For years Guild Wars 2 has garnered a sense of cooperation and community within the general PvE population in a way that was welcoming to players of all skill levels and competencies. This was one of the founding principles behind my decision to make Guild Wars 2 an MMO I constantly return to. From the get go, ArenaNet decided to open up content and guilds so that players could interact with many different groups instead of being stuck in just one. While the community at large still has a fairly stellar reputation as far as online games go, it appears that through the years, there are many players in game that have soured. This is what happened.
Reiterating my initial point, when Guild Wars 2 was created, it was a singular platform dedicated to inclusion. The world was immense, and every major event was treated as something that all players could experience equally. The major sticking points revolved around exploration mode dungeons, and perhaps the inexplicable mismatch in structured PvP. For the most part, in the fresh Guild Wars 2 legacy world, it was easy to find the roses. Then from the briar patch came the thorns, Heart of Thorns. It wasn’t the first jaunt into PvE player supremacy, but it was essentially the nail that secured the coffin on the initial feeling of brotherhood among the large PvP player base in terms of the greater inclusiveness of the game.
Fractals began to take shape, Raids were introduced, specializations and masteries were new ways for players to be judged and ranked, and suddenly there was a “haves” and “have nots” culture that didn’t revolve around simply purchasing the expansion. I’ll be the first to argue that GW2 is fantastic in its use of casual mechanics to allow players with all kinds of time constraints to still achieve most goals. Prior to Heart of Thorns, this was normal, that even the most casual player could keep up and pass the vast majority of content. Suddenly, new specialization and masteries appeared, bosses required very specific mechanics, but more interestingly, there were raids and maps like Dragon’s Stand and Auric Basin that required coordination, and in many cases, very specific builds or skills in order to complete them.
In this way, ArenaNet fractured players, from the ones that enjoyed playing a specific class with a build that they enjoy, into playing classes and specializations the way that the coordinators of the teams, or the events themselves dictated. What does this have to do with the community? Everything. Specialization shaming is a very big thing that happens quite frequently in GW2. No longer is it about what you play well, it’s simply what you play. In many cases in greater Tyria, you won’t even notice, as most legacy boss events haven’t changed much. In Raids, or when you happen to get a bad roll on participants when battling Octovine, other players immediately look to blame those that aren’t doing something exactly how they feel they should.
I’m not going to say that in every instance, that people are “wrong” to say that a class or specialization should be played a certain way. ArenaNet has created the specializations and enemy mechanics specifically for that purpose – so that players would play a class to the tune of their encounter. Never mind the limitations and swings from one update to the next when it comes to class balance, the issues are inherent in the overarching construction of these events. Compound this exponentially when you get into Structured PvP.
A few weeks ago, I talked about how a major class swing brought my mediocre Scrapper build, back into the top meta builds. Here’s a special secret about that. My favorite Scrapper build actually uses dual pistols! It doesn’t matter that my efficacy with a dual pistol Scrapper is quite high, or the amazing capabilities it has to counter high mobility and evasion classes like mesmers and thieves, simply the fact that a player isn’t running a build known to be overpowered is enough to be heckled if your team comes even slightly close to losing.
I caution you to take much of this with a grain of salt. The picture I’ve painted is of a bleak, angry, pessimistic community, and that really isn’t the case. I still find a lot of helpful people in the majority of my adventures. Just like anywhere worth being though, the annoyingly loud, bombastic minority will never hesitate to ruin someone else’s day. The issue I have, is that there was a time that the vocal minority had less ammunition to fire at the unsuspecting masses. For those players out there that have had others trash talk them over simply playing how they want, let this article serve as a public service announcement. It’s not your fault. Now get out there and have fun.