I feel like a conflict has been brewing inside of me for the past few days. It’s one of those horrible conflicts of ideologies that I can’t see any easy way to resolve. And what makes it worse is that both sides of the conflict are borne of a single source.
You see, I want to help players become better.
Part of that is by writing guides, making videos and helping people in-game. I don’t see anything wrong with being a bad player if you have a willingness to improve. The players I don’t want are the greedy entitlesloths – the lazy players who play badly, know they play badly and insist on continuing to play badly. The players who then inflict their laziness onto others by abusing LFD, expecting to be carried through dungeons on a dais to scoop up loot like peeled grapes.
But in my desire to stigmatise the entitlesloth I fear that I contribute to a culture of elitism. A mindset of “You must be this skilled to enter”. I see people who play in spite of their real-life restrictions and limitations, the people who rely on Warcraft to provide them with an escape from their real world situation. And I feel ashamed that the culture I help support probably makes them feel unwelcome and unwanted.
Let me make it clear – I want these people in my game.
I’m left clutching at a wider question: does a game have to be challenging in order to provide long-lasting fun? Does it have to be easy in order to be accessible by everyone? Does accessible design mean that you enable exploitative player behaviour? Looking at it as a logic problem, there’s no reason why an accessible game should generate an army of entitlesloths.
I think it’s a bit of a cop-out to say that Warcraft is a victim of its own success. That having such a large number of players means that you’ll get a few bad apples. That we should just roll over and accept that bad apples exist and get on with our game regardless. I’m not sure that’s right. Instead, I think that we’ve got to a stage with cross-server LFD tools where boundary-pushing exploitative behaviour is encouraged.
Screw everyone else over because as long as you get what you want that’s all that matters – and you’ll probably never see anyone in your group again. Do something really deplorable – make off with the guildbank or abuse an entire realm, and a name change and fresh passports are a server transfer away.
Even if you’re normally a pleasant player it’s easy to see where this leads. You become suspicious that everyone you don’t know is automatically a bad apple out to rip you off. You become ultra-cautious of Shroedinger’s Entitlesloth lurking at the end of every LFD queue, or that every new guild member will rise through the ranks only to make off with your stash of flasks and materials.
Worse is the “what if” scenario playing in your head, creeping into your thoughts. What if I became the entitlesloth for a few dungeon runs, pick up some gear I don’t need and bag a few coins from it? I could do with earning a little extra to make up for the repair bill I had from those wipes in Stonecore earlier. What’s the harm in it?
When you become innately suspicious you see the guilty everywhere, as if the whole server is wearing the mask of the entitlesloth. From there the general culture of the game has only one way to go – downhill. It’s a bit like the Vortex of Suck.
To bring it full circle, I feel that elitism has emerged as a natural response to the entitlesloth: we want those we group with to play their part and perform their role. But I feel that it’s also an imprecise instrument that doesn’t serve us well as a community of players. I’m left feeling ashamed that in supporting some forms of elitilsm I’ve probably discouraged players that I really want to keep in the game. And yet, I can’t help but feel that design choices made by those who make our games are encouraging us to act in this way.
In my own desire to eradicate the entitlesloth, I fear I may harm the very people that gaming should support, the very people who deserve an escape to a fantastical world the most.
And therein, my friends, lies the conflict.