Talking Shop: The Importance of Player Housing

With the untold hours that gamers pour into their favorite virtual worlds, one aspect is becoming vitally important: player housing.

Think back to how many hours you’ve put into gaming over your life. Before the advent of online gaming, the experiences that we shared with friends over our favorite games were mostly relegated to talking shop during school lunch.

It didn’t take long for broadband speeds to get to the point where chatting around the proverbial watercooler turned into trash-talking with your mates in an online lobby. Throw in some crackly voice chat, and a new phenomenon was born: video games as virtual social spaces.

With online spaces becoming more and more a part of our daily lives for both work and recreation, it is only expected that the design of said spaces would be continually improved upon in order to promote the largest amount of well-being for its inhabitants.

Most always-online games do their damndest to give the player a satisfying and empowering experience in which they feel as if they are at the center of all happenings. This can, unfortunately, become quite exhausting – when all you’re doing it adventuring day and night, sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses.

Player housing has, for the most part, been a sporadically implemented feature – yet its potential is massive. At most, many online worlds give players a central hub in which to congregate with others. A shared space, to be sure, but hardly private.

Here, the usual go-to is to create private groups and relegate interaction to private voice and chat channels – giving players a semblance of privacy in a public space. But it could be so much more. Although housing tech is typically handled in the form of private instances where players can warp to, imagine a world where any place could be settled, and communities could form around key areas on the map.

Perhaps, one day one would wake up to find their idyllic online community torn apart by a marauding band of enemy players. Not only would such a thing make for a killer story, it would immediately brand the player with a sense of identity and belonging.

Unfortunately, such a day seems to be far on the horizon. Developers seem more inclined to give players endless point A-to-B missions to complete and dungeons to plunder for loot than pushing the envelope and challenging convention. Oh well, we’ll just have to hold out hope for those ragtag bunch of scoundrels who dare to go against the grain in the massive ecosystem that is game development.