How influenced are you by what the top players do in a game?
Pro players, top guilds, world champions, world-first raiders — many of us follow their feats religiously. In World of Warcraft, whenever a new raid becomes available on the highest difficulty tier, the race to see which guild will claim the title of “world first” is always a pretty exciting moment for the community. But it’s not just about seeing who will win: We also watch with attention to what strategies they use, and even to what classes or specs they end up playing. And that information can sometimes trickle down to the most casual levels of play.
It’s not uncommon for things like DPS rankings on a current raid to influence what is perceived as “good” or “powerful” by players of all skill levels. Many players follow that particular metagame with attention and might reroll to a different character: whatever the flavor of the current month is, that’s what they’re playing. Talent choice, gear, even professions — if the pros decided that something is good and used it to beat a cutting-edge encounter, than it’s probably good for you as well, right?
Sadly, that kind of mentality can also have some negative consequences for the community — namely, gatekeeping. Sometimes players will shun others for not playing what is deemed “optimal,” or for deciding to play a class or talent choice that is presumed to be “sub-optimal.” Many players have sworn off playing with strangers (and PUGs in general) because of it. They would rather play only with guildies and friends, who will not attempt to dictate how they should have fun in their own spare time.
In other games, like Hearthstone, watching what decks the pros are playing is something that is even more widespread — but at least, in that case, the social gatekeeping factor isn’t as harmful. If you decide to play a “sub-optimal” deck, the only person you’re “hurting” (if you do end up losing because of that particular choice) is yourself. Yet the idea of following the meta may be even more widespread. It is considerably easier to craft and play a Paladin deck in Hearthstone during a moment when that deck is strong than it is to roll a Paladin in WoW, level that character to max, and gear them up. Yet, there are definitely many players out there who will do it.
What about you? Do you care about the metagame of whatever game is your favorite? Are you following the top players for inspiration or information, trying your best to copy what they do? Do you also enforce that to your fellow players, or are you happy to let everyone play whatever they want? Is there a point where player freedom can be detrimental to the chances of success for a whole group? Do you keep that in mind when making your choices, or not?
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