You can immediately tell from the title that the post was intended to cause controversy, to incite emotion. In other words, it was a big fat attempt at trolling.
Despite knowing that the post is blatantly laid bait, I’m going to bite. This Soapbox post is representative of all the negative attitudes I’ve seen on the rise lately in the community. I’ve read the Negative Nancy posts about the death of WOW, about the plethora of subscribers quitting. I’ve read the posts from people complaining that some bloggers are being too negative. I’ve even read the posts from bloggers complaining about those that complain about the negativity. I’ve just sat back and shaken my head in dismay.
But this post, I just can’t resist speaking about. Grimmtooth rebuts it nicely, but I feel the need to chime in as well.
The gist of the post is this: the author and his “lady” were the “star” WOW raiders in their guild. Eventually they got bored with the game, but felt obligated to keep raiding even though they didn’t enjoy it. This built up resentment between them, and with their fellow raiders. Raiding caused the author to lose his temper, get greedy about loot, and act in other ways that made him feel bad about himself. This is Blizzard’s fault for designing a game where raiding is the predominant end-game activity. The entire design of WOW and most MMO’s is a ploy to get you sucked in and stuck doing something you don’t like due to a sense of obligation.
I suggest you go read the actual post and make sure I didn’t miss anything.
Is there any truth to this post? Of course there is. You can’t make a convincing pass at trolling without some seed of truth in your words. That’s what gets under the reader’s skin, makes them wonder. If they are not strong in their opinion, it makes them start to doubt.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t experienced some of what he mentioned. I think most of us have. The frustration at slow progression. The feeling of boredom when you’re running something for the thousandth time. The anger that rises when you see people making the same mistakes over and over. The jealousy when someone gets that drop you wanted. The sense of obligation on a night that you’re so tired and don’t really feel like raiding but know that others are counting on you.
I’ve experienced all of those feelings. They certainly aren’t good ones. They don’t make me think highly of myself. But guess what? It’s not raiding’s fault. It’s not Blizzard’s fault. When I feel those things, the fault lies only with me. Raiding is my choice.
Raiding is just an activity. It’s an activity with other people – with friends. Doesn’t any team activity have the same sense of obligation attached to it? Let’s say you join a softball team, because you like softball. You form bonds with your teammates, and at first have a great time together. Eventually though, you get bored. You start to resent your teammates for not being as skilled as you. You want to quit but there are no substitutes who can take your place on the team. You lose your temper when they make mistakes that cost you a chance at the championship. In this scenario, do you blame softball? Do you even blame the person who started the league?
Replace softball with any group activity, be it a sports team, a band, or volunteering for a charity. All of these things can cause similar symptoms, due to societal pressures and our generally competitive human nature. When you sign up for something, there will be peer pressure to keep doing it. If you are the type of person who can’t say no, who lets ties to people weigh them down with a sense obligation, then yes these activities can be unhealthy. But how you can blame the activity itself for your lack of self-control?
If it’s not fun, stop doing it. If it’s not fun and you feel obligated to continue, then weigh the affects of quitting on your relationships with others against your own personal fun.
The Soapbox piece also has an interesting claim: that WOW players get sucked into raiding without knowing what they’re in for. That the design of raiding is “insidious” and tricks you into surrendering your right to choose.
Therein lies the central issue with raiding. You don’t mean to get involved, but in some games, you don’t get a choice if you want to keep playing. And once you’re in, you get caught in a cycle of guilt and obligation that pulls you along even when you’re ready to be done with the whole damn mess. You don’t get to leave, you don’t get to choose, and you wind up fighting over smaller and smaller stakes until that +1 Strength is literally the only thing you’re looking forward to
Ignorance is not a valid excuse. Ignorance of the way a competitive team activity affects you doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for your own actions.
Raiding is no different from any other team activity. Just because it’s done in a virtual space doesn’t make it any less meaningful. Fighting over a bunch of pixels is not more shameful than fighting over a plastic trophy.
The Soapbox piece is primarily a huge pile of trolling. It’s easy to refute his claim that raiding makes you a bad person. So why did he even post it (besides an attempt to generate traffic)? Well if you read further, you get to the point he’s actually trying to make:
Is there a lesson here? If there has to be one, it’s a simple call for designers to give players options about what they want to do. Certainly there are people who really want to play the raiding game, who know going in what’s going to wind up happening and as such have an easier time stopping at the top. But there’s no reason or argument in favor of forcing players into situations that not everyone wants to be in.
It’s a common complaint about MMO’s – the lack of end-game content aside from raiding. There is definitely merit to this complaint. Even Blizzard realizes it. In a recent episode of the Instance, Turpster did a short interview with Blizzard designers Tom Chilton and Chris Robinson. One of the things they said outright was that they wished they’d focused more on providing alternative PVE content in Cataclysm.
The genre was able to sustain itself on this “traditional raiding = end-game” model in the past, but to ensure continued success at attracting a diverse market, more options are needed. Otherwise people will go back to playing other games, or leave gaming altogether to find a different form of entertainment. Time is precious, and dedicating it to organized raiding isn’t for everyone. The raid finder is one attempt at addressing this (whether it is successful or not remains to be seen).
So yes, the Soapbox piece, does contain tiny nugget of a valid point. I’m just a bit disappointed that it had to be done in such a manner. There are so many respectful and insightful ways to discuss the topic of MMO game design. So many other bloggers have done so. For examples, go and read posts from Gazimoff, or Syl, or MMO Melting Pot.
A trolling post with a title that spits in the face of the majority of its readers may generate hits and comments, but is that really going to help game designers out? Is that really going to encourage them to come up with new ideas? Or is it just going to spread more negativity, spread more harsh misconceptions about MMOs and their players?
What is your take on the Soapbox post? I’d love to hear your thoughts.