Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Am (or Am Not) My Character

Interesting times.

In the World of Warcraft, the next raid instance (Uldaman) has been previewed and the content is causing a bit of a stir. To get to the instance you have to take part in a massive battle using war machines to smash through enemy forces and then take down a massive tank. It all sounds rather epic and frankly quite innovative. However, it is ruffling the feathers of a fair number of players because they cannot 'play their character' - rather, they are in control of a war machine and have the abilities that it conveys. This is seen as devaluing their character and its achievements in gather loot and their achievements in learning to play their class. It could be seen as the final iteration of Blizzard's new 'bring the player, not the class' philosophy. Its all about the player skill rather than the precise build of the particular class they are playing. The comment, however, which prompted this post was this:

" This is dumb. You could just have a Level 1 in the machine playing it!"

Comments like this have always bemused me as I have never really understood the status games that come with being a higher level character in a game where (a) you can make alts, (b) levelling is so easy and (c) not everyone started at the same time.

I am reminded of something my old art teacher, Mr Pringle, told us - " You may or may not be more intelligent than I am, but I probably know more than you ... at the moment. Don't ever confuse knowledge with intelligence."

Or ... " You may or may not be a better player than I am, but I have experienced more content than you ... at the moment. Don't ever confuse level with skill."

Of course, this isn't restricted to WoW. I play in an online wrestling federation game called 'The Wrestling Game' (creative, I know). Its a good game and has provided me with nearly a year of great roleplay and gaming fun. However, the developers and admins just love a fiddle and recent changes to the way federations are ran are nonsensical to say the least. When I commented on this matter, another player replied.

"I don't see why a mid-carder like you should be angry or comment about something like this."

Putting aside the fact that I wasn't in the least bit angry (for once), I was shocked that my status within the federation (as 'King of the Mid Card') and my level within the game (18 out of 25 levels ) should somehow mean that the contribution I could make to the community and the development of the game was less! Obviously I lambasted the poor soul who made the mistake but it was an eye-opener to the particularly damning nature of people when it comes to status and computer games.

Its something I have never seen around a roleplaying table and I assume that this is because we are all familiar with each other in real life. Online, the only real measure that people have is their avatar personas, although in the case of TWG, I've certainly been my normal open self about who I am and what I do so its not as if I am some sort of faceless automaton.

So remember folks - its not about the size of the man, its about the size of his EPICS!


Anonymous said...

I could write so much about this particular issue it's rather sad (on my part) and I'm sure a long complex reply on the varied nature of objectives that people can have in online gaming environments would bopth be dull and boring.

To keep it short then, and non-academic:

Some people care about epics.

Some people don't care about epics.

Some people, who care about epics, mock the people who don't.

Some people, who don't care about epics, mock the people who do care about epics for caring about epics.

Some people even drink (and like) skimmed milk.

Its a strange, strange world we live in.


Fandomlife said...

This is common in all on-line gaming communities. If it isn't, the chances are it will come into being.

They always end up measuring something, though at times I'll not get into what, that in turn is taken as a measurement of status.

It can be anything, experience, honour points, Xbox Live Achievements, whatever.

Fandomlife said...

Oh, and as for role-playing, we've never seen it around the table, and I suspect that is true of most tables.

That is until you go to an RPGA event, which I believe has measures and metrics to assess ones 'something' within the RPGA.

Anonymous said...

Lies, no-one really likes skimmed milk!


Anonymous said...

"This is common in all on-line gaming communities."


Even in communities like online forums objective measures to rank importance become very important to *some* people.

Post count as being a "significant community member" for example.

Some people like objective measures of their own "online" achievements that they can brag/boast or even, at the other extreme, just have the quiet satisfaction, in knowing that they are better than someone else when measured against the same scale.

In other words, achievements in WoW are suitable to a LOT of personality types.


Matt said...

Including some of ours