“That’s what guilds are foooorrr…”

In case the obscure, schmaltzy ’80s pop song reference is missed, look up Dionne Warwick and Friends and sub out “guilds” with “friends.” You young whippersnappers and your emo music…

At any rate, I’m here to share some more afterthoughts on a recent blog-o-sterical topic, World of Warcraft’s 3.3 patch update. I just found it fascinating how a small usability upgrade to the game’s interface– the Dungeon Finder tool– had die hard WoW fans questioning subscriptions (Tipa resubscribed), multi-player vs solo play (Syncaine’s not a fan of “this kind” of multiplayer) and the point of guilds (Cuppycake and Tobold applauded the potential ramifications). The last point was most intriguing for me: my personal experience with guilds is limited, aside from a few awesome moments with our homegrown Channel Massive guilds in the various games we’ve played in (big love to all). Yet listening to the vacuum of WoW fans do all this soul-searching, critiquing and praising of the LFD tool reminded me of how apocalyptic the experimental 2008 Zombie Plague Halloween event derailed the mundane ritual of daily quests and caused massive feedback (far more negative than 3.3, granted). In both instances, I’m asking myself, is the frenzied storm of keyboard clacking merited? Yeah, I can see it here, but I still think this upgrade’s a good one.

Taking all this in vicariously through the blog posts of True Blizzard Believers, hardcore WoW fans seem to interpret guilds much how I’ve always interpreted them: a means to an end. They’re easy to create, and people hop from one to another (sometimes with ruthless calculation) as their gameplay needs shift. While there’s always the potential for friendships and camaraderie to develop in guilds, given how many of them require pre-qualification for admittance reiterates how we civilized folks have used them: as tools to get work done. Yeah, WoW”s just a game when you’re casually blitzing through quests and PUG-ing along, but you get into those higher level guilds and you’ve officially made WoW your new part-time job. A hierarchical network of fellow gamers is evaluating your performance, telling you how and when to play, and feeling out if you have leadership potential to be another micromanager of entertainment. These guilds won’t go away– there’s certainly nothing wrong with them and some people are looking for just that– but the weight of expectations and sometimes unreasonable demands these structures have lost some power as Blizzard implemented a usability upgrade that some may label as yet another “easy button.”

To paraphrase the strife (with a touch of histrionic tone added, because you know I like that): “Lo, casual gamers be damned! Now they can reap some benefits that only the “truly” dedicated and engaged guildies and raiders have enjoyed. Blizzard is once again catering to the lowest, dumbest common denominator.”

I say not at all… As WoW continues to add even more layers and intricacies to its functionality, the game’s not being compromised for some, it’s being made more accessible for all. If you want to be hardcore and have your spreadsheet max/min micromanaged gaming gauntlet of your dreams, you can do that as you always have. Yet if you want to start looking at guilds as social groups that are more likely to swap the burden of performance evaluation with just having a good time together, the new Dungeon Finder facilitates that. Nothing wrong here.

I think the most brilliant aspect of it all is the potential reward for excessive PUG’ing through the new LFD tool: the Perky Pug pet. I’ve often viewed pets in MMOs as pretty dumb. Unless they’re actually assisting your gameplay in some way, they’re just resource-chowing window dressing. But, confession: I’m a sucker for little, squishy-faced dogs, and once I saw the WoW pug drag its butt across the floor with classic Blizzard style, I almost thought… hmmm. That ridiculous incentive is almost re-subscribe-able. Then my rational side kicked in. I have a cute little dog in the real world, and I’m a bit grateful he doesn’t drag his butt around too often, because when it’s on your carpet you feel kind of gross and need to grab the cleaner. I digress: jump-in, jump-out dungeon/objective play is right up my alley. It’s one of the things I loved about City of Heroes, and I loved how an even “game-ier” version was used in Warhammer Online’s scenarios. Being a bit off the MMO wagon, and having all those games at hand… I may just be resubscribing to one, too. And I never thought I’d think that about WoW.

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