Today, we break radio silence for a lesson in humility.
In the main, I’ve stopped reading other people’s Warcraft blogs. There’s not enough hours in the day (for one thing) and for another, it is quite rare to find someone being intellectual AND positive about the game right now. It’s either lots of pictures on how great X or Y is, or people maligning how terrible their online existence has become, to an audience of similarly-aggrieved people. Reddit, it appears, has become the fulcrum of this anger, but at the fringes of the load-bearing centre the same old people are trotting out the same old arguments, many of them as part of sites that, once upon a time, I would have wanted to write for.
Oh, how times have changed.
If I needed it, this weekend has taught me that the only way you are truly ‘Internet famous’ is when somebody sends you death threats. Everybody else is living their own, ill-conceived version of vicarious notoriety, and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here. Imagine my amusement therefore when being politely lectured this weekend by various people as to how my opinion does not fit what is obviously the mess this game is in. It MUST be a mess because their favourite commentators say it is. It’s nice that we disagree, but you’re still wrong. I’ll keep playing though, because it’s obviously not THAT bad, but you can’t tell me to stop.
I have this opinion, therefore I must be right.
This is the best place I’ve been in game-playing terms since the halcyon days of being in a Guild. There’s a complex set of reasons behind that, which can easily be distilled into one sentence. I stopped caring what other people thought and just enjoyed what I was given. The subjective and personal anger was removed from an equation that was convinced Azeroth was somehow out to get me. I see it in the eyes of every Warrior who feels aggrieved they’ve never been the same since (insert nerf/patch here) or the DK who left when it was apparent no-one in the Dev team cared what they said in public. It’s the Hunter ‘personality’ who vanished when a better offer in reality came up, or the writer who simply used Azeroth as a stepping stone to her own personal job-related nirvana.
The day you realise this game isn’t what controls your existence, everything gets better.
ActiBlizz have relied for some time on player retention as their means of self-financing. Keeping you here is central to the continuation of the lineage, being part of ‘family’ milked to a point where some people can see the man behind the curtain but don’t care, yet will attack you with torch and pitchfork for even suggesting they’re being manipulated. The key, therefore, is to not be that person. Allow everyone to do as they wish, on their own time, and everything will be fine… until something isn’t right, and the low level hum of discontent becomes so distracting you can’t think.
There’s an answer for that too, but systematically removing/ignoring/muting those people who don’t agree with you is a lie. They don’t go away. The problem isn’t fixed. In at least one instance this weekend, someone who loved to cause trouble, then overstepped the mark and left is back doing the exact same thing again. Undoubtedly, once they upset someone in their new friends group they’ll do the same again, and again, and nobody learns anything. Here’s the bigger issue. Nobody is learning. We just shut out the noise, and no-one is prepared to break the toxic cycle.
I’ve stuck with the same people in this game for a long time. Only now is it becoming apparent who in that group is listening. The problem, of course, was my hearing, and not their communication skills. So, when it becomes apparent that someone’s just talking because they enjoy the sound of their voice, and notion of ‘community’ that grants, there are some interesting choices to be made. My life no longer rotates around this game as it once did, and everything in my existence is better for it. EVERYTHING. An obsession has been broken, and a new life is forged from the remains.
Yet, I still love dicking about in Azeroth.
Perhaps because this stopped being life or death, or the means to feel popular, or an attempt to build/hold an audience is a good thing for everybody. There’s no need/desire to worry about indignation and anger either. Not giving a fuck might seem like the worst approach to life (it is and you shouldn’t) but in a computer game? Absolutely a sure-fire means by which everything stops being controlling and dominating. Learning to separate what matters from what’s trivial is a job for the individual to undertake. You’re largely on your own, which for some is a frightening prospect.
That’s why we need blogs to tell us what to do. That’s why all opinion needs to be garnered not just from Warcraft blogs, or Reddit, or your Guild. It also needs to involve people who DON’T PLAY, who used to play and gave up, and from those who’s lives are now far better off with out the game at all. If you’re not perming as many opinions as possible and intentionally blocking out overly positive/negative people, you are potentially reducing the level of objective reasoning. However, what matters most of all, before any of that can begin, is factoring out the bias in yourself.
That is the most difficult lesson to learn of all.