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Reflection in Foreign Waters

April 26, 2011

Dear Reader,

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?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (who’s determined to be able to tell Blizzard what’s gone wrong)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kialesse permalink
    April 26, 2011 4:48 pm

    I have pondered and cogitated and ruminated and, for a little while, actually thought about what to do to make the community better, and I ruefully admit to throwing up the white flag. The thing is, even if Blizzard instituted a better review system on our PuG-mates (would be great) or got rid of LFD entirely to force us to play with people on our own servers that we’ll have to see again (won’t happen), it still isn’t going to solve the core problem.

    Because no matter how much or how little Blizz parents us, they simply cannot make their player base care about the other people they are playing with. They can’t add gear to the game that has +218 compassion or +394 selflessness. They cannot simultaneously reward you for gogogogoing in dungeons AND reward you for taking your time to do it properly. You don’t get any shiny stars for passing the rockin’ staff to the warlock for whom it is MUCH more of an upgrade. There is no reward for being nice.

    In my opinion, there is an extent to which endgame and raiding is responsible, if only because raiding is often seen as the only legitimate way to play. “I want to finish this dungeon as fast as possible, because I’m only in it for the points to finish that tier piece I need for my raid tomorrow.” “What an idiot tank, he doesn’t even have a Naxx achievement – guy needs to l2p.” “LFM, pst GS and achi”. It’s all ridiculous. There is no external reward in running dungeons just because you LIKE to, or focusing on crafting because that’s what you enjoy, or God help us all… RPing. Because it’s, you know, fun.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t tangible rewards for playing the way you want to play, only in raiding. So I guess that is my advice to Blizzard, if we’re giving advice: make it valuable to focus on things other than how leet we are. If our gear and our DPS (or threat generation, or the size of our mana bar) are the only ways we have to relate to each other, the only ways that we can provide value to the community, then yeah, the community is going to be horrible. We stop seeing the other pixelated people as PEOPLE and just see them as obstacles hindering our own personal progress.

    This is obviously easier to say than to do. I have no idea how to reward people who aren’t into the raiding scene, but I think the best way might be to start thinking about how to diversify guilds. Right now, when we think “guild”, we mostly think “raiding”. What if Blizz set up different kinds of guilds, and gave them different guild rewards based on what kind of guild it was? A crafting guild, for example, might get access to recipes and patterns that no one else in the world can get. Or an economic guild might get the opportunity to open their own store.

    Still, adding a level of guild diversity doesn’t change the tank that doesn’t want to let the healer drink. It doesn’t stop the stupid mage from cussing out the new player who had the temerity to (gasp) queue for normal dungeons in GREENS, for the love. It doesn’t keep the rogue with their Fan of Knives from breaking CC just because. But what it MIGHT do is give those players that want to pick flowers, or play the AH, or accumulate massive numbers of vanity pets a way to have an endgame other than raiding. And if it turns out that is the only place you can get meta gems cut for a decent price on your server, you might end up being a bit nicer to the shaman with that guild tag under his name who still has a green belt on because he spends all his time mining instead of gearing up for raids.

    Apologies for the Wall of Text – obviously, I should just start blogging myself rather than cluttering up other people’s comments with my opinions 🙂

    • April 27, 2011 11:18 am

      No reason to apologize; I asked for extended thoughts and you gave me some. I appreciate it greatly. You have a really excellent idea here that I’m going to use today in my post, in fact, so I’ll refrain from commenting more on it here. Thanks again!

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