Crossing Lines

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this again, for fear that “Holy Concentration” turn into “Alethiar Rants”, however, needs must.

Let this serve as fair warning, beloved reader, that this is a rant post. This may in fact be my most ranty rant post. If you would like to pass up on reading this post, in favour of less ranty pursuits, I will harbour no ill will toward you.

So, with the preamble out of the way, I push on to more serious matters.

Entitlement.

Entitlement and the denigration of others seems to be the new vogue. It’s something I’ve seen a lot over the past few years, but lately it seems to have gotten worse. Either that or I am simply more sensitive to it.

This offensive behaviour has been cropping up in various game forums, with various “players” vocally expressing their right to everything under the sun. Apparently, raiders shouldn’t need to complete a raid more than once in order to be fully geared in shiny epics; raids are too easy; raids are too hard; levelling takes too long; levelling is too fast; there are too many “noobs” spoiling the game for “pro” players; there are too many elitist jerks spoiling it for casual players; etc.

The list goes on, and on, and on, and, well, you get the picture.

I can shrug this off as somewhat par for the course. By nature, most of us seem to need something to complain about. It’s the age old, “grass is always greener” issue.

So, where’s the problem, you might ask, (if you were truly determined to read my rants, that is!).

The problem comes when that sense of entitlement; that sense that we are somehow owed something beyond mere entertainment by the game companies, crosses a line. Suddenly, it’s not enough to bemoan the fact that class x is so much better than class y, and therefore obviously favoured by the entire development team of company z. Instead, it becomes necessary to interpret each and every change in the game as a slight against the players. Decisions are no longer taken after painstaking consideration and testing of game mechanic balance. No, company z secretly hates their players and are trying their very best to annoy them all to the point where they leave en masse. Yup, that’s a great business model.

None of these mental giants seem to grasp the fact that the game companies are not faceless entities, churning out content for an ungrateful, yet financially reckless, customer base. Of course these are businesses, and they are run as such. However, I defy anyone to watch Chris Metzen take the stage at Blizzcon and claim that the people who make these games for us don’t care and are only there for the money they can squeeze from us.

Why do I mention this? Well, I feel it’s important to understand, as many seem to miss, that the games we play are made by people who care. People who are passionate about what they do. People who take wild, crazy, creative notions and turn them into fantastical worlds in which we can live out our wildest dreams.

I imagine they enjoy what they do, (else they wouldn’t be doing it, right?) but they are still like the rest of us and like a bit of recognition now and again. Who doesn’t like to be told, “hey, great job!” after pulling off something that seemed impossible. Who wouldn’t like to have been the one to have come up with the Wrathgate quest chain, (along with countless other wonderful storylines). Who wouldn’t like to be told by numerous people that you should lose your job, that you deserve only ill and, in some cases, that the world would be a better place if you weren’t in it?

Right?

Yes, I wish I were joking. Unfortunately, I’m not. I’m about as far from joking as I can get right now.

In recent months I’ve mostly stopped reading the game forums because the needy, self-centred sense of entitlement just annoyed me. However, every now and again I will undergo a masochistic sense of curiosity, which will draw me back to the forums like a self-destructive moth to a flame. Then, of course, there’s Twitter and the endless, wonderful stream of links it brings.

Amidst all of this I’ve seen the announcement by Bioware that they needed to lay off a large number of talented and dedicated staff who had worked hard on Star Wars: The Old Republic. This news was met with a vocal minority who seemed to feel this was entirely appropriate since the game failed to meet their expectations and that, somehow, these people deserved what they got.

Before that there was the Jennifer Hepler debacle, which resulted in some of the vilest, most offensive outpourings of verbal bile that I have ever seen online.

This week has seen that same horrific mob mentality surface in force in the Blizzard community. I will not name names, (purely because I don’t want to give the trolls any more of a public forum than they already enjoy) but two fairly well known people in the Blizzard community are now being targeted with the same vitriolic bile. Demands that they lose their jobs, and worse, simply because these pathetic excuses for humanity feel they have been cheated out of some level of enjoyment. That “their” game has been “ruined” by these individuals.

Where does this come from, and why?

I have no answers here, though I suspect the oft-cited internet anonymity plays a part. However, I think there is something darker and deeper at play here, and I certainly don’t appreciate it.

These are people who spend their working life creating things. They create entire universes for us to enjoy, and this is the thanks they get? In what reality does that make any sense?

It is entirely acceptable to feel passionate about these games. It is because of passion that I write this blog. It is also ok to feel annoyed when changes are made that we feel affects our chosen class detrimentally. The ¬†game creators are certainly not perfect, nor should they be. They sometimes make mistakes, and that’s alright too. What is not alright is to take feelings of annoyance about a game, and cross the line into reality.

This may come as news to some, but not being able to solo tank/heal/dps an end level raid boss, while epic loot rains from the sky and an angelic host sing of your greatness, is not the end of the world. Losing the job that supports, in some cases, yourself, your partner, your children and your aging parents sure as hell feels like the end of the world! Having someone tell you that the world would be a better place without you in it can most certainly feel like the end of the world. As for the other filth I’ve seen spewed by some; I only hope that the offending minority never have to be victims of that which they so freely wish on others.

And so ends the rant. I have been a part of the Blizzard fan base for a long time, (since Warcraft II) and I have been an active player of a number of other games over the years. For most of that time I have felt part of something special. Something unique, that bound those of us who shared that experience into a community. I’m sorry to say that these past few months have made me want to distance myself from the “community” that surrounds these games. I am under no illusion that these acts are being carried out by a very, very vocal minority, but they taint something that I hold very dear. I am also fortunate to have a platform and a voice with which to oppose everything these people espouse.

To the developers, writers, dreamers and creators of all of these games I offer a heartfelt thank you for all you have given us, and continue to give us. You have shown us worlds we could only dream of, and given us some of the richest, most rewarding experiences we could ever imagine. You all deserve only the best, and I can only hope that things work out for those who recently lost their jobs.

To the detractors I say only this. These are games. Remember that. When you wish someone redundant, or injured, or dead, that’s someone’s life you’re talking about. Is a game, any game, really worth that?

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Alethiar,

    I have so many things that I want to say, in regards to this post, but I’ll just try to keep it coherent and brief.

    I think the mentality that a lot of people are feeling, with regard to video games is something that is happening across the board, in terms of anything relating to customer service. People have the same expectations for when they go to a movie theater, or a restaurant, or a sporting event. They want the best and whereas some people wouldn’t fault their waitress for taking a bit longer with their drinks or wouldn’t mind paying a couple extra bucks for a beer at a football game, others will blow up about it and say it’s the end of all things and that these are epic failures that can never be made right.

    Somewhere down the line the mentality of “the customer is always right” turned into this Frankenstein’s monster and people feel entitled to the pinnacle of customer service at all times. I think we tend to see it happening more in the video game world because that’s the world we’re tapped into the most. But if you visit Yelp, or Metacritic, or IMDB, you would see the same amount of trolling and belligerent behavior. It’s everywhere these days.

    The only thing we can do is be that one customer who isn’t like the others. Be fair. Be honest. Show appreciation. Know what’s worth blowing up over and what isn’t. It will be a breath of fresh air to those who matter and it will inspire them to keep going when it seems like everyone else can’t or won’t be satisfied with the things that they do. People like you and I will make the difference. I truly believe that.

    Reply
    • Hi Oestrus,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, and for your comment.

      I suspect you are correct in your summation that this is the “customer is always right mentality” gone awry. As you write, it is certainly not restricted to the video game world, and is all too prevalent elsewhere too. I stopped reading the forums on IMDB for much the same reason.

      I can understand fully the desire for a “perfect” product, no matter what area we are discussing. I can also understand disappointment and frustration when we don’t get what we want. I just find it very, very hard to accept cruelty and the wishing of harm on others, simply because we don’t get our own way. Such behaviour is completely alien to me, and seems so entirely unnecessary.

      You are also right about us leading by example. As I suggested above, people like you and I have a “voice”, and I think it is only right to use it when we see rotten things within our community. These people do not represent me, and I’m fairly confident they don’t represent you either. Games companies, like everyone else, are not infallible. They make mistakes, and they make changes that will not make everyone happy. Wishing harm on them is not the way to affect change; meaningful discussion and feedback is. That’s why it is so important that people like you keep doing what you do best. The information you, and others like you, provide to the community, regarding class balance and the like is what makes the difference.

      I’m glad to know I’m not alone, at least. The people making these games deserve a lot of praise for what they do, and a little support can go a long, long way.

      Thank you again.

      Reply
  2. Don’t worry about the ranting… it seems to be all the rage now – mine the other day, and some other posts I’ve read recently. We all cope in our own way and if blogging about it helps then do it… or should I say KEEP DOING IT!

    Well said though :)

    Reply
  3. Rants are what blogs are for Aleithar. Who else but your computer will quietly listen to all you have to say without making a comment? And then when you do need a comment… you hit publish :D

    However, I feel that entitlement is a generational thing. Times are changing. Look at the job market now – it’s not about what you can bring to the job but what the job can do for YOU. People are always looking for a better deal in jobs, flitting from one job to the other. Gone are the days of staying 20 years with the company to get your gold watch.

    I wasn’t surprised to see Oestrus here :) You have almost written it how Oestrus would have! However, with the laying off of jobs and whatever… money makes the corporate world go around. Business means $$$ and if you don’t have the $$$ then you can’t make your business turn a profit which makes your investors grumpy and blah blah blah. If you think about it, who REALLY thinks about what your consumers want if you don’t make money out of it, right? Or worse, if you’re losing money to satisfy consumers then… your employees go hungry, or go somewhere else. Satisfaction does not put food on the table.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this train of thought! Stupid cookie has given me a sugar hit and now I’m typing like a maniac! Anyway, all I can say is, only within ourselves can we make a difference. We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves. And maybe, if you’re enough of a beacon then everyone will want to be like you :) Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could be the better person!

    Reply
  4. Hi, lovely blogg, and well written =) I will be sure to come back and read some more. Have a good day. / jeji

    Reply

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