Thursday, January 27, 2011
Making it personal
I'm still somewhat bemused by not just the amount of bloggers responding to my thesis that MMORPGs are a team sport in which players have a social responsibility to get a team filled, but also by how violent some of that response was. The Noisy Rogue called the post a fucking stupid pile of dogshit, and me stupid and a moron among other things. Nils called my statement bizarre. Iggep called it a seriously controversial statement. And Callan finds me genuinly scary. Even Bigbearbutt wonders "Did he mean whatever it was in the way it’s been taken?"
Well, to help people understand what I meant, and to analyze why the reaction was so strong, I'd like to reformulate the argument by breaking in down into bits:
1) The queues for DPS in the Dungeon Finder of World of Warcraft are long, and it would be better if they were shorter.
So far, so good, I don't think anybody actually disagreed with that part.
2) For queues to become shorter, either Blizzard needs to change how World of Warcraft works, or players need to change their behavior, or both (Blizzard adds incentives that makes players change their behavior).
Still not very controversial. Other than players and/or Blizzard, I don't see who else could do anything that would change the length of Dungeon Finder queues.
3) Blizzard is unlikely to make major changes to how World of Warcraft group combat works.
Here were are starting to get warmer. Many, many people commented or blogged that if the system wasn't working, it was Blizzard's and only Blizzard's fault, and responsibility to fix it. Personally I'd prefer the incentives solution. But regardless of whose fault the situation is, my point here is about probability: To be realistic, I don't think Blizzard is going to ever change let's say groups to 6 players, to make room for more DPS, or anything similarily radical.
4) If Blizzard doesn't change the game, it is up to the players to change their behavior.
Logical consequence from the previous statements: If it's either A or B, but B is unlikely, then it must be A. Albeit an argument being logical never prevented anyone to disagree with it. Most problems in multiplayer games are caused by a combination of game design and player behavior, and I believe that players thus have a partial responsibility for these problems. That is somehow better understood in sports, where people are more ready to accept the idea that there is a system of rules to which the players need to adapt, instead of demanding the rules get changed.
5) As the problem is a lack of tank and healers, the only player behavior change which would positively affect queues is some players who are currently playing a DPS role either switching role or switching character to a tank or healer.
Note the "some", which some commenters deliberately misrepresented. It should be blindingly obvious that if EVERYBODY changes to tank and healer, the queues would be even longer than they are now. The idea is to *enough* players changing role, until the ratio of tanks to healers to DPS is 1:1:3, which would be the ratio producing the shortest possible queue times.
6) If *some* players have to switch from DPS to tank/healer, then why not you? It is your responsibility too!
And this is the kicker, where people started grabbing their torches and pitchforks. This argument is not at all a direct logical consequence, but is based on values which have gone out of fashion. It goes back to the fundamental question of whether in any situation where it is clear that somebody has to do something you ask yourself "why not me?" and step forward, or you ask yourself "why me?" and hope that somebody else steps up. It is, to misquote Kennedy: "ask not what your game can do for you - ask what you can do for your game". It is J.M. Flagg's famous Uncle Sam recruitment poster:
It hurts, because it turns an abstract, general responsibility of a wider populace into a personal responsibility. Even people who agree with the first 5 arguments probably would prefer if it was somebody else who changed to playing tank or healer, and not them. Turning "somebody should do something" into "YOU should do something" is what I think provoked the strong reaction to my post.
Kids setting up soccer teams on a school yard understand that "somebody needs to play goalkeeper", after nobody volunteered, means that one of them will be forced to play that position, or there is no game. The situation in World of Warcraft is the same, only that the group is larger, more anonymous, and the problem is not whether there is a game yes or no, but how long it takes until somebody finally volunteers. That makes people even more reluctant to step up and volunteer, because it isn't as if they could strike a direct deal that they'll tank today and somebody else does it tomorrow. Now I sure used strong words in calling this situation a "social responsibility" and quoting Kant's categorical imperative. But whatever you call it, I don't believe that queues will improve unless some people switch their role. And I believe that any responsibility for "some people" in any group in the end is an individual responsibility. Not a big one, after all it is just a game, and the responsibility is shared between many players. But a responsibility nevertheless. That is my belief, part of my values, and I'm sticking to it. I hope you understand my point better now.