Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for the ‘speed race’

Are we on the verge of something new all over again?

May 11, 2012 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, competition, Dragon Soul, raiding, speed race

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s do-or-die time for me with my PhD thesis writing and to add to that I’ve had a lot of side projects, a slowly recovering hand injury, and even a recent bout with pneumonia slowing me down. Something had to give and it was my own beloved blog. Even my interviews with raiders on youtube have slowed down (though I’m excited to be doing an interview soon with vodka, so keep an eye on that!)… but anyway, I have something on my mind (and in my thesis) that I wanted to put up on the blog.. it’s about the ways in which we ‘own’ the game (WoW in this case) to the degree that we influence new changes and developments in the game itself.

Henry Jenkins, in his 2006 book about new media technologies called Convergence Culture, wrote about how the design and environment of MMOs allow a significant degree of intentionality (and content) created by the player population itself (what he refers to as ‘consumer-driven content’ [172]). He also shared insight from game designers (Raph Koster, in particular) about why an MMO thrives: it is the degree to which players can claim a form of ownership of the game itself (165). And when I look at the raiding component of an MMO like WoW, I can see ownership in the form of the specific ways that we choose to engage with the game and how we appropriate its elements to serve our own gaming purposes. When it comes to raiding, look at how we’ve shaped the game.  We wanted to make the raiding experience smoother? We wrote add-ons and modified our UIs. We wanted to figure out how to solve problems during a boss fight? We made and watched how-to videos. We wanted a competition to see who was the fastest to clear content? We made progress sites and publicised the news far and wide. Now competition is not new in raiding. We’ve been competing against the game and each other since raiding began, but the ways in which we manifest this competitive inclination keeps evolving and adapting.

The latest example of this ‘ownership’ in competitive raiding is the recent trend for top raiding guilds to organise (amongst themselves for the most part) speed races. A raiding speed race (if you’ve not heard of this before) is when two guilds race against each other (starting at the same time) to be the first to clear the content of the agreed upon raid instance. And in the case of these raiding guilds we have had a recent race in April with the US guild vodka and EU guild Method racing each other.  Of course we’ve got Blizzard to thank for the earliest examples of these races, whereby they’d have a staged spectacle of two top-ranked guilds during a hyped up Blizzcon event (oftentimes American guilds, for the logistical ease of it) battle each other for supremacy.

The 30-some thousand viewers logged on to watch the race mostly via Athene’s livestream as he, and Kina (retired vodka raider and one of the minds behind Learn2Raid), commentated.  I think it’s safe to say that none of us really knew what to expect. I myself sat down to what I thought might be a predictable race with little drama (since these guys are superplayers who never make mistakes, right?), expecting to watch it out of loyalty to two guilds I know and like  and wanting to contribute my part to the opsharecraft charity drive (aimed at raising US$1 million for Save the Children), which was the motivation for the two guilds to participate. Method won that race against vodka, but only by a small margin. Method’s execution was flawless, bordering on poetry in motion at times, but vodka’s attempt to regain the time lost (from an early wipe) was heroic. It was actually an exciting race in the end. Perhaps the amazement in Athene’s own voice gave it away. Maybe none of us thought it would be as dramatic and fun to watch as it ended up being.

So now we’ve decided to ‘own’ this type of event and stage them ourselves. Yes that first one was was set up for charity but we’re starting to see how it can be a fun way to actually transform an element of the raiding race into a spectator experience of competitive raiding. We aren’t just refreshing the raiding tracking sites (wowprogress or wowtrack, for example) to see if anyone’s downed a new boss, we’re able to see for ourselves a version of that race.  Sure it’s not the starting point of the raiding race of a particular tier, but it’s a raiding race of a new form, repurposing the same content and displaying it (and performing it) in a new way. It’s raiding recycling in action.

And apparently we want more of this. This Saturday (May 12), four raiding guilds—this time Paragon (EU), STARS (China), Exorsus (Russia), and Blood Legion (US)—are engaging in a speed race with US$2000 at stake and more benefits to the same charity drive.  Read up about it here. So yes, built on vodka and Method’s trailblazing race in April but offering something more: more guilds involved and more money at stake. Will this make the race more exciting? And are we seeing the first steps toward a new way to engage in the competitive in raiding?

For more reading:

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press: New York.