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Do records even matter?


There have been a few records set recently. Some are people claiming to have leveled to 70 the fastest, some are groups of players downing a boss on the PTR before anyone else in the world, while others are PvP records yet to be made. Everyone likes to say "we broke a record." It makes them feel good, gives them a sense of purpose and measurable accomplishment, and generally will put a smile on their face. Even I've done that here at WoW Insider occasionally: "Hey, we had a record number of hits that day, cool!" (No, I'm not going to say when that was, I'll leave it up for you all to comment on and guess.)

With all these record breaking accomplishments, it begs the question: do they really mean anything? Does it matter if you've leveled up to 70 in the time that most people are still working on getting the Deadmines quests done? Let's take a look at what records do and do not provide.

One thing that they do provide is competition amongst a small group of players. To borrow a phrase from marketing, we'll call these players "alpha players." They are the ones that will always be the first to jump on new content, the first to let everyone know how to do it, the first to complain, and the first to get the benefits of completing the content. These alpha players are pretty hard core, and use world firsts and records to challenge each other. There is literally a whole 'nother side to the game that many of us don't ever see – hard core time based competition.

Read on for more and vote in our poll, after the jump!

Blizzard has some interest in keeping these players around. They often drive content of fan sites (like WoW Insider, MMO Champion, and Curse). Sites like ours provide a key role in keeping the fan base engaged over the long term – which in the end means more money in Blizzard's pocket. Good for them, good for us, and good for you. This is one area in which record breaking events matter.

The flip side to this argument is that everything we write about here, and do in game, is just that – a game. Everything is just ones and zeros, pixels on the screen. While your brother who plays a warrior just like you do (hi Logan!) might find it cool that you've hit the expertise cap and mobs can no longer dodge or parry you, or that you've just downed Brutallus before anyone else, your boss isn't likely to care. He's more interested in if you've finished the budget for the quarter.

Of course, the fact that the game is nothing but a virtual illusion brings in a host of postmodern critiques and dialogs that reality is nothing but an illusion. And then at that point a valid question becomes: which is more of a reality, the game we play or the all mighty dollar we work for in our real life jobs? Which is more, philosophically, important and rewarding: earning a million dollars, or earning a million gold?

The root of that question goes back to the base of what we're looking at: do these in game world first accomplishments really matter? Are the structures of power and history – in game – setup such that these events are going to be remembered in ten years? Or will these events just drift away into the history books, with the next record holder rewriting them as they see fit?

If you subscribe to the sudo-existential philosophy of Michel Foucault and others like him, you would say no; these events will not matter. The structures and the power holders of the game (read: Blizzard) will make it so that world records are but a foot note in the ever expanding and controlling complex that is a game you can never win.

And that fact right there, that this is a game you can never truly win – is the reason I believe that events like these don't matter. Records might exist for months or years, but somewhere along the line the people who control the reality (aka: the game) will change it so that the records become meaningless and new records must be set. You can't, and won't, ever win; negating any possibility that records even matter.

So we have two sides to the coin. On the pragmatic side, we see that world records and firsts provide essential content, contest, and support for the alpha players. However on the philosophical/theoretical side, the records don't really have any long standing meaning (and thus, it could be argued, no meaning at all).

Which view is more correct? Do these records matter, or are they just a fleeting accomplishment? Let us know by both your comments and voting in our poll!


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