Friday, March 26, 2010

The switching of characters - when is it ok?

As I've written about at some other occasion, WoW is a game that consists of both an indivual part and a social part. Therefore, anything you decide to do is based on whether you're going to do it alone or whether you're going to do it with someone else. The main question is, just as in real life - will my actions affect other people?

Sometimes however, it feels like people think that since this is a game, you don't have to take this question as seriously. That assumption, or view point, isn't all wrong. After all, any decisions or actions in a game rarely end up in disastrous results. That is part of what makes it a game - your actions are mostly "fake" actions. There'd have to be a fairly twisted chain of events for anyone to say die or get physically hurt by your actions in a game. I think this being the case is actually the main reason people think their actions are less important in a game. No one will actually be physically hurt by it and therefore they can never be that wrong.

I might stray off the point off this post slightly, I just wanted to clarify that it's quite common that people take less regard to their fellow game companions than they would to someone outside a game, even if the action is equivalent. Or so I have come to believe anyway, you're free to disagree with me of course ;)

The problem is, and like I said I've written about this before, when the views of people who see a game as "just a game" and the people who see a game as a "serious hobby" clash. The first group go "you're ruining my fun by taking this too seriously" and the other group goes "you're ruining my fun by not taking this seriously enough".

This time I thought I'd look at character switching and the different ways these two groups of people look at it, and why it could become a problem. Maybe I've even got a solution for it, we'll see.

Character switching, simply put, is when someone plays one character alot and then changes to another. The difference to playing alts is the time spent. Most people put a little (some alot of) extra effort into the character they consider their main. Because they do that, they also like other people around them to take that character a little more seriously. This is the character they prefer to play, the one they want to learn everything about, the one they want to master! In return, they want the effort put into that character to be rewarded with the possibility of joining raids (if you want to raid, which most people do nowadays) and improving it further through loot.
Alts are a compliment to the main. A little something to tinker with on the side. The main will always be in focus.

Sometimes people decide they want to change their main to another character. There are some different reasons for this, of which I find both ok. The problems arise when you try to combine these reasons.

The first reason
It will happen that you realize one day that the class you're playing simply isn't fun anymore. This could be due to changes that Blizzard have implemented, changing the class in such ways that the very reasons you played it aren't present anymore. Or maybe you've played a class for a very long time and feel that you really want to try something else in the game. These are completely valid reasons. I don't ever expect anyone to play anything that they don't enjoy. I wouldn't do it and I don't desire anyone else to do it.

The second reason
Some people however, have a different goal with their characters. Remember what I said about the main? You want to learn everything about how they work to perfect yourself. Getting new gear is a step or a piece of the puzzle in this quest, but definitely not the main objective. But to some people, getting new gear is the main reason for them playing a character. They're not actually interested in becoming über at their particular class, their char is just a means for them to satisfy their need to gear up. One could say the "high" to them is improving through gear instead of skill. I don't have anything against this reason either. Improving through gear is a very rewarding way to feel that you're getting better at something. It is one of the things the whole of WoW circulates around. It isn't as abstract as "skill" since you can easily see that one gear piece is better than another, it's a definite number. Skill however can change from setting to setting and from moment to moment. You might not feel that you've acquired the skill for something until you've tried it many many times. Skill is a slower kind of reward.

The problem is when these two clash of course.

I've known people who played 10 different characters they've called mains. As long as they play individually that is not a problem at all. But as soon as they want someone else to take part in the improvement in their character, I at least, would like for them to have more long termed goals than just gearing. I don't know how many times I've helped someone with something time consuming, or hard to get, just to see them ditch that character a week later.

Some people have played the very same character for years. They do 10 runs a week to get a special mount in an instance. How do you think it feels for them to see that special, hard to get mount fall into the hands of a character that will no longer be played in a couple of days?

Now don't get me wrong, like I said people can realize that they don't want to play their main anymore simply because it isn't fun or because they want to explore something new. The difference is these people usually switch main no more than once per year, if even that. But some people switch characters like underpants and still expect everyone around them to take every new character as seriously. They still think they "deserve" (such an odd word to use somehow) an item as much as someone who's really fought to improve their main, through good and bad, over several years.

If I show up with a new boyfriend every month and tell my parents "I'll definitely marry this one, this is for life" I am quite sure they won't take it very seriously and won't invest as much interest into it as if I had only done it once.

What is the issue here? It is that some people take stuff although they don't really care about them. They don't stop to think "well ok, this would make me very happy now, but do I really want it? Will I use it later on?". It seems like they think "oh purplz, must have".

And here we get back to my point at the beginning. If these people would be thinking "well it's just a game and doesn't matter anyway" they should be needing at all because if it doesn't matter to them they should leave it for someone it does matter to.

But instead they're probably thinking "my small happiness right now is worth more than their big happiness over a long period, since it's just a game anyway". The decision is made easier somehow, and actually probably not even consciuously, by the fact that it's done in a "fake" setting.

But you are still dealing with real people. Real people who will feel real annoyance over your behavior if you disregard their feelings. So take a step back and ponder your actions - how will this affect people around me? Are my demands reasonable? How would people react in "real life". Chances are high people will react the very same way in a game.

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