Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

I, Vork

It’s been common knowledge for ages that there are different types of players in MMOs that want different experiences. Richard Bartle already published his paper Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs in 1996. That paper defines four central types of different gamers: achievers, explorers, socializers, and griefers.
A more recent distinction that has come up in the community is, that between hardcore and casual players. Recent events, such as the Cataclysm discussion, lead me to believe that there are far more categories than that.

One man’s fun is another’s chore
My reaction to the 3.2 badge changes was pretty much “OMG, they force me to run heroics again.” I thought it obvious, Blizzard had no content for us so they wanted us to spend more time in old content – hence conquest badges in heroics and triumph for the daily. Every dedicated raider would have to constantly run daily heroics to be at the maximum of his performance, especially with the tier gear requiring badges too.

Many others reacted quite differently, I read “We finally have a reason to do heroics again.” quite often. And that’s from raiders, from achievers, from hardcore gamers. I didn’t get it. How could anyone want to do heroics again? We all know them in and out, we breeze through them in 15 minutes, Maiden of Grief dies in thirty seconds. There is no challenge involved, nothing to think about.

Now I realize that even among achievers, interests are quite widespread. I, for one, like thinking and I like a challenge. I like it when a plan works and I like it when my theoretical work is turned into practical success. Apparently not everyone thinks that way. (Odd, right?)
Some people want to progress just like I do, but hate doing work outside the game for it. Others prefer to roflstomp their enemies diablo style and appreciate any tool that helps them do that.
For me, running heroics and dailies is a chore, theorycrafting is fun. For others it’s vice versa.

What do you enjoy?
When I played Ragnarok Online way back when (yeah, I know…) I had a lot of fun planning my characters in online calculators, twiddling with stats, talents and gear and finding a way to optimize my effectiveness. I also enjoyed it a lot when one of those characters I planned got real (as real as it can get in an MMO) and actually performed well. What I didn’t like was the whole part in between, playing the character and grinding it to the needed level.

Obviously the gameplay in Ragnarok Online was way less interesting than it is in WoW, but the principle still applies. I don’t think WoW plays particularly well. Some fights are engaging and interesting, but most are just boring – especially after completing them once. What makes WoW tick, for me, is improving my character and progressing with the guild. Improving my character doesn’t just mean getting the next tier of gear, but finding out exactly what makes my character tick and using that knowledge to maximum efficiency. I have a lot more fun in an hour of discussing the value of Tuskarr’s Vitality vs Icewalker than in an hour of raiding. I won’t even mention the utter boredom that is heroics and dailies.

What I have come to realize is that most players don’t feel that way. They want the action or the socializing but they surely don’t want to open Excel in their free time. What do you enjoy most about the game?

Am I Vork?
Many of you will know the online not-quite-wow sitcom The Guild
and those who don’t should have a look at it. It features a six person guild in an MMO quite similar to WoW. All six characters are quite overexaggerated stereotypes, such as the backstabbing rogue kid or the fat mom that ignores her kids over wow.
One of these characters is Vork, the guild master. He constantly calculates the odds and values of decisions, lives alone and unemployed, eats at the computer and is generally a very dry person. In a recent interview with wcradio at blizzcon the actors that play Vork and Zaboo on the guild talked to the interviewers about theorycrafters. The interviewers explained to them that there were many Vorks out there, called theorycrafters.
At first I was slightly offended. I consider myself a theorycrafter and I find Vorks behaviour very stupid. Thinking about it though, I realized that the character is clearly exaggerated but that I resemble him most of all of the members of The Guild. I calculate and optimize things whenever I can, I make plans outside of the game, I write long posts about how people should behave. I also tend to eat at the computer sometimes but that’s not really of importance here 😉

Maybe I am Vork, and maybe that’s why so many people seem to have drastically different opinions on the game than I do. The members of The Guild need Vork to function properly, but they don’t understand his way of thinking – and he doesn’t understand theirs.

While researching for this post (yes, I actually do that!) I came upon a quote from one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books that almost, but not quite, fits the situation. It sounds very elitist, so please read on to my explanation afterwards before you close the browser in disgust.

“Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along.”

– Terry Pratchett

Obviously Fate is the clever one in that game, but that’s not what I’m trying to express at all. I’m not trying to say that my playstyle is better than any other – just that we seem to be playing quite different games inside the same software. It works because WoW offers so many different experiences, but discussions will ultimately always clash when the rule sets don’t match. Can a pair of sixes capture a bishop? There is no right answer to the question.

Let’s agree to disagree
Forums and blogs are full of players bashing each other’s heads in over virtually any change that blizzard introduces. I myself have had part in that, trying to convince casual explorers why the badge changes are bad. It lead nowhere.
I still think the badge changes are bad for my game, but they are playing a different game! My best friend, in essence a hardcore achiever, loves the badge change while I absolutely hate it. Why? Because he took a break from raiding and doesn’t currently have a lot of time and this way he can somewhat keep up and fulfil his interest in achieving. The change is great for the WoW he is playing, it’s terrible for mine.

I’m not asking that we cease to discuss these matters – after all, what would I blog about? – but we should stop being condescending to each other. I shouldn’t think of every change Blizzard makes as catering to the “stupid entitled casuals” and others shouldn’t be calling our criticism the “usual whining”.
Gnomewise did a great job in that interview stating the importance of us Vorks and how he’s happy that we exist – even if he isn’t close to being one himself. We don’t have to agree on what makes the game fun, the important thing is that we all have fun!

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