Communication Breakdown

(Note: Fake Surgeon General’s Warning – Hearthstone May Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health)

I was playing Hearthstone the other morning as I sometimes do. Usually, I will log in to check what the daily quest is and if it is one that doesn’t look like it will take too long or I am close to that magic 100 gold mark (free packs!), then I will try to complete the quest. While the quest was not necessarily and easy one (Hunter or Druid dominance – because my druid deck is not the most efficient win wise as it is a troll deck designed to frustrate hunters and I despise playing hunter because it is basically face roll), I decided to play the druid deck because I haven’t played it much lately. I tweaked it to make it slightly more competitive, but it still works mostly only as a way to get the opponent to use the “threaten” emote as much as possible in the time that it takes me to ultimately lose. Childish? Perhaps, but it is all just meant to be harmless fun.

On this particular morning, the plan backfired big time. Instead of facing hunters, who were no doubt unleashing many hounds on their last minute pushes to legend rank before the nerf bat smacks them, I went up against a priest, a face warrior that somehow drew every weapon in his deck in his opening hand, and then another priest. These are all terrible match ups for my poor druid deck and I lost every single game. Good, you might be thinking, sometimes you are the troll and sometimes you get trolled. Serves you right. I respect that sentiment and agree with all of it. That’s not the point of this post.

As an aside, I should have a drinking game where you take a shot every time I say “That’s not the point of this post” (and chug a beer for every parenthetical phrase) in my articles. Then again, we do want this to be a form for everyone and that disqualifies our younger readers. How about Bingo? Is there a non-old people equivalent to Bingo?

But, I digress. (Aha, that’s another one for Bingo!) The point of this article is that as the losses mounted, my mood turned worse and worse to the point that I was actively cursing the screen and the anonymous person on the other side of it. So, you’re a sore loser, you might respond, why write an entire article about it? I’m usually not. I lose, quite often, to Chris in Magic during our games and I take those losses in stride. Granted there was the time that I called his Quicksilver Amulet “bull…stuff” but that was more a commentary on my inability to properly counter it and it has led me on a crusade to build a deck to do just that. Forget games, I’ve lost plenty in live (most notably jobs) and I just get back out there and “fail up”.

Another piece of this puzzle is that it isn’t just me. Chris stopped playing Hearthstone completely because he didn’t like the person he became when he lost. I have seen more than one Twitch streamer have a meltdown on camera after a prolonged losing streak. I’m not proud of this, but I also rage added an opponent to my friend list simply to type some of the curses directly to him. Mind you, I come here not to bury Hearthstone. Granted, I’m not exactly here to praise it either. While I think that the game relies entirely too much on randomness (a reason that I hate poker and to an extent fantasy football), it isn’t the game alone that elicits these responses.

I once played two Hearthstone games against a Twitch streamer and lost one of them on a fluky play that normally would have caused a tantrum, but I congratulated him and went on completely unfazed. I have also played friendlies against Chris and others and those losses were also handled with my normal good nature. That leaves the question, “Why can this game turn a normally mild mannered gamer into a foul-mouthed verbal assassin?”

The previously mentioned randomness and imbalance of certain cards and classes does not help. You can go from a very strong position to a very weak one in the span of only one draw or turn and it happens regularly. I have seen the phenomenon in other card games, but it happens more infrequently in those games than in Hearthstone. Watch or play enough of this game and you will hear or utter the phrase “top deck” as a curse at least once a game. No doubt that adds to the frustration (I had that game won and it was the last one for the quest. Son of a –) but it has just as much chance of going for you as against you, so there has to be more.

Enter “zoo” warlock and hunter. There are others (like the priests and warriors against my druid deck), but those are the two major offenders right now. Sure, the decks are consistent, cheap, and fast. I’m not even that good of a player and I can win 75-80% of my games with those decks. I finished the hunter quest later in the day with a 5-1 streak as hunter. I cheer when the warlock dominance quest shows up because I know it won’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. So, I can’t blame people for using them. Still, Web Spinner turn 1, then face plus hero power turn two, buzzard plus unleash on turn 5 (this one will change because the only way that Blizzard knows how to balance is with the nerf bat), or Voidwalker, coin blood imp turn one, then two flame imp on turn 2, and then Harvest Golem turn 3. The decks are so damn predictable and that’s boring and frustrating. Warlock has the added bonus of two card potential per turn in a game that features 30 card decks. You can stonewall hunter. As I mentioned earlier, my druid deck does well against them because of removal. If you somehow remove the onslaught of zoo, no worries, they have plenty of one and two drops to replace them. Random plus boring times severe imbalance equals streams of obscenity at some anonymous person that is just as easily a wanna be pro neckbeard as a 12-year old kid trying his first card game.

That brings me to my last, and most important, point in the article. There’s a reason that people hate Twitter. When you can easily create an anonymous account and spew forth any stupid opinion in 140 characters or less, that’s not exactly healthy for intelligent discourse. The same problem plagues Hearthstone. When I played against Chris or my other friends, I knew my enemy and the chat function allowed us to communicate during the match. Even if I wasn’t friends with the streamer, I had watched and interacted with him via chat enough to build a rapport. Normally, the other person in Hearthstone is completely unknown to you and some days you just feel like the world is out to get you. The only way to react to something is through a friend request at the end of the game. Because of rage adding, of which I’ve already admitted to being guilty*, most people won’t even respond or they might try to beat you to the rage with some venom of their own.

A chat function (and there have been many requests and good ideas of how to implement one that Blizzard has routinely ignored in favor of using updates to swing their nerf bats) would solve these problems. you would know if your opponent was a dink worthy of ridicule, scorn, abuse, or simply being ignored. You could react to a good play with an actual comment instead of a preconceived “emote” that more often than not sounds sarcastic. Who knows what could happen? I’ve made connections with people through World of Warcraft that extend beyond the game. A game supposedly built on social interaction might actually foster meaningful and healthy social interactions instead of bouts of furious swearing and the threat of broken monitors.

Do you want to swear at or be sworn at by me? Meet me in Hearthstone and bring your zoo deck. Or, would you rather Blizzard stop nerfing hunter (while completely ignoring the warlock hero power) long enough to implement chat. Show your support in the comments and in forum posts with poor spelling and grammar. Trust me, those are the ones that get the attention of the “Blues”.

*I felt so guilty after swearing at that person that I added the very next person that I played. He pulled off some insane combo with Raging Worgen, Elven Archer, and Power Overwhelming to kill me, so I added him and said, “Awesome combo.” He admitted that was the first time he was able to pull it off and we have chatted a few times since. See…chat. To the forums.

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