Vague Patch Notes: Sort your own MMO community, guy


One of the things I note is that every so often – not all the time, but every so often – something will just stick in my craw. I’ll just see or experience a thing and it’ll just hang with me for the rest of the day. And the other day this happened to me when I saw a World of Warcraft community latching onto and repeatedly reposting a Reddit post about community drama happening over in a Final Fantasy XIV thread somewhere.

The drama itself was basically someone saying “I’m griefing people,” other people politely saying “please stop doing that,” and the original poster getting extremely salty. This is… not drama, but whatever. What stuck in my craw about it was that looking at the community response, you would think the original poster said that he made a tiny rotation mistake and everyone told him to exit stage left, pursued by a bear (except much worse). It’s complete non-drama in which one person told on himself, the community called him on it, and he doubled down. But to hear this chunk of WoW community tell it, the whole thing is proof that FFXIV is just like WoW.

And that’s what stuck in my craw because… come on, my dudes. Sort your damn lives out.

A reasonable reading of this thread is that this isn’t even community drama, but even beyond that, I’ve seen people ragequit random dungeon runs in WoW because they didn’t feel a Paladin was doing the most aggressive possible rotations. I’ve watched people ragequit raid finder runs after a single wipe on a new wing. Not just once or twice, but repeatedly. This is just normal behavior in that game. It’s not unexpected, and it’s so common that it’s hardly remarked upon.

But I also understand where the impetus to elevate stories like this is coming from: If you’re knee-deep in that community, you sort of have to tell yourself that this is how every MMO community acts. Otherwise, you start getting some perspective. And then the darkness sets in and you have to look yourself in the eye about the way you personally behave. Can’t have that.

The Lord of the Rings Online community is intensely chill. Now, if I wanted to, as someone who plays FFXIV, I could scour community discussions about the game and find people flying off the handle or being elitist or nasty or whatever. And I could then crow about how I’d found a data point suggesting that maybe LOTRO isn’t all chill, so my game is better, right?

What am I actually proving here? That I have issues to sort out.

God, I hate hanging out with you. You smell like vending machine chips and sadness. It's the worst. Standing here with you makes me actively sick to my stomach.

The fact of the matter is that you are always going to have community pockets that are better and worse. I have known (and been a part of) positive forces within the WoW community, helping to organize Pride events and long RP storylines. Sure, some of that was years in the past, but some of it was just a couple of years hence. I have met deplorable people in every single game I have played, ever. One of my first ever experiences in City of Heroes was a bunch of people following me around during a hunt mission and griefing me. Seriously.

Does that mean that I can say the community sucks? Or that it used to suck? No. It means that we live in the real world, where it’s possible to have groups of people in a game who don’t fit in with the overall community vibes. There are always going to be jerks. When your player community consists of 10,000 people, you have to assume that at least 1% of them are going to be jerks, and that’s 100 people. Up the number to 10,000,000 and the same principles apply. Not everyone is cool.

But it’s also really kind of pointless to be staring at other MMO communities and say, “Holy crap, at least we aren’t those people.” And that is true literally no matter what other community you might be pointing to. I can look at League of Legends and say, “Well, at least I’m not them,” but why would I do that in the first place?

If you’re running a race, you might be happy to at least not be in seventh place when you’re in sixth, but you’ve still lost. And instead of looking over your shoulder in hopes of seeing the people behind you, you’d be better served by running faster and focusing on what you’re doing.

The communities I am in are ones I try to be proud of being in, with the knowledge that they still have warts and flaws just like every other group. Proving that I’m better than some arbitrary standard of Those People just proves that I’m insecure about my group and have given up on trying to improve it. It’s a form of internal mythmaking, maybe useful for helping you sleep better at night but definitely unhelpful for making the aforementioned community even moderately pleasant to participate in.

Heck, you’ll probably note that I deliberately cut a line between a community based around WoW and the entirety of the WoW community. There are parts of the WoW community that do not have a deep insecurity and a need to prove that FFXIV must secretly be just like their game. But those people also don’t go a-hunting for drama.


That’s the core of it, obviously: a deep insecurity. You know that your community isn’t good, and you’ve decided that’s too impossible to change, so instead you fall back on shining a light toward other communities in the hopes that they sometimes look bad too. It is ineffectual for the same reason these things always are, since it’s possible for someone else to look bad without making yourself look good, but the roots are clear and present.

But it means that at a certain point you need to just, like, deal with your own house. Sure, maybe your cousin’s apartment looks way worse than yours does. But that doesn’t mean yours looks even remotely all right. And making fun of your cousin’s apartment might make you feel better about your own mess, but your own mess is still just as much of a problem.

Maybe you’re not wrong. Maybe you play WoW or LoL or whatever game with a legendarily awful community and you both know it’s too toxic to be pleasant and out of your power to change. Certainly it doesn’t help when the people in charge of the game consider it either a lost cause or just not worth the effort, which is often the case. Heck, eventually the toxicity becomes a part of the rite of passage. “If you can’t stand players being awful, you’re not cool enough to be here.”

But that’s a big lift, isn’t it? Do you want your favorite game to have the selection pressures of the Something Awful forums? Doesn’t seem like a great flex to me, anyway.

As sometimes happens in these columns, there isn’t a real action plan here so much as a piece of advice to the people who are out there looking over the fences and seeking out some external problem to distract from internal ones. It’s possible you will find something, sure. It’s possible that you play Destiny 2 but then see people being horrible about Fallout 76 and can say “wow, glad I’m not those people.” But that’s unlikely to make your community any better. Sort your own stuff out.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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