Some days, I wonder why I still bother playing World of Warcraft.
Take last Thursday, for instance. I spent most of the evening arguing with people over definition, why it’s bad to use certain players as yardsticks and how it appears that many don’t seem to mind at all that this is even a state of affairs. I officially don’t understand Hardcore Raiding any more and have even less comprehension over why some players look at me with what is undoubtedly disbelief because I’m happy not doing it.
What I do grasp, however, is that for more than eight years I’ve spoken about this game from the point of view not simply of a woman but one that’s never considered herself ‘serious’ about allowing Warcraft to consume a life. It was never more important to raid than to keep a friend or miss an event. Sure, there were times when real life stuff was ignored but mostly that was because I didn’t want to do it anyway. For all the moments I played in Azeroth with a competitive edge, very few people ever took me seriously, and now I find myself wondering whether there was a point to it all beyond my own enjoyment.
Why exactly am I here again, and who continues to win and lose in the many games you can now play in Warcraft?
Was It Good For You?
I had planned this week to do a fluff piece around why you should stay playing between 7.1.5 and 7.2, but was then reminded of the most popular post I have ever written in eight years on my personal site. It suggested that if you’d finally lost the love for Warcraft, the best thing you could ever do for yourself was leave and never look back. Boggling at the procession of hardcore players who called it a day last week on the back of the understanding they’d effectively be grinding raid content without an end in sight, I can’t say I blame a single one of them. That’s not a real life in my head, if all you’re doing is keeping up with a development mentality that’s not even planning for your needs any more. I already made the decision to scale back when Draenor hit as it became abundantly apparent I’d never have enough hours in the day to complete simply the casual content I wanted.
Someone jokingly suggested to me at the weekend that the excess of distraction that Legion now presents the ‘average’ player is only meant for those who do nothing else but play because if you’ve not completed EVERYTHING you’re somehow less of a fan. Well, that’s probably true to a point because I used to be that person, once upon a time. That discussion ended up unconsciously reminding me of choices already made, and only at distance can I separate the truth from guilt. I’ve done this penance, yet the discussions keep happening: I listen to a conversation being had by other people and can associate and even sympathize with their woes. Nobody’s complaining about content lacking, that’s for damn sure, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of discomfort. Too much to do puts the onus on a player to make their own choices, and for some, that is frustration and disappointment many simply don’t want.
Can I Help You With That?
Then there’s my issue with how easy (or otherwise) certain things have become to complete in game. Undoubtedly, there’s so much available that you’d be foolish not to have a Guide to follow, but that has become such a crutch for certain things that the UI itself now acknowledges that without support, you’ll never get everything done. The super secret reveals of mounts and bosses are all well and good, but it automatically assumes a mentality in the audience that they’ll simply go look up a Guide to prepare themselves beforehand, which is really not the case. Also, with an increasing amount of the game’s audience not speaking English as their first language, unless your third party site is offering a localized set of instructions along with the UI, there might just be the temptation to not bother.
For me, the obsession with shortcuts has become too much, and the last straw was when Blizzard published its own Guide to allow players to get themselves ready for Part Two of the Flying achievement ahead of 7.2. It isn’t the Guide that irks, or indeed that after 12 years the company finally acknowledged that coordinates exist as a means of useful reference. It’s the long held personal belief that flying simply isn’t necessary if you make your game compelling enough for players to stay on the ground. With so much now locked up in inaccessible areas or relying on players planning in advance to skip content so they can do as they wish? The reliance on Guides as a crutch is neither clever nor relevant anymore. If the plan at 7.2 launch is to keep players engaged with a special flying mount to coincide with their ascent to the heavens, I think that maybe a shark has been jumped somewhere.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
When we were stuck in the depths of the Draenor Depression, there would be a phenomenal number of people on my timeline acting like the remorseful drunk: why did I do this to myself, what is the point of staying subbed, I only have myself to blame… if they were that polite. Why was the company treating players so badly? Why were we not given reasons to play outside our Garrisons? Of course, the smart people had already worked out that you didn’t need to play anything BUT the Garrison for much gold and great piles of long term investment, and the WoW Token’s introduction (at least in my mind) was influenced in part by a desire to allow a certain section of the player base to become self sufficient. In effect, Warlords gave the committed player means of financing themselves indefinitely. Having done so, Legion then needed to keep them playing.
That, of course, is exactly what has happened, and now the Token’s use to buy Overwatch crates or Hearthstone packs means that this game is yet again the Hotel California of MMOs. You don’t need to leave, and even if you do all that hard work you did on leveling 25 characters to 100 can now be used to fund your interest in MOBAs and mobile gaming. Because I only play one game, and that’s Warcraft, none of these benefits are of any interest to me whatsoever. That leaves me with the harsh truth that the game isn’t the problem, but I am. If I am going to make my peace with Azeroth’s evolutionary process, it won’t be cashing that in to play Mercy or by dusting spare Legendaries. This is all I have, so the choice has to be made.
The Love You Make…
This is my favorite meme because it reminds me of a basic philosophy in all gameplay that needs to be not only remembered but lived. You only get out what you put in. It does not matter one iota what anyone else is doing or saying. You have to enjoy things for yourself or, truthfully, there is no point in taking part. That’s why that blog post on leaving Azeroth ended up as popular as it was: I can sell you positives in Warcraft but if you can only see a negative, a waste of time that makes you unhappy, it does not matter. Players don’t believe me when I try and convince them I’m genuinely interested in their point of view. Individuals consider me provocative and pointless in separate breaths because I won’t or don’t play the version of this game they consider as legitimate.
I’m only capable of speaking for myself, and even after a week that had me considering whether it was time for me to give this up for good, I’m still here. It’s because of people like Hannah, Duncan, Nick and Liz plus the couple of hundred Twitter followers who get what I am, why I’m here and how sometimes this game just gets you down in a way nothing else can. You guys are why I remain. The game may be problematic, but as long as there is a reason to discuss the motivation and dissect the decisions then I can find the desire to keep playing. The last straw for me might have been the understanding that come 7.2 I’d have to grind all the class mounts in order to access vanity pets linked to the Class Halls… and there’s no way that is ever going to happen. It’s a casual gameplay feature too far, not unlike the Pet battle Dungeon.
I’m never going to be that desperate to complete content ever again.
I cannot change the way that Warcraft is made. I can try and contribute to discussion about the process, and suggest alternatives, but after eight years of blogging I doubt I’ve ever significantly influenced or altered a single part of this game. For some, that has been enough to send them on hate fueled rants and rage quits, which are still talked about years after the fact. I’m not that person, however, and I understand that for all that I have taken from this experience there has always been an equal and often excessive amount of effort and thought given back. I don’t need to throw my toys out of the pram. I don’t want to go. I’m just going through one of those periods where most normal people simply stop paying their sub and go play another game instead.
I’ll find my love in the pixels again, but not today.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Legion, MMO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday