with being antisocial and not wanting to group in an MMO. Like you even say yourself, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean being misanthropic – it means that you don’t like having lots of “fluff” in your interactions with people.

    I’m an introvert myself but I love interacting with people online precisely because so much of the small talk and other “niceties” gets cut out. People aren’t freaked out by not chatting while being online at the same time in the same way it makes them uncomfortable to just sit next to you in silence. It’s okay to only whisper someone if you actually have something to say.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the most antisocial people online were actually extroverts who find the bare bones social interaction too unsatisfying to bother with it.

  6. You’re a star!
    Any challenge to the “grouping good, solo bad” mentality makes you welcome at my feast Personally…. don’t see why I need to choose and be boxed in. Mondays trust me I’m better solo, Fridays, yay family home soon = party time! It’s raining – I want to curl up with a nice alone rainy game, I’m bored at an airport – I want quick bouts of pvp to make the time disappear. Gimme choice !!!!

  7. Have you read the book “Introverts in the Church” by Adam McHugh? I found it very helpful and I’ve been lending it out to everyone I know who is an introvert or who works with one. He also has a blog at

    I’m undecided about how I think it applies to grouping in MMOs. I’m an off-the-charts introvert, but I’m definitely more social in online settings than in non-virtual life. Grouping does wear me out, but not in the same way as being stuck in a crowded room. I do like to have at least a character or two who’s not in a guild, so I can escape from the chatter if I need to. I’m sure it’s too simple to equate introverts with soloers. But I 100% agree that some people just want to solo in peace, and I guess that could be hard to understand for someone who has never felt that way.

  8. interestingly enough, I have always been called an extrovert myself due to temper and leadership qualities, but recently I’ve realized how that may not be the whole truth (also thanks to a reader commenting on a blogpost I wrote). the terms are often misused. i find myself in many introvert descriptions too.

    in case you missed it, Larisa posted an intriguing post on psychological profiles of mmo players, based on a study at the time.
    the chart is rather revealing on introverts. I’ve taken the jungian test many times and there I never end up among the i-classes (but the result fits me very well and has fit every family member or friend I asked to take it, too). maybe you like to take it sometime and see what you score.

  9. I’m a solid introvert. It does seem to me that most MMO devs are extroverts, though… the especially odd strain that thinks that anyone not like them are somehow dysfunctional.

  10. Great post. I’m a definite introvert and totally relate to many of the comments. Now you’ve prompted me to go and learn more about introversion – something I have previously failed to do, so thanks for that!

    @Moxie – yup, parties and dinners have the same effect on me.
    @Rowan – I’m the same with regard to large crowds…yeuk! But a small group of close friends and I won’t shut up (most of the time). 😉
    @ Shintar – love the line ‘you don’t like having lots of “fluff” in your interactions with people’ – bang on from my perspective.

    As for grouping in MMOs, I have to be in the mood to enjoy it, and that usually means playing with folks I like. I really can’t do PUGs – not ever.

  11. An excellent perspective on introversion, especially applied to gaming. I got into MMOs as a way to have fun with family over the distances, joined their guild but really didn’t do much grouping as I was just blown away by the gaming experiencing I had been missing. There are time where I have had a blast running dungeons or doing events (in LOTRO, keg runs & music are my favs) but most of the time I just enjoy soloing through the content at my own pace.

    I find it interesting that modern society is just now realizing the unique contribution that individual’s with the ability to focus and think outside of groups and teams can offer. There’s a lot to be said about how key thinkers in the past were not necessarily gregarious and outgoing people.

    Thanks to the commenters on some of the links provided. I now have some new reading to add to my list! @Rowan – I too find it interesting that I have no problem speaking in front of large groups or teaching a class, even while I dread “forced” gatherings, such as parties or other social events, particularly unstructured ones.

    Thanks Syp for yet another thought-provoking and insightful article!

  12. As an introvert as well(~80% strongly typed per MBTI), I both understand where you’re coming from, and strongly disagree as well. Additionally, I don’t feel that there’s any need to rag on Developers at all, especially not to accuse them of being extroverted for the genre encouraging grouping.

    MMOs are exactly that; Multiplayer games. While I can certainly understand not wanting to group all the time, or even at all, if that’s the case, then you’re really trying to force a square peg into a round hole. By their very nature, the games are designed for group content and activity and any solo content is something that is by its’ very nature at odds to the broader genre. If you want to play MMOs but do nothing but solo, then you’re probably playing a game that’s not right for you. It’s not really any different from buying a game like Starcraft 2 and complaining about resource management and how you have build a proper mix of units for attacks on fortified enemy positions. After all, is are you really playing a real time strategy game if you take those aspects away?

    With that said, I definitely feel that the option for solo play should be available, but that it should unilaterally be an inferior option to grouping. Again, this is not because I don’t value the innovation laid down by Blizzard, but I do feel that the proliferation of that design and how it’s evolved in the years since are detrimental to the genre writ large. Older games like FFXI and EQ had far more robust communities that tended to self cleanse of the elements which I would wager cause most of the distaste people have for grouping in MMOs. Some of these things that I personally have seen grow more common in nearly 10 years of playing MMOs are the anti-social behaviors of individuals in a group setting, the mentality that other players in a group aren’t really people, so there’s no need to treat them the way I’d like to be. To give an example of this, I’d single out the people who need everything they can in WoW’s LFR so that they have some sort of bargaining chip in the event that something they do want drops later.

  13. Monday, March 26, 2012
    New York Times correction on Jean-Paul Sartre quote in newspaper on March 13, 2012

    from the NEW YORK TIMES (this is what I saw today with my own eyes in my local paper here in Taiwan)

    A Lens column earlier this
    month about introverts and
    extraverts misquoted the
    French philosopher Jean-
    Paul Sartre. The correct
    quote is “Hell is other peo-
    ple,” not “Hell is other peo-
    ple at breakfast.”===============

    March 27 issue of the New York Times Weekly (international editions in 26 nations)correcting misquote
    from March 13 issueat breakfast.”

    [The misquote was conducted by Kevin Delaney, staff writer at the Times, who apparently
    picked up the misquote without knowing it was a misquote from reading a recent
    Huffington Post post about Jonathan Rauch’s humorous 2003 take on the real Sartre quote
    and Susan Cain’s book about introverts and extraverts. Kevin has opted not to respond to
    this antiblogger’s dozen emails requesting an explanation, and neither has Dr Rauch or any
    of his spokespeople at THE ATLANTIC magazine, although Atlantic writer James Fallows did
    say he would pass on my query letter to Dr Rauch, who he knows personally.’

  14. Sartre never said HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE AT BREAKFAST. he said HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE. period. please correct re

    Being, nothingness, and a fake Sartre quote that won’t die

    by Andrew Beaujon

    Published Mar. 21, 2012 3:29 pm
    Updated Mar. 21, 2012 3:35 pm

    Chicago Tribune
    Writing in the Atlantic in 2003, Jonathan Rauch made a joke. “Introverts are also not misanthropic,” he wrote, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.’” Jean-Paul Sartre said nothing about bagels, but the Internet has turned Rauch’s bon mot into fact.

    Mary Schmich was alerted to a piece by Kevin Delaney that “quoted” Sartre’s Rauch-written aphorism by Dan Bloom, a Taiwan-based blogger who spotted it in a Times supplement distributed with a Chinese newspaper. (I can vouch for Bloom’s interest in this matter; he’s copied me on 10 emails that he’s sent to the Times and others about the gaffe.)

    Schmich called Fred Shapiro, who edited “The Yale Book of Quotations.” “Any time you see a quote attributed to Mark Twain, figure that one is false,” Shapiro told her. “Similarly with Yogi Berra and Benjamin Franklin.” (Indeed, Mike Daisey got a Twain quote wrong when he published his now-famous nonapology.) Schmich writes that one of her lines is now frequently attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and that something she didn’t write is now often attributed to her.

    Schmich warns readers to be wary of online quotes, but you don’t have to bother your iPhone to read an inaccurate quote. I live in the Washington, D.C., area, where a mangled quote recently got carved in stone, which is actually kind of a tradition around here.

    It’s too bad Rauch didn’t make Sartre say “Hell is other people at brunch.” No one would have ever questioned that.

  15. Realizing that I’m an introvert changed my life for the better in so many ways – I know that I need a lot of alone time to stay well-balanced, and I make sure to get it. I’m never bored and I’m generally a cheerful, happy person. In gaming I tend to solo most of the time, since that’s one of the things I do to get some alone time. Nothing against grouping, it’s just usually not my thing.

  16. @Dan – While he misquoted, I quoted the author accurately, so I don’t need to correct anything. But thanks for those extremely long comments?

    @most of the comments here – Great discussion, and I’m glad that this post resonated strongly with some folks.

  17. @Syp, re Ruach wrote in 2003 which you quoted correctly — ”Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.’ Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.”..BUT Rauch was using that quote tongue firmly planted in cheek, he was kidding, kidding, so you cannot use that line unless you tell readers you got it from Ruach in 2003 and Rauch was spoofing on the real Sartre quote. As long as you make it clear, the line is NOT really what Sartre ever ever said…. am i right or am i wrong?

  18. My father put it very well; he said “Introverts recharge their mental batteries by being alone, and slowly drain them when being with others. Extraverts recharge their mental batteries by being with others, and slowly drain them when being alone.”
    I am an introvert and my wife is an extravert, which was a challenge early in our marriage. She simply could not understand how I could love her company but also need time by myself. Putting it in terms of “mental batteries” helped her understand. I enjoy social activities, but it is tiring to me. I need time to “recharge” after being social for a long time.

  19. to key words there are AS FAR AS TO SAY, that was Rauch signaling readers that he was JOKING, riffing on the original quote. right?

  20. very very very very well said….i am same same….introvert forever…..and happy

  21. This was a great post. For the last year or so I was wondering if there was something wrong with me for just absolutely enjoying sitting at home with no one around, playing games or watching movies or whatever. This makes me happy, yet the world paints you as a weirdo for not wanting to go out and party, which like you described, is tiring to an introvert. Even not being an active ‘dater’ has never been a problem, even though friends think I’m weird. I end up meeting quality people in general, just doing what I do, even if my front door isn’t a revolving one. Thanks Syp!

  22. People often forget that there is more multiplayer to playing an mmo than just grouping with people to do things.
    There is competition – getting things done first in comparison to other people.
    There is pvp – it’s not very social, but it does require multiplayer.
    There is often an interesting economy which doesnt require social interaction, but does require the game to genuniely be massivly multiplayer.

    Lots of reasons for an introvert to want to play an mmo.

  23. I came a little late to this party, judging by the volume of comments, but here are my thoughts for what they are worth.

    The dictionary definitions of both words are very specific. If these words are used correctly they fulfil their functions. However, there is a lazy cultural predilection, which means that the terms are simply designated as labels. They are arbitrary and possibly even come with an agenda. Think of terms like fat and skinny then consider introvert and extrovert. Yes, there is more going on here than simply defining a condition in logical terms.

    I’m a big fan of Marcus Aurelius and his assertion to ask of all things, what is it in itself. What does it do? That has intellectual weight. Simply labelling someone one thing or the other is completely the opposite of that. It is lazy, rude and dangerous.

    I can be extroverted as and when it suits me. Writing a blog and doing a podcast requires it. It is a tool that I use as a means to an end. I can also be very introverted. Is it my default positions? May be, may be not. My point is I am not just one or the other. It makes me so mad that so many people these days wish to adopt this rational for pretty much everything.

    People are complex. Even the most dullest and predictable of us, still has hidden complexities which are there for unique reasons. Therefore I kick hard against such ill conceived pigeon-holing. It is lazy thinking and that is the ruination of society.

    Oh and I should have said this earlier. Excellent post. Well done.

  24. Gwjanimej, “multiplayer” isn’t the same thing as “grouping”. I’ve written about this several times. An MMO may well just be a shared persistent space and still be considered “multiplayer” simply because more than one player inhabit that space. Conflating “MMO” with “must group” is well and truly missing the point and potential of these games.

    …and yes, most devs do this as well. That doesn’t make it right.

  25. My own insight isn’t that “hell is other people;” rather, it’s that “hell is strangers.”

    I’ve met many introverts and extroverts over the years. Some of the introverts were the quiet, shy stereotypes, others had quite competent social skills. Likewise, some of the extroverts were “life of the party” types, while others were the loud, abrasive types so many of us loathe.

    But one thing common between all the introverts was that being around groups of strangers was an energy-draining experience for them. And one thing in common between all the extroverts was that being around groups of strangers was an energy-boosting experience for -them-.

    I guess introverts are just the natural prey of the extrovert energy vampires?

    The other thing I’ve noticed in common between all the introverts was that they tended to form few, but deep, friendships. Meanwhile, extroverts generally had fewer close friends than introverts, but many more acquaintances.

    And acquaintanceships are the sort of shallow relationships bedecked with social “fluff” that an earlier commenter found distressing. Makes sense to me, at least.

  26. By their very nature, the games are designed for group content and activity and any solo content is something that is by its’ very nature at odds to the broader genre. If you want to play MMOs but do nothing but solo, then you’re probably playing a game that’s not right for you.

    2004 called, it wants its MMO design philosophy back.

    Simply put, designing an MMO in 2012 without a deeply satisfying single-player component is financially insane. Not only do you preclude tens of millions of potential customers from playing at all, you also destroy the game for even social people who A) don’t feel like grouping tonight, or B) can’t find a group. It’s dead-end design.

    Besides, why is it “wrong” for single-player RPG fans to play MMOs as surrogate RPGs? The mechanics are identical: levels, gear, quests, killing monsters in random encounters, and so on. I spent 100+ hours in DA:O, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, etc. Compare that to 7000+ hours in WoW. While there is no way I would have played WoW so long as a solo-only experience, the fact remains that there is a LOT of overlap in game style and psychological rewards.

    P.S. Introvert checking in.
    P.P.S. Is it a particular wonder that a bunch of blog writers/readers are introverts? 😛

  27. I am definitely one of those people for whom social interaction is difficult and draining.

    But the same is true of swimming, and I can still enjoy swimming. Sure, I wouldn’t like to swim *everywhere*, but spending an hour at the pool swimming makes me feel exhausted in a happy, accomplished way. The same is true of an hour in a team of strangers in City of Heroes.

    If I’m going to spend a day at Hurricane Harbor, I understand that some swimming may be involved, and I will not complain that there were bits of water to swim through in addition to slides.

  28. I know I’m sending this into the void since I’m so late to the party (been super busy with Storybricks stuff, behind on my reading… let’s not talk about my own blog posts…), but a few comments.

    First, most MMO designers I know of are introverts, including myself. Game design is a discipline that tends to favor the introverts because it requires a lot of consideration, contemplation, and thinking through possibilities.

    Speaking personally, although I’m an introvert I don’t always feel worn out after interacting online. In fact, I credit my interactions online to the reason I can “extrovert” well in public as required by someone who has to go to a lot of conferences, speak at events, and talk to people about business. I rank very high on the Socializer motivation, even though I am completely not a social-focused person offline. (Or even online outside of games; my participation in social networks tends to be limited.)

    So, I wonder if the introvert/extrovert divide can really explain why people get tired from online interaction. I wonder if it can’t be more explained by the Bartle types, with the preponderance of Achievers in games making interaction with others feel like an obstacle instead of a fun part of the game. We do know from a lot of empirical evidence that people who do interact with others in games and form stronger bonds do tend to enjoy games more and stick around longer. I think this explains the motivation for designers to want to encourage group play, not some proclivity for extroversion.

  29. I think Brian hit this one on the head. I’m both an introvert and an Achiever (primarily). I don’t really find online interaction all that draining; I just find that “too much” of it gets in the way of accomplishing the things I want to accomplish in any given play session.

    Also, it’s been found (as far back as EQ, I believe) that players with strong social bonds in-game tend to stick around (and continue paying) long after they’ve actually lost interest in the game. Maybe they also enjoyed their time more, as well, but I don’t recall reading anything on that topic.

  30. Fairly late response, but for some reason I missed this excellent article! It describes my personality to the core with all the prejudice that you run into as a result. I’m lucky that my favorite MMO Lotro is pretty Solo friendly, and I’m able to have a lot of fun without being forced into mandatory grouping. I do group, but only on my own terms in my own time, when I feel like it.
    Thank you for highlighting this issue and describing it so well.

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