There's a TL;DR in the middle, just in case this turns out to be too long to scroll to the end of. It is in the middle, not necessarily relevant to the context. It's the bolded part.
Isn't everything in LK mindless and easy? I mean really? When you look around how can you think anything other than "wow this is mindless and easy"? It was so much harder back in the day. Back then things were hard and complex and we had to do hard and complex things to get gear.
Let us see what was so complex, so devastatingly complex in vanilla, that it kept out the idiots.
Shall we go first to the Blackrock Mountain? Yes. Let's go.
And here is Blackrock Depths. A marvelous instance to be sure. But let's find the hard part. Aha, here is undoubtedly the hard part: the Lycaem. I lied. It's not an especially hard room, it just requires having an AoE, which wasn't as common back then. Not harder in any skill sense, just more restrictive. But maybe morons don't like games that exclude them for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
Fine, let's go to MC. Let's see the many common forms of stupid:
Failure to loot core hounds
Living bomb in the wrong place
Using DoTs on the wrong boss
Not stopping DPS at the right times
Warlocks somehow failing at the simple task of keeping one enemy as their target.
These are trivial tasks. People often failed at them. I failed at all of them at least once. Am I stupid? I don't think so. But I know I sometimes do stupid things. Was everyone else stupid? Again, I don't think so. Or if so, no more or less than now. Instead the situation has changed and we should be wary of the fundamental attribution error.
If I sometimes seem nostalgic for a simpler time in WoW, know this: there actually was a simpler time in WoW. Stats were simpler. There used to not be spell power. Certainly no haste. Crit was an easy thing to calculate, with no ratings, just a straightforward percentage. 2% crit. 1% hit. Very simple.
These days we have haste caps, crit caps, armor pen caps. Talents fundamentally alter rotations. Set bonuses too. We have gems and glyphs. We have a hundred new complications. WoW is more complex and when you make something more complex, people will appear less intelligent. They didn't change, the situation did. Give an eight year old kid an addition problem and it's easy enough. Give him a really simple integral to compute and he's going to be lost, even if it is really simple*. He didn't get stupider; the situation changed.
You want lazy and stupid? Try making gold in vanilla. One moment, I need a tangent break.
Gold Elitists are Idiots
Dear people who think the gold cap is elite,
Good for you, now shut up, no one gives a shit. No really. There's been such incredible inflation that these days anyone can get the cap if they care. Just most people don't because it's pointless. You might as well collect strange hats or pets. Hell, the pets might be better, at least some of them are funny to see. As for how easy it is to get gold from 'morons', you're the true morons. You see, this is a game, and when gold is trivially easy to get, people justifiably don't care if an item is 50% above a 'fair' value.
If you think you're such damn economic geniuses, go play EVE. I'm sure you'll love it. Or you'd crash and burn horribly. Literally.
If you had gotten the gold cap in vanilla when having an epic mount was a big deal, then I'd be somewhat impressed. When 1000g was tricky, then the cap, something around 250 times higher, was impressive. Maybe even in BC it would be noteworthy. But now? Getting the gold cap now is about as impressive as downing Rag. Maybe less, since downing Rag would either require some moderate class skill to solo or social skills to get other people to go with.
I know you're not all self-aggrandizing egomaniacs with no sense of proportion. Some of you pass on useful information. But then there are the ones who cannot seem to avoid labeling people based on how they play a side aspect of a video game. I'm not saying I've never called someone stupid or never wondered about the intelligence or attention of someone standing in a fire, but I take the time to think, thereby gaining the ability to recognize that isolated cases of lack of attention or ignorance are a terrible foundation on which to build a model of the community as a whole.
Let's get back to vanilla.
Gold Farming in Vanilla was Boring-er
Farming gold in vanilla meant either mindlessly killing mobs for drops or mindlessly killing mobs for gold. There was no gold from dailies, not even from max level quests. As mindless as you might consider dailies, this was even lower.
I might sound as if I'm bashing vanilla. I'm not. Simpler or more complex are not better or worse, merely different. In many ways I preferred simpler fights. Needing FR, NR, FrR, they weren't 'fun', and they definitely caused bag problems, but they also acted as content slowers, so we weren't burning down a raid the week it came out, and kept older instances relevant in a form other than randoms for badges. It was imperfect, but that's inevitable. Looking back, I liked that when I got new gear, I could just use it. I got an enchant after the raid of course, but I didn't have to sideline an upgrade because I needed gems.
TL;DR: Vanilla was not some enlightened age of intelligent gamers taking on hugely complex challenges. For the most part it was a bunch of people bumbling around killing stuff and trying to feel awesome for it, just like now.
How about that, every single person in vanilla went to every raid with their gear ungemmed and most slots not even enchanted. We did have the enchants, but they were rarer, and less powerful anyway, at least until ZG.
Exclusive doesn't mean "no bads"
Raid content was more exclusive back then. Not because it filtered out the idiots. Trust me, they still snuck in. Instead because finding 40 people to raid the same place at the same time and with the right classes was a rather difficult task. It was even more difficult before easy server transfers and with a much smaller community. Throw in high consumable requirements and it's no wonder 95% of players never saw old Naxx. It's not that it was hard, which it was, it's that it was inaccessible to someone who didn't have all the time in the world. Having limited play time isn't lazy and it isn't stupid, it's the situation.
So wake up. If you have a higher opinion of vanilla than I do, you need to rethink your inks. And no, that's not an inscription reference. I did MC just the other night. Why? Because I enjoy the place. Yes, I enjoy MC. Molten Bore. It is quite possibly the least interesting raid ever. That is including ToC. I am an outlier. Frankly if you're further over in vanilla nostalgia than me, then I suspect you've been brainwashed. Like they literally they took your brain and scrubbed it with soap, destroying most of it.
Furthermore, if you think new MMOs pushing for a mass market is at all new, if you think that aiming for the lowest is new, should I remind you of the old EQ ads with the suggestion that hot women in bars want to hear about you killing internet dragons? Also, plate bikinis. They have become less common. Less common, as in, less blatant pandering to drooling misogynists. Or maybe that's just due to the radical feminist conspiracy.
Scholomance can be hard with three people, which acts as an incentive to play at a higher level than normal
For another bit of evidence that the community hasn't fallen entirely into some horrible wasteland of impatience and stupidity, I played my mage this weekend. I don't like Hellfire Peninsula much, so he's by now 61 and still has not set foot in Outland. Instead he's questing in the Plaguelands and queuing specifically for Stratholme and Scholomance. You know, the instances that take more than 15 minutes, can actually kill you, and weren't horrible butchered by LFD splitting.
First off, I want to acknowledge that this probably isn't a representative sample of the community. Nothing is, since every activity has some sort of filtering based on rewards. Someone queueing for old world instances after 58 (when BC randoms start) is clearly going for a different reason than the person queuing before 58. They are going to see the content. They are obviously gimping their loot and experience. However their mere existence proves something: the community is not homogeneous. Different players have different interests. This has profound effects on any attempted observation-based experiments.
Goals change behavior, not the player
A player who is after a bag of loot and XP has much different goals than a player who is after an experience. The loot bag and XP can be gained anywhere, so there is little incentive to stay for a slow or risky group. This isn't lazy or impatient. It's normal the normal interaction between incentive systems and goals. If a queue is short, then the threshold for leaving a poor group is lower. I know I am quicker to leave from wipes if I know that I can quickly get a new group. Again, not lazy, just normal, rational behavior. In contrast if someone is after an experience or achievement and the queue is long, then they need the specific place and cannot quickly get a different group. They will appear more patient as people when in reality they are simply in a different situation with different goals. This same person could be the one dropping after a single death in a random.
Observation bias is biased against you being right
But getting back to the filtering: When attempting to observe the community, don't observe one aspect that confirms what you believe and call it a success. That's bad science. That is the true laziness. So attempting to measure trends based on LFD is going to be measuring a specific subset of the community: the people who at that moment are trying to get badges, in other words people in a situation and goal combination where speed matters. I admit I've made this error in the past, claiming that LFD ruined the community. I still think it had negative effects, but what I was failing to fully acknowledge, despite the fact that I was saying it myself, was that LFD wasn't just changing players, it was changing their environment. Put those same players in a different environment and they will act different.
The observations we make in game are not only unrepresentative of the person as a whole, but do not even represent their entire in-game personality or capabilities.
So yes, LK did add a tool that promotes idiocy and impatience. That doesn't mean that LK brought in a million new impatient idiots. Similarly, vanilla didn't bring in smart, hardworking, disciplined players. It just had a system that rewarded patience. This is why I could do a multiple-hour full run of BRD a few years ago and a few days ago think a 20 minute instance was slow.
integrate f(x)=x from 0 to 2
Here are a few videos of really skilled vanilla PvPers
Did I say skilled? I meant overgeared and not quite balanced by class or mentally. God, I miss playing a shaman in vanilla. Holy crap was the honor system a mess.
If you're wondering what else there was to vanilla PvP, look up any rogue video of ambush-SS-CB evis-vanish, seduce-nuking warlocks, or PoM-pyro mages.
Truly a grand time of skill and patience!