Monday, March 2, 2009

Beer game

Leah wrote in a comment, "some people do see they weekly raids ... as a weekly party, a game of checkers with their friends. the raid is a setting, a framework."

It reminded me to an old memory. It made me talk to several real life people in my workplace and finally explained something that I did not understand for years. And also explained why WoW is so successful game despite its huge flaws.

Once upon a time I was an university student. I considered it a time of learning my subject, while several co-students considered it a time to be be drunk by 11AM. A group of such fellows always had poker parties. After helping out one of the poker-players in the lab (practically saving him from winning a Darwin award) I was invited to their weekend match. I read lot of material about poker to not be such a noob, practiced against a computer program and arrived at time.

Surprisingly they already consumed more alcohol than I would do if I'm to win any match. They were also not poker-champions. Soon my pocket was filled with cash despite I was not an experienced poker player. It was not hard at all. They talked a lot, did not pay attention, made bold moves against all odds (can be attributed to beer), and they seemed to be more interested in making me drink beer and "have fun", than winning the game. Soon the party became uneasy. I thought it was because they felt humiliated for being beaten by the noob. But surprisingly they kept being uneasy after I lost some rounds deliberately. So after taking some more money I made up some excuse and left. No one tried to make me change my mind. I never was invited to play again.

I thought they could not bear losing. After talking with several RL people, I finally learned that the point of the party was not playing poker. Poker was just a "beer game", a decoy for the real reason: to be together, to make friends, to hang out, to tell bad and inappropriate jokes. So to "have fun" with your friends. I never seen any point in any of the mentioned activities. I found the company of half-to-full drunken guys laughing like horses on bad jokes anything but fun.

Leah is right. WoW is slowly changing into a beer game. Besides a few "no life" HCs, no one cares about boss kills. Besides some small kids, no one cares about "phat lewt". The point of being online for most players is to meet with friends and buddies, tell dumb and inappropriate jokes while AoE-ing a 5-man, or ganking poor Faerlina. To feel that they are part of a "team", to feel that they are loved, welcomed and accepted. Game mechanics would just disturb them in these social activities, so Blizzard nicely remove them from the game. Soon you won't even have to decide what spec you play.

These social people do not even want to reach anything in the game. They just want company. The content is only a decoy and serves exactly the same purpose as the poker match I was invited: "to fill out the annoying silence when no one has anything nice to say". When the "deadly silence" arrives, everyone pretends to concentrate on his cards/bossfight until someone can finally make up one more terrible joke.

Blizzard found the way to make a blockbuster: WoW is the same as Second Life with NPCs and decoy-monsters. Anyone without any gaming skills or common sense can join and socialize without accepting that he is so desperate that he want to socialize in a computer simulation. He can pretend that he is gaming. As the world generates more and more isolated losers, the potential user-base of WoW increases. Too bad that it will slowly kill the game I found really interesting, challenging and fun.

PS: I don't think HC players are "no life". The average players, the new focus group of the game thinks so.

23 comments:

Typhoonandrew said...

"Too bad that it will slowly kill the game I found really interesting..."

Or you could surround yourself with a guild/group of like minded players and continue to play the game with folks who share your ethos. Ignore the rabble, set and break your own records. Don't recruit the dross and filth of the severs. Play the game your way and not factor in the face-rollers. To me this is the new goal of a raider.

Unless part of the appeal of the "old game" was how much of a gulf between the have and have-nots there was, and the enjoyment and pride of being one of the folks who made the higher grade. Being better than others made them feel good.

If so, then part of the appeal was straight ego. Which is what I am seeing in a lot of older raiders who are trying to transition to the new game. It was a bastard to get the gear/rewards before, you had to be really committed, and travel with a like minded group. Some of these guys loved the fact they did it hard, before the nurf. And some others rubbed everyone's face in it as much as they could.

Yes, the face-rollers are here, but they always were present. Now a face-roller can get much further through the content, and get a set of OK gear. But I know within 2-3 pulls if somebody is a waste of oxygen. You can just tell sometimes that somebody is only functioning on autopilot. If so, kick them.

Look only so far as the same guys standing AFK in Dalaran with the uber-extreme titles, or doing War Bear parades in the Naxx summoning room. These guys did it for the ego, not for the game.

There is a difference between being proud of what you have done, and blowing smoke up your own arse. The guys bragging in trade chat are not in it for the sake of a game, they're in it for the personal ego.

If it was the chess club or a car fan group they'd still be bragging about stats. One hand in the keyboard, and one hand down their pants.

I don't want to group with a face-roller or an ego tripper. Both are junk players to me, and I'd be happy if both types got off my server (off my lawn so to speak).

You don't have to be "hardcore" to be darn good, and all the epics in the game will not help a face-roller.

Larísa said...

OK, I joined without having any gaming skills at all two years ago. And I AM crap at getting and maintaining RL friends. For the same reasons as you, I think. I don't get the poker party concept. I'm always an outsider, not really "belonging" there. For some reason it works better for me to socialize online. I still enjoy the game immensly, not just as background for chatting, but for the challenge it is (to a noob like me). Still I suspect that I'm one of those "losers" you despise so intensly, since I'm not an imba player, just an average one. And probably I've destroyed your game somehow.

Anyway, if you really feel this bad about the game I think it probably won't take too long before you quit it. It sounds as if you're done and over with it.

Gevlon said...

@Typhonandrew: unless you are a member of a "4 raids a week, 80% attendance or gqick" guild, you can't avoid the facerollers. In BC the content itself gave some defense. The Kara key itself stopped the laziest of them to get into Kara (that's why banished). Now 900 SP guys apply to my Malygos PuG!!

@Larísa: I told thousand times already that you are NOT a noob. You had Malygos, Sarth+2, you belong to the top 10% of the players. Your gear is close to perfect, your posts show understanding both game mechanics and "behaving in raid group". If you are curious who the articles are about, log in about 18:00 and join a random PuG to daily HC!

And again you read my mind. I'm almost done with the game. One thing is left to do, and will be done soon.

Daniel said...

Do you have fun playing the game? Because you seem awfully pessimistic about everything it seems.

There are plenty of people having a great time playing this game, clearing content, getting titles, and not just using it as a chatroom. The front you see on hardcore raiding guilds may be a certain standard they expect.

But what you don't see is a community of people who also enjoy each others company.

That's why I had a hard time re-rolling from my Alliance Warrior. The guild I was in for years was a great group of people who were fun to talk to.

And I can see that now in the guild I joined. The people enjoy playing the game with each other, have fun, and at the end of the day still show off their titles or their mounts.

You have voluntarily to exclude yourself from any of that. You have stated you are PUGing content, doing it without a guild, etc. And you succeeded in Naxx. But a lot of other folks will raid with their guilds, get new loots in Ulduar, and at the end of the raid will chat in Vent like your "poker game."

I've learned a lot of your posts. My Priest alt is is quickly developing a huge pile of gold to repay the loan from my Hunter for the epic flying and then some. But it does seem you aren't quite sure of what goes on behind close doors of most raiding guilds.

Leah said...

I'm not sure whether to be amused or dismayed that you took my comment and ran with it. the reason for that is becasue either I wasn't entirely eloqient in my comparicent, or becasue you simply enjoy jumping to extremes.

I'm not as eloquent as Larissa so I'm not sure I can explain my point to you, especialy since we don't have the same way of looking at things.

I guess you'll have to take my word for it that I'm not an M&S player. hopefuly if not this week, then next - I'm also going to be a twighlight vanquisher.

I enjoy the challenge of the game where is one, I enjoy improving my performance but without people that I like to share it with - its hollow. without someone throwing a leather ball or a paper zep around, while we are waiting for those last 30 seconds on bloodlust - its just pretty pixels on a computer screen. people are the reason why I personaly am still playing this game, coming back to a raid week after week and improving my toons so that we could, as a group, as a team to get better, move farther, have more fun together. the game the way I see it is a black and white sketch - intricate one, but still only a line drawing. people, community are what ads color and depth to it.

without the connections I made? I'd probably be burning through the multitude of single player games currently out, having gotten tired of the game after hitting level cap and seeing a bit of Kara.

Brajana said...

I do agree that WoW can be compared to a poker game.

There are the "hardcore" players in the Poker world. The ones who wear sunglasses to avoid showing emotion, who play for large amounts of money and they play to win. Just like there are those in the game who are there to rush through the content and come out on top. I think it seems both of those are more like your crowd.

But plenty of raid guilds have built friendships and are there to work as a team and socialize, as well as kill some bosses and get some loot. If we were to invite one PuGer to one of our raid nights, and they were there just to get to the end... well, I'm sure they'd feel just like you did when you went to that poker game. Those people weren't close friends of yours, so you didn't feel like you were really part of the group.

However, the game is not pointless to people like me and my raiding guild. After all, we could just sit around in a chatroom and chat if we wanted to. The poker players could just sit around on the couch and drink and tell bad jokes. But instead, we play this game. It may not be the only thing we are doing, it may not even be the focus of the night for some, but we all enjoy it for our own reasons. We aren't there to ruin someone else's game.

Like Andrew said, you can avoid people of any type if you really try in this game. There are millions of players... and I've found it's really not that hard to find a guild or group of friends who are like minded to spend your time with.

Stabs said...

Mr Spock: "What is this thing you earthlings call "fun"? It is not logical."

Sometimes your posts are simply priceless, Gevlon.

I hope you don't leave, I'm enjoying the blog.

Anonymous said...

Master Goblin,

Please let us know which game you go to next, if any. I'm thinking Darkfall might provide a challenge - but it'll be available to you before it is to me.

-anon

Chris said...

...to be together, to make friends, to hang out, to tell bad and inappropriate jokes. So to "have fun" with your friends. I never seen any point in any of the mentioned activities.

This says so much about your personality. Not only do you optimize the fun out of a game, you optimize it out of life too. It is obvious to me that despite your disdain for the teens that play your now ruined game, you are a young man yourself. There is no other explanation for the way you evaluate success in life so quantitatively.

On the other hand, this "quality" makes your blog entertaining, like driving by a car accident and craning my neck to see it.

Pzychotix said...

If you haven't realized yet, this "beer game" concept is the one that has been sustaining WoW for the past 4 years.

It's the one that sustains nearly all MMORPGs.

Sydera said...

I'm probably one of those "HC no lifers" you describe.

And yet, I'll tell you that my play time went down when I joined a hardcore raiding guild. Less wipes meant shorter raid weeks overall and more time for job, family, blogging, etc. I'm not a big alt leveler or anything, but I certainly do socialize in game. I think keeping things to 15 hours or less per week is pretty healthy, and now that we clear the content in 6 hours each week, I'm playing less than that.

There are happy mediums. There's not just "no lifer" and "fail PuG" as categories. And hardcore guilds can be very social. My guildies hang out on vent all the time. I'm usually not there--a 30 year old prof would spoil the college boys' fun sometimes--but I appreciate it when I am.

Phizz said...

Hit the nail on the head with this one!! Great post.


I've been playing wow off and on since release, and at the game definitely did challenge you before WOTLK, but after that it did what all MMOs do and needs to cater for the noobs... otherwise, how would they get new players?


Personally, I enjoy the fact that everything is so dumbed down now. I've done HC raiding, ive done HC playing. I enjoy the 'beer game' though unfortunately I've known to enjoy the beer game a little too much and at least 50% of my fellow raid group doesn't see it as a beer game.

phoenixboy said...

WOTLK enforced what BC heralded with 5 man dungeons: People dont have to beat hard bosses to keep movig forward within the game, Blizzard just sistematicaly eliminated the need of being harvore for seeing content.

Sure is good for sales, because the "average player" doesnt want to make an effort for seeing bosses, just want to log on, pew pew a little, chat and log off.

Although Blizzard keeps giving hard modes for those who want it, most people are happy being "average" and god forbids anyone have the hard mode loots or titles or mounts because he must be a loser.

Although challenge is good before those who made an effore could say: i saw kael, i saw ilidian, i saw KT. Losing that source of e-peen, of inspiration it hurts, especially because the ones who desire challenge become less.


With Ulduar and whatever is next with more exclusive bosses and more exclusive stuff maybe the inspiration, the magic of being teh uber and the e-peen returns a little.

Pzychotix said...

Well, I think it was just the entire paradigm shift from "Oooh, I cleared content, I'm good." to "Ooh, I beat the achievements, I'm good." that caused people to get a little bit down.

However, even now, Sarth+3D is a pretty good status symbol for most guilds to work for, and I think it really isn't all that bad anymore.

(<-- Of the Nightfall.)

Sifeus said...

That bit about not understanding the fun of drinking and playing poker reminds me a bit of myself years ago.

I would have done similar in that game.

This analogy holds up, and the constant between them is that.. the people you were playing poker with aren't really friends just as the PuGs aren't friends.

Typhoonandrew said...

"you can't avoid the facerollers", - I disagree. Thats what a guild and/or a good private channel is for. Play with a good player, invite them to join the special channel. Anyone in there should be a non-faceroller, and every few months you change the channel name and only give the new name to the guys who make the grade.

Blaming the facerollers for bad experiences is valid, but it is not even close to 50% of why I think you're starting to not enjoy the game. The facerollers are just the most obvious largest percentage. Honestly I think you sound tired with the dynamic presented by a modern MMO. WoW has had systems in-built to make the content easier for casuals well before they removed the keys needed for Kara and the atunement's for runs.

I remember a time before the Horde got Paladins when you just accepted that some classes were much better at some things; and sucked at others. Paladins didn't dps, didn't tank, they just healed at 60.

If given a binary choice between those days and the current game; I'd take the current game.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite sad, and ironic, that you place more value in success at a game, or puzzle, etc, then you do in social skills.

What I mean by this; you demean people that play a game together for fun rather then to win, or in wow, to be "super leet".

You state outright that you feel an outsider, and didn't "get" why people group together for fun. Then you put down these types of people if they are not as good as you at the game. Your blog posts are full or venomous bards attacking pretty much anyone that does things for fun or does things as a collective group.

It is such a classic case of someone who feels inferior due to a lack of social skills (An inability to relate to others or to make and retain friends) attempting to feel superior to others by belittling them for other reasons (cus you can beat then in poker when they aren't trying, or cus you can down a raid boss before them, etc). You seek a more difficult way to do things so you can then claim to be better then others, when in fact you feel inferior.

Rather then analyze and criticize these others peoples actions, maybe you should try to analyze yourself and seek to understand why you feel the way you do about other people that actually have fun. The blog you do now is interesting.... but that would be a lot more interesting.

Yaggle said...

I am not positive if you are unhappy that Wow has become a beer party game, has always been a beer party game, or is becoming more and more of a beer party game? Or are you unhappy that in WOTLK more beer party members are being herded into the instances where they annoy content-minded people who are not afk too much? Part of me wants to agree with you completely but part of me worries that you want to make everybody play the game the same way you do.
Personally I think that the instances are too easy in WoTLK and that Blizzard are the ones with the problem because they are trying to get people to play how they want them to play and get them all into raids.

Dominique said...

Well, Gevlon, it seems we got more incommon than I expected :-) (although I am a lot worse at gaining gold, but hey... that's details).

"I never seen any point in any of the mentioned activities. I found the company of half-to-full drunken guys laughing like horses on bad jokes anything but fun."
I also never get/got (seeing I'm still a university student...) those activities either. And yes @some comments: maybe it is the fleeing from "inaptness" with socializing, or maybe it's because we try to do what we are good at/enjoy the most ourselves.

@Anonymous: "I find it quite sad, and ironic, that you place more value in success at a game, or puzzle, etc, then you do in social skills."
Why? Are social skills of higher importance than success at whatever you can come up with?
Because I have to say I place more value in success in anything (not limited to games orso) than social skills. Does that make me a lesser being? Or a bad person?
Maybe, but it is just who and what I am. And I'm fine with that.

Anyways, I can say I have done and am still doing HC playing atm, but slowly steering towards "beer game"-playing or quitting altogether. Clearing current content in ~4 hours is nice, but it's not enough to keep my attention. And I am not certain the "beer-game"-experience will be liked by me, but we'll see. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, although I heavily doubt it seeing my 'ego'.

ps. @Larisa: You are the sort of person I would cater and 'train' imo. Having less gaming experience does not equal no skill or being noob. The will to learn and the attitude you have are far superior to having "skills". Skills can be learned to a certain degree, will to learn can't.

You wake it, you tank it. said...

My wife and I have always said, "WoW is the worlds most complex internet chat client."

Honestly, I don't mind that. I'm enjoying the content and above that, I'm enjoying experiencing the content with my friends. When I've PuG'd naxx runs or whatever, 9 times out of 10, they're all business with a lack of sense of humor and then it's just work.

When I'm running with friends( none of the "hardcore", all of them extremely talented! ) we cut up, we make jokes, we "accidentally" misdirect onto the holy paladin.

My daughter goes to bed at 6:30 every night and sleeps through the night, which leaves my wife and I plenty of time to prepare dinner, enjoy each other's company, and then log in and enjoy the company of people we find interesting.

Joe Nothin' said...

Actually, i play with people i know IRL, and most other people i meet online also play with IRL friends.

It is a beer game, and for me it allways was, but it was a beer game without beer. As a gamer, i hate going out and sitting and pubs, becuase it feels like we rean't actually doing anything. The doing something togther is part of the fun, not just an excuse for fun.

This is why dual specs and "bring the player not the class" are important. The game needs to chalanging, but it needs to be chalanging in a way that every group of friends can beat togther without having to add strangers into the mix. This is why i also support your idea of harder 5-men instances, where raid contant is entry level and then you move on to heroic VCs and hoggers. It allows the smaller groups of friends to achive bigger things togther without giveing up on the group part.

One-Eyed Jack said...

The problem for your argument is that WoW doesn't have a set goal. Poker and games like volleyball do, so someone who is "having fun" while playing poker isn't "having fun" playing poker, because they aren't really playing poker at all.

What is the goal of WoW? Collecting the most money? Achievement points? Boss kills? Arena championships? Raid completion?

And let's say I pick any of these. Whole areas of the game indicate that the game is, at least in part, designed to be a graphical chat room. What's the point of a funny pirate hat or eating strange foods or being fired out of a cannon?

Some people pick up an aspect of the game and run with it. I'm a hardcore raider, so that's the game I like to play. But I'm well aware that I have chosen that goal among myriad options. Some players PvP. Some collect titles or vanity pets. Other players treat it like a fun bar to hang out in. Some people treat it like an elaborate costume trunk for improvisation games (the RPers).

However, because there is no set goal, no analogies to poker, sports or anything else make sense. You can't win WoW. It has no set winning conditions.

Any goal you pick is arbitrary. This isn't poker. It's more like the YMCA. You can't win at YMCA. You just pick a sport and play, or maybe hang out during the rec pool time.

Vidar said...

Gavlon, you remind me a bit of Sheldon in the big bang theory.

Actually, you remind me quite a lot of Sheldon.


Also. You seem to suffer from an extreme case of the curse of greyface.


http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/negativism.html


I'm a slacker, and I see pursuing slack as one of the primary goals in my life.
Chew on that for a bit.

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