On my list of MMO pet peeves, people telling others how they should play — particularly in a condescending, controlling, demeaning way — is right up there at the top of the list. It smacks of elitism, of narrow-minded min-maxers who have long ago traded the love of the game for a mathematics worksheet, of being a general tool. It doesn’t help a community bond, but instead props up someone’s ego in exchange for shredding someone else’s self-esteem.
Really, why does this happen? Understand, I’m not talking about someone giving well-intentioned advice or taking another player under their wing and providing guidance. I’m talking about that jerk who immediately goes on the offensive in a pick-up group or in general chat, slamming someone’s build or gear or preferred playstyle as DEAD WRONG and OMG YOU SHOULD DIAF NAO.
I was reminded of this lovely individual last night while I was playing LotRO and /glff (Global Looking for Fellowship channel AKA “Barrens Chat for Middle-earth”) popped to life as one Lore-master was discussing his or her experiences using a bear pet. Immediately, a superior being descended from the heavens into /glff, backed up a dump truck full of examples why this person was completely wrong and failing at the game, and dumped it all over the channel. You NEVER use bear! Bear sucks! If a LM uses a bear, you know they’re a bad LM! Even talking about a bear makes you a bad LM! You fail at life! Who’s driving? Bear is driving, how can that be?
Now, the regrettable thing here is that the attacker was obviously knowledgeable about the class and could’ve shared this information in a much less antagonistic fashion. Instead, the /glff audience was treated to a jerk yelling at another player about how there really is only one way to play and they’re completely wrong if they don’t do it.
I’m sorry, but this is just so off-base I don’t know where to begin. Understandably, the longer an MMO is out the more specific builds are fine-tuned until they are widely considered superior (at least until the next patch). Some builds and playstyles will result in faster kills, better protection, more economical use of resources. But the most optimal build is not always the “best” or “only” one to use, and we hurt ourselves as a whole by insisting that everyone fall in line and use just them.
I saw a lot of this in World of Warcraft, of course, and it never ceased to chafe. You were wrong if you did X or had build Y, and should only be doing Z at all times. I recall way back in Vanilla WoW when some players liked to experiment with melee hunters — a big no-no for most of the community, and the subject of a heated podcast (which, like the above LM, spent the whole hour yelling at the anonymous hunters about how stupid they were being). Again, doing that wasn’t optimal and probably wouldn’t get you invited to many groups, but I had a problem with this hardline attitude about someone else’s playstyle. If they’re having fun and not hurting anyone else, why can’t they choose how and what to play without getting grief for it?
These are games, after all, and what may be the most “fun” might be as far from “optimal” as you can get. I may want to use a pet that isn’t the best stat-wise, but I prefer it for the visuals or the RP theme. I may want to diverge from the beaten path to experiment with alternate builds, even if they do end up being useless. I may want to try running a dungeon with an unbalanced party mix just to see if it can be done.
Digging deeper, we may be getting into themes of individualism vs. collectivism, but I’m too tired to be that intelligent. In short, if you want to tell me how to play my game, think long and hard about your intentions for doing so — and be receptive to how I might take such unwarranted advice. I have a pack of trained marmosets at the ready.