There are been a slew of interesting posts over at Spinksville about the dumbing down of WoW and the problem with supposedly hardcore players PUGging like a bunch of tards. The problem, I think, lies less with the social, the casual and the hardcore (all of which are relatively arbitrary distinctions anyway) but with the vast vile realm of the group of players M’pocket tank and I call Wannabe-Hardcores.
I will address this claim more directly in a moment, but let me take a minute for a more personal perspective. My WoW history is a strange and twisted one. Let me show you it.
I started playing initially because a group of my friends were and I’m the sort of person whose mother was always saying “if they jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff as well?” (well, is it a cool cliff, huh, huh?) I blundered into a few people in my early days WoW, all of whom were tremendously cool and, given their long history of serious raiding and guild-leading, utterly hardcore – although I was, at the time, far too naive to recognise what that actually meant. I still rather think it was the equivalent of the Pope wandering across The Village Idiot and talking to him a little bit about God. This was my introduction to the strata of burned out hardcores who were kind and generous enough to gently teach a wide-eyed young cow how to play the game (to this day, I kind of wonder what they got out of it – I can only hope I was fun to teach). So between people I already knew and these wonderful people, my early days of WoW were blessed and golden, and we shall not know their like again, my friends.
With my first character, I was boosted through a couple of instances so I could see stuff and lay my paws on a few blues. Yes, it’s a trifle mindblowing the first time you see a level 70 warrior, decked out in top tier raiding gear, tanking the entirety of the steps of ZF but, basically, I didn’t get it. I didn’t think I was interested in instancing. But, somehow, on Tam, I was persuaded to give it another go. I can’t actually remember the instance we ran, but we ran it at level, in a group of friends and new-found friends, M’pocket tank tanking and me healing. And oh my God, it was a revelation to me. I’d never had so much fun in WoW.
Needless to say, it took a long time. There was a fair amount of frivolity anyway, just general chat, mocking each other’s comical-looking gear, commenting on the bosses, the enemies, the scenery. And we dissected strategy on pretty much every single pull. But we had a tank who’d never tanked, a healer who’d never healed. On the other hand, the leader of this valiant team was regularly leading 40 man raids so I guess he couldn’t have found it too much of a challenge.
In this fashion, we ran most of the Old World instances. Sometimes we ran them in black tie but that’s a boast for another time.
However, as is the nature of things, time and life moved on. The group faded, sputtered and finally died. And now there’s just me and M’pocket tank left. And a while ago I had to make a choice: either stop playing WoW or get used to a different kind of WoW. I went for the latter. There are advantages and disadvantages. I have, I suppose, flown the nest. In some respects I’m a better player now that I’ve faced the world unprotected. I was so damn proud when I bought my first epic mount with money I had myself earned. And I am, at least, playing the same WoW that everyone else is playing, instead of some summer dream tinted wonderland in which everybody is articulate, witty and knows what they’re doing. But I miss that group. And I miss the friends. And I miss the days when trying to run an instance wasn’t like dangling your naked feet in a piranha-infested pool hoping against hope to have them caressed by a dolphin instead of devoured in a blood-fest frenzy.
What I’m trying to establish here is that I’m a casual player. There. I said it. Spit on me, if you dare. I always have been, and I always will be. What it doesn’t mean, however, is that I can’t play WoW, or that I won’t be an asset to an instance. It doesn’t mean that I won’t, or that I don’t, take the game “seriously”. That’s a loaded word, isn’t it? What does it actually mean, to take WoW seriously? It is a game, after all, and the idea of taking a game seriously seems almost oxymoronic.
Does taking it seriously mean power-levelling to 80 in two days? Does it mean raiding every night? Does it mean always having the best gear for your level? Does it mean, in essence, not having any fun? (not that I’m saying for a moment that those are not legitimate ways to play the game). Or does taking it seriously mean being too hardcore to admit any pleasure in it? Does taking it seriously mean hurrying through every instance, refusing to use crowd control or marking?
Ultimately, I think taking WoW “seriously” is not gear or time commitment or number crunching, it’s attitude. It’s about why you play the game and what you expect to get out of it. It’s remembering that having fun in WoW must necessarily be moderated through what may be fun for others as well. So pulling an enormous crowd of mobs onto the group in an instance may get you an an adrenaline kick but, as Confucious says, one man’s adrenaline kick may be another man’s repair bill.
The problem then, to return to the first paragraph with the cunning of a weasel, is neither the casual nor the hardcore players because they know why they’re playing and what they want out of it. Casual players want to have easy-access fun, although as I hope I have indicated above this is not the same as not being able to play the game effectively or being afraid of things that are difficult or complicated. And hardcore players, of course, want progression and new challenges to overcome, and the shiny stuff that comes with.
Wannabe-hardcore players, however, merely want to look like they’re hardcore players. They want the loot, they want what they perceive of as respect from other players, and they want to be able to face-roll everything because this makes them feel that they might be hardcore when, of course, they know they’re not. How could you be, when you’ve been boosted through every instance (because all you care about is loot anyway) and you actually have no clear idea of how to play the game?
Everything a wannabe hardcore does and says is driven almost entirely by this burning need to be acknowledged as hardcore, often by making other people feel stupid or inadequate. They’ll whine about supposed nerfs and mount changes, because they see these relatively arbitrary attainments as markers of distinction that prove they are neither casuals nor noobs. Casual players don’t care when they get their mounts: they’ll just be glad to get one, whenever. Hardcore players don’t care either: they’ve already got theirs and it’ll make levelling alts less tedious. Casual players don’t care about nerfs: they’re not going to get there for a while and maybe they’d rather work on their fishing achievement anyway. Hardcores don’t care either: they’ve already done the thing about six times anyway and are ready for something new.
Nerfage is entirely for the benefit of the wankers who are whinging about it, the same people who the people who behave in PUGs the way Spinks articulates. The guys who want to be able to walk into Mordor, and then only because they’ve heard the Ring of Power is apparently totally imba.
The important thing is that these sort of players are not casual players. They’re dicks. And they’re giving us casuals a bad name.