“All those high level …”
After reading John’s article on the Lifecycle of MMORPGs one section especially got me thinking, about the “Elitism” and “Xenophobia” of long-time, high-level players toward newcomers or low levels. It formed a rather ugly picture of how people behave and act once they feel they are in a higher position of power, they do not like those greensleeves, the newbies, the low-levels. As John presented his case he also showed how Developers try to counter this state of things, to allow low-levels to mix-in with the high-levels. The new with the old-timers. Does it work? It would seem not sufficiently well to keep a game afloat. However, this Opinion piece is not focusing on MMORPGs, it is looking at all the other games, which might be classified as MMOs as well. I recall how in the past I was angry, and how even now I am angry with the “Elitism” of higher rankers over newcomers or even casual gamers. This is almost a rant against, “All those high level pr*cks.”.
I tried to ask myself a simple question, where does this “Elitism” come from? There is one simple answer coming to my mind, statistics. If players can view each other’s stats then those with better stats might discredit those with worse stats. People will look at the number of battle, the win/loss kill/deaths ratio, efficiency ratings, and all the other junk that should only serve a real purpose on the leader boards, not when you want to have some fun. Not all games have statistics, while other games have them but do not allow players to view them before a game starts. However, the obsession of knowing whether the people you are with are “Good” or “Bad” has grown to some drastic levels in some games.
Here is one example, World of Tanks. I do not consider myself a great player there, even though I did write a few Guides (and even won a prize for one!). I had my share of ups and downs, and although I am not “Excellent” neither am I bad. Recently I got back to playing in a platoon with Fanatyk and we drive around, trying to work together for more spectacular victories. We won, we lost, we made some snarky comments toward each other’s performance, but in the end it was FUN. I am aware of something within World of Tanks that at first I accepted, and then I was deeply frustrated with, statistic mods. World of Tanks lets you view a player’s stats post-battle. During the battle you normally have no idea whether the guy you play with is good or bad (my first assumption is always that everybody around me is a suicide bomber, with little care for their own lives, and only want to get kills. The lower the initial benchmark, the better the later surprises). The problem is that people download Mods to help them check, already at the loading stage of the game, what is somebody’s Win Ratio, efficiency rating, etc. The diligent little bees who care about such statistics always want to know what is the chance of their victory, who should they listen to, and who is the odd one out. That is not the problem, the problem is when they verbally call out to people and insult them, calling them names or demeaning them, only because one does not have decent statistics. If I were a new player to a game and somebody off-hand types out “Oh hey, watch out for WriterX, he is a n00b.” or “Oh hey, we have a high-tier noob, we are going to lose.” over and over again I do not think I would want to play that game anymore.
Another game genre I see this problem appearing at are Strategy Games. Yet again, I am not as agile or quick as other strategy gamers, but neither am I bad at strategy games. I simply see no appeal in being capable of performing a high number of actions per minute when you can have a bit of fun with a game. Admittedly, sometimes you have to take a game seriously, but not to the point where you turn red with rage if somebody builds the wrong unit sequence at the start. Here I found a different type of elitism, battle numbers. In Wargame, Company of Heroes, C&C: Generals and many other games people will kick you out of rooms if your level or battle count is not “high” enough. What is high enough you ask? Heck if I know. Seems sometimes you simply have to be a “Max” level (for example in Wargame) in order for people to consider you worthwhile. Statistics might tell you how much experience somebody has, but it does not mean anything beyond that. If you want to have a room with only experienced gamers, that’s fine, name it that way or use a filter (if possible). Do not however insult a low-level who joins an open room, and start calling him or her a “faggot”, only because you might have those 60 levels more.
I have to level with myself, and all of you here. I can understand why you do not want a beginner in your team, there is a higher likelihood of a loss. Then there is a problem of actual nOObs, who will almost deliberately fail to learn how the game should be played, thus ruining the experience for everybody. Nobody likes losing that is true, but I always looked at things from a slightly different perspective, people have to learn. In some games I would sacrifice a victory if I could teach a newcomer some of the basic tricks of a game. It’s part of the reason I write Guides for people, to help them better understand games if they have problems on their own. Some People do not respect the learning curve however. They feel that once they are at the top anybody below them is a lesser being, and rather than extend a helping hand they will not accept the possibility that they were once at the bottom, and forced through the same swamp to reach the top.
Is there a fix? We could take out statistics, and just leave a pure and fun experience, like in all those Valve FPS games. Or we could try changing the people, to make them more open to those who are just entering the game, and instead of bashing them, help them…
… in hindsight, it might just be easier to take out statistics.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski