Warcraft was never made to be a solo game.
It was built as a place where people played with each other, where group activity was front and centre. It encouraged individuals to be bold and daring, extending themselves outside their comfort zones. It pushed you to think, and act, and play differently to any other game I had ever encountered, and for the brief period where there the supporters outweighed the detractors of this mindset? It was glorious.
I used to die all the time. When stuff was hard, I’d sacrifice myself to get to the point where I could rez and maybe, just maybe, get away scot free. When I played PvP, my individuality still allowed a chance to contribute to the whole. Standing behind a tree, firing arrows through it as Horde streamed across the bridge, Alterac Valley was joyously liberating. Finally, I had a place in the world and I could still be me: it mattered, I contributed. When I’d die in Raids I’d go back to the combat logs and work out why, and I’d be better, push myself.
Then, something happened to the game itself.
It wasn’t this guy’s fault. It wasn’t that Expansion either. In fact, if I’m forced to point a finger in all of this, I wouldn’t, can’t do it at Blizzard, because ultimately they took all the data and feedback the game gave them and worked on that as a basis for development. I think I have to apportion blame, it would be at myself, and all the other players who decided that they didn’t have time for all this fucking about in large numbers. It was easier to farm stuff when it stopped being current than ever make the effort to do it live. Gaming wasn’t about a commitment to effort, it should be ‘fun’ and ‘convenient’ instead and somewhere along the line, the true strength of the title was lost.
Everybody had an opinion though, and that’s what mattered more, over time. The bloggers and the streamers and the forums and the guy in the Convenience Store all knew what the problem was, except nobody knew how to fix it. Blizzard kept trying to recreate the glory of the time past but began to realise it wasn’t just fighting longevity, but objectivity. Somewhere between 2004 and here, the World itself changed. People fixated on how you sold the ethos that surrounded the MMO and not the title itself. The Company decided to capitalise on the success of the Universe but forgot the source. A perfect storm of factors combined, and suddenly the game was no longer Warcraft. It had a movie, and a book series, and would soon have a TV show. Everyone forgot why we came here to begin with.
Except, some people haven’t. They still understand what it means to play this game well. Not ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’, because that’s not what matters. They still RP the right way, or work hard to gather and fish, or are happy with three hours a week in Hellfire Citadel. These are the good people I know, the decent ones, who don’t need to fight me over definitions or object to my solo farming pretensions. In my way, I became a part of the problem when I walked away from being a GM, but it was the people who broke my heart and sent me there and nothing at all to do with the game. Those people never got what mattered, and they still don’t. I’m the fraud who remains and leeches from the real players, and however much I might like to pretend that’s untrue, it really isn’t.
I am as much to blame for the decline of this game as those who still try to scupper it.
If all you are here for is to satisfy your own ends? Warcraft isn’t a single player game. Sure, you can play it that way all day and all night, but without people it is nothing. Without diversity and opportunity, everything is basically pointless. The fact Blizzard now design with solo players in mind is a dangerous path, and those who believe there should be more content and not less might do well to consider the consequences. On the flip side, those who feel there is no place for the casual non-raider in Warcraft are missing an extremely significant set of issues that would mean that if the current casual/elite balance was not being externally addressed by the Designers? Nobody has a game, period.
This is a fragile and delicate ecosystem we exist within, and maybe it is time that more selfish players like myself who do only do this for their own rewards took a step back and considered the bigger picture. Then we get to the even bigger ‘arguments’ around what constitutes enjoyment in gaming, and then I’ll be forced to call a referendum… no sorry, that’s outside the game, not in it. I think what I’ve learned today is that change begins with the individual. You can blame everybody else as much as you like, but if you don’t put your own house in order? The consequences may not be immediately apparent, but they’ll challenge you eventually.
I think it is high time I re-assess what it is that keeps me in Azeroth.