Like many members of my demographic, I was very much into Alternative music during the late 80's and into the 90's. I got to thinking about an old favorite song this morning as I spoke to a few Everquest 2 players I've been speaking to and against since 2003 or so. One particular song is by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, and it's called "What I Am".
It's odd that I was thinking of this song during our conversations this morning, but there it was, like a soundtrack to the discussion. Differing lyrics would come up throughout the process:
"I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean."
These players, like many MMO players these days, felt that their opinions were the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. Facts, schmacts – they know what's "really going on" at SOE. I read conspiracy theory atop conspiracy theory from players I've known to be intelligent and respectful for years. It was like coming home for the holidays and finding out your old college roommates had joined a cult, and nothing you said could convince them of the error of their ways.
How do you speak with someone who refuses to acknowledge that opinion is not the same as fact, I wondered? You can't really hit them with logic if they're refusing to see it. They'll just interject more opinions to counter. The argument becomes pretty circular pretty quick in that situation. My friend insists that SOE is clueless and managed by idiots and I try to point out where I think my friend's opinion might be a bit over the top, particularly since he was (at this point) just ranting on about internal organization structures at SOE he couldn't possibly have knowledge about. Of course, because I didn't agree, I was immediately branded as uninformed, unreasonable, or uncredible – because my opinion didn't match to that person's "facts". In my head, Edie Brickell wailed on:
"What I am is what I am are you what you are or what?"
The discussion always takes an ugly turn once personal attacks and judgements start to fly. So, now, not only was SOE somehow clueless because my friend was upset by the recent tradeskill revamp, suddenly I was clueless for asking for proof. I should have known my day was going to be a long one when I saw the conversation take that turn. Stubbornly, I trudged on only to get hit with more personal attacks.
Now, this isn't some sort of open forum whackjob that I expect to resort to "I know you are but what I am" tactics. This is someone I've respected for some time – a leader in the Everquest 2 community. Regardless, he keeps on keeping on, and the hits just keep on coming as well.
I do my best to ignore the personal slings and digs, and keep trying to keep on task during this roundtable discussion. The drama keeps getting poured on. At this point, somewhere in my head, the mental stereo cranks up a notch, and Edie starts screaming out:
"Choke me in the shallow water
Before I get too deep!"
I back off and back away, but this whole incident is a reminder to me that even the most level headed people have their boiling point. It also reminds me that dedicated MMO gamers become very emotionally invested in their chosen pasttime.
Massive updates like Live Update 24 are going to rile some feathers. Some of that "rile" is going to manifest itself in ugly ways – attacks against developers, other players, and even long time friends are going to bubble out in the heat of the moment. Frustration and anger runs deep and it's only a matter of time before the right issue comes along to make a deep enough cut for some folks.
As humans, we're resistant to change. We prefer security and comfort zones and predictability plays a large role in that. We like to know that the sun's going to rise, the tide will come back, and tradeskilling will still play an integral part in the world of Everquest 2.
Though many players like the changes, there's still a selection that do not (see my last post for my predictions on this). For these particular changes, it seems the balance of upset comes from the oldest, most veteran tradeskillers. They've seen their profits drop. There are more players entering tradeskilling, and at the same time, stats on most items have been downgraded. This leads to massive changes in demand from the overall market.
Now, it's going to take some time to shake out, but in the meantime, some players aren't willing to wait. They want changes and roll backs NOW – not later, but RIGHT NOW – and they're not afraid to use any tactic they can to get what they want. It's leading to some ugly discussions on the forums, even in areas previously thought to be relatively mature. Personal attacks are flying and not even the developers are safe here. I've seen outright threats and demands regarding which developers need to be fired (briefly, before the offending posts are removed, of course), but nothing like I have over the past week or so.
Maybe it's just because it's so personal. Those long time friends I mentioned? One attempted to explain to me this morning that it's "justifiable" to "publically shame" developers if they don't move quickly enough to correct an issue. That's just bad juju right there.
The moment we all stand up and say "it's ok to attack someone, provided you have a good reason", it's game over for constructive discussion. Logical points and reasoned arguments give way to zingers and one-liners. The discussion shifts from "what can we do to fix this" to "who's fault is this?"
Moorgard once parodied some of the arguments raised on various forums with his "Open Letter to Big Timmy's Burger Palace". Blackguard directly addressed the issue on the official forums some time back as well in response to some fairly mean-spirited posts at that time which implied the developers didn't care about the Coercer class.
We allow ourselves to say things anonymously online that we'd never say to the faces of people. Most players who meet a developer would be respectful, even when raising hot-button issues…but on the forums, there's apparantly no-holds barred when it comes to tactics.
Are we all truly such children? Do we even have a clue of what we're saying to each other – about each other? May we're just incapable of understanding the vitriol we spew at each other. Maybe we're all just unaware of the thin ice beneath our feet when we start tap dancing.
"Philosophy, is a walk on the slippery rocks
Religion, is a light in the fog."
Maybe we just don't realize that some tactics aren't working…and if they do, is it really worth the price we pay?