On Epicness: A Personal Take
Every week, A Paladin’s Tale does a Monday Morning Breakfast Topic. I really enjoyed their latest topic: “Why ‘epic’ no longer means epic, & what the WoW Dev team could do to resolve the issue to bring back some meaning to gear.”
I find this general fixation on loot/gear to be a fascinating phenomenon, mainly because it kinda goes over my practical, practical head. Kurn also recently wrote about how loot has lost its value (and when someone who doesn’t even play the game is writing long dissertations on a topic, you know it’s a good a topic), which triggered a reaction from me.
Here is my confused interpretation of our conversation:
Me: But gear matters! It took my guild months to get our first heroic Horridon kill! Now that we have gear, he just falls over. Gear still makes a difference.
Kurn: It does matter for killing things, but with upgrades and resets every patch, gear in itself doesn’t matter.
Me: THAT MAKES NO SENSE!
What is “Epic”?
I vaguely remember in Vanilla, I’d sometimes find myself in trouble and some level 60 would stop and help me. Sometimes they would have purples. I would draw the following conclusions:
– They have a lot of time to play the game (it took me over a year to reach max level the first time).
– They have a lot of friends.
– They got lucky with the RNG.
Then I would thank them, be on my way and totally forget about the encounter.
Apparently that is the wrong reaction. The correct reaction should have supposedly been awe. But I don’t understand why I should be awed by someone who plays a lot of video games, has friends and is lucky.
I am awed by people sometimes. People with strong personalities. People who are much smarter than me. People who work hard and don’t give up. But I can’t draw any connections between those traits and having fancy WoW gear.
A Paladin’s Tale argues that LFR and crafting (and even normal mode raiding) should reward rare/blue gear instead of epic/purple (a side note on crafting, though, I find the higher level craftable gear a gazillion times harder to make than merely killing a heroic raid boss). Me, I really don’t care either way. Blue, purple, they’re just colours. What matters are the stats on them, how well those stats are used and how much those stats will assist me with a boss kill.
So, what is epic to me?
Facets of the game art, maybe. I mean, some gear pieces do look badass. (This is coming from someone who’s never transmogged anything in her WoW life, ha!) But the only things in game that feel really “epic” to me have very little, if nothing, to do with players: huge mysterious dungeons, creative bad guys (and gals), brave heroes, and beautiful details that you only notice when you stop and look around (check out Katherinne’s blog to see some of WoW’s cool details spotlighted)
In my mind, then, those worthy of my awe were never the best geared players, but rather WoW’s art, story and encounter design teams.
Motivation beyond gear
Conversation, circa the end of Dragon Soul, with a few interpretive liberties:
Healing lead: Do you need anything off Dragonwing?
Me: I thought we already killed the last boss this expansion.
Healing lead: Yeah, but do you still need anything off it?
Me: Why would I need anything? We already killed the boss.
Healing lead: You don’t make sense.
Me: YOU DON’T MAKE SENSE.
An argument that A Paladin Tale brings up, and that comes up fairly often in other discussions around the topic, is that WoW centers around making your character as strong as possible and loot is kinda the only motivation toward that.
I suppose it shouldn’t have, but the idea of the game being strong-character centric actually surprised me. I’d never thought about it in that way before.
Originally, WoW for me was just an escape from reality and thinking. Tired of writing stupid papers for school? Go kill 10 wolves. With some music playing in the background. In my early raiding days, playing the game became a fun learning experience (I love learning. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. My goal in life to learn EVERYTHING.) and an activity to do with cool people. When I got more serious about raiding, the game became about teamwork and perfecting my WoW gaming skills.
If I make my character stronger, my end goal is never her strength. I want her strong so she can keep up with the team, I want her strong as a result of me discovering how to be a better player, I want her strong so we can see content faster. Without a team, without a kill and without learning experience, her strength is worthless. WORTHLESS.
While a lot of gamers cling to the outdated notion of “people are motivated by epic gear“, I personally think that Blizzard is frontward thinking by moving away from archaically using player hierarchy as the ultimate motivator. Concentrating on making the game intrinsically fun to play and investing in potential teamwork situations (also known as “fun things to do with friends and maybe strangers who aren’t annoying“) will make the game far more adapted to the kind of gamer we want to be around in MMOs.
Me and my gear
The other day, I was in a heroic. You know, just Denouncing my way to easy VP, when the hunter whispered me.
Hunter: Sick gear!
Me (very awkward): Thank you….
Hunter: Have you been raiding long?
Me (still very awkward): Kinda. I love to raid.
I love to raid. I wanted to insist on that. Love it, love it, love it. I find working on raid days very difficult because I’m so excited to get home and raid. The hours just crawl by. The gear… The gear is nothing. I don’t want people to look at my character and be all”OMG she has fancy ilvls!“. I’d far, far rather people look at me and say “Wow, she sure loves what she does.”
Some nights are rough. Raids have me in tears pretty often (one of the many reasons I’ll never stream!) and I don’t mind. In the end, I think getting through those tough moments just makes the experience more rewarding.
I love feeling us learn a new fight, I love that satisfaction when we finally “get it right” but above all, I love the teamwork. Discovering who my teammates are as people, adapting to more…difficult personalities and, most of all, sharing ups and the downs with fellow gamers from all walks of life. It’s like magic.
And there’s no loot colour in the world that could be more epic to me than that.General WoW, Internet Anthropology