Once upon a time, I was the one driving this game’s narrative development.
I can remember the palpable excitement when a Raid instance opened. Suddenly this was progress and new stuff to learn. You’d be watching videos and trying to grasp the mechanics and wondering what upgrades were available. Okay, mostly you’d be looking at the gear. When all that matters in the end is clearing content faster then the iLevel beats all. You can rationalise everything else as ‘part of the package’ and it just makes it feel more complete. In the end, your armour’s the drug.
I read this Tweet yesterday and it kick-started an interesting train of thought: I very rarely raided for the fun of it, not at any point as a GM. I raided because that was part of the job. That’s what you did: organising people to raid, encouraging the uncertain to raid, you often pushed those not interested in raiding to raid to have the numbers to begin with. Loot was the be all and end all of everything. Nobody fought over ‘fun’ or threatened you when they were having a good time. Yes, I know there are those of you who can happily state you do it for the ‘community and team spirit’ and I wonder if you realise just how lucky you are. As the margins shrink and the competitive edge depends on buying better PC’s and fibre optic broadband to reduce latency? There’s a Universe of difference between the committed and the casual.
I don’t think I’d have ended up raiding at all if the hardcore were there just for ‘fun.’
However, if we go back to that opening line, raiding also meant I was moving forward at the fastest possible rate. I’d be up the sharp end watching the World Firsts, looking forward to the next Patch before the last one had even got grubby. Narrative rose and fell through the actions of being able to ‘absorb’ the plot along with the mechanics of the Instance, and that’s why I got so cross at Draenor, when there was pretty much no need to move forward as no plot existed. Now we get to the Nighthold? I already know how it ends before it began, thanks to the fucking halfwit who quite clearly decided to try and upset me by DM-ing spoilers via Twitter. However, it doesn’t take a genius to know what was coming, because I’m already being encouraged to look forward, at Argus. I know I never had a say in narrative development. Stories are told to me, and that’s perfectly fine, so at the moment I stepped back from raiding? None of the factors that kept me pinned to the concept applied any more.
My fun is derived entirely outside of the competitive ‘grind’ and that’s totally fine.
The truth is, and will continue to be so until ActiBlizz say so, that loot and progress are inseparable. Even if you are the person who’ll pass on the Raid loot to someone else before taking it yourself, eventually you’ll be unable to do the output required to play with the same people. It’s become abundantly apparent for many Guilds that the players not willing to grind Artifact levels on their mains are doing much the same, consciously or otherwise. With this considered decision to try and stop making your weapon a like for like replacement issue, it’s become more so than ever before. The irony however is that with little or no effort, you can gear every other slot to raid in a day, and never need to worry about being carried.
For a while the fallacy that somehow gearing is difficult or complicated has always countered with one thing: hard work. If you want to go pick up a token and buy yourself to the iLevel that’s more than possible too, yet the ‘experience’ gained now in Heroics as a fresh 110 includes that all important AP from boss kills. You could just as easily go do World Quests and still pick up decent gear… the avenues to get yourself to Raid Ready remain many and various, and yet all still all depend on the loot you receive. You could argue that the journey is fun, but you’re only going to have fun in raids if that’s the ultimate aim, right?
Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to tackle the topic to begin with.
I sometimes think that certain players lie to others to try and not look like the reason they carry on raiding is because of the loot. After all, when you can transmog anything to look like anything else, the skins aren’t what matter, unless it’s one of those really rare ones that you need to farm day and night for a month to own. This inevitably returns to the issue of why you play to begin with, and if it is because you want to look cool in your peer group, then fun may never factor into the equation. If you want to be noticed or cared about and raiding gives you that? Then I suspect that’s a legitimate reason. For those who don’t care about the game as much as others, it all becomes moot anyway. Then there’s me, who is often accused of being sycophantic in one breath and a hater in the next. I blow hot and cold sometimes, I’ll grant you, but my love for this game is a constant.
As in all things, it’s the people playing that cause the most issues.
I write about this game for the enjoyment I derive from it, especially when faced with a comment like this, from someone who not only plays the game but is responsible for its development. When you understand the context of the tweet, I absolutely grasp that Russ isn’t making a bigger statement, or indeed speaking on behalf of the Company: he was raiding, and used this to prove a point to a fellow raid member. That’s what I do with the issues that this game throws up: I think about why people react. I consider individual motivation, and how my personal experiences are coloured by this. For everyone having ‘fun’ inside the mechanics I’m now deriving enjoyment in other ways, and that’s absolutely fine. It just proves the point there is no right way to either take part or derive pleasure. You pick your own places to start and finish, and everything else evolves from that point.
Once upon a time, it was all about the loot. Now, thankfully, it is anything but.