Cognitive Dissonance: Is Blizzard playing psychological mind games?

Paranoia is a funny thing…

Ever wonder if Blizzard employs psychologists to work out how best to screw with your minds and, while laughing at your stupidity and gullibility, then happily take all the money they can from you, and then wait for you to gushingly thank them for every least scrap?

Ever heard of Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance theory?

Basically people want stable beliefs and if there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.

Consider mindless grinding (or any repetitive task or job – like factory line work).

You can either acknowledge that what you are doing is stupid, and stop*, or you can lie to yourself and convince yourself it’s not so bad, or you are doing it for ‘fun’, that you enjoy it.

*(Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
~ Albert Einstein)

This in turn can lead to ‘Forced Compliance Behaviour’.

When Blizzard change levelling WSG rep from taking a few hours (in Vanilla) to needing thousands of repetitions of the battleground for ‘fun’ you have to wonder.

When Blizzard remove nearly all alternative methods of levelling Booty Bay rep for the ‘Insane in the Membrane‘* achievement such that the only way to do it is (hated to exalted) involves spending weeks killing around 34,000 pirates – for ‘fun’ – you have to wonder. *(An apt and telling title, is it not!?)

When Blizzard introduced Nomi in Legion and fail-fest system of the endlessly cremated meals as a way to discover cooking recipes – (to see if people will still comply with their mind games(?) – you have to wonder. (Ditto the circa 1 in a 1,000 discovery rates for flasks and potions.)

[ I am sure, for many, the Dark Legacy cartoon strip about Nomi will resonate! ]

When the Developers design an expansion around a weapon that can only be used in one specification, on one character, a system whereby maxing an artifact weapon takes literally thousands of hours* of otherwise pointless repetition to get…

*(It took the guy over 2,000+ mythic+ instances to get to level 54, 15% buffed artifact)

…you really have to wonder whether it is Blizzard that are institutionally stupid… or if it’s us for allowing ourselves to be played!

At this point it’s just a rant, but let’s push it over into the realms of conspiracy theory, with the help of Blizzard themselves, and WoWhead.

Did you know there’s a piece of armour called the ‘Chestguard of Cognitive Dissonance?

It’s a quest reward from Cata, the title of which is:
"… It Will Come."

The item you have to farm is called:
"The Brain of the Unfathomable"

Seen like that, you really do have to wonder about the opinion Activision, Blizzard and the Devs have of their ‘devoted’ players.


Repetition and drop rates: fun and fair? Or calculated?

Ever think about how much you play? Why you play?

And, more to the point, how often do you think:

"This is crazy! that’s just insane, WHY!?"

– then carry on trying anyway, convincing yourself it’s fun, really, it’s not that bad. 1% with 10 alts, one a week each, you can do that, in a month or two. OK, a year, or two. Well, maybe next year it will drop…

But it’s never just one mount, one toy, one pet, is it. That’s why there are achievements like, for instance, 300 mounts. Optional parts of the game, absolutely, but doesn’t it tickle the back of your mind, whether you are being compliant? And it rolls back into forced compliant behaviour. Forced is perhaps a strong word, but you are encouraged, herded in a particular direction nonetheless. (Ideally with your hand on your wallet?)

Warcraft repetition be like:

Hard to decide which is worse, their hubris, or the mindless compliance of the players, the latter seemingly a dwindling number once more.

I’ve had an ongoing like/loathe relationship with World of Warcraft for over a decade but it seems, more and more each year, that I’m not playing the game, I’m being played, or allowing myself to be played. For many it’s an addiction to mounts (or achievements, or raid progress or…), for me it’s rep grind and pets. And what happens in Legion? They raise the gold cap to 10 million, throw in gold sales at £15 a token (added in WoD, April 2015) and add in-game vendor mounts and pets with price tags like 1 to 2 million gold (~£150 to £450 depending on the rates).

I still play, though less and less all the time, but this cartoon by Carbotanimations was a turning point for me. Nomi and the 54 levels of artifact just nailed it…

Given miniscule drop rates, grinds that go way, way being what is fun, fair or reasonable, my only conclusion is that Blizzard and the Devs are playing mind games with us and are, I suspect, laughing at our stupidity! I get why raid mounts are reduced to 1%, but when it comes to Nomi, and other aspects of the game, present and past, the evidence suggests to me that Blizzard consider their players idiots and (perhaps) run frankly unethical psychological experiments to see how far they can push players and still maximise profits. My take, anyway!


(As an aside, I was openly questioned by a psychology professor in a lecture when I said Facebook were playing mind games with their users, running experiments to see if altering their news feeds affected their moods, based on their posts.
"See", he said, waving in my direction, "people will believe in any conspiracy theory. Where’s your evidence?"
(2 or 3 others in the lecture reply, citing the same reports)
Professor: Oh! You have evidence! They admitted it publicly? Oh, I, umm, I’ll Google it, later"
That (unethical) Facebook experiment is now included in the psychology module and text books I’m studying now. Warcraft was touched in on last year’s text book, (for the TBC outbreak.))

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