Sunday, April 6, 2008

Just a game

(This is a games post, not a World of Warcraft post, I swear.) One thing that bothers me when I'm playing (or reading about) World of Warcraft is the phrase "it's just a game." Well, yeah, sure, it's just a game, but it's also a game you're playing with other real people. I've occasionally heard this in reference to board games and sports, but I hear it all the time referring to WoW, and I hate it.

"It's just a game" is the phrase you use when you do something that you know somewhere in your mind is not acceptable, but you want to pretend that it's excused because you're playing a game. Actually, it's kind of like the phrase "just sayin'."

  • "Hey, you're an ass-ugly dickface and not even your mom likes you."
  • "Hey, you're an ass-ugly dickface and not even your mom likes you. Y'know, just sayin'."

Surely you've heard something like that before. Apparently you can defuse anything by adding "just sayin'" to the end of it. Anything's fine as long as you're just sayin' it.

  • "Hey, I know we've been working on this dungeon for 90 minutes and it took us half an hour to get the group going and we're about ten minutes away from finishing so we can all get our rewards, but I'm kinda hungry so I'm going to go get something to eat. Bye."
  • "Hey, I know we've been working on this dungeon for 90 minutes and it took us half an hour to get the group going and we're about ten minutes away from finishing so we can all get our rewards, but I'm kinda hungry so I'm going to go get something to eat. It's just a game!"

And that's pretty much how it goes. Yes, sure, it's just a game, but you're playing it with real people. If you're an asshole, World of Warcraft makes it strikingly easy to waste an hour or two of four other peoples' time.

It's a perhaps-unfortunate design decision of World of Warcraft (and from what I can tell, basically just ripped off of EverQuest) that dungeons take a group of people of a specific size (five) that includes two people filling specific roles ("tank" and healer). This increases the possibilities of tactical complexity in the various dungeons, but it also makes things a lot less flexible. In Diablo, people could pretty much come and go as they please, and the game would adjust difficulty accordingly. It takes a tank, a healer, and three other people to make their way through the Magister's Terrace and kill Kael'thas; in Diablo, you can basically do anything and everything with any kind of group. (Hellgate: London tried that in an online game, and it seemed to reasonably succeed in it, but I put it on hold since it was so crashy...)

I think that a lot of it is that the anonymous nature of the internet and games played online brings out the worst in people. There's no real accountability, so you can be as much of a jerk as you want most of the time, and it doesn't hurt you. You don't lose friends or even have to hear someone else nag you about it the next day. That's why a large number of people only play with people in their own guilds—there is a sense of accountability since you're playing with only people you know. But none of that excuses the lack of respect given to games outside of the online world. Fine, it's just a game, but that doesn't excuse you for only paying attention to your own desires and ruining someone else's leisure time.


Louise said...

Your complaints can be applied to anything that one feels passionate about. I'm not big into sports. To hear someone go on and on about the March Madness or the Superbowl, I would probably think "Dude, it's just *insert sport here*" But to that person it is more - it is something they are majorly passionate about. It's not the internet that is bringing this side out - you see this side of people when something is not all that important to them. WoW is really important to you. To someone else it is "just a game." Saying this is their way of saying "I don't care about your feelings, I don't care about what you are talking about," but they are using words that are a lot more socially acceptable. It's still being rude.

Travis said...

I almost brought up the Super Bowl, but in a different context. I don't quite agree with you in this case -- but I think we're saying things that are at least similar. Surely I can't speak for them, but I think that there are people who do indeed care about the game who are still like that. If they played hundreds of hours to get where they are so that I can play with them, they practically have to care about the game.

Go into a sports bar the night of the super bowl or some other big game, and then changing the channel on the TVs to show reruns of The Simpsons. Then tell the enraged mob that is quickly building around you that it's just a game. I don't think it's the fact that you don't care about the game that's going to bother the people beating you into a bloody pulp. It's the fact that you showed a complete lack of respect for those people, and ruined their leisure time. I don't care about sports in even the slightest way (or even follow e-sports like competitive Starcraft or World of Warcraft), but I at least have the respect for people who do not to try to ruin their enjoyment.

I think that the anonymous online nature of World of Warcraft DOES yield a difference, because you DON'T see people going into sports bars and changing the channel to Simpsons reruns. These people, at least most of the time, must know that they're doing something that is socially unacceptable. But they do it anyway because they're selfish and there are fewer repercussions than in the real world.

Travis said...

Also, side note: I think that dismissing someone else's interests with "it's just a game" is about ten times more rude than just outright telling someone that you don't care about what they're talking about. The statement is mostly the same, but the dismissive nature of the former statement sounds FAR worse to me.

Louise said...

Both situations are rude. You are right - it is showing disrespect to what another person is interesteed in. Of course, there are those people who take things too far in the other direction. You mention putting on Simpson's reruns at a bar. I was at a wedding where the sports fans were so annoying about having to watch the big U of M vs. MSU game, that they actually detracted from the even that was going on. It was hard to even pay attention to the toast because of the football fans (many people had portable TV's at their tables and were watching the game!)

No, I think I disagree with you - the internet may attract people who are a bit more socially rude - but I think these people you are talking about would be the same way in real life, dealing with real people. They might show it a bit more when dealing with digital representives of real people, but I am sure also exibit these qualities in their dealings in the real world.

Of course, this is all just my view.