Friday, March 26, 2010

Yesterday's News: Tomorrow's Problem?

Yesterday, after struggling vainly to write a meaningful post, I visited WoW.com where I found the following video, 'Yesterday's News'. If you have not seen it, take three minutes to watch it. If you've already seen it, do it anyway. I'll still be here.



I found this video quite touching. In fact, I'll admit it -- it brought a tear to my eye, and that tear managed to find it's way down my cheek to, and I alternately laughed at and cursed myself for being such a mush.

The initial emotional reaction on my part was at the sheer sadness embodied in our little dwarf as he saw his life's work trivialized. At the end it was uplifting to see him pull himself out of his own misery and extend a comforting hand to someone who found herself in the same situation. A simple act of kindness, the ability to heal and move on -- these are wonderful traits. But that's not what I want to discuss here. I want to look at what we've lost in WoW with some of the new convenience features like 'Teleport to Dungeon.'

There's no question that teleporting to and from dungeons saves us tremendous time. I didn't run too many instances on my main until I hit level 70; I did more on the way up on my lock and, quite frankly, it was frequently a pain in the butt. There were too many people who'd look at the map upon joining a group and think 'eh, those guys are much closer, I'll wait for a summons.' There were also plenty of times (with my lock) where I'd spend 25 minutes trying to actually find a group, then spend another 15 minutes schlepping from Stranglethorn Vale all the way to Tirisfal Glades only to have the group fall apart before even getting inside the instance (it's always the worst with Scarlet Monastery, by the way, have you noticed that?). It's certainly much more convenient to port directly to the instance, and then to be able to port back out right where you were. No more spending another 20 minutes flying back to STV!

Yet watching the film brought back certain memories -- good ones. The film communicates a certain joy in the summoning process, as characters come together for a common purpose. Running or riding up to the stone, a wave, a 'hearty hello', hugs -- followed by a group effort at getting the rest of the group (even if they are lazy and inconsiderate for not trying to get there) together. The summoning process requires interaction, even if it's as simple as 'type 1 for summon' or 'clicky plz'. Note again how the characters come together and act as one. Compare that with how the characters just disappeared from the streets of Stormwind -- they're all standing apart as individuals. No interaction, no warmth, nothing. One second they're there, the next...gone. Instead of working to bring the group together, of bonding, however tenuous it might be at the summoning stone, we suddenly find ourselves in a dungeon with a group of strangers. And half the time they're already halfway through the first pull when you zone in.

I've only been playing WoW for about three years yet I've seen it become increasingly individualized. The rise of meter watching (which includes World of Logs ranking dps and heals), gear score and achievements are all things that serve to break down the group aspect of play. The new LFG system and it's Teleport to Dungeon feature, while convenient, further erodes the social structure of the game. Less talk, less interaction, less seeing other players as people. Let's just hope that we can continue to reach out and connect with other players, the way the Stonemason did with the Flight Master, as the game continues on this path.

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