This is a hilarious story, told by YouTube and blogs everywhere, but let me give a bit of context so it (hopefully) will make a little more sense to non-WoWers. I found it first on Ryan Schwader’s blog, Nerfbat.
“Nerfing” (as in spongy-soft nerf footballs) is slang gamers use for when a particular element of the game they play is softened or weakened in an attempt to improve overall balance in the game. This happens on a constant and ongoing basis in any large MMO, and is often controversial. The reasons it is usually tolerated are 1) Game makers are usually smart enough to proceed slowly with the nerfing, a little here and a little there over months of patches, and 2) Game makers usually nerf one or two of the classes at a time, out of a dozen or more in a game, so a relatively small proportion of the gamers are unhappy after any particular round of nerfing.
So the recent angriest victims of the latest round of nerfing in World of Warcraft are the Priest class – the best healers in the game, as one would expect, but since WoW is built to be soloable, Priests are also capable of powerful offensive spells. Early on, priests were generally known as one of the most powerful classes in the game – and since PvP (player versus player combat) is a basic element of the WoW game, the power of the priest class was a universally (and intimately) understood element of the game. Not any more, apparently.
Here’s a YouTube movie from the game:
So what’s happening in the movie takes place on the most heavily-trafficked spot in the entire game of WoW – right on the bridge that runs from the Bank/Mailbox to the Auction House , in the dwarven city which is the capital of the good forces in the WoW game. A whole bunch of unhappy priests (and friends, I’m sure) have gathered there on the bridge, stripped all their clothes off, and in a virtual riot are shouting, dancing, jumping and screaming all at once, to protest how Blizzard has nerfed their class. Halfway through the video, the Game Masters show up (representatives of Blizzard who control and support the game from the inside). Think of them as cops. You’ll see them do something that real world cops wish they could safely do with riots, I’m sure: they cast a spell, and put literally every character in the area to sleep for a while (the little green Zs floating up from all those heads show graphically who is snoozing. The video ends with a old-school ascii graphic. Hmm, is that what I think it is, as a message to Blizzard? 😀
This kind of organized mass protest has happened before in WoW, btw, when the Warriors stood down across the game.
The priests and warriors at the time probably didn’t find this as funny as the rest of us do. I suppose this is one of those “good problem to have” things – it’s inevitable that protests are gonna happen and that people are gonna organize when the numbers of them reach the millions as they do in WoW.
It’s interesting how much this parallels real world protest dynamics. Social protests can spread, get out of control, and thus the need by the powers-that-be to control them quickly in both places. And a virtual traffic jam, or a protest that impacts server performance for everyone in the game – this impacts infrastructure, travel, security, stability etc… for everyone in the area, just like it does in the real world.
Here’s another fun protest video from ingame:
Here’s one in German, with a more serious purpose than just gameplay protesting – female night elves protesting sexual exploitation in the game: