Defining the Player Experience
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the player experience in WoW lately. Some of it is because of feminist bloggers talking about abusive language and treatment from the community. Some of it is because there’s a lot of chatter about WoW being “dumbed down”. And some of it comes from my own experiences.
Abusive behavior from other players
It happens, and I’m not going to deny it. While I do believe that women deal with more of it, and more insidious types of abusive behavior; I don’t believe that it’s just women who have to deal with it. I really wish there was more respect around. There’s a huge difference between respect and being able to be a little bit flip; but it doesn’t always come across well in text, so I try to avoid sarcasm unless I think it’s going to be painfully obvious.
Frequently, I don’t want to waste my energy on abusive players, but luckily, I don’t have to deal with them much, because of the way I choose to play the game. I solo a lot. I do PuG on Gurdrid, because there’s no wait time for tanks, and I enjoy it.
So, the other night I was doing some PuGging, and my first PuG was Grim Batol. (Normal, I’m just not all that confident about heroics. They’re thinky, and I wasn’t in the mood). Things were going just fine until we got done with the dragon strafe run. Now, the strafe itself was amazing. There were dead mobs all over the place, and lots of nearly dead ones.
And then the hunter started pulling before I was even off my dragon. And the warlock started in right behind him. They chain pulled their way all the way to the first boss, at which point I said “So are you going to pull the boss without me, too?” and the hunter replied “Yes.” He didn’t, actually, and we burned down the boss in no time.
When we got to Forgemaster Throngus, though, things started the horrible spiral. Not in terms of players’ ability, but my enjoyment. See, one of the drops was Throngus’ Finger. Which started a whole list of horrible, horrible jokes that started getting into other body parts as well. And three of my four party members were in on it, and from the same guild. I decided the best way to get through it was to ignore them and just run as fast as I could.
I did die once because I overstretched my healer, which was only sort of my fault – you see, the healer was one of the problem people. I sarcastically asked if I was going too fast for them now. Which was met with silence. We wiped twice on the last boss; I’m not sure why the second time. The first time could potentially have been my fault, but I’m not sure. The littany of comments didn’t stop throughout the fight, so I can’t imagine that any of them were performing at a high rate of competency. I dropped group before the second wipe actually occured, I didn’t relish being there any more.
A lot of people wouldn’t call that situation abuse, and I don’t think it was directed at making me uncomfortable; but it did, and it made my experience unpleasant. If that had been my first instance, I don’t think I would have ever PuGged again. Ever.
WoW being Dumbed Down
There’s a lot of chatter about this; but I think it all boils down to two things. The first is simple smart business: Why would a company spend the majority of its resources on content that a minority of its customers see? Unless that minority is somehow gaining privelege (paying more for the services), they shouldn’t be getting anything different than anyone else. In fact, from a purely business standpoint, the casual player is a better customer for Blizzard – the casual player demands less content because they don’t work through it as quickly. The casual player absorbs a smaller amount of Blizzard resources (bandwidth, Support time, etc) per month. And the casual player pays the same amount if they’re paying for a monthly subscription.
And the second is a little more subjective, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. I don’t want my video games to be incredibly difficult. Because of that, I don’t raid. But I like Lore, and all the big lore bits end in raids. All of them. (or off screen, but that’s not much better). So that dumbed down content, that’s for me. It’s not for bleeding edge raiders. That’s why Blizzard leaves stuff hard for a while, then nerfs it, or gives players buffs. That’s also why there are hard mode achievements. To give the players who want to do the hard stuff the bragging rights. Sure, I can go get the Wrath dungeon hard mode achievements pretty easily now; but that’s not the current bragging rights.
My Reasons and Experiences
Video games have been a hobby of mine for over three decades. I’ve never been highly skilled at them, but I am persistent, and they have always brought me a great deal of happiness. It’s just the way it is. When I first started playing WoW, my girlfriend (not my current one) voiced concern that people had gotten addicted to the game. I shrugged her off, knowing that I’ve always played video games with most of my free time.
Shortly after I started playing, it became the One True Game for me. I do this a lot. I did it with Civilization II, and before that with the Bard’s Tale games. So I still wasn’t worried. Then she started playing, and she joined the guild I was in. And her other partner started playing about the same time, and joined our guild as well.
At that time, I was raiding in Vanilla. We raided three nights a week, for four hours each stint. From what I remember of Vanilla, we were actually quite casual for raiding. And all of a sudden, I was playing WoW too much. Now, mind you, she and I didn’t live together. My family (who I was living with) did not feel that I was shirking my chores. I went to work. I did not miss a date with her because I wanted to play WoW. But somehow, I was suddenly playing too much.
Then, I happened to be feeling somewhat ill on New Year’s Eve. I was supposed to meet her at a party (full of people I hardly knew, and many of whom I didn’t care for). I called her and told her I didn’t want to go out. I wasn’t feeling up to it. (I’m also an introvert). I did play WoW for about an hour that night, and I happened to be able to get a guild group together to get my paladin her epic mount. That took most of that hour, and I was in bed by about 8:30 that night.
But after that, because I’d gotten my epic mount when I was “supposed” to be at a party, I had definitely crossed the line. She started trying to schedule things with me on raid nights, and I would tell her I wanted to raid, could we do it another night. That wasn’t good enough for her. Important things, like her daughter’s birthday party, or other events, I would happily call of raiding. But going to hang out on a Thursday night instead of raiding? Not so much. There are four other days of the week to just hang out, thanks.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was recovering from a surgery. And while I was on the initial pain medications, I couldn’t play WoW because the movement nauseated me. The nausea was so bad, in fact, that the only video game I could play was mah jongg, with all the fancy tile movements turned off. I had to close my eyes while the layout was being set up. That lasted for about a week, I think, and I hated every minute of it. I would try every morning to see if I could play WoW yet.
Now that all of that is done, I play WoW more than I ever did. I still get my chores done, and I still go to work; but much of my free time is taken up with WoW. And I’m ok with that. One of the things that you learn when you have something like cancer in your life is what’s really important. And one of those things is happiness.
My partner and I have an understanding. She tells me when she needs me to do extra things, especially if it’s during my dedicated WoW Wednesday. (Really, it’s not dedicated WoW time, it’s dedicated ME time, but I usually use it to play WoW.) I do go out less, but it’s not because I play WoW more. It’s because I want to be at home more, because home makes me happy. And so does WoW.
My current partner doesn’t have issues with the way I spend my free time. Once in a while she’ll ask me to not play WoW and do something else, and I generally oblige her. I play more than she does, but that’s because I have fewer hobbies than she does, and WoW is my primary one. WoW is not her primary hobby, so it doesn’t get as much of her attention. That’s all.