Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

What does it really mean to be an Elitist in WoW?

After meeting the term “elitism” in so many different contexts within WoW on my server Argent Dawn (AD), I decided to try and map out how far this term stretches. I believed it to be present in all aspects of the game: PvP, PvE and RP. With this premise in mind, I took an anonymous alt and posted on a random roleplay server, Darkmoon Faire, entitled “What does it really mean to be an elitist?”  The initial response, despite being off topic was interesting in itself, with someone saying “out before the flame wars”. That answered my first question: Elitism is a sensitive topic – thus has a negative connotation. This also means that finding an elitist that will embrace the term and proudly wear it, will probably not be easy to find.  I did find one on the Argent Dawn forum who claims to be elitist, but with the disclaimer that he himself did not define the term:

If an elitist is someone who follows lore and doesnt like people who doesnt.
Then Elitist I am.

As is evident in the quote, we are here talking about roleplay elitism, which is the most discussed and problematic form of elitism I could find. Many threads are to be found on the AD forums discussing the limits of where roleplay is no longer “right” nor “correct”, or as a roleplayer who believes in limitations to RP would call it: “roleplay that is in conflict with lore” – And that seems to be the main dispute.

So you see, one is called an elitist usualy when they point out an obvious flaw that contradicts everything known from the lore surrounding a class, race, setting etc. Wether the person called an elitist is right or wrong doesnt matter. Disagree with the gospel of the Old God Lol-Rofl, the Sleepless Dreamer Below the Shire of Gold, and you are an elitist. :(

The quote comes from the 10 page long thread “People who spoil RP, it’s on!“, which isn’t about OOC people who purposfully try and spoil RP, but about other RP’ers, that in the posters opinion spoil it by acting as what you could refer to as elitist. The original poster ends her post saying:

But really, it’s you guys that spoil role playing for me and many others. Inflicting your rules and thoughts on everyone, thinking your way is the only way to RP. As if everyone should be strictly following the guidelines on how to RP a sin’dorei, isn’t it up to everyone to decide how to role play their character? Who are you guys to say how people should play their characters?

And that’s the two opponents in the battle of RP. In the middle, you find the relative people saying that RP is too subjective to go under this kind of evaluation:

People really need to get over the idea that there is some mythical thing that is called “Good” or “Bad” RP.

They are ephemeral, the reason for this as there is now way of judging or rating. It would be like trying to judge if one color is actually better than another or one type nationalities food is better than another, it is simply impossible due to it being completely objectionable and situational.

A player later steps in and offers a redefinition of what was previously called elitism in this thread. He brings in the expression “roleplayer with standards”. If you look back at the first quote from the guy claiming to be an elitist, I’m sure he would prefer to think of himself as a “roleplayer with standards” rather than the negative, almost swearword-like term, “elitist”.

In my own research post, I had a very clever reply that explains where these standards then come from:

One thing that Elitists share is that they invoke a “higher authority”. For PvE players this is the “science” of game mechanics (stuff like : Dodge scales better than Parry), for RP players this is the “Lore”, PvP players have the Arena Ladder. All act as a kind of “Bible”.

Elitists derive their own authority from this source of authority beyond dispute. It’s convenient that this source is unquestionable, as such one’s authority drawn from it is also unquestionable (much harder to do with W-PvP, for example).

This is where the french philosopher Michel Foucalt and his theory of power, knowledge and subjectivism and especially the relation between them (they are all aspects of each other) is brilliantly exemplified in the world of roleplay. Power comes to life here in the struggle between knowledge (lore) and subjectivism (roleplay that doesn’t neccesarily abide the lore). In order to illuminate it further, we have now found several words that can describe the elitists, fx the “roleplayers with standards”. A very negative name, perhaps more negative than the word “elitist” itself, is “roleplay police”. Others have called them “More experienced roleplayers”. That term is coined in the thread “RP ‘elitists’ slate newcomers” by the original poster. Even in the words we choose to use, the knowledge-power factor comes to play. In the latter case by the adjective “experienced”. To be experienced you need to have some knowledge accumulated, that would be knowledge of lore, in order to be able to roleplay accordingly. That knowledge is at the same time a position of power one can take in relation to others, who would then be positioned as less knowledgable.

Nevertheless, I got some very interesting results from my own research post. Some connected elitism to impatience with other players, some that said that elitists knew they were elitists and therefore looked down upon players that were below their standards. I personally believe elitism lies within the interaction -what is being said and what is being done – NOT what is being thought, as thoughts never enter the social sphere unless they are converted into actions or words. So in this sense, an elitist is a person who interacts with someone else in a way that positions them as inferior, thus themselves as superior. In a dichotomy, where the elitist would position himself on the top of that ladder – he has to interact with others to state and reinstate his high ranking by the sheer act of lowering theirs.

I would expect it to follow the logic of:

This is the right kind of roleplay (subjectivism), and I’m not just informing you of this, I am expecting you to abide by it (power), cause I know the lore enough to pass this judgement (knowledge).

You can’t be an elitist if there is no one to be elitist to – sadly, someone has to pay for the elitist to be who he is.

I had another intesting reply in regards to this

“The really interesting question is, of course, why people want to wield such authority and to what ends :)”

Unfortunately I can’t say for sure why people have the need to act elitist, since that would require mind-reading , but I’m sure the reasons are multiple. Feeling empowered is probably a good pay-off.

What about PvE elitism?

Well, it’s evident that the roleplay powerstruggle is going strong, but what about PvE elitism? Does it thrive as well? On the AD forums, PvE elitism wasn’t as easy to find, but I did find a post that had become stamped as so obviously PvE elitist, that the poster of said thread apologized and rewrote his original post. This case was about a request for a 10-man progression thread on our forums. A few posts down from the request post the aforementioned poster writes:

LOL !!! Obvious lack of 25-progression is obvious.There are more than one reason why 10man progression isnt listed here.
You will hopefully figure it out soon unless your glory of finishing of Ulduar easymode in 10 man is to big for you.

– Yeah… didn’t take many anti-replies:

It’s honestly really big of you to make certain people are denied a sense of achievement if they, heaven forbid, should decide that 10-man raiding fits them better.

– before the poster apologizes and edits his post.

I don’t know whether it would have been easier to find examples of PvE elitism on a PvE server and examples of PvP elitism on a PvP server, in the same way it was easier for me to find roleplay elitism on a roleplay server. If I had to make an educated guess, I think PvE elitism can be quite widespread on raid guild forums under recruitment threads, between new trialists and members of the guild (most likely a raider) in the reception line of applications. Perhaps in the form of talking and treating this hopeful newcomer as rather ignorant of their class and/or raiding in general, because they have not done X instance or hasn’t gemmed after Y priority etc. This can also be found on the forums, in fact I have a small example. Here’s the original post by a blood elf warlock:

Hey just wondering if there’s a group of people offering to run people thru ZA for the bear mount for an amount of gold. If there is, please tell me, Id like this mount before wotlk :)

Despite the smiley, someone comments on his lack of gear, lack of gemming and lack of hit rating in particular. This player was attacked by several people and continuously defended by a level 14 forum alt for these gear choices. While he himself never replied to the mess that unravelled throughout the next 4 pages, the forum moderator Vaneras locked the thread saying: “Thread has derailed into a mindless flamefest, hence the lock. […]“. The last example shows how little inclination it can take (i.e. none) for some to show elitist behavior.

And PVP elitism?

And last, where to find examples of PvP elitism? I actually don’t know. A respondent to my research thread mentioned the Arena Ladder as being the absolute meter to whom are the elite. Without having dived into it, attacks of other posters arena rating or lack thereof on the forums, can be observed as attempted ethos assasinations, instead of addressing the issue. Perhaps that is the forum version of PvP elitism: the ad hominem rhetoric, in the exact same schematic as the above mentioned PvE forum elitist comments to the warlock with the bear wish. It follows the logic of “who are you to speak? Your arena rating is pathetic!”, and in that same blow invalidating the statements of the said person. Someone saying that must feel safe enough about their own arena rating, and in that sense signal that they indeed have validity in this matter.

But notice that it had to happen on the expence of someone else, which is my point with elitism. Someone has to be put down in order for the elitist to establish himself as superior – and even become an elitist.

Summary (TL;DR)

The article addresses elitism in three different areas of the game – roleplay, PvE and PvP. The material and player quotes are gathered from various forum posts mainly from the Argent Dawn forum. Several examples are presented to exhibit mainly roleplay elitism, but also PvE eltism. All approached from an interactionistic viewpoint, because the premise of the article is that elitism exists between people, more than inside them. Elitism is here presented as a relation between power, knowledge and subjectivism as these concepts show themselves in the interpersonal behaviours of players/posters.

RP in the Bazaar is generally crap. You say we need to help people if they’re so bad, we do with saying their RP sucks and that they need to read lore. If you’d RP with any of them to improve it, it’d dissapoint you. Saying someone RP’s wrongly is not elitism, disgarding it like a prick is.

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This entry was posted on December 23, 2009 by in Opinion and Discussion and tagged , , , , , .


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