Being Useless

Via Tobold, I discovered a very insightful blog, the Greedy Goblin. I've wondered for some time now why I'm not particularly interested in playing WoW anymore. And now I have the answer.

Greedy Goblin describes the "theory of leisure", that one of the ways to attract mates is to show that you can afford to waste money, support useless people and do nothing useful. That you can afford wrecking Ferraris, buying bling-bling and having pompous parties all of the time. Or grind faction rep, complete achivements and get that last epic item. In TBC, I justified to myself that grinding mats for shadow resistance gear was required to reach Illidan, or respeccing to Deep Fire and Leatherworking just to kill Brutallus was reasonable.

But now.. in Wrath, leisure is all you have. Why get gear when blues are enough to kill almost every raid boss? Why grind rep when you don't need the enchant? Why complete achievements when you already have a mount? Or a title? Or a tabard? That just does not make sense according to my utilitarian mindset. And therefore I don't do it.

To think of it.. some of the animosity between "casual" and "hardcore" can spring from the theory of leisure. The strawman image of the hardcore is the "no-life" nerd, who seems to subconciously think that just showing that he can devote so much time to something as useless as MMORPGs, he can make people believe that he's successful enough to be able to afford to do that, even if he's neglecting other aspects of his life. In other words, he's relying on people to commit the fallacy of non sequitur. Conversely, the strawman image of the casual flaunts his real-life credentials, saying that he doesn't need the "vestments" of being successful.. and then wants them anyway. The hardcore will ridicule the casual saying that if the casual was really successful, he could afford the time and effort to get the vestments himself. The casual will retort that the vestments are meaningless anyway, and that the hardcore are overcompensating. My part in those arguments has been to show that the vestments require less time and effort than the hardcore says they do, which devalues them. And funnily enough, it's often the casual who I end up arguing against, because devaluing the vestments also deflates their argument that the hardcore are sacrificing too much.

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right.
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.


Tesh said...

I still can't wrap my head around the idea that the way someone else plays is somehow important to my enjoyment. As long as that other player isn't griefing me directly by corpse camping or something, I don't really care how they play the game.


I do have some concerns when it comes to the business model, and how beancounters seem to only be able to think in therms of "number of subscribers", but that's barely tangential.

Tesh said...

Oh, and GG has part 3 of the theory of leisure articles up now. Thanks for the link!

Shalkis said...

Never underestimate the power of the pecking order, even if the ranking criteria is completely arbitrary. Realizing that there is always a bigger fish and thus you won't make it to the top can be soulcrushing. Or liberating, depending on the individual.

Ixobelle said...

There was a stand up comedy routine (and many like it I'm sure) that goes something like:

...I hate driving anywhere. I'm always surrounded by assholes and maniacs...

The argument goes that everyone driving on the freeway faster than you are maniacs, and everyone going slower is an asshole, which pretty much sums up the hardcore/casual (or loser/noob) thing. Anyone playing more than you is a loser or too hardcore (jesus it's just a game!), and anyone who plays less is a noob or too casual (L2play, L2raid, etc etc).

It gets tiring, but yeah... this is our hobby. :(

I'm getting closer to the "i really should be doing something else with my time, and a 3 month old son in the house", but i don't pretend it's because OMGTEHGAMEISEZMODENOW or whatever ;)

Shalkis said...

At least on a freeway, the effect of "assholes and maniacs" on your driving speed is minimized. I just wish they had kept the winding mountain roads as an alternative. It seems that if you bow deeply to one direction, you also show your behind to the other.

Mike Darga said...

I love this! Just goes to show that any knowledge is useful in game design.

Shalkis said...

Indeed. Some of the early game designers were veritable renaissance men with varying academic backgrounds, who did game design, coding, graphics and sound on their own. And even today, that is still a viable way of developing indie games.

However, the scope of most games is quite prohibitive to be developed by just a few people. Derek Smart learnt this the hard way. A "dream team" for game development nowadays would probably include psychologists, architects, sociologists, economists, philosophers, historians, novelists, geologists, biologists, doctors, military analysts and many more in addition to the usual suspects. Fortunately, even if the game company hires just one of those people, their contributions do tend to have a very noticeable positive impact in the game. For example, the World War 2-themed FPS games have come a very long way since Wolfenstein 3D.

Kristin said...

Having left the game at a very different lifestyle than the one I now posess upon returning to WoW, I can honestly say it has changed my perspective somewhat on what casual actually is - or rather, what it should be percieved as being.

While the "pecking order" has its relevance solely within the Warcraft environment, when one's life is balanced, I think that not only does the pecking order cease to matter - but what actually defines the order (as you say, arbitrary) changes. Whether as a function of "don't know" or "don't care", it depends on how much the individual puts themselves into that heirarchy - because you can't sit at the top of a mountain that isn't there. Not only is the ranking criteria arbitrary, as you put it - its SO arbitrary that I'd argue its existence insofar as one has to care enough to see it in the first place. A person who is favourably distracted with the other aspects of life, and balanced, simply will not put the kind of weight into such a heirarchy - to do so would take time and energy away from the game as an enjoyable hobby, which is what I would think most successful "real life" people would want it to remain, and nothing more - regardless of their skill level.

The superior player won't care, because he doesn't have to.
The inferior player won't care, because he doesn't need to.

Both can be casual, however - most especially in WolTK.

Looking at the word casual, I have to ask myself in the context of this expansion what such a term actually means?

Is casual a function of time spent in the game?

Once upon a time, this certainly would quality as "yes". Early days pvp grinds were so dependent on being in bgs constantly that high warlords often reached their rank by sharing the account with other players. TBC was a fest of motes and rep and marks, 80s to heroics to Kara and onward. If you weren't "on", you weren't going to get anywhere, was the general consensus.

And yet...time alone in the game wasn't an indicator of "seriousness" - I've known many people who spent hours in WoW and were far from being focused on actually understanding their class, even at 70 - in these cases I'm not really sure why they play. Perhaps as a social outlet, perhaps as a fantasy environment/escape.

I've known others who log in far more sporadically for specific and (a term I hesistate to use) elite purposes, such as high-end arenas, who would define themselves as "casual" simply because they don't embrace WoW as the primary time-suck of their week and are extremely selective in how they make use of it.

Especially as WolTK is "casual friendly" it still fascinates me that some people still go without sleep, play for days without a break, and seemingly have nothing else to capture their interest. This isn't a judgement of anyone, but a simple obvervation, because I can't see how this game can still keep people THERE so much anymore.

This is perhaps, in part, a function of my lifestyle and/or age (people being free to play 24-7 not being breadwinners for a family, not being fully-employed, being a student, etc)...or are hampered financially/professionally by the economy.

When I stand back and observe the game environment - the "WoW society" as it were - I observe that many that spend a lot of time in WoW do not do so because they are successful or free to do so - but simply because they have nowhere else to go or reject a more social lifestyle for myriad (and often very complicated economic/emotional/social) reasons.

As such, usually question any sort of elitist/mmo heirarchy mindset as a pacifier for those that "need" the feeling of accomplishment and/or success that is lacking in their working or personal life. Its not a given - but there's enough of it to see the pattern.

Is casual a function of skill?

Some of the best "ex" raiders I know right now - in particular some old ex-Ubi friends who (for lack of a better phrase) are "over it", and are simply no longer interested in the raid "rat race" and the heightened urgency some individuals still place upon the WoW world. They simply don't feel an urgency to commit extended time to the game anymore, and their confidence level is such that "not" getting the top tier items isn't particuarly high priority.

In some ways, raiding with them is the perfect fit for us, as they have the skill and understanding of class and game mechanics, but without the heightened urgency - being knowledgable, but relaxed, spending as much time at work or elsewhere, or in wintergrasp.....its truly the best of both worlds, unless one simply must have the best items, the soonest, from pve encounters.

An interesting post, Shalkis, it gave me a lots to ponder