The Modern WoW Player
The Modern WoW Player \th? ?mä-d?rn ?wau? ?pl?-?r\ n, 1: a person partaking of the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft past the time of vanilla content. 2: slang terminology usually referencing a target’s gaming habits and skills 3: also known as a “casual” gamer, circa sometime between the expansions The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King
With the new Raid Finder imminent in patch 4.3 my thoughts concerning World of Warcraft lately have been heavy with the gravitas between the ever increasing divide between “casual” and “hardcore” players. I’ve touched upon this before in previous articles but never before has the issue been such an honest-to-Old Gods slap in the face to the hardcore crowd. With the Raid Finder we may be on the advent of a truly new age on the MMO timeline, an age where the long held elite content becomes the homogenised grind fodder of the masses.
Unfortunately I have absolutely zero first-hand experience with raiding in WoW at any point in time or level. Fortunately I know many people who have copious amounts of experience raiding at every point in time and at every level in the history of WoW!
Below is a snippet of one of the handful of interviews I conducted with past raiders.
Joe Sanicky: Can you give us a brief rundown of your gaming history when it comes to MMOs?
Former WoW Raider: Well I played Everquest a bit when it first launched, it was my first real MMO. I only played a few weeks and never really got anywhere deep in the game but I could tell it was a game where you couldn’t get anywhere without committing to it. Later on I decided to pick up WoW because my boyfriend played it launch and ended up getting really addicted. I got into a top tier guild and raided from release to October 16th, 2009 at which point I quit and sold my account. Recently I’ve played Rift some and really liked how it combined being casual and hardcore…at first at least.
J: Why did you quit WoW?
R: I quit WoW because you could be hardcore or casual and do well, plus it was literally eating up all of my time.
J: How did raiding change from vanilla to Lich King?
R: For one it used to be forty man raids which, obviously, required forty competent, coordinated people. It was so much harder than nowadays. Strategy, gear, resists, and teamwork had to be at peak levels at all times to complete even the easiest raid. There were no Joe Schmoes raiding and winning. You had to show up every night and wipe over and over perfecting your guild’s strats, which weren’t instantly shared on the internet to help everyone through. It was the epitome of hardcore gaming, even outside of actual raids doing all the prep work.
In the Burning Crusade it was still pretty difficult, but they kept making it easier and easier. For one thing bosses started getting nerfed and did less and less damage; raids were changed from 40 to 25 man (which was one of the hardest parts of raiding, getting everyone together and working). The patch that completely nerfed Black Temple is when raiding took a nose dive for me and Blizzard started setting the stage for the casuals to play end-game content. I think the badge system was also started in BC.
Lich King was just ridiculous. They made the game so casual mode. People figured out strategies super-fast and everyone was pushing through content super, super fast! Our guild beat 25 man Trial of the Crusader and then people started to pug the raid shortly after we beat it. That was the last straw for me. Blizzard realized that regular players should be able to do all this content and my guild and I liked having to put in all that time to actually accomplish things and that turned off everyone to even doing the content.
J: Was there hard mode content back then to make it better for you?
R: It started in BC but for a while there were no hard-mode raids, LK started hard mode raids. Ten man hard modes were pretty fun and reminded me of back-in the day raiding but it really wasn’t the same, the challenge I’d sacrificed countless hours to surmount just wasn’t there anymore.
All the interviews were done over Skype and were 30+ minutes long so I can’t post full transcript here, however needless to say a pattern definitely emerged as I listened to more and more stories about “the good ol’days.” It is clear that regardless of the actual content (lore, purpose of the quests, role-playing, et cetera) the main draw to all those players was the absurd difficulty of it all. While I cannot personally speak of this mind-set regarding World of Warcraft raiding, I can sympathize as a former “hardcore” player of Ninja Gaiden. I understand the drive to accomplish a gaming goal merely because it is so difficult, for the prestige that it would garner from the rest of the community, and for the self-satisfaction that accomplishing those seemingly impossible goals results in.
I can also relate to how those old vanilla raiders must have felt with the new content in the expansions. As much as Ninja Gaiden Black was the perfect vehicle for competitive action game players to strut their stuff it was hardly the most accessible “for fun” gaming experience. While there were plenty of players like Sneh who played for keeps there were a multitude of more casual players who were looking for fun combat without the sadistic frustration and difficulty. The developers heeded these player’s concerns and the next few games removed the stringent scoring system in favour of a more light-hearted structure (a.k.a. removing time limits and the truly competitive scene). While the forums of hardcore players slowly faded away the player base increased for each subsequent game and the developers garnered more fame and success than they ever did when catering to the hardcore players.
The cases for both games are remarkably similar and included a seeming betrayal of the core community for further success in the open market. The creation of the modern World of Warcraft player was not only imminent with the success of the game, but completely inescapable within the confines of the business world and every former player from Vanilla times. In essence it added to what would eventually be this stereotype by supporting Blizzard at the game’s inception. Today we have players complaining about the race for gear and the pointlessness of it all while yesterday (when gear meant something) this function of gameplay was lauded and celebrated by those who were able to gain the gear.
The transference of those emotional responses from a minority to a majority of the playerbase resulted in a toxic response from the old guard, despite the absurdity of it all. Sure the empirical case was that of lowering the difficulty of the game and increasing accessibility to players with less time or dedication, but the net result was more players experiencing that high of getting great gear they could be proud to have. More people prospered from this alteration and the old guard should be able to step aside from their caustic emotional responses and at the very least admit that, in most cases, such changes were better for the silent majority.
“Okay Joe, great rambling, but what is the point of all this? Why restate what literate forum goers have said time and time again?” The answer is rather simple, and a bit idealistic. That faux dictionary definition I supplied at the beginning of the article isn’t there just to rile up the reader, it is to remind every former or current player of World of Warcraft what the community has devolved into; the old versus the new, the good versus the bad, the casual versus the hardcore. Such classifications are utterly pointless in this era of gaming and avail no one anything, especially because of the fact that the direction MMO games have taken over the past decade was entirely unavoidable. The genre couldn’t keep the qualities of a “cult-classic” while becoming a huge commercial success and all the new players couldn’t be as “hardcore” as the old ones. The perpetuation of these sentiments doesn’t even make sense considering that the new players never had the chance to experience of understand what the old guard adored and thus can’t be blamed for being a “casual” when that is the only type of player the game is actually supporting.
I mean, take me for example. I didn’t really play the game seriously until a few months ago, I never had the chance to be an old school raider, and it wasn’t physically possible.
Does that mean I’m an unskilled casual with no aspirations to do well in the game?
The modern WoW players are here to stay, and they’ll also be playing all the new MMOs to come. It is time to accept it and work with them.