If you want World of Warcraft to be a better game, don’t be a jerk
It’s often tempting to forget that MMOs are full of other people.
That Draenei riding around on a store mount? That’s a person. That Night Elf who used a paid character boost so they could be level 58 for Burning Crusade Classic? That’s also a person. The Horde Rogue you just stomped into the dirt in the Blasted Lands? The Alliance Paladin who’s been trying to kill the Wyvern Master in the Crossroads? These are all people.
And people have feelings. Sometimes they have a bad day and turn to their favorite MMO to relax, cut loose, and have fun. They all have subscriptions that they manage to renew, one way or another, whether they pay the $15 USD a month or they use their gold-gathering skills to buy a WoW Token.
But lately I’m seeing a lot of hostility in the community. People are quick to anger and quick to judge other players. “I’ll never group with someone who used the boost,” is a common complaint amongst WoW Classic players who are upset that Blizzard offers a level boost so new players can jump straight into Burning Crusade Classic. I’ve also seen players treating store mounts, charity pets, or other purchases as something that’s hurting the game, and attempting to bully or shame those players.
It’s hostile, entitled behavior that seems to believe there’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game.
And there is a wrong way to be a part of the Warcraft community — but it’s not because you bought a store mount or you used a readily available shortcut to play the new expansion. It’s because you decided to be a jerk.
Harassment and toxicity shouldn’t be part of the game
Trying to shame or ostracize other players, other people, for simply playing the game in a different way than you prefer to play is not just gatekeeping — it’s presumptuous and pointlessly aggressive. If you believe that real money transactions for things in the game is bad, you have the right to that opinion. You have the right to make that argument, to offer feedback, to try and explain why letting players spend money for boosts or mounts devalues the efforts of other players who don’t spend that money.
But you don’t have the right to insult people, harass them, or otherwise try and make their gameplay less fun over something completely allowed within the game just because you don’t like it.
Doing that is the definition of toxic behavior. It goes beyond having an opinion and becomes ruinous. It destroys discourse, because people acting this way aren’t trying to get people to agree with them anymore — they’re just trying to belittle and insult others. It moves beyond “here’s why I think this thing is bad” and goes into “I can’t allow you to play this video game in a way I don’t like even though it has absolutely no impact on me.”
This kind of behavior is all about ruining someone else’s day.
Have a complaint? Then your complaint is with Blizzard, not players
If you don’t like real money purchases or cosmetic items, there’s an easy solution: don’t buy them. If you think they’re bad for the game, tell Blizzard thatand leave other players out of it. Players with boosted characters and expensive mounts aren’t the ones who make the policy at Blizzard, and bullying them won’t do anything except make the entire community a less pleasant place.
Whatever your opinion on Blizzard’s real money options in World of Warcraft is, compared to what we’re seeing from Ubisoft or EA, they’re the definition of restrained. But even if buying mounts or boosts is bad for the game — even if the players complaining are completely right about the negative effects of RMTs — the issue is with Blizzard. No matter how much you might disagree with Blizzard about the policy of selling in-game mounts for real money, someone who bought a sparkle pony didn’t do anything to you. Being rude to someone because they spent money on a mount is just being rude.
Not to get all Goofus and Gallant on this, but there’s also a wrong way to give feedback to Blizzard. Though players can and should air their grievances to Blizzard, sometimes opinions are presented as truth-telling to the out-of-touch developers who are ruining the game. But just like the player riding by on a sparkle pony, those developers are people, not just robots who slave away in the coding mines. Going to BlizzCon back in 2019 really drove home for me just how many people put hours and hours of their time and their passion into these games, and they don’t deserve to be attacked for it. Developers don’t make game decisions to spite players — while they are human, and they can and do make decisions we don’t agree with (ask me about the burst window in Fury back in Wrath sometime) — there’s a right way to offer feedback. It’s not being a jerk.
Store mounts and pets provide no meaningful game benefit, and the only thing the store provides that does — level boosts — still doesn’t give players an “I win” button — it simply allows them to skip some grinding. Even Everquest does that. FFXIV has had boosts for years. Maybe you love boosts, maybe you hate them, and that’s your right.
But once anyone starts giving other players grief because of their opinions, they’re being disruptive and toxic.
Don’t be a jerk
I feel like the fact that I actually have to type don’t be a jerk like it’s some kind of new advice and not something that should be a basic part of human interaction, which is what this is, to be unutterably sad. But there we are.
A lot of people are passionate about the game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Use that passion to try to make the game and the gaming community a better place. Talk about the game features you dislike, and try to persuade players and developers to see things from your point of view. But when someone starts saying “anyone who buys Squeakers is a bane on the game and deserves to be harassed until they stop playing,” as just one example? They’re the problem. There’s no debate to be had.
If you want Warcraft to be a better game, the answer is easy: don’t be a jerk.
Originally published 5/27/2021
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