Sunday, May 11, 2014

Scattered Black and Whites

What we remember most.

From time to time I find myself having to explain to non-gamers what it is exactly that I do. Ironically, when Warcraft is mentioned it's normally one of two responses: 'What's that?' or 'Oh my friend/mate/colleague played that, was totally addicted.' I even have actual proof of a situation where someone was given an ultimatum by their girlfriend (not judging) to stop playing or she would end the relationship. There's a lot of hyperbole when it comes to this game, so this is the moment where, in the interests of balance, I should mention a friend's brother who takes his entire family to events, all in costume, and they all have a fabulous time as a unit immersing themselves in Warcraft. For every Yin, there is a Yang, after all. You don't have the dark without the light.

I managed to complete Garrosh on LFR, FINALLY this week. At the end, before I go tell Wrathion what he already knows and he flaps off in the most anti-climatic and quite laughable Villain exits stage left I've ever seen, there's a cutscene with Cho. He's pretty much one of the only reasons I suffer the Siege in LFR difficulty, to be honest. I feel this isn't about me or even Garrosh in the end, this just for his people, for the Ji and the Aysas for whom if I don't destroy all this stuff, they'll have to spend the next six expansions with the heart of their continent totally fecked. That final scene you get (and apologies to anyone who's still not done it) really didn't need the Celestials in it. I get why they were there, Blizzard. It's impossible to forget what they came to symbolise for many people: this isn't about learning for most, it was about pointless exercises and rewards that ultimately just felt hollow. The tree that we plant however, that was significant. This game is embodied by moments, scattered images in each person's mind that ties them to the game, and to this fictional world.

A Pandaran tree.

In the week I noticed the Warcraft official Twitter feed ask players for their most memorable in-game triumph. Questions like that are great for generating interest: I only have to look at the several Facebook Warcraft groups I belong to for that. I'm always stupid enough to respond to these questions too, and then spent the next three days sweeping up the hundreds of completely unique and separate responses out of my Mail Inbox. Best Guild Names was the last one, and after a week there's still a regular response. People like comparing memories as souvenirs, their own personal 'photographs' to show to people who can appreciate the moments, who have their own 'version' of events but lived the same experience but in a different place and time. That's one of Warcraft's compelling strengths too: Boss fights gain legendary status in the minds of players because they act as a collective 'event': it's like a sports game, or a concert, or something that everyone watched on TV. That's one of the reasons why Twitter is as hugely influential as it undoubtedly is (as a brief aside). Last night's Eurovision Song Contest will live long in many people's minds, not simply because of the Drag Act from Austria who lifted the trophy. The moments where everyone is focused on a single event or goal become definition not simply of who those people are, but how they relate to the rest of the world around them.

Shared experiences as a race are very, VERY important indeed.

What we take with us.

In the quiet times, therefore, when there is no real game for most, placing Blizzcon front and centre really was the absolute best thing Blizzard could have done to maintain interest in Warcraft. It is pretty much the ultimate shared experience for fans of the franchise, even if you never attend a panel or even walk into the convention centre. The stuff that goes on after hours is ALWAYS what gets talked about the most: not when you're learning about the game, but when you get to compare your thoughts and experiences with like-minded individuals who think and feel the way that you do. That is, I wager, the real pull of the Convention for many, and this year that may matter a great deal because there's a good chance no only there'll be no new Expansion to announce, but we won't actually have the current one to play with either. It won't matter however for the attendees, and that may be something Blizzard hopes can spill out to the wider audience to boot.

The next six months are crucial for many things, the shared experience most notable amongst them.

1 comment:

marathalbt said...

Something I have been noticing, may just be from the people I follow and play with and associate with. People seem to be looking for others to socialize with. Not necessarily people to beat heroic progression, raiding 5 nights a week, PvE end game is everything. But people to talk to, laugh at jokes with, share ups and downs in their lives.

In the last year I have grown our little social casual guild by over 375 people, not 375 characters, but people. We routinely have 15-30 or more on at different times. We may be only partially through current normal raiding, a bit further on flex, but mostly we all log in everyday to have fun playing a game we enjoy.

I always suspected there might come a day when the balance of power would shift, and it seems to be starting to look that way. Many guilds calling it quits for the expansion, going off to do other things, some falling apart because progression hit a wall, people burned out on the fast pace set by Blizzard. Yet those of us that log in everyday, trudging along, dare I say it, having fun playing, seem to be garnering more interest from Blizzard. We are holding the purse strings. Keeping us entertained and interested in continuing to play every month is what keeps it all going.

I would almost like to offer a prediction, that the next expansion will see a fundamental shift in the priority of catering to that ever decreasing percentage of the top of the game player base, to growing more of the group of players looking to have fun playing. Not going to say more easily defeated raids, but less emphasis on raiding to tell a story and more Dungeons and Scenarios that can be done in a short amount of time.

Time will tell I guess.