I read a very interesting article written by Ocho titled The Noob – Elitist Bell Curve in which the topic of elitism in MMOs is discussed. In the end Ocho challenges players in the MMO community to think about why they feel they are either superior or inferior to other players.
Ocho’s article got me thinking about two questions regarding elitism:
Why does elitism exist in MMOs?
Do we need elitism in MMOs?
I think to understand why elitism exists in MMOs it is important to define elitism. Searching the online Merriam-Webster dictionary I found that elitism is synonymous with the word snobbery. Snobbery is defined as, “the behavior or attitude of people who think they are better than other people.”
At first I thought about how progression might drive elitism because it is a such fundamental game mechanic of MMOs. There is character progression in which players earn skills and abilities as they gain levels accomplishing goals. The upgraded skills and abilities allow them to tackle increasingly complex puzzles and challenges. Character progression would also include changes to a characters skills and abilities based on equipped gear (armor, weapons and accessories) which have bigger skill and ability values as the character’s level gets higher.
But is player progression in itself a reason why elitism exists in MMOs? A higher level character will have better skills and abilities along with the gear to make them stronger than a lower level character. For some players this would be a source of pride that could lead to acting elitist. The fact is that it is only a matter of time for the lower level character to eventually reach the same level as any higher level character. This means that player progression is a level playing ground.
Even taking into consideration raid progression (which is not featured in all MMOs) and player-versus-player, there is no need for elitism. As I already stated it is only a matter of time for any player to level their character, earn the appropriate gear, and learn how to successfully complete a raid or survive PvP.
Anyone who has played MMOs for any amount of time knows that elitism occurs mostly among at least three types of gamers. First of all are those called minmaxers who have figured out how to squeeze out every stat number to hit hard, heal big, or survive combat. Second are the raiders or dungeon raiders who are capable of beating the bosses in any encounter with their eyes closed. The third group tends to be the PvPers who are usually minmaxers and can win a dual against any other class character.
Can I be proud of my character? Of course. Are raids hard? Yes. Can I be proud to be a raider or PvPer? Yes.
The issue is how that pride affects the way gamers think about themselves and act towards others.
This is what I think is important about this whole issue and brings me back to the definition of elitism focusing on two words: attitude and behavior.
It is okay to be proud of in-game accomplishments, but that pride should not be the reason to act negatively towards other players. The reality is that everyone playing the game is going after the same accomplishments, whether it is a title, piece of gear or just the experience. So there is no need to get jealous, angry, sad, happy, or glad at how other players want to experience the same game you play.
Something else to keep your attitude in check is the reality that your epic character with every accomplishment achievable in the game can go away at any time. I do not have to go through the list of MMOs that are now mere footnotes in gaming history, but it helps to be reminded that we play MMOs for the experience and to have fun.
If you want to be considered elite in a real way by others you will need to change your behavior. Name calling, flaming and griefing just sucks no matter who you are. I am going to be honest and say that nobody likes being called a noob and I think this word has earned its place in the lexicon of cuss words. I have witnessed raid groups end early, yelling matches over voice chat, and even guilds nearly fall apart because the word noob was thrown around.
Again, remember that playing the game should be fun and being angry and calling someone a noob is not fun. If you feel that you are the best player in your MMO and that another player is doing it all wrong, why not offer to lend a hand with some leveling tips or make yourself available to answer questions in the future. Friendly helpful players earn my respect more than any angry name callers make me scared.
Just like Ocho, I want the MMO community to to think about these things to help make the communities surrounding our favorite MMOs the best they can be.