Monday, July 13, 2009

It’s the envy that keeps us going

Are you envious of other players? Does your skin shift into a wannabe-NE-colour when you inspect their gear, see their titles or hear about their achievements? Do you feel that hungry surge in your stomach, telling you that you’ll never get happy unless you get the same stuff that they have?


Good to hear! It’s just the game mechanisms at work. It’s intended.

Gnomeaggedon wrote a rant a little while ago, where he made a confession about the different kinds of envy that affect him: achievement envy, gold envy, pet envy, gear envy, raid envy, for mentioning a few of them. Even though he says “it’s my lot”, I got the impression that he felt a little bit bad about carrying those feelings.

But I would suggest the opposite. It just shows that you’re still enjoying the game.

Why some envy is enjoyable
I’ve been pondering upon this for a while and my conclusion is that envy probably is one of the most important motivators in WoW, something that keep us going. After all, envy is just another nuance of desire.

If anything should worry you, it would rather be the opposite situation. If you don’t give a damned about whatever gear, mounts and experiences there are available in game, displayed by other players, if your desire has vanished and you just don’t care, you’re probably on the verge of burnout and likely to quit the game in a not too distant future.

The envy keeps us alert and involved with the game. And as a bonus: your envy is the pleasure and satisfaction of someone else. I bet you were delighted, Gnomeaggedon, as a random new player whispered you and told you how awesome your mechanostrider was, as you told us in a comment the other day.

The lack of envy can actually make some players become a little bit annoyed. If other players don’t worship their dresses as much as they had expected, they somehow feel deprived of a big chunk of the pleasure in gearing up. (They would be better off looking for other areas to gain the admiration of the crowd.)

Fuel of the community
Another aspect of envy is that it gives the community something to talk about. It’s the perfect fuel for discussions.

Imagine for a second that all classes were perfectly balanced in every single aspect and didn’t need to change in any way at all. Imagine that gear was handed out as results of our effort, so generously that everyone would get their “upgrade kick” often enough to keep them in a good mood, but still so wisely that no one felt that anyone else had any advantage thanks to their choice of playing style. Imagine this.

What do you think would happen to the blogs, the forums, the podcasts, everything that makes the universe of Azeroth stretch far beyond the scripted events delivered by your game server? How could you create interesting debates if we didn’t have the igniting spark of envy? How long would it take before the community ran dry without this fuel?

Destructive envy
However, Gnomeaggedon mentioned another sort of envy, which is harder to deal with: playtime envy. It’s when you see your friends or guildies doing things that aren’t available to you, due to the restrictions that real life put onto your gaming. I admit that this kind of envy isn’t exactly motivating; it’s more connected to feelings of frustration, bitterness and despair.

Probably we put much more value to the events we can’t participate in than they deserve. I bet that if I could play as much as I wanted to, signing up for the optional 10-man content as undying runs and 10-man runs in Ulduar, I would probably lose my appetite for it sooner than I think. It’s the fact that this fruit isn’t available for us that makes it so sweet and desirable.

I think the best way to deal with it is to stick to your own path of progression, put up your own goals to strive for and not bother so much about what other people are doing. See it as if they’re playing another game than you are. They could as well be playing LOTRO as raiding Ulduar. What does it matter to you?

Newbie envy
I’ll give the last word to Argon, who commented on my bartender’s post about heirlooms:

New players have one advantage over the grizzled altaholic: the content is fresh and exciting to them. I'd trade away all my heirloom items in an instant for that.

Oh, how spot on isn’t this? The sad thing is that no matter how you try, it’s hard to make the newcomer understand how privileged he is. The insight won’t come until it’s too late, and he too has become envious of those guys who still have new and exciting things to discover in the game. It’s the Newbie envy, one of the hardest envies to deal with. I’m afraid the only reliable cure for it is to switch to another game.

Not even the next content patch will make the game as sparkling and exciting as your first stumbling steps in Azeroth. The road is always one-way.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure that I agree with your definition of envy as another nuance of desire but I think the larger issue is whether that feeling (however labeled) is a tickle or a goad. I look at what gear others have because I want to know what gear I need to tackle more advanced content. But my self-worth or my enjoyment of the game is not tied to that feeling. If someone got the drop I would have liked I don't get angry or depressed. It's just a "rats!" and a minute later it's forgotten; it's not that vital.

As for Argon's comment I simply think that it's still possible even for veterans to have that "magical feeling". I know at times I still do. I don't think a jaded viewpoint is an inherent result of longevity. The road may be one-way but it most curious how it almost always turns in a circle.

Klepsacovic said...

Envying is caring. Currently I have no envy that I can think of (beside the one I mentioned to our gnome friend). Is it coincidence that I have played less in the past week than I would usually play in a few hours?

There is a line though when envy crosses into jealousy and resentment. Those do no one any good.

Anonymous said...

Nice read... funny because I got a track back this morning and while I was reading the post I'm thinking... "Geez these sound just like Larisa's words"

Then I came here and discovered they were your words... sounds like a case of Blog envy...

But then who doesn't envy the skill of Larisa?

Dwism said...

" The sad thing is that no matter how you try, it’s hard to make the newcomer understand how privileged he is. The insight won’t come until it’s too late"
Its like they say; youth is wasted on the young.
But if envy was all that kept me playing, then I would stop playing.

For me its about standing with your mates looking at an encounter, banging your head against it, and through team-work and smart play, defeating it!
Sure it is fun to get server first, but that is just a side-thing....At least id like to think it is.

MomentEye said...

I was wondering this morning (as my main crept towards 50) if Blizzard isn't actively trying to get new people to plow through their early experience. Which is a shame.

I'm not sure, now, that I would have wanted to be brought up by a 'recruit a friend' veteran.

From their point of view I've been playing for months and I'm only beginning to think about when to upgrade to BC.

Catalin said...

"The content is fresh and exciting to them. I'd trade away all my heirloom items in an instant for that."

This reached deep inside and made me cry a little. Oh Teldrassil, the memories...

Carra said...

I'd trade in all my characters just to be able to have the gaming experience of those first few months of WoW.

And it's the major reason why I hate seeing people boosting friends who just started playing through instances. You're new to the game, you should be having tons of fun! Not just skip all the fun and level as fast as possible.

Catalin said...

"You're new to the game, you should be having tons of fun!"

THIS has changed in WoW. Not the heirlooms, not the fact you will be able to buy latest tier with heroic tokens, and not the level you can ride around.

Nowadays, no matter the level, you're expected to have a proper spell rotation, know your class, and run some mandatory addons.

I'm not sure it is possible anymore to have the kind of candid experience we once had. Back then we were truly exploring, and instancing, and questing to our hearts desire.

Now we the veterans demand experience and commitment from the players we team up with on our level 16 alt to run Deadmines. We turn our noses up to their gray and green gear, and their bad itemization, and poor choice of talent points.

Maybe it is us that need to change our expectations towards those lower levels that are brand anew, and instead of belittling them try to enjoy the game as it was meant to be.

And maybe this way we'll rediscover our initial joy and wonder at the rendering of the trees, and marvel on the touches of red as the sun sets by the horizon.

Larísa said...

@Elnia: actually I probably shouldn't be suggesting nuances of words. I'm not very good at nuances in English, since it it's a foreign language. However, I agree that there are different sorts of envy. One that is bitter and depressed and another one that is the opposite, more like a tickle that will motivate you to try a bit harder to get the same thing that made you envious.

I'm glad to hear that you're able to fall in love with the game over again. Actually I think I'm doing it myself, trying out healing on my druid. It's a lovel expereince and gives a completely fresh perspective to instances I've run many times before in the past.

@Klepsacovic: yep, as I stated above: there are different qualities in "envy". It can be harmful. But also a good thing that makes the game fun.

@Gnomeaggedon: oh, my blog envy for you has no limit. If I could only provide a tenth of your joyfulness and laughter I would be a happy blogger.... My only comfort is that it probably makes you happy that I envy you!

@Dw-redux: oh, I don't think envy is all that keeps us playing. That's to draw it too far. But I think it can give some good spice to your gaming.

@MomentEye: stay strong. Experience the content in your own pace. Don't accept boosts. You'll probably never enjoy the game as much as you do now. Know that you're envied!

@Carra: /agree!

@Ydrasia: I think you're right. Veteran players try to form the new one into veterans asap, putting pressure on them to "learn their class" and all that stuff. Why? Why not let them stay happy noobs for a little while, just exploring the game the way the veterans once did in their youth?

Fish said...

I don't envy the effect of certain gear, I envy the looks. I am pretty neutral on the red sword because I don't think it looks that cool but I would LOOOOOVE to get the slayer of lifeless. I also envy some of the cool abilities that upper level characters of certain classes get. I want elementals and chain lightning! Anytime anyone posts purple gear, I don't really care what it does, I care how it looks.

Anonymous said...

I get envious of the wrong things. Like Martin Fury, oh how I wish that was me.
"Honestly Mr. GM, it was an accident that it went off 147 times in Dalaran" Taking it to Ulduar was a waste of a Ban :D

Tesh said...

Interesting that one of the "seven deadly sins" would be something that fuels the game. It's a fair assessment, but what does that tell us about why we're playing?

Among other things, I'd suggest that we've lost that feeling of innocence and fun because we've embraced the rat race. Yes, WoW works (as do most MMOs, for that matter) because it manages to convince us that we *like* the treadmills, but by so doing, we've lost the urge to explore, to experience, and to just *play* in the world and have fun being a part of a virtual world that couldn't exist any other way. (At least with current technology.)

I don't see that as healthy. It keeps the $15/month coming in for Blizzard, but I don't think it really helps players, either to have fun or maintain mental health.

Bloodshrike said...

I don't envy much of what higher level players have. The only Talent that I think I still have to experience is Levitation, so after 2+ years, I'm finally leveling one of my 3 20+ priests to 34, so I can finally use that spell.

I don't really care much about what other people think of my gear, my toons, or my attack rotation. I'm happy and satisfied with myself whenever I accomplish something, or am able to get a badass piece of gear (either something that procs, or looks cool).

Fitz said...

Larisa, sometimes a change of pace like picking up tanking/DPS/healing is just what you need to make the game magic again. I think you might just fall in love with healing so much that your poor pigtails might be keeping Elnia more company at the bar!

And as for gnomeaggedon, I suppose I have blog envy in the good way according to your definition. I don't really care about readers, but I wish I could command such great thoughts as I find daily on this blog and others in your blogroll. Feel free to drop on by if you wish, as I am writing more actively at least until football season and those sportswriting commitments come up again (it should be the first blog listed under my profile, Healer Trek).

Svenn said...

I have nothing particular to say on the matter; just that I enjoy your blog, have been following it for quite some time, and am herby de-lurking!

We Fly Spitfires said...

I gotta say, I don't feel envy... I really don't. Desire, maybe, but not envy. Like I can look at someone's gear, or even some gear I found on the internet, and desire it but I don't have any jealousy or ill-will towards the person who already has it.

Anonymous said...

Yidrasa has a great point there. the other week, I've ran Naxx 10 on an alt with this kid, not just in age, but also his wow experience. And I found myself trying so hard not to snap at him because after all - he was adorable in a completely clueless way, with his countless questions and politeness (good job parents :) ).

it can be extremely difficult NOT to have expectations, not to try and help someone with more knowledge even if its too fast and too much, because at the core - MY game will improve with them getting more knowledgeable at their class.

I guess that ignorance, that sense of new, exiting exploration is the one thing I truly envy. not the current new players (I don't envy them one bit, poor souls - picked on by veterans, sitting in Dalaran bored accusing you of stupidity because you happen not to know something just yet, being new and all), but those who started the game back before the multitude of guides, back when everyone was a noob.

HP said...

I always thought of envy in negative terms but after this post, I don't feel so bad anymore! I am sooo envious of the top horde guild on my server getting the iron bound protodrake because I know it is just out of my reach. I want the Rusted one but that is a hard goal to reach. I guess my envy being alive and well really is a sign of my interest in the game.

bRISTAL said...

TOTALLY agree with your last point. I would give it all up for another run at that first 3-4 months in WoW. That first boat ride to Auburdine, discovering Un'Goro Crater from Tenaris, grouping and killing something HARD the first time...

Anonymous said...

Ydraisa really struck a cord with me.. a while back I decided to roll a Shaman, but I wouldn't even face the creation screen until I researched it...

What was I researching... end game mechanics and other things that would not effect my enjoyment of the toon for 60+ levels...

Thing was it did effect it, before it was even rolled...

Too much head... not enough heart.

Larísa said...

@Fish: Actually it’s only pretty recently I’ve started to think about the looks of stuff, clicking on purple links to check how it would look at me. It gives me many giggles, even though I can’t exactly say it makes me envious.

@Rapidresponceunit: Haha, I’ve never thought about being envious about that thing… I guess the following ban scares me too much. I wonder if he could have gotten away with it if he had used it only moderately and not excessively…

Oh I agree with you. I try to stay out of the rat race mentality as much as I can, but it’s hard to resist it when there’s a horde of rats passing by next to you. It’s easier to just float along with the others.

@Bloodshrike: This sounds like a sound attitude. I can’t say that I really envy the spells of other classes…. Well, that rubber-band thing that DK do looks fun, but it’s not like I can’t live without it. Every class has some sort of yummy spell, I think the game is pretty fair in that manner.

@Fitz: yep, you’re nail on about healing. Just look tomorrow!
I had no idea that you had a blog. Cheers! I’ll check it out.

@Svenn: welcome into the light, Svenn! Grab a beer. You’re very welcome, even though you’re just silently listening to the chatter.

@We Fly Spitfires:
Again: I’m no expert in the nuances of Enlish. But I think there is envy that is more about desire than about dark feelings of ill-will towards someone else.

@Leah: I think you did a great thing. Too sad that so few veteran players think this way. I agree with you completely that new players of today probably have a much harder time than they had back in the old days. Surely, there are guides to help you everywhere. But the expectations… the picking from the veterans. I shiver thinking about it.

@HP: Keep the envy up, HP! You’ll get your dragon one day!

@Bristal: yeah. I remember someone told me that at an early point, that I should enjoy the game now because it was a special ride, the first one to top level. And I didn’t quite understand what he meant. But now I know.

@Gnomeaggedon: Once you’ve bitten the apple you can’t get it undone I guess. But yes, I agree. Sometimes I wonder if all this researching always helps us enjoy the game more. For that was what it was about, wasn’t it? Enjoyment.

Dan H said...

"New players have one advantage over the grizzled altaholic: the content is fresh and exciting to them. I'd trade away all my heirloom items in an instant for that."

I saw that comment on the original post, and I actually find it rather patronizing.

The idea that I can be finding something fresh and exciting and *not notice* is patently absurd.

I thought Hillsbrad was awesome first time around. I still think it's awesome. Same with Shadowfang. On the flip-side, I thought Tanaris was dull the first time, and it'll still be dull the third and the fourth (thank heavens I'll be able to do it on an Epic Mount).

I'd add that my *very* first experience of WoW (on an account which I let lapse) was so dull that I didn't get past the ten day trial. It wasn't being new to the content that made it fun, it was playing with friends.