The Age of Experience
Self-editing is a bitch. I keep writing and rewriting things for clarity and meaning, to make sure my topic doesn’t go off in the wrong direction, to make sure that something I say won’t be taken out of context and start a pointless argument. It’s not that I write more carefully because I’m afraid of you, dear reader, but just to make sure that this mostly one-way interchange is as direct and clear as possible.
I deleted a whole paragraph from a post last week about age, in fact. I was speculating about the percentage of older gamers (older than 30) versus young gamers (younger than 25, sorry 26-29 year olds, I don’t have place for you) on the various sides of the optimization debate. I sincerely feel that a majority of the optimizers are college or just-out-of-college kids and that a majority of the anti-optimizers are older folks. The thing is, I really don’t know; I have no idea how old Gevlon, Rohan, Tobold, Spinks, and everyone else who chimed in is, so I decided to delete the paragraph and just ignore the thought.
However, when searching for a topic for today, I started to think about how a lot of WoW’s problems are probably based on the age of the WoW franchise, but I couldn’t figure out a way to develop that into a full post, so I saved it for another day.
Then, when browsing blogs for fodder, I saw in Spinksville this title for a conclusion to her post: “Age and experience beats youth and masochism’ (I initially read machoism, which I agreed with even more than masochism, but doesn’t make sense in the context of her post. Perhaps that’s a topic for me for another day. Incidentally, the entire post is excellent, and I recommend you read more than just the conclusion).
However, her conclusion doesn’t really mention age at all, just time played. She refers to “older players,” but only in the sense that they’ve played a game longer. Why, then, use the term age? Then it all clicked.
Age really is a huge issue in WoW, for all of these reasons. The age of the players, the age of the game, and the longevity of playtime all contribute to the success, excellence, failures, and problems of the game. It’s a vicious triangular dynamic that whirls like a buzzsaw, sometimes doing good works like providing us with wood, other times creating problems like carpenters with one thumb.
Let’s face it. The age of the player does matter, both in terms of “rattlesnakes on crack” (I forget who used that excellent metaphor, but it was a good one) and in maturity. That’s in no way to suggest that younger people are automatically less mature; no, I was quite mature for my age (in some respects – in others I’m still not), so I agree that there are some perfectly adult-like teenagers out there and some perfectly douchey adults. It does matter, though.
I think it would benefit the younger players to realize there will be a time when they can’t keep up with the game mechanics so as not to be so judgmental of others’ approach. I think it would benefit the older players to realize that, to the young, success in the game comes more easily and is important to them, so as not to be so judgmental about their approach.
WoW wasn’t even a blip on the radar for me until I was already “past my prime” (in an athletic game-playing sense), so I never had the chance to be super-duper. I also at times played with people who were ridiculously good, so I wasn’t really ever competing for #1 healing spots. The one druid healer we had in the guild who was better than me was a young jerk, as I’ve recounted before (I think – I’m not sure I did, now), but he sorted himself out when he left our guild for bigger game.
The age of the game is a factor, too. The longer the game lives, the easier it gets to dissect. The people theorycrafting have been doing so for almost six years now, and there’s been few changes to basic game mechanics in that time. It’s exponentially easier with each patch to figure out the best specs and most optimal gear sets because they’ve done it so many times before. The game’s age also matters due to cultural impact; as Klep said, basically everyone knows about WoW whether they play it or not. That means a lot of people get interested, take a peek at the game, maybe stay and play or maybe decide to go, or, maybe stay just to stir the pot a little. Whether it’s for good or bad reasons, there’s a lot of new players from day to day, and the “older” players have to deal with that.
Dealing with it can consist of helping, planning, training, criticizing, ignoring, or griping, but once again, the age here is a factor. A younger game has less theorycrafting. It has less players, and less “new” players joining all the time. It provides more “stability” in the community (though maybe not in the game mechanics), which makes for more serenity. That doesn’t make the communities “better,” just “newer.”
I remember a time in WoW before even Thottbot was king. I remember having to really, really search for information about specs, talents, etc. Frequenlty I would just ask my friends, or, when they weren’t around, a random person in Tempora Heroica, the #1 guild on our server. The people in that guild were friendly and helpful, but I made it easy on them by asking specific questions indicating I’d done some research and thought about things instead of just asking “wut specs bst?” Perhaps that’s an age thing, too, the approach, as I’ve found a lot more young players don’t know how to appropriately ask for things. That may just be a fluke of my experience, though.
As the game aged, so did we all, and the community made finding information easier and more convenient. I remember how excited I was when Wowhead came out, since Thottbot was so often inaccurate. Now, though I can look back and see how these things started to distance the community from itself, to widen the gap between the “knows” and the “know-nots.”
Aging is a reality for us all and our games as well. Both our own physical ages and the games age factor in to our experiences with it. What we should do is enjoy the game we play and let others enjoy it. We should remember, whether new player or experienced, young or old, that there’s a vast section of the game out there that’s different from us, and that bridging those gaps doesn’t mean not being able to enjoy the game.
You don’t always have to help the noob looking for advice in trade chat. Then again, if no one else is helping and you’ve got time, then maybe you should.
Stubborn (who’s in his 30s, for the record)