Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bohemian Like You

Unlikely to get likes for this? I'd say so.

It has occasionally been said of me that I like to court controversy by being deliberately provocative. In answer to the Wow Insider Breakfast Topic for yesterday, for instance, when I sat with a cuppa and considered what I'd miss from Pandaria, there was staring at the screen for quite some time before finally a realisation that actually, I really won't miss anything at all. Not the clouds or the music or the NPC's or the Rares or the lack of Dailies or Cho or the Horde being the baddies... none of it will matter the day Warlords appears. Ironically, as a result of that, having a favourite anything at this point doesn't have a real relevance either, which is odd, especially as it appears to be my job to write about exactly that on a daily basis, something I've done now for some time. The WI Breakfast Topic is often a deliberately 'fluffy' means of generating conversation, and I certainly didn't stick those six line up in order to start a fight. I wrote that because as I sit here now, it's true.

I don't want to be here anymore. It is time to go, and not for all the reasons you may think.

What we leave behind.

Pandaria has caused the most internal conflict for me of any expansion that has preceded it. As it transpires, this has made me more creative than at any point in my life, and for that I am never going to be anything but grateful, but in terms of entertainment, it's been a lot of feast then famine, pretty much with a stopwatch for accompaniment. Yes, the story-lines have engaged me, I've ground my rep and completed my cutscenes, but once it was finished on my main that was pretty much where the story ended, and that is a change from the times that have preceded. Even the lure of FREE GOLD FROM QUESTING at 90 has not been enough this time around, and I've found increasingly creative means to get alts to max whilst avoiding any or all narratives that are there for just that reason. Ironically, even the process of trying to streamline that task by only questing what I needed to level has failed. For the first time since the game launched, I don't want to indulge in current content any more. There is just no point.

It just depresses me too much, and I don't have the time.

What Pandaria ultimately succeeded with beyond a shadow of doubt was choice. This Expansion will be remembered as the one that gave the decisions back to the player, after a dustup in the Jade Forest that ended up as inevitable without our intervention, and the understanding that however attractive you make linear content, it's still just that. The successes are notable: the treasure hunting, rare tapping, creativity with professions, and what has undoubtedly emerged from the desire which most still maintain, that however we do things, as long as there's something rewarding at the end, we're happy. However, the days of invested time have been wrung out to dry: no longer can you afford to do everything and maintain an equilibrium, and this is an important factor to place in your understanding of 'play time'. The paradigm of choice has been returned to the lap of the player, and the decisions people have had to make have often been painfully stark. When Warcraft News sites give players articles on time management, it's time to acknowledge the goal posts have moved.

Sure, there are those who still have a ton of alts levelled, but that's now a distinct play-style choice, as is indeed everything else. You have the decisions to make, and yes there's still a metric shedload of content out there to do if you're at a loss, but missing playing IN Pandaria? Really, not so much at all. Pandaria as a backdrop? Certainly, an accompaniment to farming or goldmaking. But liking it here? No. Missing stuff? Sorry, but when you raced me through content so fast I couldn't do it all with the promise I'd get an Expansion quickly at the end? I had to make decisions based on what I thought was the goal to give me no free time at the end to draw breath because we'd be off to the next place lickety spit. And now, we've stopped, and I don't want to go back so much, I just want to go forward and start again, because we're getting a clean slate and maybe this time I can do more of what I want and go back when I outgear the old content. This Expansion is the relationship I tried to make work and it just doesn't and now I am polite to it out of necessity, because it is family and I don't want to rock the boat and cause a scene. I don't love it or hate it, and I know it demands a level of respect that is borne from both age and tradition.

This Expansion is, in effect, is my sister in law [*]

It's a pile of mobs.

Of course, no-one makes me do anything at all, so blaming Blizzard for this malaise is, well, what people do in these situations. I am being by this article the very thing that I bemoan on a daily basis: that person, the one who is never happy with the situation as it stands. However, I AM happy: go look at the last year's worth of posts and you'll see that every time I've hit a wall I've picked myself up and moved on. So, then, why when asked what I'll miss about Pandaria did I feel the need to reply the way I did, when it is patently obvious this entire endeavour screams to the contrary?

Mostly, it's because Pandaria's not going anywhere.

Most fun at 4am FOR SOME TIME. OFFICIAL.

At 4am on Monday morning I got up to do a Podcast to talk about how much I love this game, which is pretty much an affirmation that I'm here for the long haul. I'm not sitting here and talking about it for my health, I'm certainly not getting rich and famous of the back of that either. What I am doing however is constantly challenging myself and my view of the world using this game as a magnifying glass. It is not the be all and end all of my existence by some way, but I have a certain amount of my heart invested in it. There are those who would say that this isn't enough, that I have to enjoy the game to play it, that the friends and relationships that tie me to the pixels shouldn't be what keeps me here. That's what gaming is about, an experience and not a relationship. So what has all of this to do with the Twisted Nether Blogcast, I hear you ask? They asked me a question at the end of their interview which I could not answer, and for one reason it underpins all of what I have written here.

They asked me what my best moment in or relating to the game has ever been.

See, the thing is, there's been absolutely LOADS of fabulous moments, and I'm not done yet. There are undoubtedly awesome events still to come too, because every opportunity has the potential to be amazing and THE BEST EVER EU. Even though I haven't really enjoyed Pandaria it's not stopped me being capable of grasping that this is part of a whole, that this game is something quite different from anything else out there I could be playing. Mr Friedman puts it far better than I ever could, so I'll let him say it for me:

Take a look at the place you call your home,
You're reflected in all the things you own,
And the seeds of reason you have sown,
They're a measure of a part of you that's already grown.

This is my home, and the ultimate irony is that when there's been legitimate excuses to leave this Expansion I've always found a reason to stay. In my heart I can still be unhappy with what Pandaria has given me but can see the benefits it has created elsewhere, not simply in the friendships I have made but the choices I have taken. When people have departed I have missed them but I have respected those decisions, when detractors do their thing I find myself understanding and often agreeing with their viewpoints. But still, I will not go. I want to be honest and say why things won't or don't work, I need to question and judge what I'm given without the need to fangirl, because I do that too. A LOT. But the fact remains, for this person at least, Pandaria won't leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling that I can adequately either sum up in 140 characters or gush about in a comments box. What Pandaria DID do for me was make me a better player, and it made me challenge my view of Azeroth and my place in it. It also made me think enormously about what kind of person I am, and how I intend to play and talk about that in the future. There isn't anything to miss about the game or the Expansion. IT'S ALL STILL HERE.

More to the point, so am I.

[*] My side, not my husbands. She's ace.


dobablo said...

I will miss Jim Cummings. I'd follow that voice anywhere.
As narrators, Brann was ok if a little annoying and Harrison Jones is a just one big no, but Cho is an storytelling heavyweight.

Grimmtooth said...

For me, Pandaria is just alien to the game. It feels like somebody took a joke and shoehorned a bunch of lore into it in order to make it seem relevant. But at the end, we can see where the corners were filed off to make it fit in that round hole.

I realize Pandaria was ultimately planned to be a part of the game, but its original incarnation (if the leaked 2005 roadmap can be believed, having failed to robustly predict WoD - first failure in five expansions) was a minor part of the "elemental" expansion (which became Cata).

Bottom line was the entirety of Pandaria's relevance is in regard to the Old Gods lore piece. The cute bears that spoke in insultingly accented tones don't fit into the ethos that well, and whether people notice that or not, they still generally feel uneasy around that.

The Old Gods are an interesting lore piece, but the Legion has been where all of the excitement has been. Even WotLK was directly linked to the Crusade by virtue of the Lich King's origins. WoD leans in that direction, but so far has not been directly linked to the Legion. I strongly suspect it will be, and that will make it a lot more interesting to people than MoP ever was.

Pandaria is a beautiful place, but it lacks the scope and relevance of many other zones, and for that reason joins Vashj'ir on my list of places I'll avoid if at all possible. (Vashj'ir is also, quite coincidentally, incredibly beautiful.)