Monday, June 24, 2013

Hierarchy Works: World of Warcraft Edition

I started playing World of Warcraft in 2008 during college. Then the new expansion Wrath of the Lich King was just released and the game was still on its amazing rise into cultural fame. There were new players joining all the time, guilds started, friendships formed, and a world to explore, but over time it changed from the game I started out playing. 

I've always been into fantasy (though I've never played D&D because I wanted to have sex) and would treat it like my dorky side hobby that I didn't tell too many people about. And while I played other games besides WoW, when I first set foot into Azeroth, I was amazed at what I found. The environment, the details, and all of the character intrigued me from the start. 

From the beginning I heard things about the higher levels. There was something called a raid and guilds and they would compete for whoever was the best guild. I used to see characters in amazing looking gear with mounts and fancy sounding guild names like Equilibrium and Brotherhood. People would chat about the server first dragon kill or some player claiming a rare mount. I knew from the start what I wanted. I wanted to raid, to be the guy with the amazing gear and cool mounts. I had a goal, a dream, and motivation to pursue it. 

The fact that my gear sucked and that I died often made it better not worse. I knew there was something to strive for. I could improve if I worked at it enough. The separation between the top players and the average player was strong and everyone knew it. It was the hierarchy of it, not equality, which gave purpose to playing the game. 

Then the complainers started winning. They complained and moaned endlessly on the forums. And complainers complained about the complainers which I saw as redundant and useless. And the collective bitching of the player base reached a high water mark and the developers started to listen. Not only did they listen but they started to make the game more fair more equal.

A popular term started to be tossed around. Welfare epic. At one time wearing a piece of purple gear meant you put in an inordinate amount of time to get that gear. Any purple epic was amazing to have and really separated the players out. Not only that, but a lot of players never had the gear to even do a raid. They didn't have the time or they weren't skilled enough to make it. Instead of giving up or just enjoying the game for what they could do they went to daddy Blizzard and demanded fairness. They demanded everything be made equal to their level of failure. Instead of dedicating themselves to improving their situation, which they could do with a quick google search and some practice, they wanted to make the distinction between the great players and the average player much less noticeable.

They won and got what they wanted and epic gear was handed out just for showing up. Every aspect of the game was carefully laid out for everyone to understand. Bosses were made so easy it took little coordination to kill one and get those epics. And the thing about epics is that when everyone has one they feel much less epic than before. The prestige was gone. The feeling of the game being mysterious was gone. Having something to strive for, work toward, and obtain was gone.

And the subscriptions fell with each passing year as the game was toned down to the worst, laziest player's level. No scaling. No hierarchy. Just endless equality and boredom. And the complainers didn't miss a beat. They didn't become pleased with what they were given. Instead they demanded more and more. While I can't blame all of the loss in popularity on the lack of prestige within the game, I do believe it deserves a fair chunk of it.

I learn wherever I go and from whatever I see. I'm always trying to find the lesson in things and that discerning eye for wisdom doesn't stop at something that lacks intellectual content. The lesson that I took from WoW is that equality produces nothing but mediocrity. And as the pitch of cries society-wide for more equality reach a crescendo that's all I expect to see it produce. The mediocre.

Continue Reading: A Video Game Rant


  1. Good post, the MMORPGs are actually very good micro economies to see how people behave.

    Age of Conan used to be like that too. Despite the rough launch, the game had the most hierarchical PvP out there in the biggest MMORPGs. I could literally kill 5+ mediocre guys due to my superior playing skills. Then people started complaining and the game got dumbed down in every aspect...

    Fairness is the killer of competition and innovation.

    1. Definitely agree with you. One of my favorite games was Final Fantasy XI. You could spend months grinding for a piece of gear. Everything you did in that game was earned. If you wanted a mount than you had to do a quest chain. Gear was hard to come by and leveling was a pain. But it actually drove the community together because they needed each other. Unlike wow where you can glide through most of the game without speaking to someone. It's kind of how I feel about social security and welfare. In the past, those services were provided by the family and made strong families. Now, not so much.