Victory VS Ungracious Defeat

Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft could not have come into my life at a better time.

I still remember reading the Flipboard article that introduced me to Blizzard’s digital Collectable Card Game and its new, tablet-friendly format. We’d just moved house with baby in tow and nights were a punishing cycle of feeding, expressing, settling and collapsing. Luckily I only had to manage the settling phase while my amazing wife fell unconscious back into bed in anticipation of the whole process repeating itself shortly thereafter. I credit Hearthstone with maintaining my sanity in those wee hours of the morning when our little boy couldn’t drift off to sleep, thereby consigning me to bouncing limitless laps of a dark bedroom to an accompaniment of whispered song. Knowing that it is 4am, that you have to leave for work in a few short hours and that your disjointed rest for that night might already be at an end is depressing. Finding a game that is seemingly crafted to keep your spirits up in those exact moments is priceless, and as suddenly as that the season of Pokemon made way for the season of Hearthstone.

These days I don’t play anywhere near as often as I once did. The school term began back at the start of February which means I’m at work when my little man is going down for naps, leaving just the occasional Saturday at home in which to wrap him, play Hearthstone and sing lullabies on fading repeat. For old times’ sake you know.

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This is what I mean by ‘wrap’. Just tie the kid to your torso and to sleep they go! Well, most of the time at least…

But this post isn’t entirely about napping toddlers. It’s also about the one and only time I’ve had abuse directed my way when gaming online. I’ve avoided writing about the incident previously due to its negative nature, however upon logging into Hearthstone for the first time in months this screen brought a subtle shift to my perspective on the matter.

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1000 Ranked wins. 100 Arena wins. This is like when your odometer reads 111,111 – it doesn’t mean anything important but you remark on it regardless.

To put these numbers in context, I’ve won maybe 1 in every 3-4 ladder matches over my Hearthstone career. I’m not a hardcore competitive player and have the most fun devising creative decks rather than studying and grinding battle after battle to attain the upper ranks. Based on this very rough estimate, my total number of Ranked games played in the last couple of years is probably around 3,500.

I am admittedly rubbish at Hearthstone’s Arena mode in which you improvise a deck based on randomised offerings. Three cards are presented at a time and you get to select one. The process is repeated until you have 30 cards with which to conquer or be crushed. Four times out of five the outcome is me being crushed, so that 100 wins will have taken up to 500 matches to accomplish. Had I known about Hearth Arena’s card comparison advisor before now this ratio may have been far more flattering…

Even without doing the maths to work out an approximate number of minutes played, I can say that 4000 matches represents tremendous value and longevity for any video game, let alone one that I’ve spent a grand total of $35 on and could have enjoyed entirely for free. Every one of these 4000 matches has involved another human being from somewhere in the world, and it is a testimony to both the consideration Blizzard put into Hearthstone’s in-game communication system and the Hearthstone community itself that only once has a match ended in abuse. That particular instance was a one-sided affair in which I top-decked a series of perfect counters for the opponent’s strongest plays (drawing Polymorph straight after they summoned Tirion Fordring may have been the last straw). They sent a friend request post-match; I naively accepted and immediately received a bitter recrimination and scathing list of character flaws drawn from our rather brief acquaintance. In Hearthstone there is no voice or text chat function available during matches. Instead you have a handful of basic emotes such as “Greetings” and “Well Played”, hence the need to be added as a friend before you can slander someone in attempted sentences. Not hearing a human voice proclaim these words makes brushing them off an easier proposition, but the fact that somebody felt bad enough and could be bothered going the extra mile to hurl abuse my way was disappointing in a general sense. By the time I partially unraveled Blizzard’s reporting system for violation of their In-Game Policies, the aggrieved loser had long-since unfriended me and disappeared into the murky depths of the internet.

So to finish off a long way from where this post started, that surprising episode left me with three conclusions:

1) Blizzard make great games but some rather unhelpful player reporting mechanisms.
2) The abuser in this case was an angry, angry person and sadly allowed their negativity to infiltrate their gaming (I prefer this conclusion to them actively fostering feelings of hate).
3) That 99.975% of Hearthstone matches are vitriol-free, and in the world of online gaming that is a stat to be admired. Great job, team!

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