Psychology and gaming

There is lots of talk going around as to why Classic seems to be drawing in more people than many thought, and the perception that something is different about it.  I have a few thoughts as to why it is more of a draw to some than others.

I have read over the last few years people talking about Over Stimulation in games, where there is just so much going on that your brain stops acknowledging some of what you see.  And I can see where our mind may reach a point where we are trying to force it to see it all, that it fights back.  We develop anxiety doing certain tasks, we find ourselves finding reasons to not even log in, our mind telling us that it’s ok, we don’t need to work on those silly quests tonight, they will be there tomorrow, why not take a break and watch that Breaking Bad marathon.  And when you hold up Classic compared to Current WoW, there is a world of difference between the two.  One is a throwback to a much simpler time, when our objective was to run to this area, kill 15 of these things, collect 7 of something else, then run back to turn it in.  We quest out a zone and get a breadcrumb quest to go to someplace else, rinse and repeat.  It is fairly straight forward linear progression.  Now compare that to current where we have 5 or 10 levels to get to max, then we work on zones until we complete them, then move to the next until all 4 or 5 are done, but everything scales up with us so it is always a fight, there aren’t times where we are a level or two higher than the mobs, they continue to increase in power along with us, we get stronger, they get stronger, it requires a great deal of concentration and focus, and even at the start of an expansion we need to use all the spells and abilities in our tool kit from day one.  Once we have finished all the questing, and run the dungeons, we get to repeat it, over and over with quests, and dungeons and raids have multiple levels of difficulty, requiring greater focus and concentration, until we reach a point where our brains says, just stop.

Just my thought on that.

As for people being civil in game.  The current game doesn’t so much encourage single player gaming, but it does not do much to encourage grouping up beyond clicking a button and finding a group.  We all have mountains of gold, can acquire even more if we so choose to focus on it in our gaming choices, or just visiting the cash shop.  I can round up a few hundred thousand and get a full heroic clear of the current raid, or maybe a bit more for a mythic clear. I don’t need to know the people I am running with, I just have to pay them money.  We queue for everything and get lumped into random anonymous groups.  There is no need to develop friendships or to talk to people.  In Classic, we are all a part of one server, there is no group finder, we run to locations to quest and if it is a particularly difficult target we ask others if they would like to group up.  We are encouraged to be social, and in so doing, our attitude changes.  Now we are not just random priest player #1874, we are Marathal, that priest I’ve seen running about that has given me a Stamina buff a few times, or hey its that guy that was making 6 slot bags for everyone and selling them at cost so everyone could have one to make playing more fun, he/she is a good guy/girl.  People don’t bash others beyond making a harmless joke because you don’t know if there might come a time where you need their help.  We are more courteous and social because the game encourages it.

So I have to wonder, what will Blizzard take away from this experiment, will they change a lot of the way we have evolved in how we play to bring us back to a simpler time when your reputation mattered, where you needed to work harder for something, but it was not overwhelming to do so?  I would love to be a fly on the wall during discussions on why this is working, why more people are finding they enjoy the 15 year old game more than the shiny new version.

9 thoughts on “Psychology and gaming

  1. Spot on! I have found myself far more absorbed in Classic than I thought possible, and I think one of the reasons is exactly what you said: It is simple, no great strategic planning required. Like you, one of the first things I noticed was the widespread civility and sense of community players exhibited. I hope Blizz is taking notice of this and can figure out how to reintroduce those aspects into the retail game, while retaining some of the quality of life changes they have made over the years. Not sure that is possible, but they are supposed to be pros at this, so maybe they can actually pull it off. That is, if they even want to, if they are not bent on making the retail game solely for the pros….

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    1. At some point the board of directors has to look at where is the greater potential for profit. Do they continue to throw money at eSports in the hopes that it will take off? Do they give that 5 or 10 years to start showing the huge profits they thought it would make, or do they look at what is drawing a diverse group of people to the game that made them billions of dollars.

      When you think about it they could revamp all the expansions going forward from Classic with a different design, keep what was successful in the past, scrap what flopped, maintain a core design that encouraged civility and teamwork.

      I’ve seen a few people over the years talk about a WoW reboot. Maybe if Classic continues to be successful it might become a reality.

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      1. I am fully expecting some kind of “new Classic” announcement at Blizzcon this year, basically a hint about plans to re-roll a different expansion. Sadly, I do not expect them to retreat from the esports pro-gaming aspect of the retail game, only because that is such a major objective (read, “dictate”) from Corporate, along with the never-ending requirement to increase player “engagement” (spend more time doing mundane tasks unrelated to player fun).

        (Actually I rolled a druid — my experiences are in tomorrow’s post. In retrospect, should have rolled a hunter!)

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      2. I rolled my priest. I know, I know, step out of your comfort zone. But I’m finding the things that drew me to love the class and the game again. I can see all the utility that was scrapped over the years in favor of making it a “pure” DPS class. Yeah I am squishy as a powdered Creme filled donut, but I would trade this version for current in a heartbeat.

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  2. I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected, and i expected to quite enjoy it. I didn’t play WoW until mid-WotLK so the nostalgia factor is limited. It’s the gameplay that I’m enjoying and for many of the reasons you listed.

    I’m probably somewhat different from many Classic players because I have been playing MMORPGs in this fashion for a long time, right up to the present day. I play a lot of low-mid level characters in many games and even in very modern MMORPGs it’s not all that different. The change comes as you near the cap and enter the dreaded end game, where everythign ceases to be a clear, linear progression and turns into an overcomplicated, tedious, repetetive slog – or it does for me, anyway.

    Classic is paced nicely, I think. I can see how Vanilla WoW must have seemed like a walk in the park to players coming to it from EQ or DAOC in 2004-5. The gameplay is extremely similar but with many of the rough edges smoothed off and the combat (if not the rest of the leveling process) on fast-forward. No wonder it was such a success. And guess what? That formula still works a decade and a half later!

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  3. It’s not that simple.

    Blizzard are trying hard to please all types of players, and that inevitably leads to complexity. Yes, it’s not straightforward anymore, but activities are there for everyone. Mind you, most additions are met with eager. The most recent example could be Mythic+ dungeons – an overwhelming success throughout Legion and onwards.

    Pokemon? You got it.
    Competitive dungeon runs? You got it.
    PvP? You’re welcome.
    4 types of raiding for your choice? Go for it.
    Collections (pets, mounts, achievements, transmogs, reputations)? They’re here.
    Extra character development in addition to level/ilvl? Cape, ring, weapon, necklace – and garrisons – are there.

    The thing is, it’s a huge amount of information to digest and things to do. But it’s up to us players to filter the incoming information! We’re still clinging to the old ways, when there was only one way of playing, and we think that Blizzard wants us to do everything, but it’s not like this anymore.

    Say, the game is not a family dinner anymore when you’re supposed to eat every last crumb, or else. It’s a smorgasbord – try to sample things you like, pick the things you want to eat by large amounts, but you’re not supposed to leave all plates empty! A leftover concept could be wild for a person who had as much as a piece of bread for dinner in childhood, but we have to learn to live in modern times 🙂

    And for this very reason you couldn’t ask to “remove scrambled eggs and ham from smorgasbord” because you don’t get the idea 🙂 Because it could be the only thing that other people eat! That’s why LFR stays, pet battles continue to evolve in a game of its own, mythic dungeons get more affixes etc. You just don’t put them on a plate if you don’t eat those. The pressure is inside our own minds.

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    1. I agree. I don’t play more than one character because trying to play decently at two or more is just too much. My gaming background is from the era of a paddle controller or a joystick/ fire button. Nintendo with added buttons was ok, PlayStation with buttons on the face and added ones on the side started to get to be too complex, especially with combo moves to remember. With WoW, trying to figure out whether or not a piece of Azerite gear is better, which choices should I make with the necklace that will help in how I prefer to play got so bad for me that I don’t even bother checking any more. If it’s a +5 iLvL increase I gets equipped and the old scrapped. I stopped running all levels of dungeons, and even LFR because they became overwhelming. I tried taking up pet battles, but even some of those daily quests require getting specific rare pets from older expansions, some from the celestial tournament or other difficult challenges, and it’s just not fun. I know people that have spread sheets with combinations and talent choices just to complete a quest for pet charms. I agree it’s up to me to choose what I want to do to have fun, but when those things I use to enjoy become more complex and time consuming, I just want to walk away. I see a tipping point in my future where I just won’t log in one day and that will be it. I will go to the BNet web site, close the account and fill out a survey if they give me one. The game outgrew me. I reached my skill cap in the middle of Pandaria. Draenor I worked hard to keep up, to participate, but I couldn’t.

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  4. Vanilla was designed for these types of encounters. To encourage players to coordinate and work together—starting at level one—as people are experiencing in Classic. It was about the people playing the game. 

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