I was sitting in front of my computer this morning, unable to take my eyes off of my desktop wallpaper that I put up a couple days ago. It's a screenshot from what I assume is the Wandering Isle, although it could be from anywhere I suppose. I really don't know, but it doesn't really matter. Anyhoo, it's a picture of a Pandaren on a hill looking over a hill of blossoming trees. The colors of green and pink and blue are wonderfully contrasting and provide a sort of serenity to my mind. I wonder what that Pandaren is thinking? Happy and hoping for a fruitful season? Or maybe he's glad to get away from the onslaught of new Pandarens appearing in their new world (whereas from our perspective it's players testing out the beta in the new starting area). The picture reminds me of someone telling their boss, or significant other, or parent, or co-worker that they were glad to be able to get away last weekend, that the disconnect from real life was a life saver and they are back and recharged and ready to start fresh.
How nice. But this happy-go-lucky story is not about THAT sort of disconnect, no, I'd like to mention something on the disconnect between those in charge of giving yet another expansion to explore and the gamers exploring that expansion.
The stark and obvious disconnect reared its ugly head the morning people realized that MoP beta was open and ready for play. People commenting around the interwebsnetses, complaining that even though they had signed up for the now infamous Annual Pass, they had not yet received their beta invite. Conversely could be seen Blizzard's famous "blues" attempting to quell fears and reassure everyone that all worthy and eligible for invites would receive them in due time.
So who's to blame? Who's at fault? Must there be a guilty party or is this just a case of innocent miscommunication?
Ok, so I thought about it and came to this conclusion...everyone's at fault. Disconnects happen when people don't honestly strive to understand what the other is trying to communicate. I think, and appropriately enough Confucius helps us out there, that the following explains things nicely:
"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything."
Blizzard's responsibility in this disconnect is important, because even up through the media event of a couple weeks ago, they did not share their plan of how and when they would let people into the beta. It's possible they did have a plan, in which case they really did a poor job at detailing that plan to everyone else. It's also possible that they didn't have a plan, which would be worse since they would simply rely on hubris to WILL a plan together when the need presented itself. Problem was, the need existed a while ago and their language wasn't very clear.
Players are equally lacking in that there were too many who refused patience or who did not properly express their expectations in advance. Or if they did express their expectations in advance, upon realizing that they didn't get what they wanted the second they wanted it resorted to "unproductive" language, usually made up of frustration or anger or severe displeasure.
The media covering all this wasn't any help either. I don't know how many interviews I read that came out of the media event, but there weren't too many difficult questions, probably because they were all afraid of not being part of the "in crowd" for future events. When Blizzard higher-ups stated that they hadn't worked out a plan as to how to get people into beta, whey were there not follow up questions like "Why don't you already have a plan? Don't you think your investors would want you to plan for things this big in advance? Do you really believe that people will just blindly follow because you hold all the power and the gamers are without recourse? A multi-million dollar company, on the verge of one of their largest beta releases, and still no plan? What exactly are you doing over there in your cubicle or office?"
As one of those players, it would have been nice to have the media express my voice instead of giggling their way through interview questions my 9 year old son could come up with. Then why as a player did I not hold these media outlets, these large and popular blogs, responsible for their less than informative behavior? I think the answer to all of this is a jaded one on my part, I think that people enjoy being satisfied with something on one hand, but still allow themselves the freedom to criticize what's in the other. It leaves us, as people, in a position of power. Players hate feeling dictated to, so we speak out, often using incorrect and unproductive language in the process. The big business strategizes and contemplates then acts in a manner they believe will be most profitable for their businesses. Media acts much like businesses, but allows themselves freedom to act like they are allied with the player-base, that way they do their business and placate the players at the same time.
All the while there is a terrible disconnect. Players don't understand all the motives of the developer/business, and the business doesn't have to always capitulate to the players. But we don't understand each other sometimes not because we are incapable, but because we're unwilling. A business doensn't want to lose business, and a player doesn't want to feel like their investment of time and money into a game has been wasted. So we often find ourselves in the same place, probably more often than we like to admit. But we all seem to like it there. It's where we're comfortable.
I, for one, asked myself these things ever since Blizz Con, wondering about the plan to grant access to one of if not the largest betas ever, but since I was self-disconnected from the world I kept all these things to myself. But now I am speaking up again, wondering if the disconnect will ever go away, or if this is how it will always be?
As always I hope for the best, but expect more of the same.