A Philosopher's Blog

WoW: Gear Fetish & The Number Cult

Posted in Video Games by Michael LaBossiere on January 24, 2010
World of Warcraft
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While I have played WoW on and off since 2004, I still consider myself something of a casual player. That is, I play a few days a week and generally just play when my friends are on. However, I do like to run an instance or two when my friends are not on. On those occasions I’ll use the dungeon finder to find a pick up group.

As one might imagine, this sort of thing can lead to all sorts of different groups. For example, I might end up with other casual players who like to play a fantasy game-they are there to have fun. In those cases, the dungeon is pleasant and people generally don’t get angry or complain. Plus, there are often some clever jokes. In other cases, I end up with people who are not so nice or folks who have no clue as how to play (and have no clue they have no clue). But, the folks I dread the most are those who have the gear fetish and belong to the numbers cult.

Gear fetish folks are obsessed with gear and they assume that unless you are perfectly geared for your role (that is, geared the way they think you should be geared) that everything will be a disaster. For example, I was playing my protection paladin and one player was actually freaking out because I only had blue (superior) tanking gear rather than a complete set of epic gear.  This was in a normal dungeon and not a heroic instance. In fact, he convinced the rest of the players to boot me from the group. This was before the dungeon had even actually started. Never mind that I had tanked that very instance several times before with no problems.

Now, I do understand why people are concerned about gear. If someone has completely wrong gear or gear that is awful, then they can be a sever liability. For example, when I play my shaman as a healer (I dual specialized) I really notice the effect of decent gear. A badly geared party tends to take way too much damage way too quickly for me to fix, hence a wipe can happen far too easily. However, people who are decent players can still do well even if they have not spent months grinding for the epic gear.

As I see it, if we are getting through the dungeon okay, then there really no reason to complain-especially since one reason to run dungeons is to get the better gear. Interestingly, I have been bitched at a few times when I responded to insults about my gear by saying that I was running the instance specifically to get better gear. In other cases people have been cool about and have even helped  kill a specific boss to get an epic drop for my character.

The number cult folks are those who are fanatics about the numbers. While WoW is a number based game, I enjoy it because it is a fantasy game. If I wanted to play Merchants & Mathematicians, I would play that game instead. This is not to say that I do not take into account the numbers, it is just that they are a secondary part of the game.

The number cult folks I meet in the dungeons usually begin by launching into a diatribe about the other characters-checking the gear (and finding it lacking), checking the damage done every battle and issuing performance evaluations and so on. Playing with these folks is like undergoing a job evaluation at the claws of a demonic mathematician: if you are not perfectly doing what they think you should be doing (and they have the numbers to show this) they leap into hateful action. While I do not mind useful advice, something like “u suk, u dps not at max liek me me get 1k dps easy” just make the game annoying. While I do understand that some people go into instances with the attitude that they are doing a timed job that must be done as rapidly as possible, that seems to be more like work than play. While I do prefer a party that is competent and doing well, cracking a numerical whip at everyone and typing out ungrammatical and misspelled insults the whole time is more like a hostile workplace than a fun game.

For me, the measure of success is that we get through the dungeon and have fun. Since I am not a professional WoW player, I am fine with running instances with other folks who are there to have fun. As I see it, if a player is doing a decent job, then that is just fine. After all, it is just a game. There are some folks who are there to have fun and are also very good with the numbers. But, those folks are fine. In fact, they often have good advice about characters and the instances. That is, they act like teammates rather than insane bosses.

Finally, a running analogy. I’m a serious runner and when I go to a race, I am there to run the best I can. I even have good gear: racing shoes, racing clothing and a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor. Some folks just show up to run. That is fine with me-after all, running is something that should be fun. Naturally, if I am on a team for a race, I want the other folks to be serious, but I do not expect them to be fanatics. What I expect is that we have a good run. Likewise for WoW.

For WoW players who want to critique my characters, they can be looked up on the Armory. My shaman is Keherus and my paladin is Xathon. I just ask that those who leave hateful commentary 1) use poor grammar and 2) misspell as often as possible. Bonus points for misusing leet speak.

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4 Responses

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  1. kernunos said, on January 27, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Play a real game already.

  2. kernunos said, on January 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

    They make a Cthulhu MMO? Sign me up. That would be funny watching your warband go whacky on an epic mob.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Actually it is live. I’ve put you in the queue for a boss fight with Cthulhu. He’ll be waiting under your bed, possible tonight. Enjoy. 🙂

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