I have maintained in the past that all achievements are equal. My right to pursue my goals in this game is just as valid as your right to pursue yours, and that when they come into conflict, sometimes blood is shed. Someone who is trying to steal the flame of the capital cities of the opposing faction, and the players who fight to prevent this, are both pursuing valid goals. It’s okay for the goals to be counter to each other. That is one of the reasons why there is conflict in this world, and when there are no valid means to communicate and compromise, violence ensues.
So, by and large, I am a proponent of a laissez-faire attitude to PvP holiday achievements. PvE players may not like it, but hey, there are a lot of holiday achievements that suck just as bad. I bang my head against the RNG boss almost every single time; if something has to drop, it’s likely to not drop for me.
The School of Hard Knocks feels different, though. Perhaps it’s because it’s so reviled, so hated, that it drives otherwise rational players to fits of despair, that bothers me so much. Perhaps it’s because it makes the part of the game which I most enjoy — battlegrounds — a focus for a tremendous amount of hatred and bile. I can be unapologetically positive and enthusiastic about battlegrounds all day long, but I’m not blind. I can read the forums and websites and trade chat. I know that there are a lot of people who look at battlegrounds as the final, insurmountable obstacle standing between them and a year-long-grind to a 310% mount. And they hate the thing I love because of it.
As a result, I’m conflicted.
On the one hand, I have a rational policy of strict neutrality: that Stormtrooper, Supreme Defender, and Arathi Basin Assassin are equally worth pursuing as School of Hard Knocks, and that should two players come into conflict in pursuit of those goals, combat will likely decide the victor.
On the other hand, I’m not delusional. I know that there will be plenty of players out there who use those achievements to justify bullying to other players — players who are not equipped to deal with the conflict, who might be willing to fight back but who lack the gear to do so. There’s no real justification for this kind of brutality, but I’d be a fool to deny it exists.
And on the third hand, there is the looming specter of the terrible effect the School of Hard Knocks has had on the reputation of battlegrounds and PvP. Nobody involved likes this achievement; not those trying to get it, not those having to work around it. I expect it may be a little different in Cataclysm with Rated Battlegrounds giving the die-hard PvPers a refuge from the invasion, but I don’t think it that change will solve the image problem alone.
So I have a modest proposal for you, the battleground veteran.
Be a good host.
For one week, strive to be a good host to the neophyte masses who will swarm the battlegrounds seeking their achievement. If someone asks for help, help them. If someone doesn’t ask for help, help them anyways. If someone from the other faction is obviously trying to finish a SoHK task, help them.
That’s right. Help them.
I’m not asking you to be altruistic. I’m asking you because I honestly think it’s in our best interests, both as individuals and a community, to start turning back the negative associations with this event. Being a leader in /bg chat, of welcoming the new players into the world of PvP, of being a supportive voice in the wilderness to people, real people who are possibly scared, frustrated, or irritated — that’s what being a hero is about. One person can change the tone of a battleground, and can influence dozens of other people’s perception of battlegrounds.
You can be that person.
As for colluding with the enemy? Well, let me point out it can be in your interests to do so. While you help them, they can help you on achievements like:
- Arathi Basin All-Star
- Disgracin’ The Basin
- Overly Defensive
- Alterac Valley All-Star
- Tower Defense
- Storm Glory
- Frenzied Defender
- Persistent Defender
Helping others with School of Hard Knocks can directly benefit you by letting you work on these tasks. I know that I am going for both Alterac Valley achievements next week with gusto; this is the perfect time to rack up the tower defenses. There are mutual benefits to be realized here.
If you have read my writing for any length of time you know that I’m not a starry-eyed idealist. The best way to succeed in battlegrounds is to treat them like a street fight, where you use every dirty trick you can muster to beat the living shit out of your opponent. Gang up on people. Use the terrain to ambush folks. Be unpredictable with unusual gear and consumables. Maximize your professions. Do what it takes to win.
But Children’s Week is not a normal week in the battlegrounds. I think the battle we’re fighting is much larger than the individual matches in the game. We are, instead, fighting a war of public opinion brought about through no fault of our own. This is bigger than a few hundred easy HKs, than a few more victories that don’t really mean much. Unlike nearly every other week of the year, the battlegrounds of Children’s Week are full of people who do not want to be there.
So we, as collective individuals, have a choice.
We can get angry at them for intruding upon our playground, abuse them in /bg, tell them how stupid they are, and reinforce all the negative images they have about battlegrounds and PvP.
Or we can accept that they’re here, try to teach them, guide them, and maybe, just maybe, infect them with the PvP bug.
I’m a realist. I don’t imagine that any battleground next week is going to consist of the Horde and the Alliance sitting around a Basic Campfire singing kumbayas. There is going to be bloody, terrible fighting. There are going to be people who are totally unprepared for the realities of PvP getting slaughtered by the thousands. What I say on this website is not going to change the base desires of humanity. I wrote my guide with the full expectation that these battlegrounds are going to be littered with corpses.
But I also think that WoW players are some of the nicest, most open people I’ve met. And that little, small personal interactions matter. A few people starting off the battle welcoming the orphans and asking that people who are not working on the achievement not aggressively cap towers until the enemy is confirmed hostile will make a difference. A few folks walking into the WSG flagroom, picking up the flag, and dropping it over and over again can completely make 10 people’s evenings.
This achievement ruins the part of the game that I love the most for an entire week. But I don’t have to let it ruin my enjoyment of it.
I hope you will join me in welcoming our guests to the battlegrounds.