After Monday's post with my rants about WoW and LotRO, I really started thinking more about the WoW community in itself, and I think the subject deserves it's own post.
When you look at the WoW community, the easiest thing to do (and I admit that I'm guilty of this) is to look at trade chat and the WoW forums and draw conclusions from that. While trade chat and the forums are certainly representative of a certain part of the community, it's definitely not the entire community. To be fair, there's a huge number of players that don't participate in the forums or in trade chat, and there are pockets of good communities tucked away in corners of the internet:
- Guilds: Easily the biggest subset, but it seems like most guilds keep to themselves and there's little interaction between them, unless it's for raiding alliances.
- Class Websites: Sites like shadowpriest.com tend to have very strong communities and offer a place for players to discuss their classes without the "Ghostcrawler nerfed my class to the ground!" hyperbole... which usually is done to try to bait the devs into talking to that particular post. On class websites, there's no reason to assume that the devs are watching, so the discussion tends to be more productive.
- Blogs: There's a WoW blog out there for just about every specific interest, from leveling to making gold to collecting pets. Plus there's a slew of general interest blogs by players and communities like Blog Azeroth and Azeroth United that serve to put bloggers in touch with each other and encourage group collaboration.
- Special Interest Groups: These groups are all over the place, from the WoW_Ladies on LiveJournal to the World of Warcrafters on Ravelry.com to the folks at Christian Gamers Alliance.
A while back Gordon at We Fly Spitfires wrote a post about the WoW community, and in one of the comments MMOGamerChick wrote that:
And as an inhabitant of a big city myself, I think this is a great analogy. When you look at the overall population as a whole, it's very impersonal and stand-offish, particularly when compared to smaller "cities" like Lord of the Rings Online. Those communities are better because they're small enough (and well moderated enough) that your reputation matters. You can't run from a bad reputation because there's nowhere to hide, so it pays to be a constructive member of the community.WoW is like a big city. Everyone sort of minds their own business, people are rude because the chances of ever running into each other again are slim to nil, and as with any big population you’ll have your share of jerks and crazies.
But in big cities there are small pockets of community, usually focused around schools, places of worship, clubs, sports leagues, and so on. It's unfair to write off the entire city based upon a top-level view. To really get the true picture you need to get to know the inhabitants in their smaller communities and see how they interact with each other and what kind of things they're doing.
So after thinking about it some more... the sky isn't falling. Sure, Blizzard has some serious street-cleaning to do on their forums and in trade chat, and there are a lot of unsavory types of WoW players out there. But there are also a lot of really friendly, fun, and kind WoW players out there. It's just a matter of finding them.