My name is Momgamer, and I've been playing World of Warcraft. That's not an easy sentence to say. My mind always tacks on a susurrus shifting of seats and a ragged, singsong, "Welcome to MMORPG-anon." But my own qualms about going down this path again aren't what I'm here for.
Playing MMORPG's again has brought to light a long-running theme in my gaming life: I always seem to be playing the game "wrong" when compared with others.
Free-range stuff like Minecraft is a given. But even in more strictly-shaped games I always seem to be doing it differently than anyone else I know. When I was playing Metal Gear Solid 4, my younger son and I were handing the controller back and forth taking turns on our respective games at the same time, but our extremely different approaches to the game's challenges brought wildly different results at the end. My careful, stealthy approach gave me the Panther emblem, and my younger son's dead-eye lemming tactics won him the Bear and Eagle emblems. In an open-world like an MMO, it's even more pronounced.
Let me tell you a story that highlights what I'm talking about.
Both of my daughters have also begun playing WoW, and have joined my guild. One of my other guildmates and I were helping them finish converting their free accounts and get things arranged to their liking in their UI. After a few hints about how to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside, we started running some shakedown quests around Tranquillien. I was logged into one of my very high level toons so I could chauffeur them around on the mount that turns me into a big green and gold dragon they can ride.
That village is right next to the Blood Elf starting area. Most of the players around here are pretty new, and they're still figuring things out. So when you go back there as a higher-level character, you have to get used to incomprehensible behavior like the random frog-hoppers, the @($&% idiots who don't loot their kills and people randomly hacking at various objects to see what will happen. But we ran into one guy who raised the bothersome newb bar up to pole-vaulting territory.
This was no fun for anyone, so I got his attention and pointed out to him that he was bothering my daughters in a way that gently implied that if he didn't quit it I was going to festoon every tree in the Ghostlands with charred, tattered bits of his anatomy. Thankfully, he took the hint. He stopped hopping and started chatting solely at me. That was fine. I don't mind talking, and he actually understood the use of vowels in words, which can be in short supply in open chat.
We volleyed back and forth a bit, but it was pretty clear we came at the game from two very different worlds. I've never raided much – I can be eaten by something large and toothy well enough out here in the main instance, thank you very much. But to him, there's no other way to play. You log in, round up some intrepid adventurers, and hit the nearest vertical swirly-portal.
It wasn't just game mechanics; his whole personal approach was different. The way that player was talking, his guild takes their min-maxing very seriously. Every stat and damage point is pursued with the fixity of a miser chasing a coin rolling along a crack in the floor, and with that fixity then pushed all the way out to the edge of the envelope. With my play-style and composition of my guild group, those few damage points aren't worth the heightened risk of dying for both myself and them. We're not a big guild, so that kind of fine-tuning is counter-productive. He didn't quite get that.
And in between the conversational gambits, he kept challenging me to a duel. Over and over. Even after being repeatedly reminded that the character he was challenging was level 99 and he's level 14. Finally, I realized he really wasn't going to quit it if I didn't let him throw down, so I finally accepted.
That was, uh ... interesting.
He hit me a couple times, but didn't manage to inflict any actual damage. He wouldn't even have got any hits in at all had I known what I was doing. I'd never fought a duel in WoW before. I was expecting some sort of count-down when the flag dropped, but that doesn't happen. So he got the drop on me while I was standing there waiting for the moral equivalent of the ref to drop the puck. Once I got a clue, I beat him like a blind carpenter's thumb.
Me having too much sword for the mob, so to speak, wasn't my point here. The most illuminating part came after the fight -- the achievement announcement for winning my first duel rolled up in the chat window. He freaked out.
I don't think he really believed that I was telling the truth about the way we play. But here was incontrovertible proof. I really had leveled my character that high and never fought a single duel along the way. I pointed out to him that I'd never had to; I play with people I know in real life and we already know all we need to know about the comparative sizes of everyone's nethers and don't need to test that out here.
At that point, we wished each other a good night and went on our respective ways, shaking our heads at the other's approach to the game.
I do feel like I'm the weirdo in situations like those, but I can't be alone in this. Blizzard wouldn't have invested the resources to build the robust crafting and profession mechanics into the system just for me. I'm betting I'm not the only one pulling giant weeds out at Sunsong Ranch and cooking dubious parts of even more dubious dead things.
Since my first engagement, I've taken a short walk on the other side. I was in Orgrimmar with my level 93 goblin hunter, cleaning out my pockets of stuff I'd gathered, when there was an all-call on the general chat window. Someone was attacking the city. Happens fairly regularly, and I usually I don't do much with that because I really don't know how. It's usually just a few Alliance players counting coup on one of the big NPC characters, and by the time I even figure out where they are, it's all over.
This time, it was serious. Someone running a multibox setup was repeatedly dropping 30 level-100 raid-equipped Death Knights with healer support into the middle of town, right in front of the transport hub. Why this isn't against the rules is beyond me. This guy is a known quantity – he does this for fun, and streams it. He has previously managed to pretty much empty the city of NPC's and lower-level players (as is shown in that video). It also causes a crippling lag-spike across the entire server, which makes life hard for everyone. So the call went out to camp the spot where his script was dropping them.
When he showed back up, there were more than a hundred of us clustered around the area, waiting for him. I don't know why, but all of his characters spawned crammed into an elevator. I was waiting along with all the other range-types to shoot him when he popped his head up.
That works better if the foes are not max-level raid-spec monsters with a habit of spewing a fountain of evil magic that inflicts killing-level bad status effects at range. This character has no defenses against that, so all I saw was a swirl of red tendrils and I was dead. I hiked back to my bones from the graveyard and threw a few more shots in before he caught me again. Lather, rinse, repeat until I figured out how to stay outside his range and within mine. I still died several more times, but it was for less humiliating reasons.
It's a characteristic of his script that he has to wait for the automatic 6-minute respawn delay once the lead toon driving things is down, so we defenders had a breather and chance to heal up and talk a bit between spawns. I admitted generally that, despite my level, I was a total newb at this, and got some pointers and some heal/rez support. And he just kept coming, crowing across the battlefield as if he was the one winning. We took him down, over and over again, but in some ways it felt like playing chess with a pigeon: No matter how the game is actually going, they just strut around like they've won and poop all over the board. I don't know how it ended – I had to bail at 4 am.
Despite the frustration, it was fun. I learned more about the communication system than I'd learned in all the time I'd played. I now have achievements in PvP, and knowledge of a whole new realm of gameplay that I didn't even know existed. I'm not sure it's going to change my day-to-day play much, but when the call goes out, I'll be a little more ready to respond.
I get a tirade from others (even developers) about how I'm doing things wrong, but I'm of the opinion that they don't get to tell me how to play the game once I plunk down the cash. Other than the ways it can complicate my relationships to other players, I don't see our different approaches as a problem. There's plenty of room in this for all kinds. That palladin can go bother Kel'Thuzad in Naxxramas. I won't repeat in public what I think that multiboxing tool can do, and I'll just keep drinking my coffee out of my guild's Yak-Shaving Division mug while I fish.