Probably one of the most used and abused phrases of 2007, that one.
At its best it’s honest advice, and the words chosen by the voice of experience. At its worst, a political statement and dishonest noise. There’s a little world behind this seemingly harmless phrase, and quite a colorful one too. Is this just the latest weapon of choice in the old and tiresome ‘Casual vs. Hardcore’ debate(*)? Or is there something more behind it and its shining rise to forum stardom?
You will read on. You know you want to.
(*) To call the ‘Casual vs. Hardcore’ debacle a ‘debate’ is like saying the guys in charge of the fryer at Micky Dee’s are ‘Chefs’, but you know where I’m coming from.
The phrase “Stop and smell the roses”, as applied to our contemporary contexts of gaming, is generally and correctly assumed to have originated in response to the all too common and marked powergaming tendencies, which are easy to observe pretty much everywhere.
Although it’s hardly a new entry in the human lexicon, its usage and introduction into gaming is, all things considered, a relatively new phenomenon. The major catalyst for the sudden and seemingly recent popularity of the phrase can be traced to the modern rise of casual gaming, as related to the path which MMO evolution (not the book) took through the years – it’s not surprising for this phrase to have much more presence and traction now than in the times of EQ or UO, for example. The genre has evolved, expanded and transformed itself to grab that delicious bucket of casual gamers that is said to be out there.
The difference between the casual and hardcore gamer is well understood by all, even if it’s sometimes hard to define, so I won’t waste time explaining it here. But we can explain the nature of the phrase and, ultimately, how meaningless it is outside the limited context of forum exchanges. The path is simple, and it might help to visualize it like this:
– Power gamers, due to their very nature, consume content much faster than average, or casual players.
– Many power gamers thus end bored, without anything to do, and decide to ‘take it to the boards’ and be heard, in the vain hope of effecting change.
– Casual gamers feel the need to reply, and quite frankly to state the obvious, and say that power gamers wouldn’t be bored if they didn’t devour content as fast as they do.
That’s the first tactical mistake of casual players, because telling that to a power gamer is essentially the same as telling a monkey not to climb trees if he’s gonna complain when he falls down. Not what the monkey wants to hear and, practically speaking, not something the monkey can do anything with. Climbing trees is in the monkey’s nature. Falling down is an all too common consequence of that, as complaining about it is, in turn. But monkeys don’t climb trees just to see if they won’t fall down. That’s not why they climb trees. So, point #1:
Suggesting changes of nature is one of the fastest ways known to man to derail discussions and not make friends.
– Power gamers, if they feel so inclined, would reply that they’re merely asking for more things to do, since (surprise, surprise) they find the content short. They’re not asking for other avenues of play to be reduced, and some few times they haven’t even asked to be prioritized over others. They’re simply asking for more of what they like.
– The dimmest casual gamers in the group would reply something along the lines of “Go back to (game casuals hate)” or “(Developer) shouldn’t cater to you”. The brightest, almost inevitably, would say “There is content which I’m sure you haven’t tried. If you’re bored, maybe you should give it a go in the meantime.”
– “Like what?”, Power gamers would reply.
– At this point, the casual gamers normally will recite a long litany of existing content that it’s either fluff, or is generally of interest to casuals only, like seasonal events, long tracks of activity to gain some cosmetic benefit or other, exploring the landscape, and so on.
Second tactical mistake, because -willingly or not- they’re not offering solutions or alternatives, just proselytizing. In simpler terms, if someone asks for (A), don’t offer (B). The fact that you personally like (B) has no incidence whatsoever on other people liking it, or (B) being remotely close to what people were asking for. Specially considering how, in the context of this discussion, (A) and (B) are really apples and oranges. If I’m asking for another raid because I’m done with the ones we have, don’t come up suggesting I should spend three days doing all the irrelevant quests at the Annual Toad Lickin’ & Pig Taggin’ Festival down by the tree. So, point #2:
Not all content is created equally, and different content will inevitably have different value to different people. Failure to recognize this turns discussions political faster than you can say “DKP”.
And so things turn political and ideological, many times with the participants not even meaning to. To wit:
– Power gamers will, logically, state that is not content they’re interested in. Many will also inevitably fail to control themselves and issue several colorful statements of value regarding casual content.
-So casuals would reply, finally, that maybe power gamers should “Stop and smell the roses”, because there’s a lot of content they have missed and because (insert personal experience which at this point is irrelevant to the discussion at hand).
I’ll say this out right: I’m not a power gamer. Not by a long shot. I do have a lot of differences in ideology and opinion regarding that avenue of play. If you had to put me in a group, I’d say that just by circumstances alone I would belong with the casuals. But even so, I find it terribly hard not to sympathize, even if just a little bit, with the power gamers in situations like these. Using ‘smell the roses’ as ideological ammo is just as bad as using ‘carebear’ with the same purpose, however that absolves neither party. So, with that in mind, it’s hard not to relate to the power gamers (on this one, at least) because if first I’m told I should change the way I like to play, and then all I hear as ‘solutions’ or ‘options’ are things that everyone knows full well are considered worthless to one of the viewpoints involved, it becomes pretty clear that the discussion is not about solving anything, but rather seeing one ideological viewpoint demonstrated superior.
Casual as I am, there is a lot of content I personally consider worthless. Things that not only fail to attract me, but also fail to generate any sort of measurable ‘fun’ when I happen to perform them. For example, the aforementioned ‘seasonal content’. For whatever it’s worth, I consider it as content but only intellectually. As in, I know it’s there and some people like it. But most seasonal contents you couldn’t pay me to participate in. It’s just not my thing. It’s pointless to even suggest it to me. So, point #3:
Just because some content exists, doesn’t mean it should be played. To assume all content has the same value to all players is, first, to miss the whole point of ‘avenues of play’ by a country mile. And second, to suggest that people should play content they don’t like just because it’s there and you happen to like it, is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to make your own avenue of play morally superior.
“Stop and smell the roses”, by itself, is fine. But when you use it, and you know that when you use it you’re essentially telling people they should play content they don’t like, or adopt a way of playing that feels neither natural, nor fun to them, well. Maybe it’s you the one that should rethink your position, because if the argument you have boils down to only that… it’s not surprising the debate goes on and on and on. You’re not offering a solution. It’s not even an option. You might think you are, but in reality it doesn’t translate to the other side as such. You’re only offering un-fun, just as if the tables would be reversed and power gamers would tell to non-raiders, “Well, look at all the raids you can take part in”. How would you like them apples? What would you tell someone that only offers un-fun, in your appreciation?
“Smelling the roses” only works where there are roses to smell. If people don’t see them as such, or are allergic to them, there won’t be much smellin’ going on. And this is not their fault, no matter who’s being asked to do the smelling – casuals or power gamers. Maybe we need to stop suggesting people should stop and smell the roses, and make sure the garden has as many flowers as possible. Roses are not automatically wonderful, just as the absence of roses isn’t either.
Next time you’re about to say “Stop and smell the roses”, or “Pick up the pace and shape up”, maybe you should consider what you’re really saying, not just how it sounds in your head.
That’s all, folks.