Happy New Year and welcome back dear reader to my first post of 2019! After a much-needed festive break, the mighty Uthric is back and taking stock of the wide world of Azeroth.
We left 2018 with Tides of Vengeance in full swing as Night Elves and Forsaken struggled for control of Darkshore and expectations having been rising for the strike on Zandalar later this month. With the Battle for Dazar’Alor, players will go straight into the heart of the Zandalari capital and lock horns with a variety of new foes and encounters, which promise to reward the wily and determined and punish the unwary.
Running concomitantly with the new raid will be the start of PvP Season 2, which for an enthusiastic (if not necessarily skilful) PvPer like me, is a source of great excitement, even if I must finally dim the lights on the pipe dream of obtaining the Elite Season 1 set. I’m sure I’ll be able to console myself with the gold-tinted Warfront version which I’ve nearly completed, and start the climb to greatness all over again.
Yet as eager as I am to dive into the raid (using Raid Finder of course) and take the fight to my PvP enemies, it would be remiss of me to gloss over something that has been bubbling aggressively within the WoW community over the past few months.
Anger. Hate. Spite. Adjectives and emotions you wouldn’t normally associate with online entertainment but which have reared their ugly heads across online forums and gamer channels as of late. Hatred is suddenly de rigueur, or so it would seem, with an avalanche of personalities taking to their cameras and keyboards to decry the current state of the World of Warcraft.
Balanced, nuanced criticism it is not; the predominant form these outbursts take is to either rage about how awful the game is (whilst not offering any solutions on how to fix it) or to pompously proclaim they are cancelling their subscription, as if the mere utterance should send shockwaves through the gaming world.
Invariably vitriolic in their approach, recurring themes at the heart of this wrathful wave are allegations of developer indifference, dysfunctional in-game systems and corporate avarice. It doesn’t take much research to refute and demolish these arguments. Many of them simply distort reality to fit a narrative and offer no solid evidence to support their often ludicrous positions.
Yes, Activision Blizzard shares have seen a sharp dip recently, but contrary to popular opinion, this is not proof of a company in freefall. Many factors can contribute to such a marked decline, so to pin it all on the state of WoW is at best naïve, at worst invidious.
It’s true that staff reductions are being made at Blizzard’s Cork office, but this runs parallel with a raft of new vacancies within the company and is the enactment of a generous, pre-existing severance scheme. It is not indicative of a business that is on the brink of implosion.
Within the game realm, communication between developers and the community hasn’t been as good as it could have been (something freely admitted by Ion Hazzikostas) Yet for the majority of criticism levelled at the flawed elements of Battle for Azeroth, most of them (Island Expeditions or the randomness of Azerite gear for example) have seen visible efforts made by the development team to try and correct these issues.
Sadly, this is not enough for some of our irascible community. Despite positive changes, some are intent on hating the game and transfiguring any shred of news, either Azerothian or real-world, to justify their position that Warcraft is doomed, regardless of how unfounded and reactionary their stance is.
I don’t care to delve into the recesses of these peoples’ minds (who knows what I’d find) in order to understand why they’ve jumped aboard the hate train. Some probably do it to generate online traffic. For others, it could just be a reflection of their demeanour, or perhaps symptomatic of pent up loathing that urgently needs an outlet.
Unfortunately, whatever the originating motivations, all this antipathy has proven seductive beyond those corners of the internet where such hostility is commonplace. The bandwagon effect has turned what were once relatively benign contributors, creators and publications into standard bearers of misanthropy.
Of course, the rebuttal to everything I’ve said thus far is that people are merely vocalising their dissatisfaction with the game. They are entitled to their opinion and they are using the mediums available to them to express it. I’ve no argument with this. If an individual wishes to convey their feelings on a particular subject, even if I diametrically oppose their position, they should be free to do so. My issue here, in addition to the dearth of evidence and herd mentality I’ve already mentioned, is the unconstructive tone much of these criticisms take.
Online discussion will invariably be more schoolyard than Socratic in nature, but to me, unless it is food, drink or something similarly mundane, it’s not enough to say “I don’t like this”. Explaining why you dislike it so much and what can be done to improve matters are essential if you want to be taken seriously. Anything less is really just bad-tempered whining.
Before the accusations of blinkered Blizzard fanboy come rolling in, for the record, I fully acknowledge there are numerous problems with Battle for Azeroth. However, I think there are better ways of communicating it than indulging in hyperbole to fit in with the crowd or to generate more site clicks.
There are notable bloggers, creators and streamers who have concerns about the current state of the game, but address them in a calm, rational manner. They don’t threaten to quit the game or through grinding teeth lambast the developers as cynical money-grabbers. Instead, their points are made thoughtfully and they reach sensible conclusions, whether that’s to go with the flow and enjoy the game for what it is, or to take a break and try other things. There’s evidently more light and less heat with these contributions, something the bulk of online comments and exchanges sorely lack.
The abiding lesson I think the more febrile of commentators should learn is that vicious, directionless sniping achieves nothing. If you find yourself tempted to pour scorn onto something, take a moment to question your own motives before you do. I don’t think any of us want to see this great game fail. Therefore, if we as fans are truly serious about making things better, it behoves us to put forward our case in a way that contributes to the solution, rather than toxify the problem.