Saturday, March 06, 2010

You're not qualified to have fun

I haven't written about it much here, but back in 2008 I started playing World of Warcraft.  I always wondered why people found such games so addicting, but, well, now I know.  I haven't written much about it because it's kind of a specialized interest; it's easy enough to write a single review of a game, or even a short series, but WoW is one of those games that can take up a lot of attention.  People even have full-time jobs just writing about it!

Recently in game, I applied to a new guild.  For those who don't know, players band together in groups called guilds to facilitate higher level play.  Often, the "endgame" content requires 10-25 players to accomplish, so being a part of a guild not only provides a (semi)stable structure for doing so, but also offers a stronger sense of community than you get otherwise.  In many ways, it's almost required to be a part of a guild in order to see that endgame content.  You can just group together with strangers (pick-up groups, or "pugs"), but often times this can be very stressful; expectations are very high, and there's very little patience or tolerance of mistakes.  Sometimes it's akin to demanding a PhD for a burger flipping job.

I recently applied to join a guild on my server.  If you think it sounds funny to say that I applied, as if it were an actual job, then you're not alone.  I was rejected, and my reaction was worth pondering for a moment.

Some people take this game very seriously.  There are people who play many, many hours a day and are highly competitive about completing "world first" achievements.  Even though some guilds will never play on that level, they are very serious about completing the same content.  As such, their standards can be exceedingly high.  They won't take someone into an instance who hasn't been there before (which leads many players into a Catch-22 scenario).  The wide variety ways that you can customize your character become irrelevant, as suddenly there are "right" choices and "wrong" choices.  There are people who will tell you that you're a substandard player based on, say, a 1% difference in health pool, or a 2% difference in damage.  The fervent belief in such things can be almost religious.

It's an odd thing, being rejected for what is, at its heart, a hobby.  I mean, it might make some sense for an intramural sports team, for example (although people would understandably be upset about perpetually riding the pine), but this is a video game.  I can't imagine someone saying, "No, you're not good enough at Donkey Kong, you can't play with me.  You'll drag down the entire game."

There's certainly something to be said about playing as well as you can.  If you're counting on nine (or 24) other people to put on their "A game," it can be frustrating that progress is blocked because someone is slacking off in one way or another.  Still, the level of elitism and hostility that arises out of a cooperative hobby is very surprising sometimes.  Perhaps it's just an extension of the GIF theory.

Back from the wilderness

Ah, the old girl's still here.  Glad to know Google doesn't delete these things when a blogger disappears for a few months.
So where was I?  The demands of graduate school left me studying ~8 hrs a day for, well, almost two months.  It's not like I couldn't have found five minutes at the end of the day to jot down something, but there's only so much mileage you can get out of, "Exams suck.  Grad school sucks.  Is it March yet?"  You wouldn't believe how consuming it can be. 

A lot of things are up in the air still, but my hope is to get back to regular posting.  Whatever "regular" means for this blog, at least.