There’s a Grand Designs episode where Kevin follows a group of low income earners who build a community together and get to stay in the houses they built for reduced rent. Ten years later he goes back to find that every single one of the families is still there, about a dozen in total. This is put down to the type of community they forged with the style of construction and design, but one of the individuals makes a comment along the lines that there is the occasional social problem or drama but it never blew up into a drama-fest because each person had invested so much time and effort into the community that they didn’t want to risk losing what they had.

That really struck me as being the key reason for the project’s success. It’s a nice socialist dream that everyone has the capacity to be nice to everyone as long as they are nurtured and cherished, but in the real world people will only make an effort to always do the right thing if they have skin in the game. I saw this manifest itself in another way when I worked as a rafting guide. The customers who were the most problematic and who complained the most were almost always recipients of a free rafting trip. The act of paying for a trip caused people to put more effort into what they got out of it. People don’t value something that has cost them nothing.

And so to MMO-land, and the all too familiar decline of the playing population as hard work and effort has been replaced with gift giving and a sense of entitlement. The corresponding change in behavior amongst the player base was the number one reason why I left. So I was very keen to get into the vanilla WoW server at The Emerald Dream and see whether I would be dealing with an old school gaming community. I mean, if my above observation is correct then it stands to reason that a game that is an exact replica of WoW when it was not just challenging and you had to work together, but the server community was small enough and contained, (no LFD cross server realms here please), that it would engender consequences for one’s actions and thus better behavior than that which you find now.

This in fact seems to be the case. To the best information that I have been able to obtain, I am reasonably certain that the server is able to hold 1600 players at any one time. There is also a very active community forum where true bad apples are named and shamed. I have not got to the point of looking for a group to run a 5 man yet but I am reasonably confident based on what I have found and experienced thus far that it will be a pleasant surprise. At this point I have 4 people on my social friends list, 3 of whom I have met in game. That’s after 2 days playing. Everyone that I have whispered has helped me out, as have I when someone has whispered me. The population seems to be just right – starter zones such as Goldshire have a good scattering of players but not too many that you are fighting for resources. What the higher leve zones are like I cannot guess but my run across the Wetlands had me bump into a few players in Mithirl Harbor and that was at 3 o’clock in the morning European time.

The best indicator for me that having skin in the game makes people behave better is that some of the people I have met are fairly new to MMOs. In other words, there is every chance that in the current iteration of WoW they would be your average arthuslol idiot. I have no proof of that, but my instincts think this to be the case. Whatever the truth of the matter, there is no doubt just how healthy and vibrant this online community seems to be.