Reflection in Foreign Waters
A good number of bloggers and commenters have recently been talking about the community. One comment on yesterday’s correspondence compared the WoW community to the EVE Online community and found WoW coming up short. It started me thinking about the other MMO communities I’ve been a part of, and I decided to make that the subject of today’s writing.
I played, in addition to WoW, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Star Trek Online, and now a little Rift. There have been many similarities between those communities. For one, every single one of them bashed WoW players. People who complained about the game were labeled “WoW players,” and their opinions were dismissed. Being a WoW player, I found this very irritating as I feel I don’t exhibit whatever bad behaviors (impatience, arrogance, know-it-allness – wait, maybe I do) that correspond to playing WoW. While it was never enough to make me consider quitting a game, I did notice the derision from other games of WoW players, and I didn’t like it.
Beyond that, I found the other games to be more troll-free. Specifically, when I asked for help with a question (or quest), it was more likely that I get a serious response than a sarcastic or insulting one. People were more willing to help new players who didn’t know anything. Since I was frequently lost (either geographically or otherwise), I found the help quite useful, especially since I’d become used to getting no response or a nasty response in WoW.
Another aspect of the communities was grouping for dungeons or quests. This really wasn’t different from WoW. In every game there are people who are slackers or jerks who, when you get in a group with them, let their true colors shine. It happened repeatedly in DDO, even though my friends and I were 4 of the 6 people required for harder dungeons. In LotRO, three of us played and still had issues with rude others. The difference here, though, was the ability to ignore the person and never come across them again. While the same is basically true in WoW, there’s no consequences for upsetting a whole group of people from multiple servers, so people do.
I haven’t played Rift long enough to bump into people like this. I’ve only done two dungeons total, and both were very enjoyable, even with several wipes under the belt. The battlegrounds, though, do have gripers (already) who complain when losing about having too many low level characters, as if people who just got into the new bracket should know better than to do a BG. I’m not sure how I feel about that; it is a handicap to have a level 30 player in a 30-39 BG, but that’s how the game’s designed, so I figure they should just suck it up. Maybe that’s me thinking like a “WoW player,” though.
I suppose my assumption about the WoW community is that with so many more players, you’re bound to get more bad apples. It’s just math. However those bad apples in WoW have so defined our community that a reputation about all WoW players exists in other games. Most of us may have bad habits (I know I do), but I certainly do not see myself as a “WoW player” based on the definitions from other games. Perhaps this is a Johari Window issue; maybe the way we see ourselves, not like the “bad apples” on our servers and forums, isn’t how others see us. After all, we know the fable about the stork and the crows, yes?
If not, here’s a very hackneyed (I cannot believe how that’s spelled) version. Mr. Stork was lonely, so he decided to hang out with a flock of crows. The crows hung around a farmer’s corn field and ate the farmer’s corn. The farmer, eventually, sets a trap to catch the crows. When the trap is sprung, Mr. Stork is caught in the trap with all the crows. The farmer then comes out with a shotgun to kill them all. “Look,” says Mr. Stork, “I’m not a crow. I don’t even eat corn!” “Oh well,” says the farmer, “Birds of a feather flock together.” He then kills them all.
Oh Aesop, you jokester. However, the point stands. Perhaps we should re-examine why we’re still playing with all the crows. Probably it’s because guilds help insulate us from the worst of it. Maybe naïvté plays its part, as well; it was certainly naïve of me to assume the game had changed over the month or so I couldn’t play it. Without time to play, though, and thus without a guild full of storks that really know me, I’m pretty much stuck with the crows.
Robert Bellah said, in Habits of the Heart (if I’m remembering my schooling correctly), that for us to make something “sacred” (meaning important), we first have to name it, then create a vocabulary around it, then create a dialogue about it. The community is important to us, and I’d like to start a dialogue. First, we’ll need to define what the community is and to begin to list the things we want in it. I’ll write more on this tomorrow, but I’m curious what others out there think. Simple, terse responses aren’t good enough any more. What is it we really want, and how do we get there?
Stubborn (who’s determined to be able to tell Blizzard what’s gone wrong)