Sunday, January 17, 2010

I don't like bananas

I don't like bananas. I do like apples, and I eat one every day.

This is post #3000 on my MMORPG blog, so why the heck am I talking about bananas? The statement above is a simple statement of preference, and you probably couldn't be any less interested in what my personal preferences for fruit are. No banana fan is going to turn up to try to show me the error of my ways, telling me how the magnesium in the banana is good for me. No fans of apples are going to agree with me, or start calling the banana fans "a bunch of monkeys". We all understand that different people like different fruit, and there is absolutely no reason to get all excited about that.

I don't like Star Trek Online. I do like World of Warcraft, and I play it every day.

This is obviously the same template of a simple statement of personal preference. It is equally true. But suddenly I get commenters trying to explain to me how wrong I am, that I just happened to miss the good parts of Star Trek Online, or any other game I don't like. And I even get people accusing me of being paid by Blizzard to promote their game [For the record: I am not paid by Blizzard, nor do I receive any form of freebies or other goodies from them. I got a press pass to a Blizzard convention in Europe from them. Once. Two years ago. Travel not included.]. So why is the same type of statement of preference suddenly leading to so much more emotional reactions? The answer is in social identity theory. It describes the, quote: "natural tendency to construct identities based on group membership. Part of who you are –and how you communicate that to others– is defined by what groups you belong to."

When you pick a fruit out of a fruit bowl, you don't feel you joined such a group. Picking a MMORPG however requires a somewhat higher degree of commitment. There is usually a higher cost involved. And if you want to get anywhere in that MMORPG, you need to commit a serious amount of time to that game. Thus we perceive this choice as more important than choosing a fruit, and it is important to us to believe that we made the "right choice". We effectively joined the club of those haven chosen the same game as us, and those who choose a different game are a different group, and it becomes "us" against "them".

Because having made the "right choice" is important to us, anyone having made a different choice is perceived as a threat. At the very least we feel a need to demonstrate that the other guy's choice was "wrong", because it was obviously "us" who choose the "best" game, and not "them". That gets considerably worse if the other guy is a prominent blogger. Look, Tobold is one of "them", writing about the "wrong" game, quick, let's launch some personal attacks against him, some slander to discredit him. If Tobold plays a game with millions of subscribers and says he likes it, then obviously he was bought to influence those millions of mindless sheep, those dumb lemmings going for the lowest common denominator, the McDonalds of MMORPGs. We need to strike fast and hard to make people see the errors of their ways, how "our" game is so far superior, because there can be only one! It couldn't possibly be that a company managed to design a game which is appealing to so many people, and that Tobold just happens to be one of those many, there must be some hidden agenda!

Me, I'm standing there with that apple in my hand, scratching my head, and thinking that all these attacks, all this excitement about which is the "best" game, the "right choice", is getting old, fast. I made a choice, based on my personal preferences. Not only does nobody else have any business in telling me that my choice was wrong, not any more than they can persuade me to eat bananas. But I don't even see why everybody else is getting so defensive. My personal preferences of MMORPG features have been discussed at length, so that for example I don't like excessive instancing and soloing, or I don't like PvP, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Nor should it surprise anyone if my likes and dislikes for specific games are based on those personal preferences of this feature or another. What your "right choice" for a game is depends totally on your personal preferences, not on mine.

And I do not have an agenda in promoting one game or another on this blog. I don't make any money with this blog. I don't go begging to MMORPG companies for freebies, or offer them deals to promote their games. When companies send me stuff, I accept it, but publicly disclose what I got. That disclosure was policy on my blog since my first freebie, long before the FTC made this a rule. I simply play the games I like, then, having an analytical mind, playing makes me think, and then I blog my thoughts. It is as simple as that. I might sometimes make mistakes in my reasoning, just like anyone does. But my choice of game I play, based on my personal preferences, is certainly not an error. Believe me, after 5,000 hours in the game I would have noticed.

People who think they need to attack me for my personal choices and preferences, out of some outdated tribal thinking, make me sad. I'll stick to apples.

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