Friday reads for the community

It’s funny how a thought or idea can deeply occupy you at times and after you’ve finally brought it to paper and pushed that publish button, you find it echoing back at you wherever you go. It’s probably partly a mental mechanism; like back when you were thinking about buying that white Volvo – lo and behold, you started seeing white Swedish cars everywhere you went. A subconscious, biased shift of focus.

That’s only half of the truth though, because sometimes a topic just “lies in the air” like that – it’s weighing ever so heavily on the minds of a certain group of people, a social or cultural circle. It’s there waiting for you already, biding its time in subtle hints and signs, quietly dripping into our collective consciousness. It takes one well-articulated thought, one clear voice stepping forward for things to break lose. Or one conflict too many.

I’ve felt as if we are truly approaching a turning point in the blogosphere lately, which is only a mirror for a greater one approaching in the MMO industry, of course. It’s almost tangible now, although we cannot put our fingers on it just yet – it’s pretty clear though that WoW holds a significant part therein. There’s been talk of the (symbolic) death of WoW everywhere and there are exciting times ahead in terms of new and big title launches and promising new concepts. There are those who can’t wait and those who are still skeptical.

Most of all though, I feel that there’s a great fatigue around: people are tired. Tired of the black&white thinking still around in this “community”, fed up of fighting petty battles over who should get more attention from (future) developers. Fed up over having to justify what constitutes their personal enjoyment. Will our discord never end?

Frankly, I am tired of it too. I don’t get why one side needs to actively belittle the fun of the other, just because they feel that their own enjoyment has been ruined. For the record: I don’t play WoW anymore, no I’m not happy about how things have gone there, so I unsubscribed. Still, I keep reading and enjoying WoW blogs and I don’t blame the remaining players so much for my loss as I blame certain mindsets and developer choices that disadvantaged me when I am not convinced it needs to be “all or nothing”. I can disagree and will keep disagreeing on things like short-term thinking among players or how devs like Blizzard handle the current market – but my wishes are my wishes. If developers for some reason (money – surprise, surprise!) prioritize other playstyles over my own and can keep “enough” players happy with that, well then I’m out of luck! And oh, I hope things will change in my favour someday. I don’t blame other players for what is ultimately their preference though. No matter our differences, in the end it’s about priorities, implementation and catering to variety or not. I happen to be on the wrong side, for the moment. Personally, I don’t think Blizzard’s “trend” will continue forever though and the signs are already there.

So, what can I do? I can dwell in the past and lament the negative changes I perceive in the genre – but then, I’m not one for opposing reality much. I’ve written about the things that bother me plenty of times and by all means, we should keep criticizing as long as we discuss mindsets or design aspects, not people. Big difference here, obviously it’s about how you do things. Personally, right now I’d like to hear about solutions rather than finger-pointing or arguments over subjective matters. I’d like us to accept reality and focus forward. I want to consider objectively and constructively, how the mixed crowd that MMO players are today (and they are here to stay) can still be united under one big roof – without anyone’s individual enjoyment “suffering” from it. I don’t know about you, but that would be my ideal MMO future, anyway… It shouldn’t be that we consider other people a nuisance in a massively multiplayer game. What is this genre about if not about playing with different people? I am not actually interested to live in a “playstyle monoculture”: how many times have I discovered content in an MMO thanks to friends with different approaches and motivations?

Not possible you say? Well then, maybe you need to think bigger. There’s nothing to suggest that this genre has not lots of room for growth still, technically and in general approach. This book has a long way to go; there are still plenty of chapters to be written. And I’m still hopeful; hopeful that the difficult will be attempted and achieved. And if not, well what’s the worst that could happen? That our differences were so great to overcome that we’ll see a lot more niche products in the future. For better or worse.

In the words of the wise Oogway:

Quit, don’t quit? Noodles, don’t noodles? You are too concerned about what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” 

Today, I am sending a /wave to all of you living in the present. Those challenging past values and inflexible minds and those who manage to find the butterfly no matter where and when they are – that biggest of all talents. A special weekend mention goes to –

  • The Big Bear Butt; for still enjoying WoW and being sick and tired of those trying to ruin it for him and everyone else. For demanding you to open your eyes or unsubscribe already.
  • Gazimoff; for asking what MMO players really want and highlighting the importance of playing with friends. That little detail powerful enough to over-throw any no matter how otherwise perfectly balanced game.
  • Shintar; for pointing out that content is constituted by enough players enjoying and spending their time on something. You don’t always have to like it too.
  • Tesh; for having visited the topic of playstyle diversity and allowing for more player flexibility within the same genre/game many times on his blog (and generally being wise like that).
  • Scrusi; for being a Vork and embracing critical debates as long as we don’t condescend to each other. In essence we all want the same, namely have fun (together).
  • Issy; for “…as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I will play how I fucking well like, and enjoy it.” – Sometimes one line is worth more than a thousand words.

Nobody is saying you have to like all change, but change is upon you, whether you like it or not. So, the only question remaining is: how are YOU gonna handle it?

And with that, I wish an enjoyable and challenging weekend to all of you – no matter where you’ll find it.

4 comments

  1. A really good post, Syl (and nice links, too!)

    I think it’s really important to focus on those parts of the game you enjoy, both as a player and as a writer. If you’re not enjoying them, why are you wasting your time on them? I mean, you’re literally wasting your time – you are paying someone else to make you unhappy.

    I’m sure there’s a comic strip in there somewhere. :-)

  2. Hmm. Although I agree on principle with a general feeling of everyone trying to get along, I think I disagree with some of your points.

    I very much dislike the “if you don’t like it, quit” argument. There are a lot of people who put a lot of time and energy and love into WoW over the years, and it’s not surprising that those people should be upset and worried and try and get the attention of someone when the game changes into something they don’t like anymore.

    Also, a lot of people don’t necessarily enjoy WoW, but they love their guild. It’s not just that htey should quit a game if they don’t like it, it’s that they should abandon their online social life if they don’t like the game. Not surprisingly, that’s a tall order in some cases.

    I stopped enjoying WoW and I quit the game earlier this year. But hey, if someone enjoys playing it then more power to them! Still though, that BBB post in particular just reads “la la la I only hear good things about my game” more than anything to me. One of the commenters actually said that people without an active account shouldn’t even criticize the game. That’s just getting silly. :P

  3. @Cynwise
    Cheers Cynwise! :) I guess the thing is that with MMOs people have long-term relationships and social ties, so when the game changes at some point, it’s hard to leave it all behind and you’re feeling like in a sort of ‘love relationship’ you have to break out of which can be a struggle.

    Ultimately though we’re in charge of what we pay for (and WoW is really not the only game out there to have fun with) and need to realize that a developer is not our “old friend”, but business cool and calculative. this tends to be forgotten over the emotional link many of us form to our MMOs and ofc MMO communities.
    it’s definitely time to quit if miserable is all the game makes you and making others miserable is not the answer, either.

  4. @Liore
    I understand very well what you mean – it took me some time too to “accept the reality” of WoW later when I stopped having fun. and the social factor was big in there, leaving my guild wasn’t easy. so, I don’t think you have no right to criticize or that you even must accept the changes at all – as I said in this article, we should by all means keep criticizing (I will too). but there’s the question of “how” for me, I try not to aim at people, but at things and I don’t blame those still having fun with WoW for Blizzard’s business model. we can always question play styles and philosophies, but that doesn’t mean we have to condescend on others or belittle their fun. if anything, I’d rather try and be ‘educational’ by explaining to somebody why I am unhappy and why I don’t think his choices work so well long-term. that is a dialogue and very different from somebody who is just looking to vent and finger-point at others because he’s unhappy himself, as some ex-players (not all) like to do. that approach is usually just emotional and will only lead to more emotional reactions, which is a shame in a way because there might be valid points in there somewhere (but nobody will hear them).

    I understood BBB’s topic along those lines, with him being tired of those constantly trying to convince him how bad the game he is playing really is, without being asked to – rather than him telling people to stop writing constructive criticism in general (I simply don’t expect anyone to call that whining).

    As for that other commenter, I don’t agree at all. you don’t need to play a game to criticize it, sometimes distance is actually better for perceiving flaws (there’s also such a thing as being a blind fanboy). having played WoW for years is a solid enough base for a blogger to keep writing about WoW (or else half of my own blog would be made out of wild speculations and thin air).

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