The ways that WoW changed us (and me)

When WoW launched and Blizzard immediately announced that they would need to open more servers to cope with the flood of players, I think we realised that the gaming landscape had irrevocably changed. Now, 7+ years later, it’s been a good time to look back on not only how WoW changed gaming but how individual gamers were changed by coming into contact with WoW.

(This is not even including changes because of other people met while playing.)

Syl asked other bloggers who WoW changed them, both as players and as people, and has summed up responses here.

How WoW changed me

Warcraft wasn’t the first (or last) MMO that I played. It wasn’t the first game in which I was a guild officer or a raid leader:  but it was the first game where I was part of a (fairly) hardcore endgame guild, it was the first game in which I kept a regular raiding schedule, and it was also the first game when I switched guilds just for the sake of progression. It was also the first game in which I played a tank, and the first game in which I burned out on endgame.

That is quite a lot of firsts. In vanilla WoW, I was the priest officer in a 40 man raid guild which ended up in 2nd place on the server. So I saw how these things worked from the inside. In TBC, I saw that guild break up painfully on the rocks of 10/25 man raiding, switched back to a different server and set of friends to raid Karazhan and recover from the sad guild breakup, and eventually switched an alt into a more hardcore raid guild because I wanted to clear Zul Aman and see The Black Temple.

The 40 man guild days were probably the most hardcore I personally have ever played. I used to log in on BWL nights and sit outside the instance for 3 hours just in case they needed a substitute. I had to leave work at 5:30 on the dot in order to get home in time, and many evening meals consisted of a mug of soup by the monitor. I was constantly recruiting new priests, trying to keep the active ones happy, and working with players on improving their performance and fine tuning our tactics.

I have to say, my partner was very understanding.

It was exciting, but it wasn’t something I could sustain. In retrospect, I was almost relieved when the guild split up. I was upset too, but I couldn’t have carried on for much longer. That type of raiding does burn people out, not from the actual raids, but from the stresses of trying to keep a raid guild together.

So I suppose I learned that I could play like that, I was good enough, but I also learned that I didn’t want to and that for me, progression wasn’t worth the cost. I also learned that a lot of other players would judge you purely on progression, and would not accept that you might be a good player who was motivated more by other things than achievements. And that I kind of regret losing out on progression even though I know the decision and play/life balance is much better for me this way.

I also learned to hate Blizzard just a bit for:

  • Making me PvP to get a decent raid weapon (that was in TBC)
  • Nerfing both my main classes hard at the beginning of TBC (that was warrior and priest, if anyone is counting)

It’s a funny thing because I have been raiding casually for far longer now than I was ever raiding hardcore, but I’m still bitter about some of the ways hardcore raiding forced us to play. I enjoyed the camaraderie and team spirit, hated feeling that we had to run just to keep still as far as keeping raid members went, and hated being stuck with fixed team sizes when I knew fine well that the DaoC ‘just take whoever wants to go’ method both worked and was less hassle for raid leaders.

I’ve also made good friends via WoW, but they tended to either drift off, not go to the same games I did, or abandon my friendly 10 man Wrath raid for a hardcore progression raid to which I wasn’t invited (which did put me off raid leading again, possibly ever.) I’m also still quite proud that my little raid team did some of the 10 man Naxx achievements in Wrath while they were still current, especially the 4 horseman one.

Although TBC shaped my playing style a lot, Wrath was my personal high point in the game and was when I was main tank for a 25 man raid guild as well as leading my own 10 man team. But that’s also a time I don’t know that I’d want to return to. It was fun, but I burned out on that style of raiding too and now am more in favour of a more relaxed type of raid schedule.

So I learned a lot about MMO mechanics, made some friends who mostly weren’t permanent, and got involved in MMO endgame. And learned more about myself and achievements, and that I’m more motivated by social and internal goals than my extrinsic motivators, which I sometimes feel separates me from the great mass of gamers who seem to love pointless achievements. So it goes. I also learned that while tanking and healing are good ways to make friends and make yourself useful to your guild/ raid, I’m just as happy with dps and it tends to be a stronger solo playing style, and I’m tired of having to gimp my solo play just to get groups.

I also learned that flying mounts are awesome, I will never get tired of flying.

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11 thoughts on “The ways that WoW changed us (and me)

  1. I’m not sure WoW *changed* me, but it made me realise (only after leaving) some things about myself.

    For me, WoW’s entire system encouraged me to see people as things, and to base all my interaction with them on whether or not they were useful to me.

    Sure, I’d find people I liked, and run around with them. But the overwhelming criterion was NOT whether or not I liked them, but whether or not they were good at playing their class.

    The liking was icing.

    Which resulted in my 3+ years of WoW making me absolutely no RL friends.

    Not one. And by RL I mean – people whom, even though you’ve never met, you’ll be happy to put up a while at your place should they come visit. Whom you would, in fact, be delighted to *have* visit.

    LegendMUD gave me so many of those. LegendMUD gave me my best friends. Guild Wars has given me 3 of those. Forsaken World has given me one.

    I don’t think it’s so much that WoW changed me, as how I behave changed under WoW conditions of play – just one of the reason why I have absolutely no inclination to go back. Environments can and do change existing behaviours, or bring out latent ones, and WoW’s environment, on hind-sight, was terrible for me.

    *scritch batter* Sort of reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment really…

    • I hear you, and I think my experience has a lot in common with that. I wouldn’t say I had no friends after X years, but the people I’m still in touch with are people from my friendly casual guild and not any of the more hardcore guilds I raided with.

      There is something about the raid/achievement/ progression mindset that makes people look at guildies in terms of game mechanics. And makes them very intolerant if someone is going through a bad patch iRL and either unable to make raids or not really able to focus as well. But also, hardcore raiding is a constant recruiting grind. Maybe some of the top guilds can keep a more stable roster but for everyone else, it’s a fight to stay sustainable that only officers really see. The raid endgame was NEVER going to be sustainable, just a lot of players never realised it.

      The really painful thing, in some ways, was seeing the friendly casual guild morph into something more hardcore simply because they wanted to do some fun raiding with guildies and decided to adapt to how the game intended this to happen so as to get better progression. I’m no longer sure how well I’ll fit in even if I do go back for MoP.

      • I think to a certain extent, raids are unsustainable over a long period for the same crew of people. I loved the folks I raided with during WotLK, but got burned out running a guild where I was the only one who actually did anything. Since my time running the Eye of Nerzhul, it’s fallen apart (to the point where a founding member emptied the guild bank “in case she came back”) and I’ve pretty much guild-hopped looking for a place where the right atmosphere married up to the right level of performance.

        That’s extraordinarily hard. :S

        The guild I’m in now has, if I’m honest, treated me very poorly since joining up; this culminated in my final trial review last night which concluded in a really insulting fashion. Yet, I’m sticking it out because there are guys in the guild who I know are exceptional players and who I happen to like an awful lot. This probably tells you that I’m willing to sacrifice fair treatment for the opportunity to play with folks who help me enjoy this game. This is a personal development borne out of playing in server-leading progression guilds that, ultimately, sucked the fun out of the game.

        Your recent comments about LFR really hit home here, though. In a world where the real-life burden of playing raid content can easily get in the way, Blizzard have provided an alternate means of playing endgame without having to stick to strict schedules or pushy raid leaders. This is a dramatic change in how this content is consumed, and works wonderfully if you can put up with the poisonous individuals in the queue.

        What I’d like to see is an approach to endgame raiding that is flexible, yet consistent. Members don’t feel like they have to be on, and don’t feel that their absence will see a raid cancelled due to shortages. Unfortunately, the only means I’ve found of doing that in WoW end up bedevilled by the very guild members the plan is designed to welcome.

        I’m not sure Blizzard has the desire to come up with a solution to this, even if they did have a Lead Systems Design team that was capable of it (they don’t).

      • ” This probably tells you that I’m willing to sacrifice fair treatment for the opportunity to play with folks who help me enjoy this game.”

        I think it tells me that the task of finding a guild that is socially compatible, has a compatible schedule, and plays at the progression/ skill level you want is so incredibly hard that most players have no real choice other than compromising at least one of those requirements.

        But what that means is that I really have no option of raiding heroic DS once per week even if I go back without going through the entire hassle of finding a new guild/ raid, gearing up, getting more cutting edge/ hardcore etc; my friends (who I imagine would be happy to have me back) simply weren’t raiding at that level (ie. progression was my compromise).

      • Players tend to group up with like-minded players. An example is hardcore players grouping up with hardcore players. When you went casual you slowly but surely developed a different way of viewing and playing the game.

        Hardcore players are never your “friends”; they’re your peers to get things done with. You’re a tool to them, a means to an end. And that is what they were for you as well. Were; not anymore.

        That doesn’t mean you can’t have a friendly or good time with hardcore players, just like casuals can still get things done while having fun and playing irregularly. However the hardcore player’s relationship is more business-like.

        Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me you lost contact with your hardcore player peer group. Also, remember a hardcore can easily go casual but the other way around takes much longer. So aside from nostalgia it is hard to relate to them. There’s also a lot between hardcore and casual, and it only describes frequency of play not e.g. quality of play, type of play, role, class, …

      • Players do also change, so someone you knew as a friend when you played casually can become more hardcore (which may or may not mean they drop you as a friend but will definitely mean they will want to play in a more hardcore group)

        I think it’s the understandable confusion around how to relate to people that can catch you out. Sure, if you are a hardcore player and join a hardcore group then the ground rules are well known. But if you are part of a group that is becoming more hardcore then some people change more (Or faster) than others, hence confusion and possibly upset. If my friends who casually raided with me went off to join a hardcore guild and never talked to me again, it’s not that surprising that I might be annoyed with them (esp if we had known each other outside the game previously :) )

        The other reason for confusion is that a new player to MMOs may never have come into direct contact with the casual/ hardcore divide, and it might not be obvious that hardcore players are never your friends, especially if they are acting like friends.

    • I understand why it reads that way; I wanted to record how I felt about my time in WoW but I wasn’t expecting that the overwhelming feelings I was left with would be so negative. Clearly the social side of the game had a much bigger influence on how I remember WoW than the mechanical side, and I do still think it was a good game. So I got to a point where I thought “OK, I’ve got that out of my system but that’s it.” It’s not a slick way to present a blog post, and letting this one sit for a few more days would probably have been a good idea, but I think sometimes if you want to write something very genuine it’s worth writing what you feel.

      Also I’m staying with a friend this week so not a lot of time for blogging. (ie. basically I agree with you though, this isn’t ideal.)

  2. It wasn’t a criticism, you probably know me a bit better than that. It just seemed that you had an awful lot more to say on the topic that you then never went on to say. :P

    • I was taking it as constructive criticism (you are allowed to do that :) ) and on re-reading it, I think I agree. I probably do have more to say on the topic, I don’t know yet quite what it is but I evidently still have more unresolved feelings about WoW.

      I will think about this some more and see if I can make more of a series of these posts.

      • Well, you know I’ll read them.

        I suppose it’s just that having read Belghast’s latest post, and my own “defection” (it honestly felt that way) back to WoW, I run with the impression that Blizzard made a mess of Cataclysm in many ways, but the players made a similar mess of their expectations. For example, I raid heroic Dragon Soul once a week and the remainder of my time is my own – I’ve actually found a bigger desire to log on during the Grumpy Elf’s “dog days of Cataclysm” than I have since completing normal tier 11.

        I’ve got well over 12k achievement points, yet still feel like I have plenty to do when I log on. Considering I felt absolutely bored with nothing to do when I quit the game, that’s a significant change in attitude.

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