People Are Cruel (In World Of Warcraft)

Please stop killing me I'm just trying to farm gold.

One of the things that I enjoy but also dislike about World of Warcraft Classic is how much work it requires to "play" it. I put "play" in scare quotes because when most think about "playing" WoW, they think about running dungeons, tackling raids or defeating powerful monsters for new pieces of gear.

The reality, however, is that most players who regularly "play" probably spend most of their in-game time not killing bosses or getting loot, but rather logging in day-in and day-out to earn some gold so they can kill bosses one night a week. I'm not exactly sure if this makes sense so let me just give you an example.

One night a week my guild does a run of the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, the highest-tier raid dungeon currently available. There is a loose expectation within the guild that you come to the raid prepared with numerous potions, food and other consumables. While it's nice to get all buffed up and see the numbers get big, the logic here is that if everyone's character is strong as hell it just makes the raid go a lot smoother and faster.

So, every Tuesday I log in and go shopping. I buy a stack of Elixir of the Mongoose (50g), a stack of Elixir of Giants (10g), a stack of Winterfall Firewater (100g), two stacks of Greater Nature Protection Potions (150g), and materials to make a stack of Goblin Sapper Charges (30g). Throw in incidental costs for getting world buffs (25g) and armor repair bills (10-20g) and one night of raiding costs me a little under 400g a week. Even though (or because) this is a video game in which everything is made up, it's not a trivial task to just come up with 400g every single week. You have to go out there and "farm" it.

Whether you mine precious ore and gems, pick herbs, craft weapons, enchant gear and so on, everyone more-or-less has a "Profession" in WoW, and if you want to do the "fun" stuff in game you have to use your "Profession" to fund it. Probably starting to sound familiar isn't it? You could almost say that the "grind" of WoW is not unlike a similar grind that we're all too familiar with right, heh heh?

Anyway, because I am a huge idiot and have no idea how to make money in the real world (I'm spending my day writing this free newsletter about World of Warcraft after all), I also do not know how to make money in World of Warcraft. I don't really have any professions outside of a basic understanding of Enchanting and a Journeyman's experience with engineering so I can make my own Goblin Sapper Charges.

Up until a few weeks ago — we'll get into that in a second — the best way I knew how to make money was to go to a place called Silithus and spend hours killing a bunch cultists (Twilight Avengers and Twilight Geolords), gathering the pieces of paper they dropped (Encrypted Twilight Text), and then selling them in bunches to other players who did not want to spend the farming the texts themselves. (If you would like to know, you can turn in texts to the Cenarion Hold to curry favor with them and earn their Powerful Items.) In a sense this was my "Profession." Log in, farm a fat stack of 250 over the course of a few hours, sell them to someone who ostensibly had more money than time, and then buy the strongest potions so that I may head into battle.

Recently, however, whenever I clock in to my job as a Twilight Text Farmer, not 15 minutes into "work" some Alliance player swoops in, kills me and then runs off. For a week straight I fruitlessly tried to farm texts only to be "ganked" over and over again by enemy players — to the point where I was spending just as much time running back to my corpse as I was trying to farm texts.

It, uh, really put a wrench into my chosen "Profession," and thus my general enjoyment of the game due to the fact that not only was anxiety around money a fixture in my real life but now it was a fixture in my video game life as well. Obviously not the worst thing that could happen considering the circumstances we live in today, "Oh no some people were mean to me in a video game." But it also just seemed to cut a little deeper knowing that we're all living in a pandemic, and the economy is in the shitter and the cops continue to kill black and brown folks, only now they roll up in their military-surplus riot gear beating and tear-gassing the shit out of anyone who decides to take to the streets to express their anger and frustration. Maybe I'm doing too much assuming or projection here but it seems to me that it's pretty hard to not, uh, know or internalize Everything That's Going On and that you simply can't just leave that the second you log into World of Warcraft?

(And if you're unsure about any of this earlier this week the cops stopped a woman driving near a demonstration protesting the extrajudicial murder of Walter Wallace Jr., smashed in her windows, dragged her out of her car, beat her, arrested her, kidnapped her toddler and then lied to the country about it — saying that they had found a boy "wandering barefoot" and that they had saved him or some shit.)

So, in a way, it feels just a little off that amidst everything going on, you would log into a video game and choose to unwind by more-or-less ruining someone's evening. It just seems a little wrong and bad that despite how difficult things are you could still bring yourself to having fun at someone else's expense? Or maybe I'm just being a big baby and just do something else with my free time, I'm not really sure?

Those who are familiar with WoW, are likely furrowing your brow and wondering, "Well, what server do you play on?" Those who aren't have either closed the tab already, or still not really sure where I'm going with this so to clarify: this my own goddamn fault.

There are two major choices in World of Warcraft that every player must make: the faction you're going to join — Horde or Alliance — and the server — player versus environment (PvE) or player versus player (PvP) — you're going to play on. The former determines what side of the titular "war" you'll assume, and the latter dictates just how much you want to personally "participate" in that war. In other words: who do you want to fight and how much do you want to fight them?

Roll on a PvE server and you can opt-in to PvP combat by "flagging" yourself, or opt out by waiting five minutes in a friendly city. A sort of video game equivalent of running to your house in the middle of a snowball fight and shouting I'M NOT PLAYING, I'M NOT PLAYING. On a PvP server, however, anyone on the opposing faction can kill you whenever they'd like, more or less.

There are, of course, Opinions about faction and server choice but it mostly boils down to this: if you don't want to get griefed, play on a PvE server, if you would like to grief other players, pick PvP. This binary system Blizzard came up with to account for player morality and motivation made perfect sense to my 15-year-old brain. Players who complained about getting "ganked" should clearly just play on a PvE server, and PvE server players complaining about a lack of "War" in their "Warcraft" should roll on a PvP server.

Personally, I've always played Horde on a PvP server (excluding the first few months when I played a Dwarf Paladin) because that's what I understood to be the most "hardcore" and "cool" way to play World of Wacraft. In the beginning, it seemed like everyone played Alliance probably because the Lord of the Rings trilogy had just come out and everyone wanted to make a Night Elf Hunter named xLegolasx, or Gimmli the Dwarf Warrior and so on.

Choosing to play as the Horde, the "bad guys," back then (although Warcraft's own lore kind of paints the Alliance as the oppressors) on a server where you're likely outnumbered and thus likely to get continually ganked by Gannondӧlf the Human Mage, was a way to join the edgy cool kids club of WoW. Shouting "FOR THE HORDE" in game while your band of Orcs, Trolls, Tauren and Undead charge into battle? Incredibly badass and extremely metal. Shouting "For the Alliance!"? Very uncool boy scout shit.

And while I didn't necessarily join a PvP server just so I could pick fights with other players whenever I wanted, it just felt so much different knowing that was always an option. It, in some ways, gave the world more consequence if you knew you were running through an area close to an Alliance base and thus risking getting swarmed by dozens of enemy players and potentially spending the next hour watching them camp your corpse, waiting for you to respawn so they can just kill you again.

Up until a few months ago, I never really considered whether or not the PvE/PvP server dynamic was a "good" system for preventing players from being absolute jackasses to each other in a video game. Back then, players griefing you, or the other way around, seemed "fair" because it followed the games rules on player engagement. If it's in the game, then this is clearly what Blizzard had in mind!

But lately, however, I'm starting to feel like the whole PvE/PvP server dichotomy is maybe inadequate? I know this is like Ethics 101 shit, but getting my ass handed to me while I'm just trying to make some money to raid is a good example of something that is technically "legal" but definitely not "ethical" I would say. And while before I think I'd be able to brush it off, telling myself that these players were indeed abiding the rules of the video game, and oh well what can you do, it's personally becoming increasingly hard to do that, as I mentioned earlier, amidst Everything Going On.

It just feels especially cruel. As far as I can tell, the only reason why someone would want to repeatedly kill my broke ass would be for the pleasure of knowing that I'd need to spend the next five minutes running back to my corpse to resurrect. Within the context of the game there is no meaningful reward for going around and ganking people just trying to cover their consumable costs for the week. While the kills do grant Honor — an in-game score that is used to rank players on a PvP ladder — it's much faster to farm Honor in sanctioned Battlegrounds than in the open world. And within the context outside of the video game, what kind of person would want to do that? Must be nice to just log into World of Warcraft — knowing that we're all just trying to escape the hellish reality of just merely existing during the year 2020 for a few hours here and there — and decide you're going to spend your evening ruining that for other people. Must be nice!

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