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The Day Geography Died

December 12, 2012

Dear Reader,

What’s the most important factor you use in choosing your friends?  Is it similar interests?  Appearances?  Sense of humor?  Do you seek out people that make you feel good?  Nowadays, it may actually be one of those qualities, but 20 years ago, the world was a different place, and the number one factor was something often overlooked because of the fact that we were looking at it all the time.  20 years ago, the single most important factor for choosing friends was geography.

Kudos to you, dear reader, if you guessed it (tarnation – my title probably gave it away!).  In the past, the only way to choose friends was from the small pool of people who lived around you.  Geography was the ultimate social prison, in some cases, and to some extent it still is today.  People are far more likely to make friends from their place of work, their neighborhood, or from a shared social outing (like a bar, bowling alley, or game club), but now, we have something wonderful – or terrible – that wasn’t available 20 years ago.  We have the Internet.

The Internet has destroyed the importance of geography.  As I’m sure you’re well aware, dear reader, our relationships are based on frequent communication (frequent having different values at different times).  People we see and communicate with more frequently are more likely to become our friends.  In the past, geography made it much harder, but now with email, IMs, social media, and online games, we’re able to keep “close” contact with people who we virtually never see in real life.  A perfect example of this are the many, many marriages that are now taking place thanks to the Internet: people who meet on dating sites, people who meet in games, etc.  The death of geography allowed that.

Sure, this new breed of friendship has brought its own set of problems, but the death of geography as a social limitation was a fair trade in for the common textual misunderstandings or belief that all reciprocal communications should be nigh-instant.  Those are easily enough overcome, but geography wasn’t.

What’s all this have to do with WoW, you ask?  It’s simple.  Our servers are the social prisons in which we’ve dwelt for the past 7 years, and the cross-server options are beginning to do for WoW what the Internet did for friendship.  It’s allowing us to make friends with who we want instead of who we’re stuck with.

There’s been some great discussion on the topic recently, but the two posts that nailed home my feelings were from John “The Big Bear Butt” and Rohan of Blessing of Kings.  I strongly encourage you to read their posts in their entirety, but in case you’re lazy, here’s a quick summary:

BBB is all for it.  He responds to Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street’s tweet saying that he was worried about what current-tier cross-server raiding would do to guilds by saying he doesn’t see what the problem is.

Rohan is against it.  He responds to BBB’s post with a list, and it’s the list that drove me to write this post.  Here’s a snippet:

[BBB] assumes that if you need a raider for that last spot, you would pull from your guild, then pull from your cross-realm friends list, and lastly pull from trade chat on your server. That there is a priority list that goes:

  1. Guild
  2. Friends
  3. Strangers
Now suppose that assumption doesn’t hold. Suppose with the advent of cross-realm raiding, the priority list becomes:
  1. Friends
  2. Guild
  3. Strangers
I.e. you pull from your friends list before you pull from your guild.

To which I now respond: GOOD.  I see absolutely no problem with this formula.  In fact, I, like BBB, wonder why we don’t start to see cross-server guilds.  I’d VASTLY prefer playing with my friends than with my guildmates that aren’t my friends, but my moves in recent years means my “friends” pool has changed repeatedly, and paying the exorbitant money it costs to transfer to a new server or a new faction – which I’ve done repeatedly now – has convinced me never to do it again.  WoW makes enough money off me (hell, I’m about to buy a cinder kitten since I used to live in NY and want to support recovery there – okay, bad example, since Blizz isn’t getting that money, but you get my point) without the extra tax of following my shifting-target of friends around.

Playing WoW’s not a business, nor should it ever be, except perhaps to the top-top-tier of raiders out there who are somehow turning a hobby into a livelihood.  If we can break down the barriers of virtual geography to open up the ability to more frequently raid – or organize into guilds – with friends, then I absolutely think we should.  It would solve a lot of issues for the “working-professional” class of players who got started 6 or 7 years ago in WoW but have since completely rewritten who they want to play with.  It would save us all a lot of money, too, which I suspect is why Blizz doesn’t want to allow it.  Perhaps that’s being a bit too cynical, but after having a) moved and re-factioned Paladi, b) moved and refactioned my wife’s main toon, c) moved and refactioned my priest, d) and moved and refactioned paladi again, I’m starting to get a little cynical about Blizz’s business practice (that’s about $20o in extra money).  After all, Rift allows server moves like once a week for free!

Now to be fair to Rohan, he makes a reasoned argument about new end-game raiders.  However, I think his belief that all “business-like” raid guilds will disappear is wrong.  Too many people are too entrenched in that structure for it to vanish.  There’ll always be the “impersonal” (his word) raid guilds who put play before friendship, and that’s fine.  I’m not against that sort of play, but I’m tired of it.  Preventing cross-server raiding prevents me from doing current-tier content with my friends.  Allowing it does not prevent guilds of the Rohan variety.  And you all know my view on that sort of dilemma: inclusion, not exclusion, is the key to survival.

I say death to geography, and new life to playing with our friends.


Stubborn (and geographically biased)

P.S. Since I’m “done” with the semester, for the next 2 weeks we’ll have updates on M/W/F instead of T/Th/Sat.  After that I’ll be gone a few weeks, though (ugh – more on that another day).

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2012 2:00 pm

    Your parting conclusion is a great way of putting it. move towards making it easier for people to play together rather than harder, include rather than exclude.

    If you put barriers between friends playing together, it’s a disservice to both players. If your goal is to encourage them to branch out and make new friends… I would advocate positive reasons to encourage people to seek out new people to make friends with rather than putting barricades up to isolate people from their existing friends.

    I think Rohan has some excellent points on the challenges new players to the game face in trying to break into existing social clubs. I wish I knew more about how successful the Blizzard new player initiative guild system has been. Is it helping?

    • December 12, 2012 2:14 pm

      Blizzard takes the old approach to making people do things: force them to. It seems the newer motivational styles of managing groups are being ignored for that more punitive way. Instead, they should put all their focus on motivating people to branch out, like you say, and meet others. I’m not entirely familiar with the New Player Initiative, but I’d love to hear more about it.

      Also, I’ve found that most social clubs I’ve bumped in to have been accepting enough to give me a try. I got into “decent or better” guilds on every server I tried to, and it was my own lack of motivation to break in that stopped me, not the guilds’ refusal to let me try. In each case, I just didn’t feel enough of a connection to the players to push to make new friends. That’s on me, though, not them.

      Regardless, I appreciate your post bringing all this to my attention, and as I always say, I really appreciate your stories about your son’s experiences gaming – and learning alongside. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Krel permalink
    December 13, 2012 7:58 am

    This isn’t related to gaming, but it is very much relevant to your geography comments and I think you’ll find it interesting. My son, who will turn 18 in May, is adopted. My wife met his birth mother on Quartz or ISCA BBS, if you’re familiar with those, some time in late 1994. If it wasn’t the first adoption enabled by the Internet, it was certainly one of the first.

    As far as gaming and geography goes, the first time I really became aware of the freedom you have with regards to distance was in 2006. I was playing EVE and chatting with corpmates about where everyone lived – I specifically remember a guy from Belgium, and another from Australia, all three of us flying our Internet spaceships on the server cluster in London.

  3. NoAstronomer permalink
    December 13, 2012 9:24 am

    ” I’d VASTLY prefer playing with my friends…”

    Works well … for those who have friends playing the same game. No-one I know personally plays MMOs.


  4. December 14, 2012 2:19 am

    I actually think putting up barriers and reducing fluidity can be a good thing in a game built on relationships. And allowing current tier cross-realm raiding will have many plenty of negative consequences that I think outweigh the positives.

    More here:

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