Time to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was someone I knew who used to play Warcraft. I respected them greatly, and thought they were one of the best players I’d ever seen. They were never afraid to speak their mind, or offer advice when asked. On reflection, they never gave it when it wasn’t asked for or wanted, either. They contributed to the Community, and were considered as significant by a large number of people. Yet, deep down, I knew they weren’t happy with the way not only the game was being steered, but the attitude of a certain group of players. Then, one day, they just disappeared.
People made their own pronouncements over why they had left, but I knew the truth. They’d woken up one day and realised that ultimately, this was just a game, and life mattered more. That realisation didn’t suddenly make them a bad person, it simply meant that the hold Azeroth exerted upon them had weakened enough for an ability to walk away to outweigh the desire to stay. However, players made their own pronouncements: don’t worry, you watch, they’ll be back with the next Expansion. Except they never came back.
This is not just one player I know, it is dozens. Countless people with whom I formed emotional attachments for them to just vanish. After a while, I’d begin to learn the drill: a few weeks before this occurred would come the complaints, ways to try and enjoy the game in different ways, before in the end there’d just be the realisation that it wasn’t Azeroth that had changed, but them. I’ve finally realised that’s what I’d been doing since I gave up writing about this game for a living. I’ve been looking for reasons to stay, when all that is happening is that not Azeroth, but a lack of affinity is driving me away. In my particular case, it has nothing to do with the Expansion, and everything to do with the Community.
I no longer feel I fit in: not simply on Battle.net but Social media. Unless you’re prepared to appease absolutely everybody and never suggest a controversial idea or opinion, you have the potential to be squashed flat, and it’s become too much of an occupational hazard. Of course, this has always been the case, since the early days of YouTube and Facebook. What has changed between there and now however is whether I am prepared to keep pushing or not, when this game is no longer something I consider as a job. For a while, sure, I stupidly held onto the belief that what I did made a difference, and I think on that front there really was a measure of success.
Without that achievement, I would never have had the confidence to start my own career into serious writing.
The problem now is that a section of the player base have gotten tired of criticism. In all walks of life there are struggles and strife, and gaming has for many become the place to escape from everything where you do not want drama, and will actively seek to eliminate it when it takes place. There’s a problem with this: if someone has always tried to stimulate debate and then individuals decide their entrainment is not up for debate, they’re fucked. What this makes clear (at least in my mind) is that social media is no longer the place to go if you want to let off steam or air a legitimate grievance.
You’re either forced to agree with the majority, or you are the enemy.
Basically, I am fucked: I still want to play, but my objections have gone from irritation to becoming tantamount to rebellion. Once upon a time I would have carried on regardless. Now, I am very determined as to where things go. I spent a week trying to lay out what I think is wrong with the game thus far, and when I get back on Monday I will continue to play. If there are observations to be made, however, they will never take place on Social media, because there is no real means by which I can clearly make the points I want.
If I have stuff to say, long form is the only realistic means to do so. I make no bones about this, but this is no longer my job. If I want to enjoy this hobby I now have, it will be as far away as possible from those who consider gaming as their life. That used to be my story, and remember how angry I would get when people tried to separate me from it. Gaming, for a while, was all I had; without it there would not have been the strength within to choose the path I now decide to walk. That, I suppose, is the final deciding factor in my decision to take away the fuel from the argument that ‘you’re only doing this to promote yourself anyway.’
In the last three months, that’s happened one too many times. Life is too short to hate anyone over pixels, and yet that is what keeps happening, and if there is a way for me to kill it stone dead, then that’s what I’m going to do. All my objections will be posted long-form here, advertised via Twitter. I will no longer take part in Warcraft-related discussion in 140 characters.
This way, everybody wins.