I wrote that before my first cuppa, so it could probably have been a bit less scathing. However, the bit I missed completely was the promise there’ll be no more grinding for neck (or now cloak) levels. However, there will be grinding somewhere, because that’s how this has always worked. To keep you playing, there needs to be something you’re missing.
For me, it was mounts and pets. I say that in the past tense because I am no longer playing, and am instead watching closely how other people react to the new patch. There are two camps: the Naysayers and the Staunch Defenders. They’ve existed since Patch 1.1 and remain exactly as they have for, well, decades. You either find something to complain about and do so vociferously or just play and wonder why everybody else is so mean. If you’re enjoying yourself, nothing can be that bad, right?
There used to be a third camp, the Truth Tellers. Their numbers are dwindling.
The truth about any game’s success lies in the space between the two extremes of what is wrong with it and why people keep throwing money at it. It is the intersection of Naysayer and Defender, in effect, a spot where occasionally people from both groups end up inhabiting. Sometimes it’s completely by accident, or often it’s on the way from one side of the Player Base Venn Diagram to the other.
That’s where the Game really exists. Not the idealised version the Defenders play, even if that idealisation is just a tiny bit shinier than the game itself. It’s certainly not the same version of the game an average Naysayer envisions either. Those can be quite dark and desperate places, let’s be honest, depending on how bitter or angry your experiences have been. The fact remains however: neither of these two views is reality.
Your game, like it or not, is an overlap of the two.
Feel free to use this handy diagram to demonstrate how ANY game is the sum of its players, and if you struggle to find anyone who’s playing in the middle, it becomes really hard to give anybody an objective view of how your favourite game is being played. That’s why I feel I can’t really give Wabbage what he wants. I’m inhabiting a subset of ‘The Game Itself’ which realises just how much of this process isn’t about playing, but the parent company making money.
That means I can no longer consider myself an effective Truth Teller. It’s part of the reason, it occured to me last night, I’m only playing Solitaire on an aging iPad right now and not any of the tens of thousands of things that are available to me as a gamer. Warcraft’s destroyed the grip all games had on me. It’s continued influence on friends, family and those I respect has given me sober pause for thought.
They continue to love something I can only now look at with a measure of concern.
There’s an interesting measure of guilt in all of this too, which is yet to be properly considered or addressed. I watch people use this game to maintain popularity, feel relevant, further their own financial gains, grant them a freedom that they could not find anywhere else. It is, without doubt, an incredibly liberating and transformative place to both live and work, as so many people do.
How can I feel such emotional anger and disbelief? How is it possible to be both Naysayer and Defender simultaneously? That’s easy, I really am living in the middle, for the first time properly in over 15 years. Once you make it to the middle, there’s a choice: you either accept everything, with all its faults and shortcomings, or you leave. You don’t care it’s just one massive grind, and enjoy the ride with your mates.
I may talk to many of you and take part in your discussions, but I have no friends with which to play. If I want to live here, in the end, I ought to really find a Guild and start again… except there really isn’t time if I want to be what I’m becoming now. I’d have to give up part of my dream to play. It’s not going to happen.
It’s definitely not Azeroth this time. It’s me.