Well, it happened. I posted back in July that I was playing Final Fantasy XIV more now than World of Warcraft…and in October, I finally decided to unsubscribe from WoW. I’ll be back to finish up some RP things once Blood Elves finally get new models, but until then, I won’t be paying for a game I’m not playing.
It’s a wonderful change of pace, but to fully explain why, I need to go and explain the main thing that pushed me to quit.
Surrounded by Somebodies
In the WoW fandom, I was very active on Twitter. I was and still am friends with people there- some people who do things like run blogs, or manage fansites. I always struggled to find my place in the fandom. I was too timid to enter what was the final writing contest. I wrote fanfiction and roleplayed. I was not and probably never will be a popular blogger, and I never quite found my niche. Others had transmog, pet battles, theorycrafting…there was no longer a place for people like me who liked to write.
That was how it felt, anyway. My blog posts were never popular, and I struggled to find my place among big names and big blogs.
And then the devs joined in.
Now, having developers seemingly accessible might be a good thing to a point, but it became, to me, a point that they were right there and yet still so far away. I could ask them questions and occasionally get answers. When the fanfiction forum opened, I had a small glimmer of hope that this was it. I would post my stories, and someone might see them. Call it foolish, and it probably was, but something like that gave me a shred of hope that someone at Blizzard might read my stories. That maybe they might say “hey, this is really good” or something.
It was a dream. A silly one, sure, but it was mine.
The problem was that I was one or two degrees of separation from well-known fans and the devs themselves. When the Warlords of Draenor beta came around, tribute items and NPCs were added. People were recognized for their efforts…and that, I feel, is the problem. It was almost a goal in the fandom to have an item or an NPC in the game. People will tell you that it isn’t- but I’ve seen what happened when those NPCs were added and then the upset when they were accidentally removed.
But this time, it wasn’t just the people that toiled on blogs getting in-game nods. Some people, one who had written novels about the game, were left out, and others were included…others who were seen as popular “big name” fans.
How are we to reconcile who gets added with who we feel is deserving? I struggled with that, myself, and with the feeling that I would never be significant enough to warrant a nod. The devs and their attentions were right there, and yet almost ungraspable.
In the end, it was the feeling that no matter how hard I worked on my writing, that my form of interacting with the fandom was invisible and unimportant that caused me to drift away. There was no support for RPers in-game aside from designated servers. There was a fanfiction forum that I posted to where my stories about NPCs were lost among the original character tales.
And that was how I felt. Overlooked, and like I didn’t matter. I didn’t do things the “right” way, ergo I would always be two steps away from someone with an item or NPC in-game.
I hated that feeling.
Here is the thing about Final Fantasy: I will always be a nobody. I don’t deny that. I find comfort in it. The developers are over in Japan. I cannot expect to be known by them, nor is there the illusion of accessibility.
In that, I find comfort. I can go back to being me. I don’t feel what was certainly petty jealousy when someone was recognized in-game. I’m just me. I chat with people on Tumblr and Twitter, and I RP on my server. That’s all there is. There’s no vying for tributes by this fandom, no expectations or hopes that maybe if you stand out enough, work hard enough, that you’ll be recognized.
I’m not the only one, I know. Sometimes this same thing gets mentioned on Twitter, and I think it’s something that should be explored. What is the “right” way to run a fandom? How should companies and developers interact with their fanbase? Should the attention be widespread? Should it be reserved only for the top 1% of raiders/PvPers? Should it be given to friends of the developers?
I don’t have the answers, and I wish I did. I feel that the ultimate goal of any social media presence is to interact but also guide the fandom. Interaction is a subtle but strong way to turn the fandom into what you want it to be.
I don’t think the current model works for the WoW fandom. I wish it did. But I know that there are those like me who have left it and feel almost free from the vying for tributes, for developer attention.
I feel that this is a problem, but one that no one really wants to talk about. But it’s certainly the reason that, now that I’m free from that jealousy, from the crushing hope that one day I might, too, be noticed, I feel like I am finally able to enjoy a game.
It’s not the same for everyone, and I don’t expect everyone to like this, but it’s honesty. Brutal, ugly honesty. And I think this is something that the Warcraft fandom could benefit from thinking about.