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.

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Posted on April 24, 2012, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. And until or unless you start calling in sick to work because you’ve stayed up too late, or not helping out around the house *at all*, or neglecting our relationship to play WoW … I’m never going to tell you that you play WoW too much.

    As I’ve said before, it didn’t work out so well for the people in my past that tried to tell me I read too many books. Same thing.

  2. Heh. I remembers the morning after Rash of the Itch King went live. I were on fer about an hour fer ta finish gettin’ Kinnavieve ta 70, then parked her at Menethil so’s she could catch a boat ta Northrend afters I’d installed me copy that night. When I told me guildies I were headin’ out fer work, a certain resto druid what’d been playin’ since midnight said “Noooooooo! You needs ta call in sick an’ come ta Borean Tundra an’ help me kill things!” But I were a good an’ responsible orc, an’ Hi Ho Hi Ho off ta work I go.

    Dunno if’n I wouldna chosen different had I known she were gonna end up movin’ across the country fer ta be with me onlies a year later…. Ya never know, I guess.

    • Colleen can attest to the devotion I have to her. We started dating before BC came out. She came to the store and stood in line with me the day it was released. We had a date that night, and…. I *didn’t* install it. (Not even after the date was over, I was too tired)

  3. You’ve touched on a lot of things here with excellent viewpoint. In terms of relationship, I was an extremely occasional WoW player until I got my wife to try it and then we both became regulars (that was around 2.4). There’s something to be said for it, but it also illuminated for me the differences we have in self-control and self-awareness.

    In terms of the game, I’m a casual player as well. I might have plenty of logged hours, but I’m hardly ever at the forefront of the current content (unless it’s solo-esque content like Molten Front). While I agree with dumbing the game down, I feel there’s a fine line between that and holding your players by their hands and Blizzard crosses it on occasion. That’s where I become frustrated (while only one style and example, the revamped old zones and their questing mechanic comes to mind).

    As for the abuse, I know I’ve come across my share and have unfortunately been known to “tee-off” on someone in trade if they’re abusing someone. Fortunately, I tend to have a knack for letting them look like a fool or say something really stupid that makes for a great screenshot when you’re chatting with a GM. In all seriousness, the problem is no different than the real world. There’s nice folk, and there’s arsemunches (to put it nicely). But even some of the nice folk become jerks behind a computer screen. Fortunately, there’s still enough decent people in the world that as frustrated as you get, you never completely lose faith.

    • You have a great point about the on-rails questing experience. It was something that I wasn’t accustomed to at all, coming from a PC gaming background; but when I mentioned it to my dearest – she pointed out that most of her early RPG experience is on-rails style, so it didn’t seem so much hand-holdy as story based from her perspective. She can probably site some of the games that come to mind for her, but FFX seems to be one of them, from watching her, and playing it some myself.

      I think they went a little overboard on the phasing stuff, but it’s a side effect of the new technology, I think. Kinda like the vehicle quests in Wrath were a bit overdone, IMO.

      • Ah, FFX. Many hours were lost to THAT. But at least it gave you the spheres. If Blizzard had that sphere system, it would have gotten reduced to about six over the years. That’s a bit dramatic, but it’s just the point I’m trying to make in this case. I have had no problem with Blizzard changing the talent trees over the past 3-4 years, but stop trying to say it’s to reduce the cookie-cutter builds because that’s a crock. I miss the diverse trees that gave you options. Sure, you learned what the best ones were, but this is a case where I feel Blizzard IS taking players by the hand and forcing them to a branch rather than the whole tree. But, the Glyph system has also played a heavy role in that.

        The quest system was an example that came to mind, but I’ll happily admit I LOVE the storytelling that it does. What I don’t like is having the mobs green and grey by the time that story concludes. There’s also no room for deviation. If you got to 85 without finishing a certain portion of Hyjal, you can’t even do the Molten Front stuff.

        I don’t want to rant and rave about all the examples that have bugged me, because I do understand the thought process behind most of it. I just get frustrated that the “GIVE IT TO ME NOW” crowd seems to win out with the developers every time there’s something to be earned the good old fashioned way. I don’t think ALL the things they’ve made easier follow that synopsis, but there’s enough examples.

        As for on-rails style…find a Sega Genesis emulator and grab the Shining Force rom. It’s on-rails and still one of my favourite all time games.

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