Less is more

There’s a reason my hunter Cassanna languish in Dalaran, forever trapped in a state of level 70. There’s just too many damned buttons! The hunter button bloat in combination with the tedious proffessions leatherworking and skinning put an end to her adventures. Her bankspace is slowly filling up with Elemental Fires and other stuff from whatever places her “sisters” might visit.

So the question posed by WoW Insider in this weeks Community Blog Topic - Do we need an ability squish - is a topic that’s very dear to my poor hunter. She’s not the first hunter I’ve played. But it appears she will be my last. I just can’t find the “fun” in hunters, not anymore.

I’m one of those people who, when faced with a gazillion buttons, end up using four or five of them. It’s not the best way to play, I know – especially if you’re running dungeons. But I just can’t get myself in the mood. By the time I’m done hitting all the keys there’s nothing left to shoot at. Eventually I end up at rock bottom on the DPS meter. While I’m not one of the most competetive players around, I do find it satisfying sitting on top of all others DPS. Cassanna ends up last, always. If I’m not removed from the group I usually ends up rage quitting.

There’s a limit even for my patience, even though it’s as long as the Great Wall. So – do we need to squash some buttons? Yes we do! Well, I certainly think so anyway. but there’s a debate worth mentioning regarding the topic of abilities: The Master Gamer, as I like to call it.

The Master Gamer
Once in a while someone says “If you know how to use your abilities you’re playing it right”. This is usually followed by a declaration of mastery: “I use blah blah blah and dominate all teh (sic!) meters”. Sometimes there’s a tone of “l2p noobs!”, sometimes not. The Master Gamer equation goes something like this:

The number of available abilities (buttons) equals imagined proficiency for the game.

The perception based on the above equation means that the more slots you fill (the more buttons you have), the better gamer you are. It doesn’t matter what class you play – your worth as a gamer is measured in how many buttons you can hit. How many macros you need. How many add-ons you juggle in order to be “the best” . It goes without saying that the Master Gamer sneers at “casuals” or anyone who don’t rebuild the default UI.

It’s a silly argument.

Let me use an analogy: Why would you spend hours building a campfire if there was an electric stove available? You wouldn’t, of course. Why would you “master” something overly and unnecessary complicated if you could do the same job in half the time with half the buttons? There’s where the prestige kicks in. We all want to be a little bit “better” than the other player. The Master Gamer imagines their worth in the number of abilities they can juggle at any given time. Logic takes a back seat.

Humans are, more or less, rational beings. If we can do a job in an easier way we will. That’s why we have forklifts instead of manhandling goods. The generic World of Warcraft player is a human (albeit some of them barely qualifies for the species; I’m looking at you, LFR-douchebag). As such we could expect even a Master Gamer to choose the easier methods. Strangely, this is rarely the case. Playing the keyboard as a consert pianist gives a sense of entitlement. Prestige. Status. Truth of the matter is: The more abilities a class have, the more said class caters to the elitist Master Gamer.

That’s just my casual point of view, of course. Perhaps I’m jaded by the eternal debate of Who Is A Gamer and Who Is A Real Gamer*.

The Smart Gamer
Blizzard have gradually smartified World of Warcraft. Some would argue they have done the exact opposite of course – and “dumbed it down”. The reason a portion of the consumers believe Azeroth has been dumbed down is, I believe, connected to the Master Gamers. While the hardcore players are a minority, they are a very vocal minority. They also have a posse of prospects who, while not hardcore themselves, hope to come through as hardcore. There’s a certain status to being a “progressive cutting edge player”, you know. But …

This is also a silly argument.

World of Warcraft is not dumbed down. The game have been streamlined, it’s become more effective, more modern. In parts it have become easier as well – that is, easier for the allready established players. Heirlooms, overpowered gear and an increased know-how on how to solve different fights – all of it has contributed to an “easier” game.

The fact is, World of Warcraft is still a medium to hard difficulty leveling game. If you on’t believe me, roll a completely new character on a completely different server, cutting short your supply of both heirlooms, gold or other helpful things such as bags. Level a fresh character as if the game was completely new; even for a seasoned and skilled player there’s a lot of challenges ahead. Without heirlooms, World of Warcraft is both balanced and at times hard.

If you really want a challenge, try the Ironman playstyle. That’ll teach you.

As the game has evolved and slowly steered away from outdated trends in how to play an MMO, the game has become more accessible. One of the last vestiges of “the old ways” is the abillity bloat. Much the same as the ever increasing iLvl problem we get new abilities with every new expansion. Right now we sit with (more or less) five games worth of abilities – in one and the same title. That’s too much.

The Smart Gamer neither have time nor patience for the balancing act of two dozen abilities. The gaming culture in itself has changed; the median age of a gamer is 31 years old. That’s a person in mid-career, a family, bills to pay, softball games to play, other hobbies – but still with just 24 hours to do it all. The Smart Gamer is sometimes lucky if there’s 3 or 4 hours worth of game time per week.

The faster the learning curve is, the better it is. The more fun it is. A smart game for the samrt gamer needs to rid itself of the old ways. Truth is, World of Warcraft isn’t a hardcore game, not anymore. There’s room for it, sure, but the majority of players are – casual gamers. People with 3-4 hours available. Per week.

Lesser abilities is just but one way to streamline the game. The new and (in my view) improved talent tree is another. Even the dread daily quest is a way of giving the consumer the power to play the game like the player wants to play, not how the developer force us to play. The fewer buttons you have to push in you 40 minutes of free game time, the better. As teh age old adage says:

Less is more!

- – - – -

*: Real Gamers need many buttons. The also don’t play Farmville. They do however own a farm in Halfhill. They do however spend gold on new clothes (sorry, gear!). In a sense World of Warcraft isn’t that different from, say, the Sims – a game any Real Gamer would sneer at, probably with a quick and scornful “it’s a girls game!”. See?

World of Warcraft is a girls game. We earn gold to dress our paper dolls. (And kill internet dragons.)

The debate of hardcore vs cassual is in itself a typical example of intersectionality. There’s a feminist angle (soem would probably say agenda) to it as well. That’s not for this post however. Neither is the definition and distinction of who, exactly, is a Real Gamer. Have some statistics, courtesy of ESA! 

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About klokbok

Slightly bitter to the taste, aged 45, with an occasional writers itch and occasional writers block. It's almost Yin and Yang. Proffesional writer from Sweden involved in one of Swedens leading brands of roleplaying games. Social liberal feminist and a constant underdog. Avid World of Warcraft player with too much imagination. Some people claim I'm funny. Most people go "and you are?". View all posts by klokbok

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