Be warned: I’m dusting off my “epic nerd rant” tag for this post. I’m angry, and I will not be mincing words.
One of the worst things about the MMO community — aside from the rampant misogyny, racism, and homophobia that defines the gaming world — is that there is a large and vocal section of players who seem to feel their preferred style of play is the only correct one, and that anyone who has different preferences is not only wrong, but actually bad for the game.
If you don’t PvP, you’re a spineless carebear. If you do PvP, you’re a ganking troll. If you don’t raid, you’re a scrub. If you do raid, you’re an elitist.
That’s bad enough on its own, but the real problem is that these people will often attack anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow view of how an MMO should be played, lobbying to see such features removed from games entirely and denigrating anyone who enjoys them.
Favourite punching bags for this group include automated group finders, flying mounts, and accessible gear — the so-called “welfare epics,” which is a bit like GamerGate in that it’s a term mainly useful for instantly identifying who is a troglodyte.
Even The Secret World has this problem in spades, which is one of the reasons I don’t think its community is the paradise people make it out to be. Many of the most prominent members of the community are people who will badger the opposition, twist the truth, and outright lie to sell people on the “evils” of the optional quality of life perk that is a group finder.
It is an attack on choice, on diversity of gameplay, which is one of the strengths of the MMO genre. It’s selfish, and it’s petty, and it needs to go away, but it is such a large and powerful part of the MMO community that it seems all but unstoppable.
I do not understand the motivations of those who want everyone to march in lockstep with them. They gain nothing from attempting to tear down any playstyle other than their own.
Some of it probably boils down to the “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ME?!!?!” attitude that pervades the Internet as a whole. We built the greatest means of sharing differing opinions in human history and promptly became horrified and enraged by all the differing opinions we found.
And I don’t want to take the moral high ground here too much, because I’m guilty of disdaining opinions that are not my own, too. We all are to some extent, and I would definitely not consider myself to be someone who’s especially open-minded. However, there is one key area in which I can claim a certain degree of superiority over the “How dare you game differently from me?” crowd, which I’ll get to later.
The main argument that is usually used to justify these attempts to destroy those elements of gameplay they don’t enjoy is that they are forced to participate in them.
But that is of course nonsense.
I do think there is a place for complaints about developers making certain elements of gameplay so crucial that they can’t be avoided. I’ve spent plenty of time complaining about the “raid or die” or “rep or die” philosophies World of Warcraft has designed expansions around.
However, there’s a world of difference between tying a game’s entire storyline and progression mechanics into one narrow band of gameplay and optional gameplay features that are perhaps convenient but not strictly necessary for progression.
No one is forced to form groups with an automated tool. In every game I’ve played, you get the same rewards with a premade group. If you prefer to explore the virtual world on a land mount as opposed to a flying one, it’s no one’s fault but your own if you choose the greater convenience of flight. If your guild makes you do content you find tedious in order to get gear, your guild sucks, and you should find one that isn’t composed of pricks.
“But I’ll fall behind the competition if I don’t use every tool at my disposal!”
No, you won’t.
Outside of PvP, MMOs are not a competitive genre, no matter how much some people like to fool themselves into thinking they are. You don’t have to worry about falling behind; you’re not in competition with anyone. The one minor exception would be those guilds who go for world/server first achievements, but those are an infinitesimal minority, and not worth designing games around at the expense of everyone else.
Besides, being the best takes work, so if you really are one of the tiny few pushing the bleeding edge of content and needing every tool at your disposal, well, it comes with the territory. Suck it up, buttercup. This is what you wanted.
Even when things truly are obligatory, it’s still your own fault if you’re engaging in gameplay you don’t enjoy. I railed against Mists of Pandaria’s daily grind not because I hated forcing myself through the dailies, but because I didn’t do the dailies and therefore had my hands tied when it comes to character progression.
And here I come to the most crucial point, and the key difference between me and the “my way or the highway” crowd: If you truly feel something in a game is mandatory for progression, the correct solution is to ask for alternatives, not to try to remove the offending content.
I hated the daily grind in MoP, but never once did I say we should get rid of daily quests — though Blizzard went and did that anyway because they love to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I just wanted them decoupled from valor point gear so I didn’t have to grind solo content to spend my group currency — honestly, who thought that made sense?
I’m not very fond of raiding, but I don’t agree with the viewpoint that says raids should go away altogether. I do feel that the traditional raiding paradigm as established by WoW has a negative impact on the genre for reasons excellently outlined by the always insightful Eliot Lefebvre over at Massively recently, but I don’t think it’s necessary to do away with raids altogether.
But for those who find offense in playstyles other than their own don’t ask for alternatives, or for things to be made more optional. Perhaps this is because at some level they understand that the things they hate are already as optional as can be, or maybe they really are petty enough that they just want to break the toys of those who won’t play their way.
The worst part of all this is that developers actually seem to listen to these people. WoW finally caved to years of troll posts and removed flight. They took tier sets out of the raid finder so that real raiders would not feel obligated to run it, a case of the needs of the few being determined to outweigh the needs of the many in defiance of all Vulcan logic. TSW still lacks a group finder despite it being standard for themepark MMOs everywhere.
I suspect this has less to do with developers legitimately believing the spurious arguments put forth by such individuals and more to do with them using the arguments as justification for actions they wanted to take anyway. It’s easier for WoW to present themselves as listening to fan feedback than it is for them to come right out and say, “We’re placing more restrictions on players so everything will take longer and we get more subscription revenue.”
I’m not sure if that makes me a cynic or an optimist.
So while I know this will fall on deaf ears, I put forth this plea to the MMO community: Live and let live. My flying doesn’t hurt you. My getting gear from sources other than raids doesn’t hurt you. My forming dungeon PUGs without spending two hours spamming chat doesn’t hurt you. I don’t try to take away your toys, so don’t try to take away mine. I shouldn’t be made to suffer for your lack of self control.
In short, mind your own business.