The Eternal Debate

Posted: June 20, 2007 by Kendricke in Character Development, General Game Concepts, Guilds

The bars of West Hollywood and New York are awash with people throwing their lives away in the desperate hope of finding a shortcut, any shortcut. And a lot of them aren’t even young anymore; their B-plans having been washed away by Vodka & Tonics years ago.Meanwhile their competition is at home, working their asses off.

-Hugh Macleod, “How To Be Creative

Over at “Common Sense Gamer”, Darren is apparently determined to show just how much you can beat a horse and jump a shark at the same time. 

Once again (for what, the third time in a month), the discussion drifts back to the subject of hardcore vs. casual design.  Now, far be it from me to avoid a good debate, so once more into the breach, dear friends, once more…

Basically, these arguments invariably discuss fundamental differences between raiders and soloers or raiders and group players or raiders and casual players. 

In such arguments, “raider” is immediately synonymous with “hardcore”, used here in a way to denote someone who puts in extraordinary amounts of time playing the game.  My three long time readers will recall that this was actually the first real topic I tackled here on the Tracker over a year ago:

It’s not a question of raiders vs. soloers.  That’s an artificial battleline being drawn in the sand by players, not by developers.  I repeat – we are artificially creating sides on an issue that doesn’t require sides.  Because we ALL want more content.  All of us.  Every.  Single.  One.  Of.  Us.

We are not your enemy here.  You are not ours.  My guild consists of both raiders AND soloers.  Somehow, we manage to not kill each other every night, but actually do just fine.  It’s not some magical land of rainbows and fluffy puppies where we get along in some make-believe way.  It’s reality and there’s no drama – certainly not like threads such as this would have us believe. 

My guild is casual.  I say this again, because for some reason it gets lost constantly in the shuffle:  by traditional definition, my members are generally casual.

We are limited by time.  We are 50+ hour workweek parents who volunteer at our community centers, places of worship and other local charaties.  We have families.  We have children.  Many of us work multiple jobs. 

One of our members is a Radiologist.  We also have a surgeon.  Two of our members are truck drivers – one a long hauler.  We have teachers, professors, computer programmers, business analysts, and even a retired martial arts instructor (he turned 70 today – Happy Birthday Pada!).  Over half of our guild is former military.  Several are currently enlisted, with two potentially shipping out soon (they intend on maintaining play schedules). 

We group quite a bit.  We run quests.  We worked hard to get a level 60 guild months ago.  We play the broker.  We solo a lot.  We parse numbers and even spend time on Test together.

Oh yeah, we also raid.

We actually raid 3 nights per week, for no longer than 3 hours at a stretch.  Many times, we end raids after only an hour or two.  However, due to the early-to-rise jobs many of us have, once that 3 hour mark comes due, we’re done…even if we almost had the boss on that last run.  We’ll get him next week.

We used to only raid once a week.  We actually did quite well then, too, with raiding used only on Saturday mornings (while most of our kids were glued to TV or out in the yards).  It was our once weekly “big group” and we had a lot of fun with it.  So much fun, that we eventually started trying to work in more raiding each week (at the expense of other events). 

For us, this was fine.  It didn’t take much time, and halfway through every raid, we take a 10 minute break just to let everyone get up and walk around. 

What’s more?  We’re not the only guild I know of like us.  I can name several additional guilds on our server who raid relatively casually, for an hour or two at a time, a couple or more times each week.  We’ve all learned that since time is our primary limitation, we make the absolute most of it when we can.

So we’re serious about our play.  We don’t dawdle.  We schedule our events in advance.  We plan our groups to cut down on idle time.  We don’t waste time – because for most of us, time is precious.  That’s time we could be with our families, or working on a project around the house, or hanging out with friends at the neighborhood bar. 

We pay this price willingly and eagerly because we enjoy that time as well spent, and take great satisfaction from achieving goals many seem to think is beyond our resources.

This idea that raiding is somehow the domain of an exclusionary elite is an erroneous stereotype perpetrated quite often by players based on a limited perception of a few cutting edge guilds who belong to an incredibly small vocal minority. 

What’s more, there is no exclusion here.  I wish I had more time to go jetskiing this summer.  However, I’m not able to change my schedule to go jetskiing this summer.  Does that mean jetskiing is an inherently exclusive activity? 

This idea that “The casual gamer wants to participate in everything and have an equal chance at an equal game experience, loot, etc.” already exists in most games.  The problem isn’t that there isn’t an equal chance…but that most players aren’t willing to put in “equal time” or “equal effort”. 

We’re not.  We’re fine with that.  We’re casual gamers who have an equal chance, but we don’t expect short cuts or freebies along the way.  We’ll work for our rewards, thank you very much, and frankly the idea that we need some sort of special treatment to get to the same rewards the cutting edge guilds take for granted is offensive to us. 

This idea that there are battle lines drawn in the sand, firmly demarcating the point between raiders and “the good people” is just ridiculous, and arguments which perpetuate the stereotype need to be forever buried and put out of their misery.

As long as gamers continue to push the idea that we are in different set camps, we’ll never be able to come together on issues which affect us all.  As long as we seek to segregate, rather than compromise – as long as we continue to desire what other players have, instead of just worrying about what we have, there will always be such arguments.

Attempt to circumvent these truths and you do so at your own peril.  There is no game that is so “casual friendly” that “hardcore” players will not make it their home as well.  Don’t fool yourself into a misguided belief that simply making a game easier or more time friendly will remove exclusivity, when the exclusivity comes not from the design, but from the players themselves.

Any time a game is designed with multiple players in mind, there will always be competition.  We simply can’t wish it away. 

By all means, make a game without raiding or pvp or content which takes longer than an hour or two to fulfill.  I think such a concept is great.  I’d play that game. 

…and yet there will still be arguments about making the game more “casual friendly”.

This is the argument that will never die.  Ironically enough, the argument itself can’t die because the source of it’s angst is rooted in the very problem it complains loudest about – that most basic of human natures:  competition. 

  1. sithload says:

    I’m seeing two themes in these series of posts on raiding.

    First, it seems that some people have a hard time believing that casual players can enjoy raiding. I think you’re refuting that pretty well.

    Second, it seems that some people view raiding as mainly a route to loot.

    Raiding offers rewards beyond loot that aren’t as tangible. My DAOC guild was perhaps the most selfless group of people I’ve ever gamed with. I think everyone enjoyed seeing someone else in the group get a great piece of gear. The theme was helping each other, not personal acquisition. Everyone knew that just by playing regularly, we’d all get good gear, and we’d live vicariously through whoever scored good loot on a particular evening.

    Sometimes the best part about a successful raid isn’t the loot that drops, but the story that emerges. Did you almost wipe? Did someone play extremely well and save the raid? Did someone who usually plays extremely well do something stupid which everyone laughed about? Was there an experience that transcends the loot drop?

    Happy raiders seem to get off on cooperation, not competition.

  2. kendricke says:

    That’s a great point, I hadn’t really considered so much.

    In all the discussion about “evil” raiders who are often labelled “hardcore”, “elitist”, or “competitive”, it’s rarely been my actual experience that any of the labels are generally deserved.

    Quite often, the raiders I know of are frequently family oriented, successful professionals in their careers, and typically quite team oriented. These are players who quite often are interested in a playstyle preference which allows them to play with consistent groups of other players, as opposed to spending time online with strangers or by themselves.

  3. kendricke says:

    By the way, though I refer to my guildmates and I as “casual”, that’s merely the traditional MMO-centric connotation of the word. If you read back to the Battlelines entry I linked, I don’t see any players who spend time arguing on blogs as truly “casual”.

    Truly casual players are the real silent majority. They log in, play a bit, and log out without a second thought. They aren’t the players spending emotional energy worrying about how other players are able to access areas they can’t – certainly not to the extent we are in discussions like this.

  4. sithload says:

    I think, ever since my time spent amassing posts on the old EQ Druid’s Grove back in ’99, I’ve been more hardcore in my discussions of games than I am actually playing them. Yeah, none of us are casual in that sense. We might not all PvP, or min/max, or raid to the exclusion of hygiene or sunlight, but casual we ain’t.

    Ya know, with it being so easy to comment and blather on with each other about games, I think sometimes we suffer from a lack of specifity or precision in the words we use. Casual and hardcore seem to fall into that trap. The “Virtual World” vs. “MMOG” arguments of last week had a similar feel to it. Sometimes it’s tough to just parse the meaning of the phrases being thrown around so you can dig in and specifically identify the issue at hand.

  5. Moorgard says:

    It’s “unto the breach,” not “into.”

    As with MMO content, the devil’s in the details.

  6. […] to other conversations, so buckle up and stick with me here. Kendricke’s had enough of the eternal debate over endgame raiding because it’s possible that game design cannot present a solution. […]

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