I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, who doesn't play WoW but alot of other games, and he told me something very interesting. He had tried WoW and given up (or maybe given up before trying, don't remember exactly. Have to ask him!) because he got the feeling that there wasn't room to be anything but optimized in it. It was hardcore or nothing. It made me think. In games such as Diablo II and other older mmorpgs, you could often fool around with gear and specs in a whole nother way, than you "can" in WoW. A guildie of mine had tried a dual-wield arms spec just for fun and we told him it was a bad idea, and why this was so. But the thing is, he dared try, and he dared stick by his unusual, sub-optimal spec, just for the heck of it. And if you're not raiding (because unfortunately Blizzard have put certain demands in this area, if you wish to ever complete them), then why shouldn't you be able to fool around with gear and specs?
I remember some years ago when I leveled one of my warriors (the one I play the most nowadays and also raid with). At level 13ish I got the quest reward from a WC quest, the Crescent Staff. I think it had different stats back then, but it doesn't really matter. It was itemized to be for a caster, but has awesome dps. At least at that level. So I played with it. And boy did I get comments about it. "HAHA! You're using a staff!". I simply said "well show me any other weapon in my level that comes even close in dps and that doesn't take ages to get or shitloads of money to buy". There aren't many, if any weapons that fill those criteria. But that didn't matter. The point was that I was a warrior using a staff. A big nono, no matter what. I wasn't conforming.
Sure, in games like these there will always be best options, but I think nowhere else than in WoW will you find so many people forcing you to cling to those options, by bashing any other choice. Me and my friends are still making fun of that enhancement shaman we found who had gemmed spirit. Or the DK with spellpower gear. Haha, he's stupid. Haha, he's not using the best gems/gear he could. Ok, there are extremes. Some things are really just stupid to do. But you know, maybe they just didn't care. And if the playing worked well for them, who am I to complain? Does the mere presence of his lack of knowledge bother me, even when I'm not really affected?
So aren't we a little too rigid? Why is it so important to us that everyone steps in line? Sure, when doing a dungeon you'd like everything to run as smoothly as possible. Wiping because someone wanted to try out some "crazy ass spec" isn't as fun as it sounds. But haven't we taken it a little too far? Now it feels like any step outside the neat red line we've marked up (over at EJ probably) is a major character flaw who needs to be kicked and laughed at.
I'd like to tell my friend that he's wrong. That he can be less than optimal, that he doesn't have to be hardcore, that he doesn't have to spend alot of time finding out what the best spec/gear is but just play for fun. But could I really do that? As soon as I think of doing it I get an image in my mind of all the bashing he'd probably get in any random dungeon he enters. Heck even I, who really try my best to be awesome get bashed sometimes, for really minimal mistakes.
Step in line or get lost. It's what WoW has become. And I don't like it to be honest. I will step up to the corner of shame and admit that I'm one of those who try to optimize people. But I also like to think that I am rather forgiving. I myself try some crazy things sometimes, although my general goal is to have things to run as smoothly as possible for myself. Like I told my dual wielding arms warrior friend "the most important thing is after all that you're having fun". Without ruining anyone elses fun. And I think we can loosen our tight grip on "optimal" some before that happens.