Growing up with an older brother, my life had more contests of feats of strength, cunning, and all-around-douchery. I once was hospitalized for trying to eat a hoagie faster than my brother and had caused me some of the most uncomfortable months in my life (I won that; I regret nothing). But to this day, I compete with him on almost everything, no matter how silly they are. This spilled over to my gaming habits where I’d find the most minute detail to compete with my friends.
It’s always unseemly however, when the ironically irreverent random dolt decides to post Skada damage meters after one boss in LFR and then decidedly taunting everyone else below his dps parse with unassuming statements like, “Get owned, noobs!” or “God! My back!” It’s silly, yes, because what does it accomplish? A troll, maybe? There isn’t any sort of competition in PvE as there is in PvP, but the competitive nature of humanity comes out one way or another, especially in an MMO as gigantic as World of Warcraft. But it does make me wonder, truly, an existential question to all would-be gamers out there: What is all this for?
My DPS is Better than Yours!
I remember a time back in Mists of Pandaria in LFR Heart of Fear, nearing the dawn of Warlords of Draenor, after a certain encounter, one dimwitted warlock decided to post the damage meters right after, exclaiming, “Good Lord! I can’t believe I’m top damage!” The sensible optimist would shrug that off, thinking that it was nothing more than a blissful realization that he can perform optimally in that instance. But very few are like that and most of us cynics would view it as not-so-subtle trashtalk. If you’re familiar with how low-tier that raid is compared to Siege of Orgrimmar, in fact, even if you’re not, you can tell the overgeared douche was merely seeking competition where there was none. To make himself feel better, perhaps, due to being overshadowed by real skilled players in his item level range? Or was it because he was trying to encourage the rest of the raid to do better. My cynical senses tell me it’s the former. It’s LFR for an early raid for Pete’s sake. Oh, wait, it’s LFR, period.
We find the notion that someone is way higher on the meters than most of the folks in the same role to be a tritely absurd one. I’m totally on the side of treating endgame PvE to be far more fulfilling on the side of its journey rather than the reward, but, no matter how much I try to suppress it, the competitifve aspect in me kicks in from time to time, secretly lauding my awesomeness whenever I top the damage meters, silently chiding my unknowing raid mates on their performances that pale in comparison to my superior playing. But it’s a team game – if I ever truly voiced that out on chat or a Voip, I would seem pretty goddamned silly and obnoxious, because what’s the point, really? There’s no real goal or achievement in being the best this and that within a raid other than pure self-indulgence. How does one win something intrinsically unwinnable? That said, this competitive spirit, whether viewed as bad or good, is natural in every human being.
This attitude certainly isn’t exclusive to WoW, but as stated earlier, the game’s massiveness and bevy of addons that measure and enhance performance makes it far more susceptible to that form of gaming more than anything else. At one point in time, in the days of old, damage meters were but a way to identify the weaker performances in the raid, helping the team and individual to improve in knowing that fact, and to set benchmarks on what one could truly accomplish in an instance or encounter. Now, we just have a bunch of insecure dorks showing off their shiny number one spot in Heroic Auchindoun or some other stupid place for no reason at all.
But, hey, it really isn’t just found with damage or healing parses, but achievement-flinging has become a trade chat thing from time to time, where the more accomplished of our peers throw at each other their now-unobtainable cheevos to incite, well, I’ve no idea as to what purpose, but they do and people retaliate with their own links to a glorious past nonetheless. Some would act rationally, leaving those willing to flaunt their achievements to their own devices, while others, sadly, have to retort to screaming out that those mean nothing at all. In the grand scheme of the universe, they’re definitely right, but we aren’t exactly dealing with the cosmic implications now, are we?
We’re Totes Better
The point is that people will always brag about this and that, and always attempt to one-up one another in subtle ways or in through obnoxious means. I’m not saying either that this is bad – far from it. Who hasn’t dealt with this sort of demeanour in a friendly and playful manner towards one’s friends? In the right place and the right time, the competitive spirit is a reinvigorating boon to any activity and keeps things on the up and up. But, again, other than personal gratification, what is it all for? Yes, we play because we like the game, but it would be nice to harness this spirit towards something far greater than gear progression and meters. There really isn’t anything to sate the competitive spirit in WoW’s PvE.
Sure, there are World and Realm Firsts that one could go for, but, frankly, those are one-shots that get snatched up during the first few weeks of a new raid and usually by the same guilds we most often hear that are active in that sort of thing. And when these achievements are taken, they’re taken; that’s the end of it. If one achieves these firsts, they’re pretty content and can just hand back knowing that it can never be taken away, with no real consistency in defending a status. Now we have 3-4 months of waiting for the next raid just to be able to attempt that competitive aspect again. The competition, so to speak, dies at that moment someone’s taken that one-time achievement.
Challenge Mode is a step in the right direction, but it still is very lacking. Other than the visible reward of MoP’s armor swagger and WoD’s weapon transmog awesomeness, it is little more than a meager “extra” achievement that means little-to-nothing as its significance decays over time.I’m in no way downplaying the accomplishment of those that have conquered gold and kept up their times away from competitiors, but certainly we can have something better. Something raid-related apart from “First” achievements; a permanence, if you will, much like that of ladder ratings in PvP that keep folks competing and the game arguably fresh.
Proving grounds and Brawler’s guild are other worthy mentions that entail some PvE competition, but they aren’t as effective in long-term rewards and longer lasting implications, and not to mention that these activities are all solo, making the the competitive aspect sort of a sham as other classes have far more advantages that others. But these are all steps in the right direction concerning the topic.
Why not just PvP, you say? Well, some folks certainly have no desire to play in arenas and prefer the classic stage progression and, other than that, PvP simply too far out on the other side of the spectrum. They’re different flavors and there’s always a favored flavor. Regardless, with all the overflowing competitiveness we all host, there’s no real outlet for it to focus on and take hold, leading to the obnoxious elitist types that create their own measures of worth. There are other sorts of rankings in PvE, but those are created and undertaken mostly by the playerbase rather than a structured system that Blizzard maintains. Despite their raging hard-on for improving PvE, it’s kind of silly that Blizzard hasn’t done anything like this yet.
Get Good, Bads!
No matter what anyone would say, we’re all susceptible to that little competitive spirit trying to bludgeon its way out and I can narily see WoW being capable of sating that completely PvE-wise. I’m not suggesting more “Best Raider” or “Best Times” like what we already have, but more of an environment where dedicated players have something to continuously go for apart from gear and kill achievements. It might be a good idea to place an official rating system for PvE concerning raids or other difficult instances that could even possibly increase the longevity of content and spark more interest in the playerbase to delve deeper into the meat of the game, but then again, it might be not due to the possibility of it merely exacerbating the elitism that is already too rampant in the game. But the case remains that there isn’t anything else higher to constantly attempt to accomplish in WoW because, frankly, for most people, once you’re geared, that’s about it. For now, though, keep your best-dps-rant to yourself.Related: Column, PvE, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday