Monday, October 21, 2013

World of Warcraft: the working class dreamworld

World of Warcraft is a strange "game". Actually it's not even a game as you can't win or lose it. You can't even win or lose aspects of it like an EVE battle. You always get rewards, your character always progresses. Yet it's the most popular MMO. Why?

Surely not because its fantasy world. People just ignore it. They talk about mobs, abilities, ilvl, chat about real life things while playing and so on. If the orcs would be replaced by humans in the next expansion, no one would care, just like there was no comment on the new races in the various expansions.

Playing World of Warcraft is an escapism into an ideal world. But what way it is ideal? It is the working class dreamworld:
  • There is no unemployment: there are quests, mobs and instances whenever you want to access them
  • Work is needed, not performance: you were in a battleground and lost horribly? Here are some honor points as payment. Damaged less than the disc priest in the looking for raid? Here is your well earned valor point and loot. In WoW your performance isn't judged. If you show up and make some effort, you get rewarded, regardless of the worth of your activity.
  • Low income inequities: are you below average in performance? Are you putting in much less effort than most? Nevermind, your rewards are just a bit lower than what the best of the best gets. The ilvl difference between a total slacker and the world first is less than 25%
  • Constant progression: you can replace your car... I mean your mount and gear every month, no matter how bad you are
You know, the socialists didn't demand freebies. That's the morons and slackers. The socialist, Marxists always demanded work. These people want to contribute and want to be proud of their work. They however worship working itself, and not its product. If you spend digging holes and refilling them, you are entitled to salary - they believe.

But the World doesn't work this way. You can't get decent salary for flipping burgers or can't even get any job in lack of qualifications. To make it worse, not even games work this way: Basketball, Chess or an FPS game gives you nothing just a "you have lost" for your efforts. To win, you have to be better than the other player/team. So they flock to "games" where you don't have to be better than any standard.

It's sad to recognize, but the dream World of socials is a place where everyone can flip burgers and get paid for it well.

I don't find this world a dream, rather a nightmare. I rather play games where your actions shape your future and you become different in results than the other guys. For example now I have 100B+/month solo and dualbox kills in EVE, something that very few players can achieve. Why? Because I don't just log in and do as told, but think, analyze and act much more efficiently than them.

Ganking goes on, providing more anti-tears:

Of course you also find morons. Luckly loot fairy hates morons and loves those who destroy them. Also, there are still good pods in bad ships.

The Catalyst ganking guide is updated with this graph:


GrayzBDF said...

I agree. It's very scary to see how mindsets in-game are so connected to the mindsets IRL.

When analyzing my own journey as a WoW player my view on the majority of the playerbase is getting darker and darker for every week. Slacking is the norm and bloggers/podcasters that "do it for the community!" endorse the slacking mentality more often than not.

I miss The PuG, but I can understand why you're staying away from WoW.

Keep on rocking. And thanks for years of inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I think your eve example doesn't fit your post. You get a lot of barges, but you don't get anything more from it than a lazy ganker. It's really a counter example, since you get the same nothing. Unless you count the loot but I don't think it's worth the difference in time spent.

Azuriel said...

You just described the difference between competitive, head-to-head games and... all other games. Good job? Your analogies don't really make any sense though, considering that the "burger-flipping salary" and your presumably higher salary are, in fact, worth exactly the same amount, e.g. fun.

And let's not pretend that A) EVE doesn't also have its minimum wage activities (skill gains, AFK mining), and B) that WoW legitimately has its own competitive elements between Arena and server/world-first raid kills.

Anonymous said...

"an FPS game gives you nothing just a "you have lost" for your efforts"

Well, in Tribes: Ascend 90% of XP gained in a match came from the time spent on it, and only the remaining 10% was dependent on your performance and whether you won or lost.

So "welfare gaming" is not something limited only to MMORPGs

Anonymous said...

Interesting view. How would you apply it to a MMOFPS like Planet Side 2? It's much like the working class paradise you describe. No real personal penalty for failure except for waiting out a timer to get more planes/armor/explosives and maybe having to take a long walk back to the front.

I like your M&S->Rational schema. How would you fit in the varying amount of rl time invested? I like think of myself as a rational, but I don't have the inclination to spend the time it takes to manage twelve accounts, much less plex them, or to be a mover in null sec.

Can you be a casual rational?

Woody said...

I don't believe WoW players are any more likely to be socialists in real life than Eve players. Grayz had no evidence to back up any statement about in game attitudes mirroring real life. It's just Web forum talk.

Also I view Eve as a game just like WoW. Both are mere entertainment and less productive than real life burger flipping.

I attribute no value to achievements in either game. It is something to do to keep my hands occupied whilst watching TV on a cold dark winters evening.

All comes down to what you as an individual want to get out of your entertainment. One could reasonably argue that those who achieve the least in real life are more likely to attempt to gain a sense of fulfilment and achievement in a game.

JimL said...

"World of Warcraft is a strange "game". Actually it's not even a game as you can't win or lose it. You can't even win or lose aspects of it like an EVE battle. You always get rewards, your character always progresses."

Not true. In WoW you can lose a battleground. When you lose you still may get something, but the winner will get a greater amount. Also, you are ignoring the cost of time. Losing a BG still takes time and a winner will make significantly more reward per hour than a loser. There are also challenge scenarios, achievements, and all sorts of other content that allow you to "win".

In past posts you have tried to imply that WoW has become too easy due to catering to morons and slacker, yet when you were playing you were never able to beat current hardmode endgame content. If the game is so easy, why were you unable to beat it?

In reality, WoW has has implimented easier modes in order to be accessible to a wider audience, but there is still challenging content available to anyone who wants it. In fact, one of the benefits of the easier modes is that the harder content can now be made even harder because it isn't designed for everyone.

The Chess program that comes with Microsoft Windows has a setting to adjust the level of the computer AI (from very easy modes that can be beat by almost anyone familiar with the game to very difficult modes that would challenge grandmasters). Does the existence of easy modes in that chess program invalidate the idea of playing it at harder levels just because anyone can say they beat it? Then how is WoW any different in this regard?

As for the difference in ilvl, even though the difference may only be 25% or so, there still is a difference. Also, a good player is going to reach higher ilvls much faster than a total moron because the good player will have multiple paths to gear up some of which are unavailable to the M&S player. The M&S player will also take longer because he will frequently be kicked from groups and will not go after the gear optimally (if he did, he wouldn't be a M&S).

All of that is beside the point though. Why does it matter to you that another player is able to get rewards that are almost as good as yours? Is the challenge and enjoyment you get from the game lessened because they get welfare gear?

Lucas Kell said...

"Actually it's not even a game as you can't win or lose it."
Well since a game doesn't have to have win/lose conditions, your entire argument falls down here. A game is something people play for fun and amusement. You try to make everything competitive, but that doesn't mean that's the definition.

As for what Anon above said, he's right, how is your ganking any different? If you go to gank someone and fail, you don't lose, you just go back out an gank again. You don't need to be skillful, you don't need to do anything special, you yourself have said that anyone can gank. So you just grind. You are no different from a WoW player grinding lowbie mobs for gold, except you think you are somehow changing the game, while they accept they are just grinding for gold.

Anonymous said...

His goal is to shape EVE through his actions. Gev wants miners to learn to tank properly. It is not his main goal to top the kill board. He just keeps bringing it up.

Are there any other ways we can shape eve too?

Gevlon said...

@JimL: if you lose in a game, you lose points. If you lose in WoW, you gain points. In a real game you cannot progress with only losing. In WoW, you can progress even if you literally fail in everything you try.

@Lucas: if I fail a gank, I lose my Catalyst. I won't get it back.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: real games don't just give "fun". They give improvement in some real world skill. If you are a good basketball player, you are probably healthier, stronger than the average person. If you are a good chess player, you are probably smarter than the average person.

If you are an MMO player, you are likely a ... fat basement dweller. While this is a prejudice, it has a reason: MMO playing doesn't really need real world skills to succeed, because it needs no gaming skills to succeed either.

Balkoth said...

"The ilvl difference between a total slacker and the world first is less than 25%"

Ilvl is exponential. Same gap between 10 ilvl and 40 ilvl as 500 ilvl and 530 ilvl. And the second character is about 60% stronger in both cases.

Total slacker at the moment would likely have 530ish ilvl assuming they've been grinding for the legendary cloak, valor, and running LFR. World first would have about 570 ilvl at the moment -- about 80% stronger in character power alone.

maxim said...

First off, you are way misrepresenting the socialistic thinking. If you just up and decided to dig and fill holes on your own, nobody is going to pay you anything. You are only owed payment in two situations
1) your superior ordered the ground moved back and forth, then he owes you pay for work
2) somebody recognises the useful properties of ground that has been flipped over (as opposed to ground that has not been) and offers to pay you for continued services.

In this regard, socialism is no different from capitalism.

On the subject of WoW, it is a tricky game indeed. It lures you in with the promise of an epic world and all those classic RPG reward-effort cycles, and on the journey until the endgame it works well enough.

Endgame, however, is a completely different game indeed and has much more to do with your ability to work as a part of stable group towards a shared objective than any other skill.

In fact, most players don't even notice this shift happens and remain stuck in their usual RPG-ey patterns while slowly accumulating burnout as they try to solve social problems with RPG performance metrics.

Those who do notice this shift happens, or - even better - those who weren't playing the game of loot and numbers from the start - tend to do a lot better in WoW. And also tend to carry away from it a lot more useful real-life things, from basic social interaction skills up to and including marriages.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: but socialist demand "someone" to give them work, aka hire them to flip soil

@Balkoth: So a world first is 1.7x more powerful than a total loser. In the same time Bill Gates earns 100000x more than a burger flipper.

Socialists doesn't deny the differences between people. Just want to keep it low.

vinciblegod said...

Many people in America currently believe that the widening gap between the rich and the middle class is a problem. I would assume you believe the opposite (since you gave the 1.7x vs 10000x example).

Balkoth said...

"So a world first is 1.7x more powerful than a total loser. In the same time Bill Gates earns 100000x more than a burger flipper."

No, it's like saying Bill Gates has a computer twice as good as the average person.

Think about basketball -- let's say a professional player can bench press twice as much and run twice as fast as you or I can. They're still more than twice as good at basketball because they're much better at dribbling, moving around the court, executing plays, and so forth.

So in reality that good player's raw output is going to be like three or four times as much in additional to being able to execute mechanics/avoid bad stuff/etc. A single good player is worth like five bad players (and even when we say "bad" we mean people who took the time to hit max level, ran LFR a bunch, and are trying to hit their buttons).

Keep in mind that WoW also has a hard cap on player limits in tough fights. You could kill a boss with 10 average players. You could kill the same boss with 6-7 good players. You can't kill the boss with 20 bad players because you can't take more than 10.

In such an environment, even small differences in skill and character power make a massive difference. Doing 25% more damage is absolutely huge, let alone 70%+ more.

JimL said...

@Gevlon:"If you lose in a game, you lose points."

in another comment you mentioned basketball players. Lebron James (or Kob Bryant, Dwight Howard, etc.) all get paid millions of dollars whether they win or lose.

If anything a wow battleground provides more incentive to try and win than a professional basketball game does. In a battleground there is a big difference between what the winners and losers get. Professional basketball players get paid the same regardless of the outcome.

Besides, you are ignroing the repeated mentions of Areana and rated battlegrounds where you do lose points by losing. You also ignore challenge mode scenarios where you get nothing if you do not meet a certain standard.

In other words your theory is bunk because it is based on wrong assumption that require you to ignore lots of counter-examoles.

Balkoth said...


"In a real game you cannot progress with only losing. In WoW, you can progress even if you literally fail in everything you try."

See, I was under the mistaken impression that you had to succeed to kill normal and heroic mode bosses. I thought they'd refuse to flop over out of pity.

But maybe my 150+ wipes on many bosses didn't matter because at wipe 500 the boss automatically dies. That's clearly what happens!

I mean, if anything LFR in WoW is like welfare -- if you show up, you'll get some very basic and not very good rewards along with an awful experience. If you actually try you can get far better items and a much better experience.

Nielas said...

You are missing a key point. Virtually all MMORPGs are set in a luxury economy. Your character will never starve and does not need shelter. Even death is not really a serious consideration.

What this means that any tasks a player does in the game are no more than hobbies and 'nice to do' tasks. With infinite respawns wasting resources has little effect on the wellbeing of others. Players can engage in utterly wasteful 'dig hole-fill in hole' endevours like Gevlon's ganking campaign and it will only cost them disposable wealth that they do not really need anyway.

You can't really compare a game luxury economy to socialism since you are dealing with a different value system. Players in MMORPGs grind not to feed their families but to afford the game equivalent of a Rolex. MMORPGS are 'elite class dreamworlds'.

Anonymous said...

all the symbols in RL are represented in MMOs. everything we do will get some stats attached to it so we all can compare each other in this ayn rand perfect egoistic world. So it doesn't matter if you play WoW or EvE it's all the same.

so grind. post. valor. kill. collect cards. it will boast your status.

100B+/month isk destroyed boxed.
this is one of the ultimate stats to be judged. all your efficiency to cramp any valuable second into the next kill. it's one of the various measurements to keep your freetime full of stats and comparable to others. You did a good job!

I did nothing the last month. absolutely nothing. work 10h, round trip to work 2h, 4h for what I consider life, rest sleep ... day in and out. I'm glad that sundays are free for now. that will change probably soon though. thanks to the crisis hoax. soon it will be 365 days of work minus some days leave a year. I don't play even that much anymore.

Lucas Kell said...

" if I fail a gank, I lose my Catalyst. I won't get it back."
If you die in a raid in WoW you lose some gold repairing your gear. It's exactly the same. It's a trivial amount and you can carry on regardless.

Azuriel said...

If I fail a gank, I lose my Catalyst. I won't get it back.

You lose time. That's it. That is all anyone ever loses in any videogame, outside of specific tournaments (etc). Even then, it's just an opportunity cost.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: ganks succeed if the opposing player is bad. I was never ganked in my life. If all the other players would learn to play, I couldn't gank at all.

However if everyone else would be an expert WoW player, Arthasdklol would still progress.

maxim said...

@Maxim: but socialist demand "someone" to give them work, aka hire them to flip soil

I have never actually seen anyone stand in the street and cry "someone give us work, any work at all!!!!"

The few times i know of where that had happened were because the workers didn't really want "any work at all", but rather considered the work that's actually available to be beneath them.

Which, again, has little to do with socialism and actually happens in capitalistically structured economies on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

"Well since a game doesn't have to have win/lose conditions, your entire argument falls down here."

lol, of course games must have a wictory condition. Otherwise it's not a game by definition. Real definition, not your backyard one.

Woody said...

I don't see why a role playing game must necessarily have a win condition.

Hanging out, socialising, role playing conversations or just taking in the scenery can be enough.

I guess having fun can be the win condition. If you don't enjoy yourself then you lost.

Anonymous said...

@Anon "lol, of course games must have a wictory condition. Otherwise it's not a game by definition. Real definition, not your backyard one."

Oxford Dictionaries said:

1. a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

2. an activity that one engages in for amusement

Try again...

Anonymous said...

"However if everyone else would be an expert WoW player, Arthasdklol would still progress."

Actually, no.

Blizzard balances WoW fitting to their players. For example, they ease (nerf) raids down, when a majority of players hits a road block in progress. So, if all players except Arthasdklol would be expert players, WoW would be tuned much to hard for him to accomplish anything. Even quest mobs would slaugther him.

Argon said...

Interesting idea. I'm quite familiar with communism/socialism ideology, and I've been thinking MMO is actually their dream world, but with a different reason than yours.

In an MMO, no one can make something in the environment "their property". People can still own gears, but not the environment. There are unlimited number of bosses. No one can occupy an area and say "there bosses are mine". Therefore, everyone can work with the bosses when they want.

There are different performance, and bad players still have lesser wealth than good players, but the difference is not much, because the bosses are always "public". Just imagine, if the bosses become someone "private property", the difference between top and bottom will be much larger.

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