Shared Topic – Three Life Lessons
I noticed a Shared Topic post on Blog Azeroth that surprised me a little. Surprised me in the fact that I found it a little more difficult to answer than it should have been. Sindei (from Six-Inch Heals) posed a simple enough question:
What has the World of Warcraft taught you? Did you learn about economics from playing the Auction House? Or learned the value of household chores from doing dailies? Or maybe WoW has impacted your real life in some other way. Maybe you even met your significant other in Azeroth! Write about something you’ve learned from WoW, or some other way it’s affected you in the real world.
“Pretty straight forward,” is what I thought when I first read it. There’d be generic answers of course (raiding teaches teamwork, guild leader teaches team building skills) but I realised those didn’t necessarily apply to me. In fact, if there was an online video game that taught me anything, I felt, it was Everquest. I raided in EQ. I seriously contributed to a guild in EQ. But WoW? Was there something I was missing? After all these years playing World of Warcraft, did I honestly learn nothing from the game?
I spent an entire evening posing that question to a bottle of Trivento. I knew the answer had to be in there. However, Trivento refused to be forthcoming with the knowledge. Even after I popped the cork, I wasn’t getting any answers. Bad move, Bottle of Bubbly. No one can withstand the might of Herc the Merc when he turns it up to eleven, baby! I would not rest until I got everything I could out of the bottle!
I was a Merc of my word. I drained every drop I could out of that Trivento.
Then I rested.
But with this morning’s headache comes a degree of clarity. The answers were there all along. I have learned a thing or two during my time as a World of Warcraft player. Three things, in fact. There very well could be more, but I’m doing the best I can with the brain cells that reported for work this morning. And so, good reader, I present to you:
Three Lessons I’ve Learned While Playing World of Warcraft
Number 3: The Vocal Minority is Still a Minority
A couple of years back, I happened across a few of what I would understand to be a “WoW Blog”. They were interesting bits of creation, online shrines where people discussed their characters for the most part. From there, I found links to things called “WoW Podcasts”. But regardless of the format, there was one thing that unified roughly 90% of blogs and podcasts. They were created by raiders, and those raiders were not happy with the content. Often I would feel underwhelmed because I was not a raider, and to hear these people talk I wasn’t even playing the same game. Almost all of them claimed that Blizzard developers were dumbing down content for “casuals”, which ruined the game for raiders. Over and over I would hear this,or read it, and think I was doing something wrong. Content sucked because I was doing something wrong as a casual player, apparently. If everyone was saying it, it must be true. Right?
I was wrong. Hardcore raiders may be vocal, but they are a minority. They just happen to be a very loud minority. The same kind of social misdirection we see in the media, where a group of people will try to use noise rather than numbers to prompt change.
Blizzard, or any company wishing to stay in business for that matter, will try to please the biggest part of their customer base. Not just the loudest. Doing the math is easy – Who is Blizzard going to try and please? The 2 million very vocal raiders, or the silent 10 million casuals? All the gripes boiled down to a Shakespearian quote: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Blogs and podcast outrage be damned. As far as Blizzard goes, money speaks louder than words. That’s a nice little transition to –
Number 2: Greed is Good
It is doubtful that Blizzard is hurting for money. One only had to do the math of (11.5 Million x $15 = approx. $173 Million per month) to see that CEO Mike Morhaime doesn’t have to sweat that he might not be able to keep the power on for the servers. If Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is right , WoW is paying everybody else’s bills too. And you know we can trust Bobby.
I feel dirty and wrong just for typing that.
However, in hopes of striking while the popularity iron was still hot, Blizzard began promoting money grabs like the Refer-A-Friend program and the Paid Faction Change. In some cases, these services went against previous statements that Blizzard said would never happen (PVE to PVP Server Transfers). In other cases, they were just giving players what they claimed the people had been asking for (Faction Change).
But then came the Blizzard Pet Store, and the last remnants of Blizzard actually trying to represent their hunger for cash as something noble faded away. Lil KT and the Pandaren Monk were the first two to go on sale, and for the first couple of months Blizz said that a percentage of the sale from the Monk would be donated to charity. But the public wrung their fists and shed their tears, which are actions that seem to come in right behind breathing for the WoW player base, so the next two pets were plushies with game codes attached. The price went up from $10 to $25, but in this case players were actually purchasing a real physical item that could sit on their desks and not judge them with their dead glass eyes, and not tell them they’re wasting their lives playing a video game for umpteen hours a day to the detriment of their health and hygiene. They were Best Friends.
But with the coming of the Celestial Steed, Blizz showed that they simply weren’t going to bother hiding their intentions anymore. They knew by this time that people would buy something if it looked “cool”, and the more sparkles it has the more they are willing to pay for it. Twenty-five bucks for a glowing My Little Pony, all because it looked “neat”. The Greed Steed made Blizzard $2 Million in four hours.
You know someone lit up a cigarette after seeing those numbers. They’ll see ’em again with the next pet they release, because they know people will buy it. They jacked up Blizzcon ticket prices because they know people will pay it. They know they can reskin a mount or a pet, and people will buy it. They’re not fulfilling a need the players have. They just want to keep Bob in Accounting from shooting himself out of boredom, and keep Bobby Kotick from having to wipe with anything other than hundred dollar bills.
Number 1: I Have Hope For Humanity
People have said that World of Warcraft is a snapshot of society. Give people the veil of anonymity to hide behind and their true selves will come out. If a person isn’t being held accountable for their actions, you see what kind of person they really are. According to the Real ID fiasco on the World of Warcraft Forums, many people think that there are a number of sociopaths that play World of Warcraft. If the crazed monsters knew who folks really were, they would hunt them down for disagreeing with their brilliant forum posts and wear their skins as shirts.
Before the release of Wrath of the Lich King, we were treated to what has become known as the Zombie Invasion. The Zombie Plague spread across the globe, infecting players and NPC’s alike. It only lasted a few days, but it was enough to scar some people to the point where they cancelled their subscription. Why? Well they couldn’t get their dailies done because infected players would kill the quest-giving NPC’s, or repeatedly infect the players with the zombie plague. Boo Hoo.
It was anarchy in the capital cities. Infected players would spread the plague everywhere, killing Auction House patrons, Banking folk, pretty much anyone that could be infected. Society ground to a halt, and many fled to the more isolated parts of the World to escape the madness. Social interactions were limited to “Brains…” and the eating of faces.
The chaos I expected. What I wasn’t expecting was the emergence of Heroes.
Small groups of characters started to form up and reclaim the capital cities. They would advance as a unit and kill the zombies, curing those that hadn’t been turned, and slowly taking back what was theirs. The kind of thing you’d expect to see in the movies, was actually happening in the real World… of Warcraft. Just when I was ready to write off people as nothing more than ignorant, self-centered asshats, a few folks stood up and said enough was enough. The douchbaggery must end!
A day later the event ended. But the Resistance that formed up during those dark days left me with something I generally don’t have for the Human Race. I have Hope. These people could have given up like many others had, or succumbed to the chaos. Instead they chose to do the more noble thing, which definitely wasn’t the easiest or most popular thing to do. I believe that what folks should remember when they’re playing WoW is that it’s not about being a good player as much as it is about being a good person. There are good people in the World of Warcraft, and to that rare breed of awesome I salute you.
This is Herculano.