We are in what is often a glorious period post-Expansion announcement, where people are far more willing to debate their own personal thoughts and opinions about the game, based on what upcoming content is preparing to offer. Therefore, it is the right moment to have a discussion over what I feel is one of the most important aspects of game-play which, ironically, has nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of systems or features.
Of course, this is also the moment when my new mantra [thoughts are not facts] becomes abundantly obvious because the moment I offer up any topic for discussion, it becomes apparent that what I need from this game is considerably different from many other’s basic desires. However, even though I only ascribe to one point of view, I can’t in good conscience ignore the other voices. In fact, having watched what happens when such voices are dismissed and understanding the personal cost of such comments, it is time to widen the remit.
I lost a very good person from my sphere last year, after a social media post I made in relation to the Vanilla Servers project. They took it and subsequent observations as a personal affront (which was never the case) but that incident made me realise that whatever my feelings might be, others may react quite differently to the assertion that their way of playing’s not right, or relevant. I know enough raiders now who don’t care one iota about the plot, and are only concerned with using this game as a social means of beating stress, being with friends and overcoming objectives set for them. That used to be me, after all.
When you force yourself to think in someone else’s head and not totally in your own, a lot of stuff changes. You can also see those people who firmly believe that their version of reality is ‘right’ and that everybody else is ‘wrong’: I have a mate who freely admits he mutes me when I start annoying him with my view of the World of Warcraft. The fact he admitted recently that’s not happened for a while is probably the biggest compliment I could have been paid. It means that, after a period of self-indulgence, I’m getting the balance right.
Sure I can get upset over details, but ultimately I am the arbiter of my own enjoyment. If that means switching mains from a long-term project that has become a victim of my own emotional blindness to someone who allows me a clean slate? That will matter a lot to me, because without the narrative attachment that kept me in-game previously, and the ‘kill stuff for fun’ element that Raiding possesses, I didn’t really have much motivation to stay. Effectively, I have evolved my mindset to accommodate Azeroth. I’m smart enough to know that’s absolutely my job to do, and NEVER that of designers.
As we’ve discussed at length this week, Warcraft is being developed in a particular direction by a new team of people. Their interest in narrative continuity may be in stark contrast to their predecessors, but yet again I have to remind everybody that the only people with the numbers as to who is playing, what they are doing and what gets the most interest in-game is held by ActiBlizz and not us. They alone have the data, and they also have committed themselves to a full-on version of the original game. Knowing that interest remains and is significant, inevitably, will affect how this game evolves going forward.
Like it or not, a return to a more combat-based, RTS-format game is allowing those of us who effectively invented our own narratives from Vanilla onwards a chance to do the same again. A long discussion yesterday with a YouTuber reminded me of how many of Warcraft’s enormous cast of characters that have been sacrificed to the Gods of Narrative Expediency, and how as individuals we associate with different characters in vastly different ways. In the end, it is not the structure of the MMO that fails us, but our own obsessions within its whole. Those who simply ignore the emotional and focus on the practical are getting more out of the experience because they control the emotional investment, and not ActiBlizz.
Most importantly at this point, people need to be discussing what matters to them. Not because of a feature in a video game, but just because not enough of us really talk about this stuff anymore. WIth social media awash with petty bickering, fights and recriminations, those who are unhappy get lost when not prepared to shout louder than the people who confidently proclaim that nobody cares to begin with. Those who are confused why when Blizzcon began with a montage of Community moments why Azeroth’s now fighting each other may not have considered that this is a separate community from the one that made the game what it is.
Red v Blue is what defined Vanilla, and has at every stage of this game’s evolution. If fighting and winning are what matters more to some than being emotionally invested, both sides need to understand that it is the process of accommodating the other that created the Community they are now a part of. Nobody is right, or wrong, we are all relevant, and once you’re able to understand that as a person, trust me, the World becomes a better place generally. The lesson we continue to learn in Azeroth is that only by confronting conflict does true enlightenment result.
The fight has to happen, to allow understanding of how to deal with consequence.