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How the WoW community is about to push the self-destruct button

This post is going to be very meta in some regards, and it's going to touch on a few things that deal with the WoW community's very existence. We've written this article in hopes that it might help calm the waters, or at least bring some will on the part of the multitudes of individuals not to jump on the wrong bandwagon.

If you've been paying attention to the role forums and the "Ghostcrawler drama" this past week, you know what I'm talking about. If not, we'll begin with a brief rundown.

The Inherency of the Status Quo

WoW is designed and run by a team of people, with a handful of "leads" in position to direct the design of the game. These people, such as Ghostcrawler, are at the top of the ladder in terms of game development. They are the conglomerate of the entire design and development teams underneath them.

Ghostcrawler, and in the past a few people like him, post on the role forums daily in an effort to establish a dialogue with the community over some, but not all, game design principals.

The community, as expected, is more than happy to talk with Ghostcrawler and the rest of Blizzard.

The Harm of the Vocal Minority

The vast, the extremely vast, majority of WoW players are quite happy with the direction of the game and the balance that has been struck therein. The majority of players understand that the game is ever changing, that just because you're at the top today doesn't mean you'll be at the top tomorrow. The vast majority of players take this to be a game, and nothing more.

However, a minority of the players, which have recently developed a very loud voice, are not pleased with the direction and development of the game; especially those that have been around the entire time the past five years. While this vocal minority have many legitimate issues, some which truly do deserve to be addressed, they risk having not only themselves but the entire system of direct designer interaction shut down over their inappropriate and abusive tactics.

Case in point is a 20+ page, 20,000 view topic on the role forums that has developed over the past day (there have also been innumerable other ones deleted). In it, the vocal minority goes on a direct yet rambling attack against Ghostcrawler and the rest of the designers for what they've done with the game. The attacks are inappropriate and a complete distraction from the real questions and concerns the community needs to have addressed.

Solving the Problem

The community needs to do a few things, and these things need to happen soon.

First, the inappropriate commentary needs to either be shot down en masse, or it just needs to be ignored. The vocal minority only responds the way it does because players in general respond well to their tactics. When a person yells "FSCKING GC nerfed paladins again! I'm quitting!" and then sees two dozen affirmations of his sentiments, not only will he continue but he'll also cause other players to mimic his behavior. Instead, if he saw two dozen replies telling him to grow up and behave, then he would be shamed into behaving.

Secondly, the community as a whole needs to understand that it doesn't have a solid grasp on class balance and general game design. The topics are infinitely complex, often times requiring high level education to understand completely; especially in such a huge system like WoW. The people who do understand these systems are employed by Blizzard, and if not, they're listened to by people like Ghostcrawler. The community is not entitled to run the game. The fact that we all have a unique and valuable opportunity to engage in discussion about its direction is not a blank check to demand change.

In addition to the community changing, Blizzard needs to do something as well. The need to get another person in the role forums whose job it is to police the participants. This would have two effects. First, it would serve to show that the vocal minority that Blizzard supports its designers – no one could say that "I was just banned because Ghostcrawler didn't like what I was saying." It would be much clearer that they were banned by the company and by a group of individuals for being inappropriate.

Secondly, and more importantly, this would allow Ghostcrawler and the team he represents to go back to posting and discussing actual topics of interest to the community, rather than having to respond to the vocal minority.

While it's obvious that trollish parts of the community value participating in internet yelling matches, the majority of the community does not care to hear it. We bring this issue up and to the forefront on popular WoW media because it's imperative for the health of the community that this vocal minority does not control or continue to influence the quiet majority.

If these problems within the community are not cleared up, we all stand to lose the most insight we've ever gotten about the internal workings of WoW. And when that insight is lost, along with it will go the ability to exert any influence, however small, over those internal workings.

So tonight we implore the community not to press the self-destruct button. The results are not what you want.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard

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