Yesterday, a post was made on the forums here at mmorpg.com. It was most likely a parody, but it talked about players who use the World of Warcraft addon GearScore for the sole purpose of excluding players from dungeons and raids based on the score this UI mod assigns their gear. If the gear score isn't high enough, some players using the mod reason, the player will not be able to clear the dungeon or raid in what the group leader deems an acceptable amount of time. Thus the low gear score player is excluded or kicked from the group - even if the World of Warcraft's Dungeon Finder tool's built-in gear scorer determines that the player's gear is sufficient to enter the dungeon or raid.
Let me explain: I am not at all opposed to user-created UI mods. I use several: Deadly Boss Mods, Paladin Tracker, Decursive, Vuhdo, Quartz, and Omen being just a few. What I oppose vehemently is the use of tacitly-if-not-specifically-approved-by-the-developer (in this case, Blizzard) UI mods being used by the player base as a basis for exclusion from content.
Again, don't get me wrong: if a player is hurting the team by refusing to learn from his or her mistakes, if he or she is just generally behaving in an inappropriate manner that is offensive to any reasonable human being, if he or she is attempting to loot everything under the sun and taking items away from players who actually need those items, then that player does, in fact, need to go - and the game does provide group mechanics for that. But using an external UI mod and an elitist mentality for the sole purpose of excluding players who need both the gear and the experience is, in my opinion, maybe not the best way to improve the World of Warcraft community's already severely tarnished reputation in the MMO industry.
The community in World of Warcraft is already nearly universally cited by both players and columnists alike as being "the worst community in any MMO," bar none. The GearScore mod, as it is being used by many within the WoW playerbase, is not improving this opinion. Do I use GearScore? Yes I do. I use it because it is a fact that the built-in scoring system within World of Warcraft requires a player's gear to be at certain levels to enter HFoS, HPoS, and HHoR, not to mention that it is extremely unwise to even consider going near ICC without a gear score of 5k or better. But I have never once looked at another player's gear score because frankly, other players' equipment really isn't any of my business unless they ask me to look at it and help them make improvements. I use the addon to check the score on gear that drops to see if it is worth my rolling or passing on and to check my own gear score on my own little army of toons and that is the only reason I use it.
Unlike the players parodied in the forum post I read (and replied to with a few tongue-in-cheek alterations of my own) here yesterday, I don't mind wiping a few times in an instance or even a raid with other players on a gear run or experience run because it is a very rare thing that I have seen the same player make the same mistake twice (though, admittedly, it does happen) and because everyone has to learn sometime - and it's far better to learn with someone with the patience and willingness to let you make mistakes than with someone who will scream at you the entire time. If a game feels more like you should be getting paid to play it because someone is screaming at you, and stressing you out than it does a fun leisure activity that you spend fifteen bucks a month of your entertainment budget on, then something is seriously wrong.
Community in MMOs is a difficult thing to foster. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a willingness to learn from one another. It takes a willingness to teach, it takes a willingness to learn, and it takes a willingness to be taught and to be learned from. I have been playing World of Warcraft for some time now and it is not a terribly difficult game, but I still find myself learning little things every day that I did not know...so how can I possibly expect someone who has been playing for a month and who has just reached level 80 to know everything that I know and to know everything about every boss encounter in every raid and dungeon? The simple answer? I can't - unless I am willing to throw their gear score and my attitude out the window and to teach and be taught.
Dungeon Finder and GearScore are not, in and of themselves, bad things. Both are and can be very useful tools that can enhance the player's experience within the game. Dungeon Finder in particular can be one of the most useful tools to players within World of Warcraft for getting things done both for questing purposes, general experience in learning how to play their character well in group settings, general experience in how to work and play well with others, and for getting a character equipped quickly for higher-level content. GearScore can also be a particularly useful tool for players in helping them to know whether they are or are not ready for certain content in terms of the gear they have and for whether or not they should even bother rolling on a piece of loot or just let those enchanters duke it out for sharding rights. But just as any tool can be especially useful in the hands of someone who uses it properly, that same item in the hands of someone intent on using it in a manner for which is was not intended is not useful but destructive.