After listening to last weeks WoW Insider Show I was considering writing a lengthy blog post in response to the portion where two of the three hosts argue against “gear score”, but decided that I’ve said enough over the past few months here and on the official forums in it’s favor. However, after reading Tobold’s blog post this morning I’ve decided to go ahead of detail my reasoning for gear score, and how I believe a sense of entitlement is behind objections to it.
Merriam Webster defines entitlement as a belief that one is deserving of certain privileges.
Main Entry: en·ti·tle·ment
1 a : the state or condition of being entitled : right b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
2 : a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
3 : belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
Something I have witnessed more often in WoW recently than in any other MMO, or in truth, even in WoW previously. The feeling is permeating WoW to the extent that it’s taken on a life of it’s own and is the primary reason, I believe, behind the guiding philosophy that Blizzard has been employing for raid tunements in WotLK, as well as the totality of dungeon “tunements” — cough nerfs — including those recently announced regarding the Occulus. Enough people have demanded that all content become homogenized and “accessible” that Blizzard has made it so, or will given enough time. Look to the raid tunements for example. Blizzard has been fairly upfront that they watch raid progression. Once the hard core raiding guilds clear content Blizzard has been fairly consistent with going back in and nerfing the content until a majority of players can then clear it. And given more time goes back in so that even more players can clear it. They didn’t really need to do that in Naax, which was already constructed and balanced for level 80 characters in ilevel 200 gear. But we saw the practice in Ulduar and TOC, and we’ve begin to see it in ICC. Unlike Ulduar or TOC, Blizzard is tuning on a wing by wing basis in ICC and despite claims to the contrary everyone knows they will tune down Festergut and Rotgut too.
I’m all for people having an opportunity to see content, but I believe that what Blizzard is doing is not helping, but rather harming the game. WoW is about progression, be it gear, abilities, or skill. Tuning content down so that players that are incapable of playing well enough to experience content as it was intended to be experienced actually curtails Blizzard’s ability to create new and vibrant content later on. Why? Because the players that had to be catered to in the way Blizzard is catering to them don’t progress as a player. If content is difficulty is reduced to the point that nearly anyone can finish it without much thought or skill, then they didn’t obtain anything useful. They don’t grow. And I’ve seen this over and over again. Less skillful players get carried by the more skillful and remain a yoke around the entire raid in perpetuity. On a larger scale that is the problem Blizzard has created for themselves and the sense of entitlement they have allowed to grow in the community stops them from changing course.
I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to experience all content, but I also believe there is an emphasis on the individual to progress to the point where they can. I believe that Blizzard can create content that remains as originally intended, but also does not have to be tuned down in difficulty repeatedly so that everyone can complete it. That doesn’t mean I pine for the days of Naax-40, but rather a belief that development can be done in such a way content offers sufficient difficulty and progression and still cater to a majority of players.
How all this ties in with gear score is that like the “controversy” surrounding the new Looking for Group system, and the group problems easier access to dungeons brings with it, I believe it basically boils down to this sense of entitlement. People have come by a belief that regardless of their preparation, level of skill, or level of gear that they should have the same level of access to a given piece of content as anyone else. The concept of gear score is relatively new, but it represents a clear delineation from how someone would decide previously if someone else was ready for that raid dungeon. Before you would simply look at their gear and make a snap judgment about the person. Through much of the last year achievements were added to that mix, and now we have gear score. At every turn individuals would decry the “meanness” of it all; how they despised being judged and how they were being boiled down to xyz. In short, they wanted no one looking at them, and wanted no one making judgments about their suitability for the content. They wanted to go, and they felt they had as much right to go as the person next to them. Never a thought was given to whether they should go and never a thought that perhaps they should simply start their own group with slightly lower requirements.
Along comes gear score and voila, fresh controversy yet gear score gives you something very distinct from the subjective standards used previously. Gear score gives you a definitive numerical score that can be tied to tiers of content. If it is a surprise that raid leaders putting together pugs want only highly geared members, then please watch trade chat for those low level characters asking for level 80’s to run them through Dead Mines. What’s the difference I ask you? Nothing, of course. It’s human nature. People are not the least interested in wiping repeatedly through a night in an ICC-25 pug. Instead they want to complete the content in something approaching relative ease and only a certain level of gear will give you that. Or, more accurately, has a chance of giving you that because clearly gear score is not the end all and be all that I think a lot of people make it out to be. Gear score makes no distinction between a Ret Paladin wearing all cloth healing gear and the same Ret Paladin wearing proper plate dps gear for instance. It can’t tell you how skillfully the player will play his class, or whether that individual will afk though most of the instance, or whether that player will cause deaths in the raid through careless mistakes. But no means of subjective decision making prior to a raid can tell you those things. Gear score only tells you whether an individual is geared in such a way that they can be a productive member of a raid, or whether they probably could not be.
It’s a sad truth that our society is growing less and less prepared for real life. If you think WoW is only a game, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you along with some beach front property in Arizona. WoW is an extension of the real world as it relies on the interactions between real people. And guess what? People are often arrogant pricks. Life is often unfair, and guess what? So are the demands of people putting together PUGs. If you get hung up on the fact that others judge you then perhaps you should hide in your closet and never venture outside because I’d venture to say that you are being judged by people in your real lives every day, whether its a friend, a colleague, or your employer. And there are many consequences of those judgments in your real life as there are in WoW.
The old Axiom that God helps those that help themselves holds as much truth in WoW as it should
in your real life. If you think a raid leader is being unrealistic in his or her expectations then help yourself and start your own raid. If there is a question in your mind regarding whether you are prepared for a level of content or not, then don’t access it. Put the time in to prepare yourself so that you can be a real partner in a team effort and not someone simply being a burden on others. And most of all, do not go forward with a sense of entitlement, but rather understand there will always be achievers and non-achievers. Decide which on you want to be and make it so.