A Departure, Part 1: Artifact Power

Categories Video Games, WoW

People have inquired quite a bit about what exactly has caused me to make the decision to leave hardcore WoW raiding, be it permanent or temporary. Some people think it’s because my guild is collapsing (it’s not), some think it’s because I feel pressured to grind AP as hard as I possibly can (while a contributor, not the sole reason), some think I’m just going the way of the hardcore raider in Legion.

I’ve decided to split this up over a few days so I can talk about each part of my overall problem with specific clarity instead of just making one giant post vomiting my feelings all over the place. There’s more to my decision than just one thing and I think that’s important to know. Quitting was a complex and hard decision and it’s not as simple as “fuq grinding.”

Today, I’ll discuss my feelings regarding Artifact Power.

Artifact Weapons were an amazing thing to introduce into the game. With unique weapons for every spec, it truly felt like Blizzard was looking into each class and spec with great care which was a really cool feeling to have. I think they delivered pretty well on their promise for a unique weapon experience and I’m glad they took a chance on this experiment for the game.

My ultimate problem with Artifact Power isn’t specifically that it’s grindy. My problem is how it changed the WoW community in ways that we should have seen coming. The problem with Artifact Power lies in the players and our endless need for power gains. AP is a community-created problem because for a large number of the population (and most notably, raiders), power gains are the representation of your worth as a player in group content. Gear is a sign of prestige; item level is a numerical value assigned to you as a player and is typically valued over experience.

When a diamond miner is presented with a mine rich in diamonds that goes to impossible depths, but has a consistent supply of the precious rock dispersed evenly throughout until the bottom, he is presented with two options: mine the diamonds as fast as he can to expedite his own personal profit before all the other diamond miners can mine through their own mineral-rich mines, or continue through the mine casually at a steady or slightly slower pace and be left in the proverbial dust of your colleagues. When a community is already inundated with this idea of power through numbers over experience and is then presented with a mine of power, they’re forced to make the same choice. You blast through, increase your character’s power, and become attractive to guilds, or you go at your own pace, even a moderate pace, and you’re “not trying as hard” as your more successful colleagues. AP injected a poison into the community that I don’t think most people were expecting. It created this mentality that you had to get as much AP as quickly as you could to be valuable. The 35th trait became the be all and end all of the game at its current state. People who had/have it thought less of people who didn’t. People who don’t had/have it feel bad because they’re made to feel like they’re not trying hard enough. It’s not a good rift to create in an MMO community where looking at someone wrong could cause an outrage.

There’s a guilt that comes with AP that seriously turns me off of the game. A guilt that you can’t play other games in your free time because you’re actively setting yourself behind in WoW and letting your teammates down. A guilt that, even if you do have your 35th trait, you can’t slow down because “well, there’s always one more trait.” The second a game starts making me feel guilty about playing another game for an evening, or going out with some friends on a Friday night, or, hell, cleaning my house, it’s time to step away. I don’t want someone telling me that I “don’t care about min/maxing” when I say that I’m not in a hurry to grind for my 35th. I don’t want someone questioning my passion for killing hard bosses because sometimes I just want to cuddle up on the couch and watch some TV instead of running 10 more M+. I know this guilt is self-imposed and I know it’s my own fault for feeling this way, but I’m not the only one and it’s a behavior with which Blizzard is very well acquainted. Raiding used to be easy to juggle with a lifestyle that I enjoyed, but since Legion’s launch, I haven’t been able to find that balance.

And so, since I don’t like to feel guilty about things that I have traditionally enjoyed and should still be enjoying, I added AP to my list of reasons to step down from raiding.

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