Weekly Wednesday Warcraft: I’m Addicted To You, But I Know That You’re Toxic.

I had a whole article written up for this week but I scrapped it because there is something else that I want to talk about.  This week I had a very bad week in WoW, and I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t discuss it.

It happened over the weekend.  I was sick and cranky, but I decided to play some WoW with my wife.  She desperately wanted to do the LFR version of the new raid but her gear level wasn’t high enough so she and I decided to venture into some heroics together.  For me, it was my first time as a healer in a heroic dungeon for the new expansion.  I’ve healed before, but not in WoD.  I was a bit nervous.

Our first heroic went well.  We wiped a couple of times but apparently it wasn’t my fault.  Our tank was quick to defend me and mention to the DPS that they should be paying attention to the boss mechanics on the fights that we were struggling with.  The second heroic was an entirely different experience though.

I’ll give you the old Tarantino treatment on this story…  The tank says to me and my wife, “Fight or get booted [out of the dungeon].”  I proceed to fly off the handle, throw some choice words at him, and quit the dungeon.  So let me back up and explain how this happened.  First off, it’s important to note that I was indeed sick and very cranky, so maybe I’d have been a little more understanding had I been feeling better.  Anyway, the dungeon we were in was Auchindoun.  In that dungeon there is a point early on where you trigger a cutscene by walking into a room.  The cutscene is skippable, but this was my first time in the dungeon.  I wanted to see the story.  Apparently the other players had skipped the cutscene and begun fighting some monsters.  When the cutscene ended and I had control of my character the tank was nearly dead, which brings us full circle.  He yells at me, and I leave angrily.  Now that exchange certainly wasn’t the most toxic I’d ever had in a dungeon, but it just struck a nerve with me.

First of all, the expansion is new, and the cutscene gets triggered every time you do the dungeon so a) he know there had been a cutscene and b) he knew that maybe some of us hadn’t seen it yet.  The decent thing to have done would have been to wait the 15 seconds until the cutscene ended before running in and pulling everything.  I got yelled at because he was rude.

Second of all, if Blizzard doesn’t want the WoW environment to be toxic, then why are there so many ways for it to be?  Let’s start with the dungeon itself; if you know that people are impatient then why put those cutscenes in the dungeons at all?  Why set the group up for miscommunication?  Just tell the story in other ways.  Beyond that though, the looking for group tool is and has been the most toxic addition to WoW for a long time.

The looking for group tool makes it easy players to anonymously treat one another like garbage with virtually no recourse.  Sure, some players are nice, and sometimes a group goes well.  But more often than I’d like the group dynamic is bad because one or more players are rude or incompetent.  What’s worse, there’s no way for other players to differentiate the bad from the good.  To handle rude players there should be some type of social score.  At the end of each dungeon you rate your companions in terms of how nice and helpful they were.  This would go into an overall rating of your attitude, making it much easier to automatically identify the meanies.  For those who aren’t necessarily bad people but might not be playing well, there should be a mentor system.  Players willing to mentor others should get some type of special bonus, and those being mentored get to learn how to do a dungeon properly.  All of this could go a long way in helping the environment be a lot less angry and toxic.

The thing is, the environment has been toxic for a long time now and Blizzard just seems to ignore it.  They’re typical answer is, “if you don’t like the looking for group tool then find a guild”.  That’s a fair point, but I’ve been in several guilds where it was impossible to get people together for heroics.  Also, ‘if you don’t like it, don’t use it’ is not an acceptable answer to me.  To Blizzard, you guys created the tool and it’s become a core part of how most of us gear up so don’t just tell us to ignore it, help us fix it.

This weekend was a big reality check for me in terms of what WoW has become to me.  I’ve always enjoyed the game but it’s the social aspect that has both pulled me in and pushed me away.  In it’s best moments, the feeling of accomplishing something really difficult with a group of friends was some of the best gaming I’ve ever been a part of.  In it’s worst moments WoW acts as a constant reminder that anonymous people on the internet are generally awful and should be avoided at all costs.  Sadly, I’ve found that lately WoW has become more about the negative social aspects than the positive ones.  The exchange this weekend wasn’t the most toxic I’d ever had by any stretch.  I’ve been playing WoW since launch, so I’ve had more than my fair share of fights.  Before WoD though, I had been away from WoW for some time, mostly due to experiences like the one I had over the weekend.  When the new expansion launched I was hopeful that maybe things would change.  This weekend was evidence that they probably have not, and that if I want to continue to enjoy WoW my only recourse is to get involved in an active guild.  I have some serious hesitation about that too, but that’s a story for another time.