I’d like to dedicate this blog post to Jesse, who I got to know virtually this year.
Once upon a time, this kind of attitude would be jumped on as negative in my timeline, because it didn’t paint Activision Blizzard in a decent light. In fact, this would be the means by which others would Gamesplain their feeds back to a state where Warcraft could do no wrong. I realised last night, fighting my way across Argus for what is the sixth time now, that not only has Legion now failed me but I’m also failing myself. The only reward that is consistent across the entire Expansion was put there as a means to gate raiding progression, and herein lies the biggest issue.
Unless you are prepared to sell your soul to this game, ultimately, it has the potential to fail you too.
I used to be a fan like this: back in the days of Wrath and Cataclysm, I was there. Some might baulk at the likening of me to a hardcore American sports jock, but in a way that is what I became. I lived and breathed the ideals, the goals and (most importantly) the determination to support the title, sometimes to the detriment of my own mental health. It is ironic, on reflection over the last few days, that the game I cite as being vital in allowing the rediscovery of my confidence and peace after an episode of Post Natal Depression is also the place that taught a harsh and sometimes uncomfortable lesson. Sure, you can play this game any way you like but the moment to give up the raiding life, certain people will never respect you again.
In their eyes if you’re not a hardcore supporter until death, you’re not a supporter at all.
That’s why, I know in my heart, esports will never be of interest, but it must be sold by this company if they hope to remain competitive in the future. This is the means by which young men and women are being pulled away from supporting ‘traditional’ sports (often without an interest in any real world competitive sport to begin with) and how they will spend their money in the future. The loot box may be on borrowed time, but the concept of pixelated teams fighting each other is already looking to be trialled as an exhibition sport in the Olympic Games. That level of dedication already existed, and now companies are building entire business models around that devotion to task.
However, when they try and extend that model to all their gaming, they hit on a problem.
If all you ever do is play your sport competitively, you’ll eventually crave something else to relax with. If that happens in Azeroth and the stuff provided as potential relaxation is simply the same grinding content dressed up as relaxation, you’ll get the Goden Lotus dailies from Cataclysm and sitting in your Garrison, bored, during Warlords. Instead, as Jesse made me realise yesterday, I didn’t find myself experiencing any of these issues. I still don’t, because this game no longer fails me because I stopped being a Raider. The only limit now is my own personal threshold for content consumption, and that was reached last night with six alts in Argus. I don’t care how good the rewards are, because (yet again) content after Expansion doesn’t care about the casual player.
None of this game has ever been built with casual players in mind.
If I put my cynical, tin-foil hat on for a moment, I can break Legion down quite brutally: the Launch package gave a great impression of choice and variety for those of us with multiple alts, or who weren’t willing to do more than 5 man content for kicks, especially via the Professions quest streams. However, once we hit the end of the Nighthold, which effectively encompassed the only ‘rational’ storyline in the game, that was it. Argus provides the same story, over and over in perpetuity, because at this point the design team have realised their mistakes and need to start fixing them for the NEXT expansion, in the hope they can then get people to hand over cash to keep them employed.
This is the scenario that has played out since The Burning Crusade launched. If you raid, this is your game. For EVERYBODY else there will be content that will cause you, at some point, to just stop playing. It might be from sheer force of repetition, or frustration, or any combination of other factors when it becomes apparent that the title cannot hold your attention any longer, and then you go and play something else. There’s a vital exception to this rule, and she’s typing this blog post. There are others like her too, for whom there doesn’t need to be other distraction or a different member of the Actiblizz family stable of shooty games in order to provide contrast required. This game will provide everything required in terms of entertainment, because I no longer play it the way it is built to consume.
When I think of all those people who stopped being a part of Azeroth and never came back, there’s a common thread amongst them all that’s worth repeating. From Ausca the Warlock to Than the Warrior, from Golrock the Hunter to Lycas the Death Knight, all of them knew the potentially addictive nature of the content, that to play it properly didn’t need to mean you had to grind the content. All that work would be completely negated when the reset button was pressed and XP came back again, because none of your effort mattered to anyone but the people around you. Yes, there is the satisfaction of completion and the joy in random reward, but in the main it remains the same, intractable process. Those who remain with Guilds will call them families because they are, and it is for them that many continue this journey regardless of the personal loss. The sacrifice of hours given is part of the lifestyle and ethos that Warcraft demands in the most dedicated, because that’s how you succeed in this presented iteration of life.
This is a version of life that many people will never allow you to criticise.
Those people who see the man behind the curtain, can understand that reference and respect me enough to grasp the significance have become the people whom matter most in the last six months. I enjoy gaming vicariously through their loves and hates too, and the other interests they possess… in fact, having a life outside Warcraft is becoming increasingly important. Once upon a time I thought this might be my career, but this year taught me that, without a doubt, it is the direction I need to head away from. There’s an ironic coda to that revelation too, but you’ll meet him tomorrow. I find it quite interesting that in a period of life when I’m trying to remove a fixation with Azeroth from my life, it can find new ways to ensure I’ll never truly leave.
That’s why, I suppose, I’ll always be an addict.