I know I have written earlier about this issue, but the recent experience of pure fun without any pressure on performance incited the idea once again. This is more a flow of thought kind of post, without any actual analysis of anything and is based on my thoughts (unless otherwise mentioned).
WoW is still designated as a game, even though there are no real game-like elements in it. You cannot win WoW, except if you count killing the final boss as "YOO WIN, DOOD!" screen. You cannot score a high score in WoW, except if you count the superficial arena point score or a gearscore-like scoring system as a valid scoring system. And you can replace any desired game name acronym on the place of WoW, even MMO, and the earlier sentences are true.
For some people fun comes from winning and being better than others. That is actually quite a western way of looking life, always striving to best others. In MMO this comes in the form of besting the bosses or the raid content in a group. The raid leader - being the leader - is considered to be the one who knows and understands the way the encounter works and thus can be taken as the best player in the group. (Yup, that was a gross generalisation.)
The competition in raid content comes from the competition between guilds, as the content is impossible to do as a single player. The most revered guilds are those that get the server first, or even world first, kills of the newest and 'hardest' end bosses.
But getting the world first doesn't mean you have won the MMO in question, as there will be a next one within short time.
I have a competitive enough job and other hobby to say that this kind of competition just for the sake of it doesn't interest me. Sure I would like to see the end game content as well as any other player out there, but that is not the reason I'm playing the game. And that is why I've had so hard time in understanding why I'm not enjoying the game as much as the other people playing it.
My concept of fun is different from the group I try to 'belong'.
For me the whole concept of min-maxing and trying to beat the content seems too serious and ... well, not fun as such. Formerly the fun had come from the exploration and finding new things in the game, while levelling reaching the new talents and skills to learn and use. At the level cap the development started to go through the min-maxing route and you can easily find many texts around the net (starting from the official forums) about people who don't have The Spec for their character or their gear composition isn't exactly what is considered to be of canon with the build or role their toon is supposed to have.
I bet the players are still having fun, despite of the people in random groups picking on them, making ridicule of them and calling them by names. Why would they be playing if that wasn't the case?
I have serious enough job as it is, and I prefer a contradictory entertainment after I get off from the office. Good old laughter, tears and silliness. Not grumpy, stern tweaking to fit the suite and current flavour of the month.
I just learned yesterday that my main's gearscore is about 4800 and then some. I have acquired that by running heroics and gearing up the way I have felt being the way I want my character to be. To be able to fill the spot in the group he's supposed to. Now the game has advanced so far that this doesn't seem enough, for the gs requirements for yesterday's weekly and pug raids called for gs above 5200. I would like to take on the weekly and pug raids, but because of the fact that I couldn't care less about the gs I have, I'm effectively cut off. And because I've never raided any of those places, really, I cannot fathom even trying to lead them or put up my own PUG.
I know this sounds strange to most of the people reading any kind of blogs, but I feel that this isn't the way the game should be played or how I should feel about my situation. I should take the lead, not care about the others and take what I want.
That's not how I want to do it.
I know I could take any tanking position with the skill I have: I have no problem in following a plan and winding it when necessary. Because I don't know the instances I just cannot see myself failing the 10 strangers who I will never probably meet. I wouldn't mind wiping and progressing slowly, but I would mind failing the others by not knowing how to handle the situation.
That wouldn't be fun, you see, and I would feel bad about it for a long time. It's too serious, that level cap raiding, it seems.
At the other end is the pure fun without any pressure. Do as you please and how you wish others to do. That last weekend's fabulous gnome event which SAN-EU arranged was exactly that. Pure, clean fun without any expectations (everyone was at the same level there) and without requirements (except being gnome and acting gnomish).
Who is to say which thinking is right or wrong? The people playing the game at the cap and hitting their head against the pre-scripted boss night after night for the kill or the people roleplaying at the mid levels, raiding for their character's story and taking the blows in verse?
It's not any players desire to perform poorly, I think. But I think that every player wants to have fun with their game, be it whatever. No fun is better than other, and fun is very subjective matter.
So I will keep whining about how I'm excluded - like so many other casual and time restricted players - from the end game content. I want to beat the final boss just as much as anyone playing WoW, but feel that "I am not prepared" or feel excluded from this due to the artificial requirements other players set. The result is that we take the alternative route, enjoying playing the stress free roleplaying character seeking his roots. Why?
Because that's more fun for me. What's your fun?