It’s Not the Band I Hate; It’s Their Fans

I have never played Path of Exile. I probably never will.

A promotional screenshot from the action RPG Path of ExileThis is not entirely because it’s a game that doesn’t appeal to me. As a free to play fantasy ARPG, it’s in my wheelhouse enough that it should theoretically be worth a look, if nothing else. Unfortunately, its community has done a singularly good job of turning me off the game.

You see, I can’t recall ever hearing anyone say anything good about Path of Exile that wasn’t couched in the form of a dig at Diablo III.

This is a turn-off on a number of levels.

Firstly, if the only good thing you can say about your game is that it’s not another game, well, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? Drawing comparisons is one thing, but any game should be able to stand on its own merits.

Second, there is a strong streak of elitism in the criticism leveled at Diablo III, and therefore also in the praise of PoE. While some people do have legitimate grievances of D3 that I won’t argue with, a lot of the time it’s people who seem to think it’s too “dumbed down” and childish, whereas PoE is a “real” ARPG with “proper” skill trees and an appropriately “mature” tone. UPHILL. IN THE SNOW. BOTH WAYS. LIKE A REAL MAN. GRR.

Related to the above, a lot of the things people hate D3 for are the very same things I like about it. I like that I don’t need to Google a guide to figure out my build. I like that experimentation is encouraged. I like that freedom and flexibility.

My crusader in Diablo IIIThe end result is that I have been given the overwhelming impression that PoE is not just a game that isn’t for me, but a game designed for and occupied by people who don’t want players like me around.

Now, I grant it is possible — nay, probable — that I am being unfair. I don’t doubt that a great many people playing Path of Exile are perfectly fine, and not embittered edgelord elitists. It’s also quite possible it’s a fine game I might enjoy.

Unfortunately, the embittered edgelord elitists are the ones you hear from most often, so for me they have become the face of PoE and its community. They’re the first thing I think of when I think of the game, and it’s a negative association that’s gotten so ingrained over the years that it’s hard to overcome.

I started off this post thinking only about Path of Exile, but mulling it over, it occurs to me that PoE is not the first gaming experience I’ve been turned off of by the community.

Despite the fact I’ve playing MMORPGs avidly for the better part of a decade now, I’ve never really gotten into raiding, as longtime readers undoubtedly know. I flirted with it during Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, but once the Raid Finder was added, I gave up on “real” raiding forever. Not even my beloved Secret World could make me care about its raids. I never even attempted them.

On reflection, this has at least as much to do with raiders as it does with raids.

A raid group in World of WarcraftMy experience with the raiding community has been almost uniformly one of bitterness, scorn, and elitism. Raiders are the ones who spent years calling me a “filthy casual,” and that’s by far the least offensive label I’ve been given. Raiders are the ones who fly off the handle the moment anyone like me has even a shot at minimal progression. Raiders are the ones I saw treating everyone outside their clique as something less than human.

And again, I know not all raiders are like that. Many are just fine, I know. But that was the prevailing experience I’ve had with raiders. That is the public face of the raiding community, and that bile is what immediately comes to mind for me when I think of raiding.

And that is one of the driving reasons why I never became a raider. There are other things I don’t love about raiding — such as the time commitments — but the community turned me off so badly I never had much motivation to give it a serious shot. Maybe I never would have gotten into raiding anyway, but we’ll never know.

My disinterest in PvP is also affected by this kind of community negativity. Never, in my entire WoW career, have I seen a battleground team lose with good grace. It always ends in name-calling and rage, without exception.

Now, PvP is fairly outside what I find compelling in games to begin with, and I have other issues with PvP outside the community, but the experience I’ve had with people who PvP hasn’t improved matters. PvP was never going to be a favourite activity for me, but it might have made up a larger portion of my gaming diet if my experience with its community had been one of sportsmanship and respect rather than a teeming mass of homophobes, tea-baggers, and nerd-raging man-children.

My rather pitiful rank in Heroes of the StormAll this is just more testament to how negativity and toxicity is poisoning gaming. If you want your hobby to prosper, you need to present a welcoming face, not elitism and hostility.

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Gaming Round-Up: ESO, Bless, Zeratul, and MMO Mobs

Once again I find myself with a number of gaming topics that are worth discussing, but not worth filling a full post on their own.

A story cinematic in Bless OnlineBless Online: Actually okay

With its launch as a full free to play title, I decided to give Bless Online a try. Given the incredibly negative buzz, I was surprised by how decent the game is.

Once again I feel the need to point out that the universal and hyperbolic negativity of the gaming community has made word of mouth entirely meaningless. I no longer know which games I should avoid, because basically everything is decried as a broken cash grab, regardless of reality.

That’s not to say Bless is a masterpiece. It’s not. I actually gave up on it fairly quickly. But this is much more symptomatic of how jaded I’ve become than the quality of the game itself. It’s got a lot going for it.

The graphics are gorgeous. The world is detailed and filled with personality. The story is surprisingly high effort and actually halfway interesting. The combat is very flashy and engaging, if once again much too easy. If I weren’t in a period of feeling somewhat burnt out on video games in general and traditional MMOs in particular, I’d probably have played a lot more.

In the end, that may be Bless’ one major sin: It launched too late into a market too crowded.

A flightpath in Bless OnlineESO: Home sweet villa

After months of hard work and with the assistance of an ESO Plus trial event, I’ve finally finished decorating my Grand Psijic Villa home in Elder Scrolls Online.

I am not sure why I did this. There is no gameplay reason to spend time in my own home, and I have no friends who play to show around the place. I suppose it’s a nice virtual environment to wander around and reflect on my life choices.

Ahem.

The place is so huge I had to wall off a few rooms because I didn’t have the resources or energy to furnish them properly. Even so, I did manage to include a feast hall, bedrooms for both my Aldmeri characters, a kitchen, and indoor gardens. Meanwhile the exterior is home to as much plant life as I could cram in, a campsite with a hammock, some lovely statuary, and a semi-submerged coral garden, among other attractions.

It is fun to express yourself through design like this. I’m beginning to catch a glimmer of why people are so passionate about player housing in games. I just wish it was a more fleshed out feature.

SC2: En aru’din Raszagal

Surprisingly soon after the release of Tychus, StarCraft II has gained another new co-op commander: Zeratul.

I preface my thoughts on him by saying that I think Zeratul is fun to play, and I don’t regret purchasing him. He has some cool abilities, a unique mechanic in the hunt for artifact fragments, and his unit skins are gorgeous.

That said, he does somewhat reinforce my perception that the co-op team is running out of ideas. Aside from the artifact mechanic, he could basically be described as “Nova, but Protoss and somehow even more overpowered.”

Zeratul is very powerful, and very easy. His macro is simplified to the point of being almost non-existent — even his upgrades are researched automatically — and he also has surprisingly low micro requirements.

Your only real strategic choices are what top bar abilities to pick (which is a neat mechanic, I grant), as his unit selection is limited, and you really don’t need anything other than Void Templars and Enforcers with the occasional Shieldguard for back-up. His only real micro in battle is casting blink and dropping his calldowns. Meanwhile his base runs itself.

Zeratul in StarCraft II co-opI mean, I hate economic management, and even I feel Zeratul may have gone too far in eliminating it.

Zeratul’s fun, but I can’t pretend there aren’t a lot of ways in which he’s simply a failure of good game design. If nothing else, I have to believe there are more interesting things they could have done.

New article:

In other news, I’ve published a new article on MMO Bro. This one seeks to rethink the design of open world mobs in MMOs.