The role of accessibility in increasing elitism

| Friday, October 8, 2010
As the title suggests, elitism has been on the rise and I think the current implementation of accessibility has played a significant part in it.

People are prone to us or them thinking. If you think you're not, then you're an idiot. In the absence of a clear us or them, we will create one, somehow. For evidence, read any history book.

WoW used to have some clear us or them divides. Raiders and non-raiders were distinct. Either you could raid and did or you couldn't and didn't, or you didn't want to and didn't. But there were clear portions of the population which were able to be defined as non-raiders. Then there were raiders, who again could be divided up. If you were in Naxx or AQ40, you were high up there. Guilds in the BWL range were of some significance, though that category could be broken down quite a bit based on which bosses were killed, since some were very clear barriers to progression and could keep a guild busy for literally months. Then there were the swarms of MC guilds in various stages. And non-raiding guilds. PvP guilds too. Lots of those.

This is a much different 'society' than the current WoW in which a much larger portion of the population raids. But more importantly: they all raid the same content. There used to be tiered progression; now we have the latest tier and all the other stuff. Unless it's the weekly, Naxxramas is about as relevant as Molten Core and Ulduar is a place to get mounts, not much better than Tempest Keep or Karazhan.

The us and them is much less clear, but humans will be damned if they cannot find one! So, we find ways to divide ourselves. We didn't always have to search for differences. The structure of WoW provided them for us.

The tiered progression system meant that different players did different content. This has two results. First, it means players are 'physically' separated. The highest tier raider isn't running the same content as the new warlock in greens who hasn't quite figured out that fear is dangerous to use in instances. They might meet in a BG or farming, but there will rarely be situations in which the warlock and, let's say mage, are in the same group. Ubermage does Naxxramas and a few lower raids for his gear, all guild runs. Nublock runs Scholomance and Blackrock Depths; maybe with PUGs, maybe with a low-tier guild. His DPS sucks and he might not quite know what he's doing, but he'll learn eventually, because he has to. Ubermage isn't there to carry him. Ubermage also isn't there to flame him.

It was in this environment that I learned. I didn't get a lot of help. I didn't get a lot of grief either. I was either with other noobs or with alts of higher up players who knew exactly how awesome they were and had no need to put others down. Sure there were the bragging types, but they pulled themselves up rather than pushed those around them down. Their rising tide didn't sink our boats.

Players did content which suited both their gear and their interests. No one was facerolling Stratholme, since by the time they could faceroll Stratholme, they had absolutely no need for loot from there. Besides, screwing up a gargoyle pull was still trouble, so even at high gear levels faceroll wasn't the solution to all problems as it is now. This meant that players learned. It also meant that they developed some level of respect for people in that content, since they tended to experience it when it was hard, as opposed to now where the majority of our experience with an instance is in a trivial form, so anyone who has difficulty with that instance looks terrible.

Raids in general have gotten easier. Much easier. Oh but what about hardmodes huh? I've not killed Arthas hardmode have I? Nope. But that's part of my annoyance with the current raiding system. Raids used to be of moderate difficulty in the gear they were tuned for and due to progression one couldn't easily outgear a raid that they hadn't already cleared. Full blues were somewhat impressive, and oh man, if you were so lucky as to have someone in your raid in epics, awe-inspiring. I'm exaggerating. Slightly. What I'm trying to get at is that raids used to be somewhere in the middle for difficulty. Some fights were harder than others, such as a basic tank and spank like Golemagg compared to the CC-intensive fights like Garr or Majordomo Executus or positioning fights like Baron or Shazzrah. Or was it Gehennas? They look the same. The guy with arcane explosion, teleport, and oh my god quit using fucking dots! Now there's easymode and hardmode. Trivial success or insurmountable failure. It doesn't help that they take place in the same instance, with the same boss, and many of the same mechanics. Great progression there.

So here's what it all adds up to: players are not different anymore. We all wear the same gear, run the same raid, faceroll the same mindless randoms. Even our alts all look the same with 80 levels of the same heirloom shoulders, chest, and weapons. There's no clear us or them. So we make one. We obsess over DPS meters. We go after every gem, every talent point, every glyph. We ask why, why are you not doing your research? And when they say they don't care we call them lazy. Because dammit, we are going to be different from them and if we can't find them we'll just make them up.


Gevlon said...

I agree that the age of tiered raiding was less conflicting. However I don't think that it's the "us or them" thinking causes the hate against low performing players.

Back then they caused us no trouble. Just like I won't tell a random stranger on the street "you are too slow, your running skills sucks and you are obese". He did not harm me, I just ignore him.

Now they are in our instances and applying to our guilds in huge amounts, causing lot of problems until identified and fired. Now we often have no choice but to carry them. Of course we hate the leeches!

jeffo said...

Gevlon writes 'Now they are in our instances and applying to our guilds in huge amounts'

I didn't raid in Vanilla, but weren't they always there? Maybe a big part of the problem is that raids have gotten smaller from the 40-man days. The impact of a low-performing player is much greater now than it was then. A couple of baddies in a 40 will do less damage than a couple of baddies in a 25 or 10 (unless they keep standing in the middle of everyone with a 'get away now or you'll blow up the raid' debuff, of course).

I think part of the problem now is there's less commonality of experience. When I started raiding, you had to go through a lengthy keying process for Kara, and even more outrageous attunements for some of the highest level raids. My raid group all started at the same level (while lots of guilds were working on Black Temple, we were starting Kara) and we went through the gearing/keying process together. If you had pugs you at least knew that everyone in that group had been through the same experiences as you; it was something that you shared, even if you didn't do it together. Now, even though the process allows more of us to play the same game (i.e., end-game raiding), the way we arrive there is so different that it's almost like we've been playing two or three different games, and now we're all together.

Shoot, that makes sense to me, but I'm not sure it's going to make sense to anyone else. More coffee!

Syl said...

"Now we often have no choice but to carry them" - why is that? surely it is you who chooses that he wants to raid in the first place and chooses too, in what type of guild he raids in? WoW is not forcing you to raid. so can you really blame others if you decide to 'carry them'?

Anonymous said...

The whole "elitism" thing near vanished completely when I transferred to a new guild about 6 months ago. It meant I stopped pugging (I've barely done anything outside the guild since joining). This reminds me of how vanilla was for me. I was definitely the nooblock of your example, running strat and scholo (though I did manage a full blue set) but every run was a guild run and all I recall of pugging from back then was that getting a group through the door was an achievement in itself.

I think you're right about the elitism stemming from mixing with "different" people, but I'm pretty sure that the only reason for increasing elitism is increasing mixing with "different" people - there's no need to blame anything else.

There's a lot of folks who progressed through vanilla and BC primarily in the company of friends and guildmembers who now spend more of their time in pugs then they ever did before. It's the whole "village" v "city" thing, where increased convenience comes at the cost of increased social dislocation. With the freedom to do what you like, when you like, without any need to rely on a close community, people will look to create "identities" to create the them v us divisions, and elitism grows from that.

One of the reasons WotLK was a slip-up socially was that it saw great strides made in providing the tools for individual freedom but did too little to reinforce community or guild cohesion. I think the changes being made to guilds will help to swing the balance back.

Anonymous said...

I don't think 'elitism' is quite the right word for describing what is basically conflict between players in the same group. That said, I think the following passage describes the situation perfectly:

"Ubermage isn't there to carry him. Ubermage also isn't there to flame him. It was in this environment that I learned. I didn't get a lot of help. I didn't get a lot of grief either. I was either with other noobs or with alts of higher up players who knew exactly how awesome they were and had no need to put others down. [...] Players did content which suited both their gear and their interests."

In Wrath, it is quite common for players with different interests and attitudes towards the game to be grouped together. The LFG system is one particularly obvious example, with brand new 80s and full-BiS raiders being thrown together. The separate lockouts for 10/25 raids has also meant that often ICC 25 is a guild run but that ICC 10 is pugged, often with groups composed of very different sorts of players. Last, anybody that has run heroics is now ready for the final raid of the expansion. This last point has some fairly wide-ranging effects, but this post is far too long already so I will stop here.

Ratshag said...

"Now they are in our instances"

Telling statement, that. "our intances". As in, we owns them. And you buggers don't.

When Gevlon can show where he done paid fer them instances, and shows me a deed, or a least receiptifications, then I'll concede they belongs ta him and his. 'Til then, though, they belongs ta everybody. Thinkin' otherwise is exactly what happens when yer a hateful person walkin' around lookin' fer ta divide the world inta "us" and "thems".

Klepsacovic said...

@Gevlon: I would be inclined to agree with your agreement, except it appears that the vast majority of your morons of the week have never grouped with you, never interacted with you, aren't even on the same server of battlegroup. So you are clearly spreading hate beyond your own experience.

Also, you certainly have a choice about carrying them. Getting ten players is a lot easier now than getting 40 players back then. If you're carrying, it's by your choice. I seem to recall this being one of your attacks on socials, that they kept carrying noobs that they didn't need.

@jeffo: Shared experiences do often form bonds and those experiences have been fading. The dillution of noobs effect is worth considering, but I feel like we used to have more noobs, since we needed the bodies. These days we can be selective.

@soulfired: I do hope that Cataclysm can help. My fear is that the vanilla nostalgia crowd will just whine a lot that everything is lost and ruined.

@Lujanera: Feel free to ramble on, I'd be a hypocrite to say otherwise!

@Rashtag: You raise a good point: the instances and raids are all socialist; Blizzard property leased out to us for temporary development but ultimately not ours.

Oscar said...

Oh yeah, all this sounds perfectly reasonable. But since you are in that other group of people that think that people are prone to "us or them thinking" I'll just disagree on principle!


Tesh said...

In my perhaps addled mind, it's not so much the division of "us" from "them", it's the "vs." part that's trouble. There are, after all, real differences between peoples, just as there are similarities. It's when those differences are used to prop up hate or ignorance that we run into troubles.

TheGrumpyElf said...

TL;DR - I think they should go back to tiered raids like that.
(sorry for the long reply, boring day at work)

I am not from the vanilla days but from what I gather reading this, and hearing from others, that there was no (less) elitism back then because there was a place for everyone and everyone was in their place. Makes sense and it would be nice to see that come about again.

I find it strange that now that everyone is decked out in T10 gear that was basically given away by face rolling heroics and everyone is doing the same raid there is now elitism all over the place.

I know when I first joined my first raiding guild. ToC was already out and ICC was coming out soon but I was new and the guild I joined said they would run a Naxx run for fun (after me only pulling 2200 in Ulduar for 2 weeks) to help me get some gear. I had all 187s and 2 200s I believe.

We cleared Naxx over 2 nights being they all had done it a dozen time before if not more and I got some gear.

The next week we went into Ulduar and started working our way through there as I got some more gear. Never got to ToC because ICC came out and they moved to the new content then so I jumped from Ulduar to ICC but I would never trade the progression from one raid to another for anything.

Even if were not needed, they could have carried me into ToC to gear me up but they knew that it was not just the gear I needed, but the experience I needed as well (they are all from the original beta so many years ago), it was fun for me.

Now it is so darn easy to gear up when you see someone in all 187s and 200s now you know they just don't try because if they did they should be ICC ready in a month at worst.

Back then you looked at it as they were just starting the gearing process and it would take a while. You didn't think of them as bad, just new. Now there is no difference (because of the speed gear is gained) between bad and new. Anyone not geared is considered bad.

Usually the ones that have the most "elite" attitude are some of the worst players in the game. They have the gear, not the skills.

I do not fit into the Us or Them section. I'm weird. I am just grumpy old me. I'll run with any crowd as long as their not jerkwads. 3K or 6K gear score, if you do your job correctly I could care less, we all have to start somewhere.

I just care if they know their class is all, spend the 15 minutes you where going to faceroll a dungeon and read a tutorial on your class and spec at wowhead or some place. That is the only difference between players as I see it at least.

Not gear score it is reading & comprehension skills.

Us - took 15 minutes to read something.
Them - can't be bothered.

Ratshag said...

Fifteen minutes. Is always fifteen minutes fer ta learns how ta play yer class, ya noticed? Is never ten minutes, or twenty minutes, or three hours. Always fifteen. Every class, every role, every situation. Always fifteen minutes.

What that sez ta me is, none of "us" really keeps track of how many hours they really spends learnifyings. Is easier fer ta say "fifteen minutes" - if everyone does it, makes it sound like is a undisputable physical constant, like gravity or Shaq's free-throw percentage. Then can be leverage against "them". Anybody can do fifteen minutes. Must be somethin' wrong with ya if'n ya cain't read fer fifteen minutes. Is only fifteen minutes.

I ain't believin' "fifteen minutes" any more'n I believes King Wrynn's "some of my best friends is orcs" or Prophet Velen's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: You're absolutely right, the vs. part is the true problem, since there are always differences.

@TheGrumpyElf: I'm glad to hear you had such a positive guild experience.

But I must take issue with this bit: "I do not fit into the Us or Them section. I'm weird. I am just grumpy old me. I'll run with any crowd as long as their not jerkwads." "Us - took 15 minutes to read something. Them - can't be bothered."

First off, that is an Us vs. Them, but perhaps more importantly is Rashtag's orcishly delivered point: too often we make up arbitrary and excessively short numbers to justify our dislike of others. I'm pretty sure I'm not stupid, but it took a hell of a lot longer than 15 minutes to learn my shaman all those years back and since then it has taken more than 15 minutes to learn all the other classes I've played. It took more than 15 minutes to learn new roles and new fights. As with many other people, it takes more than just reading a strat or even a video to understand a fight and getting yelled at for "not doing our 15 minutes of homework" doesn't help in the slightest.

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