World of Warcraft, I’ve been running around on you with that little chippy, WildStar. I know that you and I have been together a long time. I feel like I know your every thought, your every quest, your every hill and vale. We’ve had some great times together, you and I. But now I’m thinking maybe I settled too quickly. There’s a whole wide world out there, full of new experiences. I’m not sure I’ve really seen all there is to see to commit myself to you alone. I don’t want to break up with you, but WoW… I’d like to start seeing some other games. I need to experiment. If what you and I had was really right, then I’ll be back. I know you probably feel betrayed, I know this seems disloyal. But if you love something, you have to set it free.
OK, that was more than a bit corny, but this is basically how I feel at this stage in my gaming life. I love WoW. I’ve invested a lot of years leveling characters, raiding, making friends, gaining achievements. This isn’t something I plan on throwing away. WoW is a major part of my life, and as long as the servers are active and the game is still running, I imagine it will continue to be so, even if on a more casual basis.
So, what leads me to stray? First, you can blame my boyfriend. He started it by getting me to try a new game in a genre I’d never tried before. Sure, I played a few other pc games before WoW, but once I discovered the beauty of the MMO, WoW was my main squeeze. Over the years of playing WoW, I had dabbled in a couple of other MMOs: Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). But none gave me the feeling that WoW did. They weren’t as well done (in my opinion), and the content wasn’t as fun or compelling. It was all WoW, all the time. Even the other Blizzard titles seemed like games to tide me over until a new WoW expansion or content patch hit.
My boyfriend, however, introduced me to League of Legends (LoL), my first MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). I sucked at it at first (I sorta still do), but I loved it. I had never played a game like that before. But he didn’t stop there. He got me to try more MMOs and really give them a chance. Forsaken World, Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe Online, and lately, Rift. Through him, I got a new perspective on gaming. I didn’t have to devote my gameplay to one game and one game only. I could play whatever struck my fancy, depending on my mood from day to day. I know that it seems like a “Duh!” statement, but only recently have I discovered that I’m not the only one who thought like that.
I discovered this fact because of this little game called WildStar. Every MMO that comes along gets people talking about whether or not this will be the so-called “WoW-killer.” WildStar had a lot of hype built up about it. Its beta testing and release dates were right in the middle of one of the longest content lulls WoW has ever seen. People were excited about WildStar; more and more folks started talking about it. I couldn’t resist it. I had to try it. It was new and fun and colorful, and it didn’t take itself too seriously. I was all in, as were many other current and former WoW players.
What brought the issue to a head was, upon its pending release, the backlash from people who considered playing another MMO as “disloyal to WoW,” or to Blizzard Entertainment as a company. While I’m sure that Blizzard doesn’t mind this way of thinking, it doesn’t really make any sense. Playing a game doesn’t call for an oath of fealty. We don’t make vows never to touch another game when we accept Blizzard’s terms of service. We play games to have fun. And fun can be found in more than one title.
Indeed, some of the negativity surrounding the WildStar release has been surprising. I can understand people not wanting to pay another subscription. Times are still tough, everyone is stretching their entertainment dollars. But some of the comments from those in social media circles go beyond a matter of economics. In the face of so many people excited to play this new game, we’ve heard things like, “WildStar looks stupid.” “It’s just WoW in space.” “Give it a couple months and it’ll be free to play anyways.” “I don’t understand people being disloyal to Blizzard.”
I heard something on the podcast Tauren Think Tank (Episode 102) that spoke to how people behaved when they didn’t get an alpha invite for the new Blizzard MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. One of the hosts mentioned something about inclusiveness, and what feelings come forth when people don’t feel included with “the group.” I suspect that’s what’s happening here with WildStar. People who, for whatever reason, have not gotten in on this new game are feeling like they’re not part of the excitement. They feel left out, and sadly, negativity is their only response to these feelings.
Folks, you don’t have to be loyal to one game or one game company. There are a lot of good free to play MMOs, MOBAs, and similar games out there. You are missing out on worlds of different content and play styles. You may think you don’t have time to devote to other games, but no one’s saying you have to be hardcore in whatever you try. Have fun! Experiment! You can still play WoW and enjoy other games, too! See what elements can be found in these games that you never knew existed, which you can use as valuable feedback to Blizzard about what changes you’d like to see in WoW.
But above all, don’t ruin the experiences of others who have decided to take the leap away from WoW to try new games. If you’re disinterested, fine. You don’t have to be negative. Be happy for people who are excited, don’t resent them for it. Let us have our fun. We’re not abandoning you. We aren’t changing as people because we’ve changed games during the WoW pre-expansion lull. Many of us will continue to play WoW, too. Most of us will be back to share the excitement of Warlords of Draenor when it’s released. In the meantime, I challenge you to try an entirely new game, if you haven’t already. You might be surprised how it changes your entire gaming perspective as a whole.
When I was a teenager, my life revolved around music and the popular bands of the moment. This is going to date me a bit, but my big “crush” band was Duran Duran. I knew everything about them. Their birthdays, their height, where they were born; it was almost as if this information was more important than the music they actually produced. I had posters of them everywhere. I was desperate for every scrap of news or photo I could get of them. I was a total fangirl!
Flash forward to present day. Muse is my one of my favorite bands ever. I know little to nothing about them. I know of Matt Bellamy, I think one of the band member’s names is Dominic. I couldn’t tell you when they were born, where they were born (except the UK), and I probably wouldn’t recognize one of them on the street if I were to pass them. I don’t know their personal opinions on politics (except in song), equal rights, religion, or society as a whole. I only know that I love their music, their lyrics, and their melodies. That music strikes a chord within me that makes these other aspects unimportant.
It therefore puzzles me greatly how we, as a gaming community, have elevated our game developers to celebrity status. We treat them like rock stars, and we’re their adoring fans. Who are these people that so many of us should hang on their every word? Why should anyone be excited if they get a mention from one on Twitter? And why would we expect their words, whether through social media or in an interview, to be anything other than their personal opinion and thus they are entitled to it?
To me, these game developers are not celebrities. They’re employees. They work for a company. They get their paychecks with taxes and Medicare taken out just like everyone else. They get in to work in the morning and have to deal with their email inbox just like you and I. They are people. Just regular ol’ people working a J-O-B. And just like regular ol’ people, they have their own opinions about their job, the games they work on, and life in general.
Should it be a surprise when one of them makes a gaffe that implies that somehow their employer feels the same way as the employee? No. It’s to be expected. They’re not public relations people, they’re game developers. Dealing with the public is not their calling. And their word is not gospel. The owners and shareholders of their company have the final word. And that word will be issued in a carefully prepared press release, like any other company. One developer’s interview or tweet does not equate an entire company’s viewpoint. While it could be argued that it’s indicative of a systemic problem, it does not mean that every employee, manager, executive, owner, or shareholder of that company feels the same way.
We all know the latest controversy surrounding Blizzard, and from whence it came. There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not this employee’s words were taken out of context or twisted to fit an agenda. That’s not what I’m looking to solve here. I just want to remind you all to take one man’s word with a grain of salt. He’s just one person. He wasn’t reading a prepared press release; it was just him, shooting off the cuff. His audience has made him more important than he needs to be, and thus his words held greater weight than they deserved.
What we should all remember is how these games make us feel when we play them. The content and its immersive fantasy world is what compelled us to play to begin with. What do these games touch within us? By and large, we’ve all enjoyed Blizzard games for years. There may be reasons why we decide that these games are no longer for us: lack of content, repetitiveness, other hobbies, real life, or the feeling that the game doesn’t reflect our society as we see it. But don’t let one employee’s remarks change how you view something that once gave you pleasure. He’s just a guy. A regular ol’ guy, like the rest of us.