Thursday, August 16, 2012

The average WoW player

I think we're all generally aware that we, as seasoned gamers [connoisseurs perhaps], have become the minority in World of Warcraft. Blizzard always refers to demographic data when they make unpopular decisions but never actually reveals what that data is. So all I can do is imagine who the average WoW player is. However, I do have a few anecdotes about people I know who have tried WoW and their varying responses to it as [what I would call] casual players.

A few years ago my at the time flatmate asked me to show him WoW. He was a console gamer, with a Wii and an X-Box, and typically enjoyed games like Bioshock and Gears of War. He rolled a few toons including a Gnome Mage which he seemed to like the most, being especially enamoured with the slash emotes for that race, and an Orc Warrior which I have a distinct memory of bringing into a Ragefire Chasm run to teach him to tank, and him totally freaking out and wailing "were gonna die!" when we overpulled, with me reassuring him that I was healing him and to just keep thunderclapping and we'll be fine.

This flatmate and I had a colleague who was also fairly casually into games who started playing a short time later. I never played with him directly, but I remember the game hit him hard, levelling his Warlock far past the toons that my flatmate and I were playing at the time. He would rave about how awesome the game was, but only ever played very superficially, not bothering to look too far into gearing choices or talents or spell choices.

My partner has a friend who is very elitist about the games he plays, and was always resistant to the idea of playing WoW despite the fact that so many of the people he knew were doing it. When I finally convinced [bribed] him to try it, he rolled a Dwarf Hunter and we messed around a bunch in Coldridge Valley, Dun Morogh and beyond, but he never seemed to really find that spark that keeps people playing WoW and stopped playing after less than a month.

I was trying not to push him too hard to like it, hoping he would discover the game compelling on its own [like so many who've gone before], but the one thing I really wish I hadn't done was take him into a random dungeon. It was Blackfathom Deeps, and it was a faceroll. At the end he told me that he had no idea what was going on, and I couldn't blame him. I wanted to show him my favourite part of the game, where teamwork is important and everybody has a role to play-- except these days player power is so out of hand that most non-underpowered classes can practically solo the place. With five players, no teamwork is required at all. All you do is amble through the place, hitting thing that aren't dead before you can get a shot off, and collect your loot.

In retrospect, I showed him the worst part of the game. I'm not sure he even logged in again after that. In thinking about it further I know what I should have done*, but the moment has long since passed.

In conclusion, um...

I think those of us who are so deep into the WoW that the moment-to-moment gameplay ceases to matter in the context of an overarching metagame often lose sight of how fun it can be to just be a player on the ground, navigating the world and developing your character's power.

It's also worth remembering that this game we play is incredibly, incredibly broad, and having so many, many paths to pursue means that the game attracts a ridiculously diverse playerbase, and the idea that it's even possible for someone to play the wrong" way is completely absurd.

Yeah, okay, that's a decent conclusion.

*We should have done BFD, but just with our group of three: myself, partner and he. We should have waited until we could all get together in the same place physically, and really taken the scenic route. Blackfathom Deeps is mostly unchanged from the old days of WoW when the idea of a 5-man dungeon being an epic adventure was still important. The entrance alone is fantastic, descending into a nondescript abandoned ruin to find a huge maze-like network of tunnels crawling with Naga, with some much less abandoned ruins to follow. We could have really taken our time with it, getting a full sense of the scope of what we were doing, not to mention the social experience of teamwork, relying on each other to overcome the challenge.

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