Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sanity or Competence?

This week boatorious made a remarkable comment on this blog:
"It's absurd that playing WoW involves so much time out of game researching and watching youtube videos. And it's frustrating that most people don't do this and waste my time.

I don't hold anything against them -- they’re clearly the sane ones. I just wish I didn’t have to choose between sanity and competence."
While it is a bit extreme a sentiment, this is basically the opposite view from the elitist jerks who are constantly complaining about how dumb other players are. Sorry, knowing arcane details of theorycrafting or boss strategies has nothing to do with intelligence. Just like knowing how the capital of Mongolia is called has nothing to do with intelligence, it is information which you either learned or didn't learn.

Much of the information in World of Warcraft is not obvious. Everybody "knows" that spirit is good for priests but useless for paladins, but it would take an inordinate amount of time and effort to find that out just by playing the game. Instead there are theorycrafting sites and blogs giving class-specific advice, who'll tell you. It is essentially cheating.

If you only use in-game resources, the only way to find out what some boss mob has for abilities is to fight him. I fully plan to enter my first Cataclysm dungeons completely uninformed, although I'm sure that somebody will complain that I don't know all boss strategies by heart on the first day after release already, using Youtube videos and sites like Bosskillers with info from the beta.

Not looking up everything is not just a question of "sanity", as boatorious expresses it. It is also a question of *playing* a game. It is undoubted that playing lets say an adventure game or single-player role-playing game is faster and more efficient if you use a walkthrough guide. But what exactly would be the point of that? Isn't *not knowing* and finding out things part of the game, and part of the fun? For me the fact that a RPG is massively online multiplayer doesn't change that fundamental concept of discovery essentially *being* the game, or at least a big part of it.

Not that I have anything against competence, but it only really is competent if you find things out by yourself. Following written instructions by somebody else may make you *appear* competent, but doesn't actually require all that much intelligence. How hard is passing a test if you have all the answers written down by somebody else available? Most players would be completely unable to fight a boss mob with random abilities, because then there wouldn't be a YouTube video telling them what to do.

And where does that so-called "competence" get us? Strictly nowhere! It enables players to finish a dungeon in 20 minutes instead of one hour. Everybody chases speed, without considering for a moment where to the path leads that everybody is rushing down. You can't win a MMORPG, and the only prize for reaching the end faster is being bored earlier.

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