World of Warcraft is a game that has been praised for years. It’s an immersive world with a diverse cast of characters and a deep lore. At the same time, it’s also been criticized for its toxicity and how it can be harmful to players. In this article, we’ll explore what WoW does well and how it can be improved in order to make gaming more inclusive for everyone.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The game has been around for over 12 years and is still going strong. It has an estimated lifetime value of $9 billion and is one of the most popular MMORPGs in history.
First and foremost, a word of caution: this is going to be a piece that deals with some potentially difficult subject matter, although in an oblique manner. While I will not be discussing intimate partner abuse in great detail or with professional authority, if these are difficult topics for you, this may be an uncomfortable read for you. Furthermore, please do not consider anything I say in this column as diagnostic or expert analyses of how abusive or poisonous relationships operate since I am not a therapist, and therapists are the best individuals to evaluate and treat those kinds of relationships.
After all of that, I’d want to discuss how World of Warcraft seems to mimic a toxic relationship for a large number of people. No, I’m not referring to those who just believe the game is fantastic and that better games aren’t feasible despite clear evidence to the contrary. There’s a reason I used the term “toxic” there.
Every now and again, there are parallels made between World of Warcraft and being in an abusive relationship. Because the fundamental element of an abusive relationship is a significant power imbalance and the capacity to compel or threaten one partner in such a manner that the aforementioned power dynamic is drastically distorted, this is incorrect. WoW has no authority over you. It may seem that way, but it is more a result of habit than anything else. I’m willing to bet that no one reading this will lose their job as a result of their refusal to participate.
Poisonous relationships are all abusive relationships, but not all abusive relationships are toxic. When we get into the entire spectrum of toxicity, there’s a lot more going on under the surface, and it’s that toxicity, rather than out-and-out abuse, that I find both more representative of how a lot of people interact with WoW and more fascinating to explore. Because you’re probably aware that the relationship is poisonous on some level… yet you’re still in it.
There are many different things out there that give various definitions of a toxic relationship, but they all have certain characteristics in common, and the broad strokes are as follows:
- The relationship’s participants communicate with each other in a hostile manner.
- It’s difficult to have faith in the other person or to be vulnerable in their presence.
- The other person is attempting to control your actions and/or feelings.
- You put out a lot of work in the connection, yet it is not rewarded.
- Lies and lies are all too common.
- You ultimately create justifications for the other party’s conduct, fooling yourself into thinking it’s within your control.
Let’s break this down piece by piece, and the first one is a no-brainer. Blizzard’s condescending or dismissive attitude has become normal operating practice, to the point that J. Allen Brack’s “you think you do, but you don’t” remark is still used to describe almost everything the company produces. Take a look at the reaction to the Shadowlands beta’s comments. Take a look at the letter that explains why free Covenant switching is now possible.
It’s worth noting that this animosity is not one-sided. Gamers are clearly just as angry and nasty toward the studio as the studio is against its players. Put a pin in it; we’ll return to it later.
Obviously, you don’t “trust” a business in the same manner that you would an intimate relationship, but the comparison is still significant. People do not believe that their desires or comments will be heard or taken into account. There’s a broad feeling that communication is one-way exclusively, and if that isn’t a sign of distrust, I’m not sure what is.
The following two points are nearly Blizzard-style tactics. The launcher and general cross-promotional schemes make it obvious that Blizzard’s aim is to get people fully involved in the ecosystem of their games, which will take up 100% of the users’ spare time. Numerous aspects in World of Warcraft are designed to drive you towards material you may not like in order to improve the game, and you are discouraged from taking pauses. And, despite all of your efforts, you seldom feel rewarded, just more exhausted.
Lies and half-truths? Oh, boy. It’s difficult to say where the boundary between falsehoods and a lack of trust should be drawn, yet they both stem from the same place. When Blizzard says anything about WoW, people don’t trust it, and they don’t think that input will be taken seriously. Any kind of interaction between gamers and developers becomes laden with problems as a result.
What about defense? Some players are borderline pathological in their defense of WoW against criticism, claiming that all of the things Blizzard has the resources to do but chooses not to can’t be done for a variety of reasons, the majority of which circle back to what Blizzard has claimed is possible based on little or no evidence. Is there any player housing available?
But hold on a second. We had previously inserted a pin into something. That animosity isn’t only directed at players by Blizzard; it’s also directed towards Blizzard by players. That isn’t by chance, nor is it completely unexpected.
This isn’t to imply that harassment or hate speech directed towards developers is a good thing; if that’s your takeaway from the preceding paragraphs, you’ve completely missed the point. Instead, I’m stating something that should be self-evident. When you’re in a toxic relationship, escalation is a common occurrence with encounters. Individuals grow more noisy in their attempts to be heard and elicit a response as they feel increasingly ignored.
Needless to say, this leads to poor outcomes, but it’s a natural consequence of feeling as though your efforts aren’t yielding results. If you don’t believe you’re being heard, you’ll grow more confrontational and unpleasant until you’re able to communicate in some way.
One of the first things I said was that there’s a distinction between a poisonous relationship and one that’s outright abusive. The truth is that World of Warcraft has no influence over you. It has no power to compel you to do anything. You do, after all, have the option to leave. However, toxic relationships are tough to quit, and WoW is no exception. You’ve made pals, you’re at ease, and it’s conceivable that the basic gaming cycle is a lot of fun for you. Even if you don’t now, you did once, and it’s a hard habit to break.
It’s a connection that depends on you deciding that the terrible thing you’re used to is too deep a hole to climb out of. However, demonstrating your authority in a toxic relationship is the greatest thing you can do. To walk away, to make it obvious that you will no longer be a participant to this conduct. It’s challenging, but it’s essential.
Is everyone’s connection with World of Warcraft toxic? No. However, all of the components are in place. Which begs the issue of whether or not your personal connection with the game is included… as well as the concomitant issue of what you’ll do about it.
World of Warcraft, with a decade of existence and a massive presence in the MMORPG market, is one of the few games that never changes. Each week, Eliot Lefebvre explores the massive MMO, how it connects with the wider world of online gaming, and what’s new in the realms of Azeroth and Draenor in a new episode of WoW Factor.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that has been around for over a decade. The game is free to play, but it has also been known to mirror toxic relationships in the real world. Reference: is world of warcraft free.
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