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Soapbox Responses: 'World Of Warcraft Teaches The Wrong Things'
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Soapbox Responses: 'World Of Warcraft Teaches The Wrong Things'

February 27, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

I really appreciated the editorial on World of Warcraft. It echoed many of my own thoughts. While I do play the game and enjoy it, I do so with my brain turned off, not expecting it to be anything more than what it is -- the best out of many mediocre options.
I, too, am the type of player who enjoys being alone in a crowd. I'm in a guild only out of necessity. (We have, by the way, found an okay work-around for the single-guild us-vs-them problem -- We allied with other guilds and keep an inter-guild channel.)
A couple of thoughts...
Not to defend Warcraft, but this editorial seemed to take the point of view that all games (or perhaps the best games) should be winnable by merit or skill, forgetting that there are other, equally valid games winnable by other methods. Some are winnable by luck. Blizzard chose for WoW to be winnable by "investment of time". Maybe they chose that for financial reasons or simply to appease the lowest common denominator of player. It's not a decision I agree with, but it's still a valid choice. I would prefer winning by merit, myself. Rank 14 would be a lot more impressive to me if I knew it was earned by skill alone. Right now, I see it as a label that just says "sad".
My second point... in my opinion, this editorial missed some of the worst things that the game teaches. Apart from the notion that "I've put in time and therefore I'm entitled", there are a few other lessons that are just as bad.
1. Mental laziness. There's no critical thinking in this game. You "win" pretty much just by showing up.
2. The only solution to any problem is to kill your opposition. There are no choices to be made, no opportunities for any other types of solutions (such as is possible in games like Neverwinter Nights).
3. On PvP servers, it fosters and encourages bullying and the worst sort of predatory group behavior. Many players perceive that way to "win" on a PvP server is by railroading your opponent with overwhelming numbers or levels.
4. The game is actually unplayable on a PvP server if one high-level player decides to set up camp in your area in order to kill you, your friends, quest givers, vendors, innkeepers, and everything else. It's like trying to play a game of Monopoly if one player is dealt all the property cards and hotels at the beginning of the game. This is actually not considered game-breaking behavior or "griefing" and is considered by the GMs to be a valid way of playing the game.
Someday, someone will make an MMORPG that addresses these issues, that doesn't treat the players as though they're over-privileged brats who feel entitled to everything, who are idiots that need to have everything spoonfed to them. There are a few promising games on the horizon. I'm watching and waiting.
-Draisha on Lightninghoof

After reading the Soapbox article by David Sirlin I have to say that I was dumbfounded and even a bit outraged. I've been playing WoW for over a year. I have a great appreciation for the game and think that the programmers and game designers have done a wonderful job. Some of the things I would like to respond to are below:
"Grand Theft Auto appears to be about shooting cops and hookers, but it's actually a game of exploration and freedom."
Ummm...hello...have you played the game? It's about exploration of your hookers and freedom to kill with your gun. Most games are basically an escapism of some sort. I'd rather have my child using a fantasy realm then the gritty streets of the city.
"1. Investing a lot of time in something is worth more than actual skill."
Doesn't investing time increase your skill? If you are a level 2 can you beat a level 5? Probably not. Even as a level 60, the more time I put in the more efficiently I learn to use my skills and char.
"Once you get up to rank 10, you are now competing against people who play the game 10 hours per day and up. There is no limit to how much a person can play, so players are driven to play every waking moment (forget having a job or social life) for fear that if they don't, some OTHER player will do so and be ahead in rank."
Who says you have to PvP? Where is that written? If your drive and desire make you want to achieve #1 status then you will put in the time and energy required. I PvP from time to time, but I do PvE instances far more. Even a 5-man instance can get you Tier 0 epic gear.
"3. Group > Solo. You can forget self-reliance, because you won't get far in World of Warcraft without a big guild...
Some personality types want to do things with 39 other people, but my personality type certainly doesn't...
Unfortunately, the game offers no difficult solo content leading to good loot."
Normally you don't need to start grouping until around level 25+, then the instances are few (Wailing Caverns, the Stockades, and Deadmines). As you get to 35+ the need to group becomes a bit more defined. If you want "phat loot", you can PvP instead of instancing... oh wait... his previous point was that "honor" and PvP are bad. Isn't this an MMORPG? A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game is most definately NOT the same a Street Fighter tourney.
"Many of the players are brainwashed by this poor assumption, often saying "It's an MMO, of course you have to group with 40 other people do accomplish anything...
40 mundane people with a lot of time would put Albert Einstein to shame any day of the week in this game."

Oh...he figured out a way to try to avoid the basic principles of what and for whom an MMORPG is designed. And "40 mundane people"? Evidentally he's never hit any of the higher level instance because "40 mundane people" could not clear MC, ZG, Onyxia, Kazzak, Azuregos, etc. It takes 40 people who know their class, who can play their char and who have worked to achieve the good gear to get that far. It also requires massive teamwork and good leadership.
"I'm fairly prominent with Street Fighter players, and have a lot of influence in how national tournaments are run. I'm known by about 0.01% of Magic: the Gathering players, but I do put my toe into their pond a fair amount. Meanwhile, in Warcraft, I live in a world of "guild-only events." You're either with a guild, or you're nobody to them. I can't imagine being in only one IRC (chat) channel at a time, or choosing only one gaming community, yet I can only join one guild at a time. It's a very weird social environment with the same dangers as nationalism and flag-waving."
What I get from that first part was..."I am used to being a big fish in an little pond and hate being a little fish in a big pond." I wasn't in the guild I originally ran MC with. I wasn't in guilds that were entirely exclusive. And a guild fit is like a glove... either it fits you or it doesn't. If it doesn't try on the next glove, eventually you will find one that fits your social style, your gaming style, and your personal preferences. And as an American military veteran, I find nothing wrong with pride... be it my own nationalism and flag waving... or the pride I feel in my guildmates when we accomplish wonderful things together.
"6) The Terms of Service."
Ummmm...rules are a bad idea? Then he goes on and on about Kazzak. Has he ever seen Kazzak? Does he realize how easy it is to die at Kazzak? Especially for "40 mundane people". Let me remember the rules for Street Fighter... I don't believe there had to be any. Magic has rules on how to play, and again it's not designed to be a "group effort" but they dang sure don't want you to palm cards to try to win... it's you with your cards doing the best you can against someone who may have spent $2,000 to get the "Power 9". When you have a game that has to play with as many people that WoW does, work with as many areas that WoW does, and have as many different instances running at the same time WoW does it needs clear cut rules.
"This problem is so troubling, that I feel a personal need to take action. The only thing I can think to do, though, is to design an MMO that teaches the right things. Look for that on store shelves in 2012 or so."
I think that an MMO designed with no good rewards, with no cooperation, with no social interaction, with everything achieveable in 10 minutes, with no rules would sell as well as Gigli did.
I am not the "average" gamer. I am a woman. I am a mother... in fact, a grandmother. I have a full time job and support my entire household. WoW has created an environment that I enjoy... that I think others enjoy as well since it is the best selling MMORPG. So WoW programmers, game designers, artists, tester and GMs...Thank you!
-Jeri Casper

World Of Warcraft

I disagree with several of the author's points.
"1. Investing a lot of time in something is worth more than the actual skill."
To say spending time to achieve something in an MMO has no connection to the real world is ludicrous. Whatever happened to teaching kids to work hard for something? OK, so skill > time, but how do you develop skill? By doing something a lot, and that takes time. Do you think the user interface artist you have at work woke up one morning and just became great at it? No, I'm quite sure boatloads of time were invested to get there.
Even if you're not honing a skill to perfection, some things in life just consume time to get them. Your teenager wants a car? Well, get a job at McDonald's and start saving... it's going to take lots of time to get it. When they finally earn enough money, that car will be well deserved. We're a society so grounded in instant gratification that's its really quite sad. Would you rather teach your children to work hard for something they want, or heck, just put it on your Visa so you can have it right now and you can pay it off later?
Hearing someone complain about how they have to spend time to achieve something in WoW is extremely comical. Obviously you've never played games like Everquest. The time investment to achieve the top ranks of a tradeskill or class in WoW is measured in months, if not weeks or days. In EverQuest, many of them are measured in years. I played EverQuest for five years and I can count on one hand the number of people I knew personally that had maxed out the tailoring tradeskill. In WoW, you can do it in an evening if you've got the money. 95% of WoW is so bloody easy, that when people get to that last 5% that requires some actual effort, they start to scream. If all of the game was as easy as the first 50 levels, most of us would have consumed all of the content and long since cancelled our accounts. What would be left to do?
"6) The Terms of Service"
Again, I completely disagree about what this teaches our youth. To agree with you would essentially be telling them that "If you can get away with it, it must be ok!" Any member of civilized society has to deal with things called laws that are often arbitrary, yet it's still illegal to break them. That nice four-lane divided highway cutting through the middle of my town has a speed limit of 45 mph, why? It could (and should, in my opinion) be 55 mph. It's a completely arbitrary rule that I have to comply with. Just because I CAN drive well over 45 mph does not make it okay.
Your example of player-created casinos is a perfect correlation back to real life. Gambling is illegal in lots of places and situations in real life, but it's quite easy to do. It's another arbitrary rule that we have to deal with. How on earth you can say a rule against it in WoW "goes against everything I've learned" is beyond me. You've got to remember an MMO is a society of its own, complete with it's own economy, social structures and rules. It's not a closed environment like Street Fighter, where nothing you do can affect anyone outside of your current match.
The coding behind these games is immense. To fall back on the excuse that 'well, if the developers didn't intend for me to do this, then they shouldn't let me do it' or 'it's a bug, and it's not my problem if they haven't fixed it yet' is a just lazy way of appeasing your conscience. No code is perfect, look at the rate at which hackers find holes in our operating systems, Internet browsers and so on. It’s simply naïve to expect every possible scenario and situation to be addressed by a piece of software as complex as WoW. You know if you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. Use the opportunity to teach your kids a few lessons about listening to their own conscience. I'd find that a far more valuable lesson.
-Dave F.

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