All right, folks, it’s time to talk. And we’re going to start by talking about Guild Wars 2, a game I used to play regularly and that several other people of a particular stripe also played regularly at one point.
My job here is to work as a reporter and analyst about the industry. That means internalizing a lot of stuff about a lot of games, including GW2 because it’s easily in our list of the top five games currently operating. While I left GW2 for personal reasons, it is literally a part of my job to stay abreast of developments within the game, understand the changes and design principles operating within the title, and keep a realistic picture of whether or not the game is pleasing or irritating its players. That includes keeping an eye on forums, other topics, general social media chatter, and comments.
In other words, even though I’m not playing, a lot of my concentration needs to be dedicated to Guild Wars 2 just the same. So what’s your excuse?
Of course, this isn’t really about GW2. It is, but it could just as easily be about Star Wars: The Old Republic or Final Fantasy XIV or The Elder Scrolls Online or even a much older title like Dark Age of Camelot. There are always going to be games that you play and then stop playing for whatever reason, usually because some changes make things no longer fun for you.
All well and good. Nothing stays the same forever. Sometimes the changes made are even really bad decisions and should be reversed or called out as bad picks. But my question to this hypothetical you is why you’re still fixating on that.
I’ve talked a fair bit about the difference between being a fanboy and being a fan. The latter is healthy; the former really isn’t. But there’s a related problem wherein you become a fanboy for a game in the inverse. Every topic about the game is a chance for you to once again say how much you didn’t like the game, or why you did but then you left, or why you take issue with one design choice or another in the game.
You are, in other words, still fundamentally letting the game live rent-free in your head. But you have now moved into the position of complaining about MMOs you don’t play, the genre-specific version of complaining about shows you don’t watch.
The reason I picked on GW2 there is that, well, it’s an easy target in some ways. If you don’t like the fact that the game has raids? Hey, that’s a rational and reasonable position to take. It’s the sort of thing that you can write a whole lot about because it’s really a bad decision with the nature of the game and the overall focus.
But you know what isn’t the game’s inexplicable pushing of raids? A new episode of story that does something loads of people had long wanted and brings back old story episodes. That’s just a good and long-desired thing that shows an attention to detail and a concern for what players have wanted, which in and of itself has nothing to do with other issues in the game. And yes, I’ve seen people who no longer play the game complaining because it’s a cheap way of re-adding content and raids shouldn’t be in the game, so on and so forth.
The two things are unrelated. Heck, this is something I specifically called out back around a year ago; just because Problem A still exits doesn’t mean that no one should cheer about solving Problem B. Not every moment in a game’s history needs to be a referendum on every good and bad decision being made within the game’s development.
And here’s where we get into the actual problem with complaining about MMOs you don’t play. It’s not that you aren’t allowed to dislike a game for various reasons, good or bad, but that complaints you make about a game you aren’t actually playing aren’t complaints about that game. They’re complaints about a very loose idea of that game which may or may not resemble the game’s actual issues.
In the process, those actual issues get obscured.
Because GW2 is not a game I am playing right now, I can’t talk about balance issues in an article. I could not put together an examination of what parts during the recent story drop hit well or failed, and I cannot talk about persistent gameplay issues. We have someone who does that, and I talk a lot with the people on-staff who do play the game, but I consider my own opinion on these matters informed but not instructive.
On the other hand, I can talk about the balance issues in FFXIV. And I can also talk about the actual issues the game does have… several of which are entirely separate or otherwise disconnected from the issues that people who don’t play it complain about.
Yes, the initial story is bloated and could stand to be streamlined; that is a real issue the game has. But the story gating of content is not actually a problem with the game, it’s the entire point. If you don’t like that aspect of the game, you are probably not playing it. And that’s fine, but it does mean that it’s not an issue that dedicated players actually have.
By contrast, the game actually does have an issue with customization options for Hrothgar and Viera. There is a real problem with how many vanity rewards are tucked behind content that may be difficult or inaccessible for new players. Heck, for a long time the game had a serious problem with making crafting fundamentally impossible to manage unless you leveled every craft to a decent level, and when you consider how much money crafting makes and saves over a long period of time, that’s important!
That last one has actually been addressed, thankfully. But the point is made. This game does have actual issues, more even than I’m listing right here, and they do need to be addressed. And for the people who are playing the game right now, they’re going to matter a lot more than removing something that most players consider not a drawback but a feature.
Part of me really does get the issue for being upset about a game you once loved being no longer one you can stand, or a game that you felt you were supposed to love totally failing to connect with you. That makes sense. There are definitely games I want to still adore that I just don’t at this point. But those are also games I no longer write about except to touch upon things I do know, and always with research and checking.
I have a lot of unhappy things to say about World of Warcraft. But I also still play WoW, and I’m saying them from firsthand knowledge and experience, not memory and extant bitterness. All of that bitterness is freshly harvested from new growth and is very carefully and recently cultivated.
Stop letting the games you don’t play live rent-free in your head. Unless they’re part of your job, I guess.