Over Twitter the other day I asked people for their opinion as to why they don't PvP. I've always had my thoughts, but I wanted to see what the masses said. After all the PvP game itself is fun; battlegrounds are compelling, arena teams offer laddered play, and the system itself forces you to use all your abilities, something that doesn't happen in PvE content. The reaction over Twitter was pretty one sided.
It's the players.
Well... huh. That's not something that a new ability or battleground mechanic is going to take care of. The habits of players is exceptionally hard to change, especially in a game as old as WoW.
When people say it's the players they don't mean it's the way the players play skill wise. They mean it's the way the players on their own team interact with each other. People in PvP have a tendency to be rather mean in random or semi-random groups. There's not a lot of forgiveness, and the strategy, if there is one, is often determined by who can yell the loudest. That's not a compelling group of people you'd want to play with in a primarily social game.
Now of course that doesn't reflect every circumstance. There's plenty of instances of people having great groups that communicate well and play nicely with one another, without resorting to tea bagging your own faction. We've all that that brilliant leader in WSG who calmly explains to people why they need to get in (or out) of mid. And everyone has had that random happenstance where the entire team goes after the flags in the exact right order to capture all five at once.
But that's not the majority of the situations for any of us, and it isn't reflective of the attitudes of people we've talked to. Now I do want to take a moment to say that our sample isn't reflective of the entirety of WoW's population -- our audience (especially on Twitter) tends to skew older and more female. That's great for us, but I'd wager that WoW's general audience is the opposite. That being said, should Blizzard still pay attention to this sample? Yes, without question (and note too, dear future trolls, that this post is how you lay out an argument in a constructive way to get Blizzard's attention, don't do it in the way you see on the forums).
So we've got a problem. WoW's PvP isn't all that fun because of some rotten apples. How can it be dealt with? Here I had to stop for a minute, because I think I may be part of the problem. Isn't the job of WoW Insider to be a community leader, in some regards? Shouldn't we be helping shape community opinion while at the same time reflecting what the community is? Or has our site's readership become so segmented from the base community that we're all just a bunch of old fogies?
Get off my lawn, damnit. And get off Rossi's too. /shakes-cane
The solution to mean players in PvP
There's a few steps that I think Blizzard and WoW Insider can take to solve this.
First, start moderating the PvP forums like crazy. They're just an echo chamber where people pick up opinions not based on actual facts or sound analysis, and moreso where people learn to behave in negative ways. This one is all on Blizzard (unless they want to hand me their bandhammer, I do know how to use mine here pretty well... anyone want to get whacked today?).
Second, there needs to be more community focus on strategies that work. By applying mass communication editorial on the ways that you can have success in a battleground, eventually the strategy used will become standardized, just as the way groups in LFR operate all on pretty much the same strat. The less opportunity and reason the bad apples have to be rotten, the better PvP will be, and the more compelling it will be for people to join. This is something Blizzard, WoW Insider, and every other blogger can do. Perhaps it's time for a Blog PvP event... something to think about.
Third, design an in-game system similar to what League of Legends has. While I don't recommend kicking players from WoW or suspending players for being jerks based on votes alone, there is a happy middle ground Blizzard could achieve. My idea here is that instead of a flag AFK, someone is flagged as having a bad attitude. If I'm being a complete jerk to people in AV, my teammates can flag me as such. Maybe if I get 10 reports I'm warned people don't like my behavior, and if I get 15 my honor is reduced, and finally if I get 20 I'm kicked out of the group and have to re-queue. This, or something like this, is something Blizzard would need to do on their end.
Finally, there can be more focus on the benefits that PvP offers. People need to get excited about it again, the players that have quit participating in PvP need a reason to return. They need to know what's cool and why they should spend their limited gaming time battling not just scripted pixels, but player pixels. We need not just faction pride, but PvP pride! This can be done through some posts by people with big mouthpieces, and it something both Blizzard and WoW Insider can do.
So what's going to be our path forward? Well, right now WoW Insider isn't planning on bringing back one of the retired PvP columns. We do have the wonderful Olivia Grace who writes about PvP, and she'll continue to do that. We'll help promote it that way, and I'll start pitching in too on that front.
Some of this does rest of Blizzard's shoulders. We all need their leadership to help change the attitudes of players. There's only so much you and I can do. But that said, we must meet Blizzard half way here. Smokey the Bear said it best: only you can prevent forest fires; only you can prevent the jerks in PvP.