OK, so apparently, World of Warcraft is supposed to be angling to be more warlike, pitting the Alliance and the Horde against each other as in days of yore. Actions have been taken by both sides that are somewhat less than tolerant and neighborly, leading to something resembling hate. Faction pride rests largely on putting the other guys down, and as Raph Koster notes (among other things in this interesting presentation), the service business model (live games, whether subscription or microtransaction) relies heavily on emotional attachment.
On the other hand, there’s this Corpsegrinder fellow, no doubt his moniker of choice indicating his civility and kindness, caught in a recording embodying an attitude we might see as somewhat less than tolerant and neighborly, fracturing the WoW community. The reaction has predictably been… hostile.
I don’t really intend to speak to the political or social concerns with Corpsegrindergate, other than to note that I think the guy isn’t someone I’d invite to my home. No, what interests me at the moment is the juxtaposition between the efforts to foster war and division within the game, and the bitter divides that arise out of the game. How curious it is that hate might be said to drive both (and there’s plenty of hate and anger to go around… Mr. Ranty McGrumpypants Corpsegrinder isn’t the only fellow who needed a nap), yet the former is somehow desirable while the latter isn’t, as if hating someone because they were part of the Alliance or the Horde is somehow less prejudiced than real world bigotry. (And if we’re going to run the “it’s just a game” excuse, that cuts both ways.) It’s so easy to demonize the Other… but it’s not paying attention to what’s really there.
I tend to think that driving faction pride and rage-fueled PvP isn’t wise for the community at large. BBB and his commenters note occasions where die hard Horde players are civil around Alliance players (and why are Hordies assumed to be ruder in general?), so I’m not asserting a full correlation (thankfully)… but I do think that the faction split should be framed more as competition than contention. There are plenty of threats to Azeroth and its denizens that we don’t need to manufacture internecine warfare. It’s no longer us as a single player pitting our RTS armies against a computer, those Hordies or Alliance grunts are piloted by real people who have a tendency to take offense, whether intended or not.
Some players will always take things personally, and some jerks are simply jerks. Some people are incurably ignorant. Few will conflate real life with the game… but hatred leaves its prints on attitudes and learned behavior, no matter the venue. It’s a burden on the soul that weighs in at the most inopportune moments. Yes, drama and games tend to be based on conflict of some sort, someone winning while someone else loses, but the attitudes behind that drive can vary. It’s always interesting to me to see how devs try to mold player actions and attitudes.
Hate is a powerful, driving force. It’s also a potentially hazardous thing to use to fuel your game. Competition and contention aren’t the same thing. Much like it’s silly to piddle around with various poop harvesting quests while Deathwing is in the wings, Azerothians have better things to do than engage in a deadly version of “he said, she said”. If we’re supposed to be heroes in Azeroth, petty squabbling isn’t going to help.