Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Demise of the Raiding Scene

Dramatic title is dramatic, right? Please allow me to assure you that this isn't some far-fetched "ZOMG WoW is dead!" post, because I personally feel that World of Warcraft is far from dead. It might be a bit lethargic compared to some of the more booming periods that the game has had in its rather lengthy life span, but the numbers show that our beloved game is still far from calling 'closing time'. Let me assure you my Chicken Littles, the sky is not falling. While WoW may be far from ready to close its digital doors, there are some severe issues within the community, or more specifically within the sub communities that we have come to know as guilds.

Let us get something perfectly straight here, the raiding scene is not yet dead. It is in a serious state of decline, but it is not yet dead. May folks will be quick to point the finger at Blizzard and say "This raid is horrible, thanks for killing my guild!" While in some respects Blizzard is responsible for the vibe, the feel, the success or failure of a raid design, I do not believe that it is really anyone's fault but the player's own for the rise and fall of a guild, and in turn the game as a whole.

Think about it. A company can make a great product, put their heart and soul into it, but it is up to the community to play it. Back in the day, Blizzard put out a far from perfect product that we all know today as "Vanilla WoW". It was a grind-fest riddled with bugs and imperfections, but the players sucked it up, adapted, and dealt with it. Today we game in a much different world. Azeroth's major bugs are often sprayed down within a week or two of discovery. Travel to dungeons is instant, graphic quality is slowly improving, and long grinds are no longer really present. In a time where things couldn't be too much better, anything little thing that players do not care for, be it a bug that wasn't fixed on the spot, a raid experiment that flopped, Blizzard's attempts to include everyone in their game (which I think is pretty cool for the record, since inclusion seems to be a rare beast with whatever subject you may speak about), that new tier set or talent change for class x, or whatever other thing you can think of, is often complained about loud and clear. Wading into any sort of WoW forum often reminds me of walking into a store where a mother is trying to deal with a screaming, unwieldy child that isn't getting that lolly pop that he/she wants so damn bad.

What I'm trying to get at here folks is the fact that we, as a community, are suffering from a dual epidemic. Epidemic number one is the "spoiled gamer syndrome" or "entitlement syndrome", which is where many (but not all) players within WoW feel that they need everything and they want it now, everyone else's happiness and convenience be damned. The second epidemic is that of burnout.

Burnout is no stranger to anyone well versed in the Azerothian scene. It can happen to anyone at anytime. It's kind of like getting a new pair of shoes really. At first you slip your feet into them and go "Man, these feel awesome!" and they may continue to feel that way for quite a while. Eventually though they'll wear on your feet, causing blisters (drama) which can heal with time, or maybe they will cause your feet to swell which make that shoe an uncomfortable fit (finding yourself in a guild that you're not really into), or maybe the shoes just lose their appeal all together or give out on you (disinterest in the game, the loss of friends or your raid team which results in disinterest of the game). The best way to try and avoid any of these issues is to wear these shoes in moderation, but sometimes we end up enjoying the walk that we're on far too much to really notice the, metaphorically speaking, pain in our feet until it is too late. Some folks manage to grin and bear it, others will complain about it; eventually all will remove their shoes.

Right now my shoes are fitting pretty good. They fit pretty well, the colorful elements on them keep me entertained, but for some reason my damn shoelaces aren't quite staying tied. To get to the heart of it, my guild is currently struggling.

I haven't wrote about this yet, but about a month and a half ago I applied to a 25 man raiding guild and was accepted. I joined them the second week of Dragon Soul and I haven't looked back. My first raid with them was mind blowing; we had 7-10 people sitting at one point because the raiding roster was bursting, Deathwing was downed for the first time that week, banter was amazing. It was a complete culture shock to the usual low key, almost no one speaks in vent, 10 man raiding team that I was used to. I loved and am still loving it. The holidays hit. Nearly every holiday brings along a bit of an attendance slump, no big deal. Punch one. SW:ToR launches and naturally there's a good chunk of interest of that within the our nerdverse, again no big deal. Left hook, punch two. Progression slows because of a sparse raiding roster, tempers rise because regular modes are apparently "too easy" but we don't have enough of the right bodies for a proper raid composition to take down heroic modes, people finally notice their burnout and quite. Sucker punch, hit three. Throw all those factors together and you have one hurting guild. We're not dead by any means, but our raiding rosters have been looking mighty sickly as of late.

My guild is not alone.

Is this type of situation something that Blizzard can fix? Sure, if they had a magic wand that allowed them to make every single person happy forever. Sarcasm aside, Blizzard can only fix the mechanics of WoW. I personally think that they should stick to their guns a bit more with what they do, do what they think is right for the game, and stop this craziness where they try to cater to every single last gamer's whim. You can't please everyone. Should they take suggestions? Sure, but they don't have to try to tack on every single idea to the game itself. Sometimes less really is more, and right now it feels like Azeroth is one hell of a clutter closet.

What really needs to be fixed about WoW is the general mentality of the gaming community. We don't need the addition of shiny new graphics (though, I know I wouldn't turn them down), nor do we need some crazy new gimmick to pull us in. No, we need a serious revamp of the general attitude. If Blizzard is going to play parent to their public, they need to put on their mommy/daddy pants and learn to be a bit more stern and consistent with how they do things.

Until Blizzard does that though, the community itself needs to take charge in order to get the change that I think is desperately needed. Here's a few things that I think individuals could do that would help with that change.

- If you're tired of playing the game, then take a break. Don't put a time limit on this break; only come back when you want to. Be responsible with this, especially if you are a raider. Give your raid leader a week or two head's up so that they may begin to look for a replacement. Vanishing without a trace and leaving your raid/guild hanging is never a cool thing to do.
- Don't throw your unhappiness into the faces of your peers. If you dislike the game for x and y reason, that's fine, however reasons x and y do not give you a badge that entitles you to try and ruin the game for others.
- Don't flaunt the fact that you "quit" the game and don't run around screaming "OMG THE PANDAS ARE COMING! WOW IS DEAD!!!1!" because it's obnoxious and we're all tired of hearing it; hearing these things make the rest of us grouchy. We don't want to be grouchy, we want to enjoy the game that helps us get away from it all. Really though, we get it. You don't want Pokemon and Pandarans. Last time I checked everyone groaned about Death Knights, Worgen, Blood Elves, Draenei, and pretty much every other major implement to the game. Most seem fine with those additions now. It's okay to have new elements and lore come into play.
- Enjoy your time in Azeroth. If your guild weighs down on you and you find yourself not enjoying the company that you're in, make a change. Most people do not change, but changing the environment you reside in is always an option. There is no reason to be loyal to something that makes you miserable; it's unhealthy and misery tends to breed more misery.
- You know that old saying of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? Embrace it. We all get snarky from time to time and it can be a riot to pick on that warlock in LFR who is doing 4k dps, but for as "fun" as these things can be, it's honestly all just unnecessary negativity. Differences of opinions happen, try to learn something from another person's viewpoint. That lock pulling 4k dps? Maybe it's their first 25 man raid since the middle of Wrath and they had no idea that they'd drop to 2fps during the Ultraxion encounter. If you don't know the situation, or even if you do, don't throw more negativity into the mix. It doesn't help or fix anything.
- Be a positive influence in your environment. Let me give an example. If a "noob" asks a question in General or Trade chat and is only met with trolling, reach out and give him/her a legit answer. If someone whispers you about how they can improve their character, give them some helpful advice, or if you honestly don't know perhaps point them in the direction that they can find the information that they seek. Be helpful, don't be a tool.

Do I ever see the community as a whole embracing even a few of my view points? Not really. I think at this point we are stuck in a really nasty cycle of negativity breeding negativity, and after dealing with it so long most folks are simply walking away because it's easier to do that than to fix the issues at hand. People are tired. They're tired of the same old dramas, they're tired of the stagnation that comes with (in my case a very old) server-based communities, they're tired because they've been playing the same game for 4/5/6/7+ years and may no longer hold the same charm for them that it once did. LFG/LFR is not killing the community and Blizz isn't actively trying to do harm to the community (it would be bad business on their part to do so; they really are trying to make it a better place for us all despite what certain experimental flops may look like). Simply put the community is wearing on the community. The best prevention that we have is to take care of ourselves, do better for ourselves and others, and hope that others follow suit. More positivity, more lending a helping hand, less crying and moaning about not getting our own way all the time. Burnout will happen to everyone at some point, and those folks will come back if they have a community that they actually want to return to. Perhaps if we all do our part, we can rekindle that community, that place where everyone wants to hangout, once again.

While the end of Azeroth isn't quite nigh, it will happen eventually. Raiding will not cease forever tomorrow, our friends will not disappear suddenly into the shadows of memory, but it will happen someday. In the end though that's okay, because every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.


  1. What a great post Saz! So many ringing truths! All those reputation grinds, none of this cross server bgs and cross server dungeons/raids.... who can remember Vanilla wow?? I think now with competition out there, WoW is finding it harder to compete with what's new and shiny.

    A really well written piece. Bravo!!!!

    1. Thanks Navi! I do agree that WoW is struggling with competition a bit, but that's only natural. Can't expect to hold 12 million people's attention forever after all. While in short term the "new and shiny" may help to pull some folks away from WoW, in the long term I believe this "loss" of subscribers to be healthy. Most long-time players will return to Azeroth in time, while ventures into other games are often temporary. Sometimes a vacation to recharge one's batteries is the best medication for the burnt-out blues.

  2. Wow is still rocks - we just don't need/depend on each others toons or our guild to get what we want now - we all have alts with professions like enchanting, inscription, leatherworking, blacksmithing, etc to gear up our toons... and we have LFR for high level epics... people will always choose the path of least resistance... why wipe again and again when there are easier ways to get equivalent gear?

    1. Professions and LFR are amazing as time sinks and are absolutely great for alts, I will agree with that. Not having to hope for an alt run from the guild or having to cobble together a PuG to gear up an alt is a wonderful thing. However, time sinks aren't what keep me playing WoW. The community and raiding challenge has always been the major draw for me. What is the point of leveling up those professions and getting those easy epics if you're not going to turn around and raid with your guild mates/friends? How long can running mind-numbingly easy content for free loot hold the attention of the player-base? I know that for me personally, once I beat a game that's easy I lose interest in it soon after, since it no longer holds that dangling carrot called the challenge.

      That's just my point of view though. I know some folks like the easier content. I find nothing wrong with that at all, however I know that a good chunk of the older raiding community and those of us who have an excessive amount of time prefer to have content with a bit more meat to it.