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Do you even hear yourselves? (Or, why people complaining about the lack of a “gap” in WoW need to re-examine their arguments and then just stop)

The “Gap”

In World of Warcraft the “gap” refers to the noticeable difference between what some players can do/get and others cannot. This gap has been closing more noticeably as the years go by. The farther back you go in WoW’s history, the fewer people you find with end-game items.

Some players are indifferent about the “gap”. What someone else has or has done has no relevance in their enjoyment of the game. It has no affect on their feeling of epicness, achievement, fun, value, or self-worth.

Other players find the closing of the gap to be a turn-off, and to an extent quite alarming. From what I have read/seen, these players tend to be people that made up the smaller playerbase that were the “haves” instead of the “have nots”. With no simple distinguishable way of noticing their greatness, uberness, skill, devotion, time commitment- whatever the specific case may be- they feel like the wind has been taken out of their sails.

Blizzard has posed a question numerous times to its upset minority of players along the lines of “why is it bad for everyone to experience all portions of gameplay.” This is met with a mixed bag of responses. Things along the lines of “you diminish our achievements”, “people need players to admire and heights to aspire to”, “you’re making the game too easy”, “I spend an awful lot of time and energy on this and you practically give it away weeks/months later”, just to name a handful. These rationales evolve over time as Blizzard neatly offers a counter-arguments.

The one thing that Blizzard hasn’t brought up, and I don’t blame them from a business standpoint, is that the majority of these players likely have an exterior locus of identity- meaning that they are only as valuable as other people believe they are. Driven by extrinsic instead of intrinsic motivation, these players need the “gap” to exist or their value diminishes exponentially.

That’s cool, dude! Where did you get that?

We’ve all said it at some point: “Where did you get that?” You see a player in WoW with something really cool looking and you want to know what it takes to get one for yourself. Some responses are short and simple replies naming a dungeon or quest. Some answers include a cool story including long quest lines and weeks upon weeks of work. A big part of WoW is the visual component. We can even transmogrify our gear these days to obtain a specific look.

Throughout the history of WoW what a player has accomplished can often be observed visually. One of my favorite personal examples was the Fandral’s Flamescythe from Firelands. The weapon had the ability to turn Cat-form Druids into flaming versions of the animal form. I was one of the first players on my server to have one and it was fun to turn into a firecat and then just hang out around town. I enjoyed talking to people about it. Admittedly, it made me feel like something of a big shot.

I CAN HAZ FIRECAT.

I CAN HAZ FIRECAT.

One of the differences between me and some of the more vocal “gap” opponents is that how other people see me and my character has nothing to do with why I enjoy the game. I worked really hard to get that staff and while I did enjoy the adulation it got me for a brief time, it was a non-issue when pretty much anyone with enough time and energy could get one. Conspicuous consumption relies on the rarity of the things you own and when that’s gone, you need to have something better. The drawback of having an exterior locus of identity.

Having an exterior locus of identity is a very common thing. A simple trip to Facebook will prove that. While we criticize people for posting pictures of themselves seeking attention and approval, how can we then turn around and show off our in-game goodies seeking similar attention and approval? We can tell ourselves that we’re not engaging in the same behavior, but it’s something Blizzard has undoubtedly already noticed. Imagine people petitioning Facebook’s admins to stop allowing people to share funny pictures because “I worked days to Photoshop that joke, and only I should be able to share it, I don’t want anyone else posting it to their profile and benefiting from something they didn’t put the same amount of work into.”

Have your fun and eat it too

This is a such a great time to be considering this idea, with the world engaged in the Olympics. Why can’t we enjoy what we’ve done simply on the merits of the journey? Winning the gold and setting the world record is the best you can do in any given event. Does that make a gold medal without setting a record any less great? How about winning a silver or bronze medal? What about all the people that don’t medal? They made it to the Olympics! It’s a great achievement even if you get last place.

If you really did have that gear first- you had it first. If you put in hour after hour to get that world/server/faction first kill- you had it first. If you replied first to this blog post, you had it first.

Did you have fun?

Is it cool if everyone else has fun now?

-w3rd-