Confession: Depending on who you ask, I’m one of “the casuals”. You know… those idiots who have no business playing the game in the first place, yet Blizzard keeps nerfing content to keep them happy because Blizzard just cares about making money.
Here are the facts: I keep up with general news about the game, but I don’t know the latest bits about every potential change to every mechanic, not even the ones for classes I play. I tried to read something on Elitist Jerks once and was found days later gibbering in a dark corner. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I actually just walked away from the computer griping that it looks like they just string a bunch of words together and everybody pretends to seriously discuss it because nobody is brave enough to say, “Um, dudes… those words don’t actually mean anything when you put them together in that order.” And I was exaggerating when I did that. I just couldn’t make sense of what I read.)
When I started the game, I found a warlock too difficult to play. I also found a druid too difficult to play, though I did make it nearly 30 levels further than with the warlock. I got a mage to 80 and couldn’t stand the thought of having to play a mage to 85 once Cataclysm hit. I took Herbalsim on a rogue, tried to pick Silverleaf, aggro’d half of Elwynn Forest when it broke my stealth, and I’m still too scared to try again. I love the Death Knight starting experience, but I lose interest after about four quests with one in Hellfire Peninsula. I’ve gone through at least four Death Knights and I don’t think any of them have made it to 70. Trying to play a shaman makes me want to cry. Paladins were absolutely boring for me before The Shattering. I kept hearing they’d get more interesting, but after 15 levels of “hit 3 and wait for it to die” I just wasn’t willing to wait any longer. I got all hopped up on Rage as a warrior, learned Charge, killed every boar in Loch Modan (even though I didn’t need to kill boars), and then realized I was not comfortable handling a warrior in a dungeon. I took well to the hunter class, but the best I’ve ever done is “adequate” dps. I don’t pull, I manage my threat well, etc. I’m not “THAT hunter” that everyone hates in groups. But I’m not the top dps, and only people who’ve never been in a group with me seem to care about that. I’m trying some classes again now that things have changed, and it’s going better in some cases. Mage is working, so far. A paladin makes me very happy, as long as I’m Holy. I’m better as a warlock now.
I don’t raid. I have done raids. Both AQs, Zul’Gurub, Karazhan, Molten Core. I two-manned them with my husband. I did Mt. Hyjal in the Caverns of Time with a group, but we were all so over-leveled for that it was more like a big bunch of people goofing off while Archimonde just happened to be dying. I did Obsidian Sanctum with the same basic group, and it was no problem. It’s not really complicated. Malygos was the last thing I did in a raid group, and that left me afraid to try anymore raiding. I don’t have the Kingslayer title. I’ve never even been inside Icecrown Citadel. I spend a lot of time getting the story from watching videos and reading about the content. I’m too scared to queue for dungeons unless I queue with someone I know. I was only able to do Wrath Heroics because I had a few different people I could queue with who would tank. I pull my own weight in the group. Whoever I queue with isn’t there to carry me, or even to look out for me beyond what they’d do to look out for the group as a whole. I just can’t convince myself to go into a dungeon with four strangers. Three strangers and one friendly face is okay.
I told you all that to tell you this:
I am not a bad player. Or maybe I am. But if I am, it’s not because I’m an idiot, or of weak moral character, or because I’m 10 years old and think WoW should be no more difficult than Neopets. If I am a “bad player”, it is a reflection of my abilities, not my willingness. It simply means I’m not very good at this. What I am is a woman with a rare disease that mimics a brain tumor. It affects my cognitive abilities and causes some delays between what I know and being able to use what I know. Does this mean I’m excused if I stand in the fire? Absolutely not. It does mean I may stand in the fire for a second before my brain catches up and I’m able to get out of it. I’m a woman who works hard at a job that she does from home because she has her own health issues and has to be able to take care of her husband, who is a disabled veteran. So on top of working, I’m taking care of another person, am the only driver in the house, am reponsible for all yard work and car maintenance… This list could go on a while. Basically, I’m living two people’s worth of life every day. And I’m doing it as someone who can discuss quantum physics, but can’t add two one-digit numbers without counting on her fingers. Someone who reads encyclopedias for fun, but often ends up saying, “The thing in the kitchen that keeps stuff cold. It’s big and white. And made of metal,” because her brain just won’t reliably conjure up the word “refrigerator” anymore.
And gaming is not my only interest. I crochet. I still love to read novels when I find time to settle down with one. I have many interests that I spend a lot of time reading about and participating in discussions about. Physics, mythology and folklore, theology, art… I’m an artist, and that means I sometimes want to draw even when it’s not about being able to market my work. I don’t keep up with celebrity gossip, but I do keep up with current events in my area, my state, my country, and the world the best I can. It’s nice to have some idea of what I’m voting on when I go to vote, or to know when my city councilman needs to get an angry letter in the mail.
Let me be clear about this: I am NOT saying that people who are able to devote more time and effort to mastering the game than I can have no life. I am saying people have different thresholds for how much they can carry. Some people don’t really have to devote much time and effort to being good at something. I work five times as hard as my husband to be half as good at playing a game as he does. In spite of what too many players claim, everything in the game has not been made “so easy anyone can get through it with no problem”, and not everyone who has trouble is just stupid or not putting any effort into it.
This was all going to flow smoothly into what I have to say about battlegrounds when I started writing it. It was also only going to be an opening paragraph. I swear these posts write themselves when I’m not looking. My intention was to make clearer where I’m coming from as a player.
Cynwise wrote recently about the Healers Have To Die addon. My husband is standing over on Cynwise’s side of the love/hate line, and the conversation in our house became a lot of me looking at how I feel about PvP, addons, the way the game is designed, sports, and a few other things while my husband shrugged and said, “I like it. It works in PvE, too.” (It’s a good thing he doesn’t care what other people think of his opinions. He rarely says enough about them to give anyone a good basis for deciding whether they agree or not.) I’m not surprised that Cynwise likes this addon, nor am I surprised that you could take this addon away and Cynwise would still be able to identify the healers. Cynwise is a warlock. We know what warlocks are like. There are good reasons that their own fathers will disown them.
My problem with battlegrounds isn’t really about that addon. That’s just one piece, though it may be the piece that makes me unwilling to try healing in a battleground again. I’m not sure. I’ve been giving all of this a lot of thought and just keep coming up with things to consider, but nothing I’m ready to firmly stand by. I agree with Cynwise saying, “It’s also a litmus test for how you feel about addons in general, though you may not know it yet.” That, I can stand by.
My history with battlegrounds is short and simple. Go into Warsong Gulch as soon as possible! Feel seriously badass! Get to the next level bracket, get killed repeatedly by warlock minions. (Not even the warlocks! Just their minions!) Intend to come back when I have better gear, more skills. Never quite make it back. Do the same with Arathi Basin. Same with Alterac Valley, exchanging warlocks for Death Knights.
I always like the idea more than the reality. Sometimes I would get into a PvP mood and queue, do one or two, remember why I stopped doing this, and stop doing it again. The problem isn’t losing. The problem is the attitudes. I’ve seen less of that at 85. More people making the effort to work together as a team. (There was the one guy who swore we had five people “camping” the Stables in Arathi Basin. Chewed us out for most of the battle. There were two of us. I was playing a hunter, so my pet was also there. We were by the flag. There was one AFK guy at the back corner, but reporting him AFK didn’t get him removed. Sometimes, when we were actively engaged in battle, one of the healers would come over but then leave again. And, of course, there were the people rezzing back there. I swear, he was counting my pet, the AFK guy, and one of the people who was never there for very long.) I’m enjoying PvP more now than I have in a long time. I’m really happy to do Tol Barad! That surprises me, because I always went to great lengths to avoid Wintergrasp at all costs. I wouldn’t even take the fishing daily in Dalaran that sent me there except once to get credit toward the achievement.
But then I tried doing Warsong Gulch on my low level alts. I’m one of those people who believes failure presents an lopportunity to learn. You learn what works, what doesn’t work, and when things that do work will work best. Also, when things that usually work will almost certainly get you killed. What I’ve learned from Warsong Gulch is that I have no business doing battlegrounds at low levels. Why? Because I don’t have heirlooms.
I have no problem with twinks that have their experience gains shut off. They aren’t in the battlegrounds with me, anyway, and I just view that as a completely different mode of play. And I don’t have a problem with people who get the best drops they can at their level and slap enchants on things. That’s available to every character. Some people would say heirlooms are available to every character, but I see that as a different situation. Running a level 16 character through dungeons to get drops available to every level 16 character who goes through their isn’t the same as using a level 80+ character to grind for… whatever heirlooms cost now… to send them to a level 16 character. For that matter, not everyone does have access to heirlooms. The majority? I’ll say that’s probably true. New players do exist, though.
This has mostly been a hunter issue. Not that it’s an issue when I’m playing one of my low level hunters (It is. But it’s an issue when I play other character’s, as well.) I mean it’s an issue with hunters who are dripping with heirlooms. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing as Horde or Alliance at the time, because both sides have these hunters. And it’s made me cringe to see one on my side of the battle because I know what it’s like for me when they’re on the other side. We got graveyard camped for a while one night by one hunter. He was able to one-shot each of us as we rezzed. What was I supposed to learn from that failure? Don’t rez? I did learn that some folks are even later than I am about getting the game change memos. There was speculation that the hunter must have had a rare pet because his pet was “seriously overpowered”. Actually, rares aren’t particularly special in that way anymore… haven’t been for some time… and his pet was just a ravager from the draenei starting area. I’m surprised his pet ever got to anybody. He just shot me and I died. Repeatedly. But if the pet seemed “seriously overpowered”, that would have been because of how pets inherit their stats now. It was his gear, not his pet. He was covered in heirlooms.
But if I skip the lower level battlegrounds, then I’m expected to “know how this works by now” when I get to the higher levels. I know that from personal experience. So my lesson here is… you have to already be good at PvP to start doing PvP?
I’m really not willing to try learning to heal in battlegrounds that way. The Healers Have To Die addon is kind of the final straw there. Cynwise is right about how the addon just takes information that’s readily available if you just look around you and sticks it right in front of your face. It doesn’t point out anything a player couldn’t find out for themself during the battle without it. Some part of me looks at this like learning to read a watch, though. My first watch as a child was a Strawberry Shortcake analog watch. I think I was around five years old when I got it. Would it have been easier to give me a digital watch? Probably. It certainly would have been easier for me to know what time it was. But I hate to think how difficult it would have been to teach me to read an analog watch after that. Having digital watches and clocks still make it easier for me to know what time it is… certainly from across a room. But I can read an analog clock if there’s no digital clock around.
I feel like someone should have to develop the skills to spot healers without an addon that points them out before they have that convenience. Then it really is about skill, because they could do the same thing without the nifty gadget. But this conflicts with how I see the use of addons in PvE. Shouldn’t PvE also be about skill?
That’s where I think Blizzard’s design has muddied things some. This what dungeons have looked like to me over the time I’ve been playing: They used to be a sort of “extra ending” to a storyline. You got the story without doing the dungeons. The dungeons were candy sprinkles on top of the cupcake. Then, once I got to Outland, it seemed like the dungeons were a quest on steroids. “Go get me 10 of these, then I’ll tell you the rest,” started to become, “Go get me 10 of these from that dungeon, then I’ll tell you the rest.” They still felt mostly optional, though. You might be missing a specific part of the story by not doing it, but you could still get the overall story. In Northrend, and especially once I got to the Storm Peaks, dungeons seemed mandatory for getting the whole story. In fact, the Storm Peaks quests felt like an long teaser that led right to the dungeons and then cut off sharply, leaving me saying, “Well… crap! I’m going to HAVE to do these dungeons!” If I hadn’t done dungeons for Icecrown, Northrend would have pretty much been about the Titans and the Blue Flight, and why did I have to fight all this Scourge if nothing’s going to be done with them? And doesn’t Arthas live here, or something? With the way things have been redone in Cataclysm, many dungeons feel mandatory for getting the story while leveling.
That’s something that feels odd to me in many ways about the game. It doesn’t feel like this is about being a hero of your people. Some of these “heroes” aren’t even really accepted by their people. And playing just one faction cuts you off from a lot of the story. (For the love of… whatever you hold dear! PLEASE go do the Horde quest in the Hillsbrad Foothills that sends you to Dun Garok. And pay attention to what the Forsaken says when you turn it in! And do the Alliance quests at the harborage in Swamp of Sorrows. It’s an interesting look at draenei, shaman, and the Light.) This is about seeing the story. And I think that’s where a lot of arguments over PvE content come from. Some people don’t care about the story at all, really. Some people like it, but it’s not the most important thing to them. And that’s fine. Playing from a mechanics oriented viewpoint is as valid as turning off your experience gains and playing one level bracket of the battlegrounds. It’s as valid to be a PvP focused player as it is to be a PvE focused player. And it’s perfectly valid to be someone who cares most about seeing the story. But when you through people with different priorites and different degrees of ability as players together… that can be a mess.
Someone who isn’t “the best” at what they do is a liability for their team in PvP and in PvE. In PvP, though, I would expect that everyone is there because they want to compete (and win) in PvP. I’d like it to be that way. I know some people are there because they’re bored, some are there to grief, some are there for epeen. Ideally, though, everyone is there to compete (and win!) in PvP. In PvE, everyone is — again, ideally — there to get the bosses down. The reasons for wanting to get the bosses down can be completely different from person to person and still be a valid aspect of playing the game, though. Why is Blizzard “making things easy for ‘the casuals’?” I think the question should be, “Why is Blizzard moving more and more story content to dungeons and raids?” So, yes, I use addons in PvE. I’m there to see the story, and I don’t want to have that ruined for me by things it’s not entirely my fault that I’m not the best at handling. Yet I feel like PvP should still be a more pure competition based on skill. When you can’t get a boss down, you can keep trying. You haven’t really lost until you give up. In PvP, there are clear winners and losers at the end of the fight.
And here’s the part that gets really uncomfortable for me… Maybe I just really have no business doing PvP. I’ve admitted here that I’m not the best at the game, and that I work very hard and use addons just to be adequate in PvE. I’ve only done one dungeon in the 80+ content, and no heroics. I’m bothered by the fact that I’m not getting to see the Lost City of the Tol’vir. When I feel like my lack of ability is enough of a liability to a group, I just don’t do the content. If I can’t compensate for my shortcomings reasonbly well, I refuse to drag other people down. And yet I say I want PvP to be a true test of ability. That means I will fail. No matter how much better I get at it, I will likely never be “good enough”.
Is it a “bad” addon? I really don’t know where I stand on that. Do I think Blizzard should ban the use of it? Not really. But I’m not real big on people being told what they must and must not do, anyway. Maybe it all comes down to deciding what’s right for you, and what’s right for your team. For me, I don’t believe that’s healing in battlegrounds. That’s just really disappointing to me because I was looking forward to it. But I’m not sure I can be honest with myself and come to any other decision.