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WoW Wednesday: Exploring the Dark Side of Legion

– Hey Brain, we need an article for WoW Wednesday
– Don’t look at me, I don’t have a clue. We’ve covered all the non-contentious stuff, you’re not playing enough to comment on Raiding content.
I’ve given you everything I have so don’t expect any more help from me.
That’s not a very nice attitude to have, Brain!
Well, what do you expect when you virtually solo play an MMO, nubface?

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This week I was reminded, in a rather depressing manner, that what matters to me is not necessarily what is important to everybody else. Having priorities and limited playtime is all well and good until something more significant comes along for the people you rely on. You don’t want to be the whiny, unhappy person but sometimes, your casual stroll through content is not going to be enough for somebody else. Then a very good friend who used to be quite prolific in the field of Rogues made a Twitter post which struck several nerves. Like me, he does not have the time to be involved in the business of serious play and has been reduced to simply enjoying Legion for what it is. That’s where I am, like it or not, where getting Exalted with Highmountain and the last part of my Totem collection matters (see above) considerably more than doing a Karazhan run.

I realize that, somewhere between Vanilla and here, I’ve stopped caring about the key tenets of Warcraft’s gameplay. Normally when other players get bored, they’ll simply go and play something else, but this is my something else. There’s no time for any other games, even though my Steam account taunts me on a near regular basis.

However, when all is said and done, I’m not sure I want anything more right now than to simply immerse myself in the best expansion this game has ever produced. It is that immersion, ultimately, that has banished any real desire to compete. Sure I’ll World PvP with my husband if the mood takes, but my promise to friends that I’d seriously do even this as competitive content is beginning to look less and less likely. It is not that the concepts are unattractive either, there’s just the real understanding at the back of my brain that if that side of events gets its teeth into me once more, all the good work I’ve done on exercise and personal development will be put aside, and that’s not going to happen.

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I am, I understand now, simply here for the calm this game can produce inside me. I know all about the drama that comes from running a guild, or the stress of trying to organize raid teams or five mans. Of course, I’ll be happy to help out with friends (assuming I’m attuned, I did manage to at least finish that for Karazhan last week, still gotta complete Suramar for my last two dungeons) but not at the expense of my own personal well-being, and it is only now that I realise just how agitated and angry this game can make me, quite apart from the positive effects. I’ve spent a long time expounding the virtues of Azeroth, but now need to accept there is a Dark Side to the story too.

Once upon a time, I would be the person pulling everybody forward. As guild master, I had to live and breathe the raiding, attunements and grinding and be the person who was pushing 24/7 at the back, picking up the stragglers. That level of motivation is what makes World Firsts, and Pandas reach 110 without leaving their starting zone. It’s all about playing the game a certain way, which pretty much begins and ends with organized content. Except for many players, as we have discussed before, there are real and compelling issues of social anxiety and simple player inability that prevents them ever ‘playing’ the game in this fashion. For them, Legion’s bitterest pill has been that everything that used to be a case of grind until your eyes bleed is now pretty much wrapped around mandatory 5 man content.

It isn’t just in small-form content either: I have quests that are forcing me into LFR for rewards which, in effect, have no real value except for myself. I have no problem with this but time constraints currently push me into these places at times where the level of unhelpful and intolerant other players is consistently high, and this only serves to make the effort to complete them even more unpleasant. Yes, that sounds whiny and complaining, and I know. It’s like my husband complaining he can only hand in his Nightborne Emissary quests once he’s fed the quest giver. I’ve not got the heart to tell him it can be avoided because this is in effect the metaphor I’m coming back to again and again: if you want to do this Expansion justice? You have to do the work first.

Ironically, had Warlords actually been a success, I don’t think we’d have been presented with this level of participation. It was so much around the idea of people having nothing to do that this Expansion has been front-loaded with so much, at least some of which was intentionally hidden from immediate discovery. Whether it is your Fathom Dweller mount or the ‘Really Lost for a Long Time’ Hippogryph or any of the other ‘hidden’ secrets that the game is now littered with, the ultimate strength of this game remains that you will never be at a loss for things to do. However, for some of us, that has forced a fairly significant re-think of what matters most.

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Most importantly for me, I finally accepted that what I have is enough. That’s a harsh lesson for some players, and often you feel compelled to take part in things that really you would be best to leave well alone. However, when we live in a world which will reward players for walking the extra mile with celebrity, notoriety and often the ear of the designers themselves? These things make a lot of sense. It was amazing to hear a senior Blizzard designer, someone who played this game at a competitive level for many years, express surprise last week that some players obsessively ground Artifact Power and Mythic Plus for legendary drops, as if this was news. If someone will obsessively solo play, you can guarantee that group content will be no different, and the excess of content the game provides gives them an infinite supply of options? Of course someone is going to take these.

There are complaints if you have nothing and now the same because there’s too much, and somewhere in between individuals are expected to use common sense judgment to find their own way. The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of people playing this game never do it at extremes to begin with. I would like to think I’m an ‘average’ Warcraft player, but my reality is a long way from that truth.

If you want to play this game, there has never been a rule book, or a hard and fast path to glory. As long as the MMO is prepared to reinvent itself as time goes on, there’s really no reason why we won’t have another 10 years on the cards. The number of ‘stalwart’ World of Warcraft design staff that has either retired or been reassigned inside Blizzard since the débâcle that was Warlords of Draenor says, at least in my mind, that the company grasps the future is not just making the same mistakes over and over again. We might joke that time is a flat circle in Azeroth, but that’s no longer entirely the case.

More importantly, for those of us who play this game, you have a duty of care not simply to others but yourself in the long term. As I never get tired of saying, to just about anyone who will listen, you are under no obligation to stay here and play. This is not the Hotel California and checkout can happen whenever the hell you’d like it to. If it’s making you unhappy or sick? This very website can provide you with myriad other options to waste your time on, or immerse yourself within as you see fit. There’s nothing wrong with change meaning that you stop.

warcraft-nightflight Dark Side of Legion

For those of us who choose to stay here and balk the notion of doing things ‘properly,’ there will always be the potential of a flashpoint. You can’t avoid it. Sure you can turn off Trade to ignore the toxic commentary or stay away from World PvP hotspots but like it or not, in an unavoidable eventuality, you will have to play (nice or otherwise) with others. That’s how this game has always been, back to the days of L60 level caps and Epic Mount runs. Wishing this Expansion was as good as that moment, or any of the others in this long and complicated history is never the real, long term solution, or else you’ll end up being seduced by the Dark Side forever. If you want all this to work?

It’s up to you, people. You’re the ones that make this happen. You just need to decide what really matters and then find your own inner peace.

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