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Tobold linked to an interesting article in The New York Times a couple of days ago, wherein “hardcore” marathon runners are rather dismissive of slower runners:

Hardcord vs. Casual

It’s an interesting take on things, but fundamentally flawed when it comes to gaming.  At least, for some players.

To wit, not everyone cares about the rat race.  (Link to Ysharros’ great article on gaming principles.)

Yes, in an era of Facebook, XBox Achievements and Blizzard’s new battle.net services, where players are competitors first, pride provokes participation, and ego is the raison d’être, the tacit assumption is that the biggest reason for playing is so that others know about it.  This isn’t a surprise, but it is unfortunate.  Gaming becomes less about the game itself, great game design, or even fantastic experiences, and simply becomes a way for nerds to feel like jocks.

This has all sorts of deleterious effects on sociality (the infamous Counterstrike “emotes” being an easy example) and game design (MMOs reveling in the rut of racing rats on treadmills, idiotic “achievements” that detract from gameplay).  To be sure, some of this comes from reflexively being the contemptuous, confrontational CroMagnon cretins we are when internet anonymity facilitates and magnifies stupidity, but more and more, games are built around this impulse.  It’s certainly profitable, but more and more, I find such a trend to be disturbing.

Perhaps there’s no going back to more innocent times when games were things to enjoy, not work at for the equivalent of a part time job that costs you money.  There may not be a way to stuff the Gamer Score Genie back in the bottle.  Pandora’s preening peacocks are noisy, obnoxious beasts, but we’re stuck with them.  I think that it is unfortunate that they have such a significant bully platform, but perhaps that’s just the inevitable result of a society that manages to grow old without growing up.

Still, I’m sitting out this rat race.  I still find much more joy in the journey than I ever would by finishing it before someone else.  I don’t need someone else to feel superior to so that I can have fun in a game.

The “marathon to MMO” analogy works with the business model fairly well, though.  People buy their entry tickets, and start running.  They aren’t charged for each hour they run, or even for each mile they run, and they certainly don’t buy perpetual access to the route.  They buy access to the complete route for a chunk of time, after which said access is summarily cut off.  Is it any wonder why both the elitists and the hosts are troubled when these slower runners don’t play by the same unwritten expectations?  It’s the exact same mentality as those who say that a subscription to an MMO is a “level playing field”.  It certainly is, if you’re only looking at a couple of variables and assuming the rest, blithely ignorant of diverse goals.  (To be fair, there isn’t financial impetus to acknowledge diversity.  “One size fits all” pricing doesn’t have room for that sort of reasoning.)  Slower runners don’t fit the mold, and will always be a problem for the race mentality, even though the administrators are more than happy to take their money.

Of course, such runners would often be better served by not buying into the marathon in the first place, if it’s just a race.  Notably and naturally, I don’t buy into subscription games.  My money would be wasted on such, since the nature of the beast runs contrary to what I want out of a game.  Such oddball souls as I are better served by running at their own pace along the marathon path when it’s open to the public (GASP, Free To Play!), maybe buying lunch along the way (GASP! Freeloaders actually spending money in an environment!).  Importantly, people who feel welcome have a tendency to return the goodwill, even if they aren’t running the race that the elitists define their existence by.  (I cite again Daniel James of Three Rings/Puzzle Pirates fame:  “Money can’t buy you love, but love can bring you money.”  …as a Brit, I wonder if he was influenced by the Fab Four.)

Different strokes for different folks, to be sure, but in the end:

Not everyone is interested in the race.  Some are only interested in the route and the roses along the way.

These people are not “doing it wrong”, they are not misguided souls in need of correction, rehabilitation and scorn, they are not denigrating the sport/game.  If you as a game or marathon provider let them in and take their money, they are your customer.  If you don’t want your experience soiled with their presence, don’t take their money and don’t let them in.

Fortune cookie version for the TL;DR crowd:

He who dies with the most toys still dies“, “First means nothing without second“, and “It’s hard to smell the roses when you’re running at top speed

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The prince formerly known as Arthas obviously has issues.  Even as the Big Bad Lich King, he’s playing second fiddle to Deathwing in the recent WoW buzz about Cataclysm.  (I mean, really, which is cooler, a dragon the size of a skyscraper who can crack the earth itself, or a fallen undeadish prince with identity issues and virtual feuds with Ozzy Osbourne?)  Is it any wonder why he might be feeling a little lonely and ignored?

Arthas needs some TLC.

As you might remember, I got my grubby little hands on a copy of his biography, Arthas, Rise of the Lich King, which wound up bring a pretty good read, even though the titular character isn’t my cup of tea.  So, it’s far past time I pass it along to someone else who might want to give it a whirl.  I’m sure the prince himself would approve of spreading his message of death, doom and destruction, at any rate.

So, in the fine tradition of bloggish contests established by none other than the one and only Big Bear, I’m going to try a little something other than drawing a name out of a hat to find a new home for this lovely, er, brooding hardbound novel.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on this very lightly used book (I read it once and have taken very good care of it), all you have to do is engage in a little exercise and cross your fingers.

I want you to convert me.

Show me what class and race I should play World of Warcraft with.

With a hundred words or less and at least one screenshot (and up to three), or concept art, as the case may be, make your case about what I should be playing when Cataclysm comes knocking.  Whether it’s a Worgen Druid, a Blood Elf Warrior or plain old Gnome Warlock, anything goes.  What do you think I should play as?  (Assume I’d be starting it from scratch, with no fairy godmother twinking me.)

Pretty much anything goes, from snarky “you should be a Human Mage because you’re a bloviating windbag” to thoughtful “you like X so you should play as Y”.  A caveat, though:  sex doesn’t sell around here, and neither does profanity.

Please send your text and graphics to my bloggish email, silverwings.art at gmail.  I’ll take entries for the next, oh… two weeks or so, so if you get your entries in before 11:59 PM (Blizzard standard time) on September 8th, you’re set.  I’ll run things through my Judging Grinder of Doom and post a winner hopefully by the end of that week.  (I’ll contact the lucky one for mailing information at that time, so don’t sweat sending any of that sort of thing with your entry.)

I reserve the right to do something nice for any entry that I find particularly notable.  (Which usually means doing some sort of art, as might be noted in my Mini Portfolio.)  It’s not guaranteed, and it may take a lower priority after other art projects I have going, but I do enjoy crafting the occasional bit of WoW fan art.

I also reserve the right to post the winners and notable entries, but if you object to public display of your brilliance, just let me know in your entry and I’ll keep your work under wraps.  (It won’t affect the judging.)

Tally ho, then, and good luck!

Oh, and if nobody enters, well… I’ll find a way to break the news to Arthas.  (And in fact, if you don’t want the book, feel free to send along a consolation note to the prince.  I’m sure it’ll brighten his day.)

Edited to add:

Mama Druid asked a good question down there in the comments:

Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over?

To which I answered:

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”.

So don’t sweat it; this contest is all about the entries.  Make your case for what I should play, and that will be enough.  Though, if I do wind up playing it later, I’ll be sure to credit you and write some articles on it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by. Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over? :)

Since I haven’t the time to compose an appropriate entry, I’ll quickly suggest to you a male Troll Druid.

• Trolls are the least played race. Why, I do not know. Their lore is fascinating. Don’t let them become extinct!

• Male trolls are very entertaining. Their laugh, their dance, their myriad of hair/face paint/tusk combos… the male troll is just a fun loving guy. Besides, something’s gone wrong with the creation process for female trolls. Somehow 95% of them end up with the same face! I would stay away from that voodoo if I were you.

• Druid. I might be a bit biased, but with the druid class you can experience any component of the holy trinity with a mere respec and gear change. An added bonus is you have options with the dps third: melee or spellcaster. No other class can make the same claim.

I think I just talked myself into making a male Troll Druid of my own!

Tesh
tae6h@hotmail.com
166.70.188.25

Wait, the Mama Druid? The one who had such awesome naming articles, but whose blog fell off the ‘net? If so, good to see you! If not, well… hello!

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”

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