Social Study: The Wrath Effect Part 2

HoggerAndGramm

This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed.

We broke off looking at the Wrath Effect last time for a chance to let the ringing die from our ears and to gather our thoughts. Thank you to the many of you who shared your opinions – and latterly, posts – both here and over at Larisa’s and Tobold’s blogs last week – all very interesting reads. Last week we left off pondering whether some of the content was worthy of existence in the World.

Of course there is a point in the content existing. For everyone who drops out of an Archavon kill there is someone else who’d like to be there, experiencing the content, maybe even for the first time. That may seem difficult to believe, though. WoW’s accessibility has created an illusion which some players subscribe to: an illusion that almost everyone is a hardened and seasoned player now. It masks the fact that everyone plays differently, for different reasons and has differing amounts of experience. I believe that the WoW community has become less tightly knit over the past few months and there is a gulf growing between player groups of different experience levels. This week I’d like to look at the effect that WoW has upon players.

I think it’s important to remember that the game isn’t as easy as we might believe. Hard modes have been introduced to provide serious raiders with more challenge and incentive to keep playing, though as many people pointed out last week those Hard modes are not necessarily engaging to all. Meanwhile, PUGs – love them or hate them – have enjoyed a renaissance in Wrath, to the extent that many players PUG any and all raids. Some of them can be difficult to PUG. Think of Onyxia 25. The tactics mostly remain the same to the classic encounter but have been tweaked enough to keep some more experienced players on their toes for now, and the encounter can be a monster to come to anew. Now factor in a group of 25 people who mostly don’t know each other. So why, for the love of epics, is there always someone in the group who says "lol this is easy no tactics goooooooooooog"?

I think that the very fact that people are happy to PUG these raids is having an effect on guilds. Many guilds have a high turnover of players; perhaps some guilds find that raiders have less incentive to be loyal or reason to show up. Some smaller guilds which have existed for a while and are fairly stable may be having the time of their lives – they can access the content. Sure, they may need to collaborate with a similar guild to get raids going, but hey – they meet new friends. Life is good. Newer small guilds meanwhile may be having a problem getting a foothold on the server. Established guilds already have working relationships with other guilds set up and some players don’t feel the need to join any guild, let alone one treading water.

Players don’t feel the need to join any guild. A curious thought mentioned in the comments by several folks commenting on last week’s article. It got me thinking – is that why the high profile of the top guilds on my characters’ realms seems to have dropped off? I remember back in the day when the guilds were strong and the players proud, trade chat would be full of people who knew each other – chatting, sharing an in joke, rejoicing when a black sheep returned to WoW. There were tight community microcosms of different player types, and trade chat and guilds were windows through which to glimpse them. I don’t see so much of it these days. It seems that many of those players are either subdued, rarely on their mains, or have checked out of trade chat and WoW. It feels like the windows have been closed and boarded up, not so much as a breeze passing between different types of players on a realm.

Perhaps the question in many players’ minds is "how best to find a sense of worth in this content?" For many players that’s no hard question to answer. There is a plethora of content of which raid instances are a small part. A player might sneak off for some rare monster hunting or seasonal fun – or focus on mastering the cooking achievements. Easy or not, Wrath has a lot more choice that a player could immerse himself into than WoW ever has previously. I wonder how much of that content is really passed over by the average player. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about raids and their effect but WoW is an entity of many parts – something for everyone, perhaps.

Yet there is a darker answer to the question above. Sometimes the answer seems to be to cultivate a mindset of being in constant competition. If the competition against the content isn’t enough then it becomes a contest with all other players; especially strangers, whom are often met with the increase in PUGs, high turnover guilds or guild collaboration runs. DPS meters are used to measure this competition – they are always spammed, usually repeatedly, by the people at the first or second spot on the meter. I’ve often seen such players go on to publicly pick on players at the bottom of the DPS meter, sometimes carrying on for the rest of a lengthy raid.

These spamming players may be dealing with their own lack of confidence in the game – and perhaps what they feel is their reduced display of skill – by boastfully declaring themselves better than others. I find myself wondering where the fun of a game is for the player on either side of the DPS meter in that situation: there isn’t any for the bullied person at the bottom and – well, is there any fun had by the person at the top?

This is just one way the inter-tribal competition has seeped into player interaction. I often heard stories in Wrath’s early days of players badgering others in the street to tell them that their gear was rubbish – no provocation or reason behind it.

Another favourite seems to be to bluntly tell another player that they are a bad player based on half a Heroic without knowing anything about them as a player or a person. Occasionally dialogue will occur – accusations of rudeness perhaps – and an argument ensues. The conversation leaves both parties insulted and a bit less … human. This extends to real life, too; an older player I know was approached by a stranger and a heated discussion followed. Upon finding out that she was an older player the stranger said they hoped she would drop dead.

Players sometimes forget that behind that other character they are denouncing is another person whose pride in their independence, character and achievements may be diminished both in and out of game: everyone gets something different out of it. Yes, WoW is just a game, yet many people escape to it to have fun and are proud of their achievements in it. They don’t stop thinking and feeling, don’t stop being people, while playing a game – regardless of whether they are a casual or hardcore, or anywhere in between.

I think that this forgetfulness is a trope which has remained throughout Wrath and now players of many ilks find themselves less satisfied with both the content and the social experience because the lack of connection between game and player is projected into the community.

I’m not painting every player in the community with this dye; there are so many shades of grey that it would take a thesis to examine them all. Many players do still find the game fun. Groups of players still exist in solid groups, guilds, tribes; whatever you want to call them. Like-minded folk still find each other. It just seems more of a struggle to do so when you have to clamber through the mud of a bloodied battlefield.

What do you think? Remember that this is about the game as a whole – including all types of content.

How often are players eyeing each other up over a broken bottle neck? Do you find yourself with new friends or impatient while playing: is the foam at your mouth the only remnants of your Vanilla/TBC war paint? Have you come to the content anew –what do you think of the community you’ve found? How has the performance of your raiders, however experienced, changed? Has the mood changed in WoW at all?

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