I think I said on Blog Azeroth that I'd never write about PvP, but today I feel like doing so anyway. Or rather, I feel like writing about why I don't usually engage in it. The thing is, I don't hate PvP; every now and then I even enjoy it. It's just that I generally enjoy PvE content more, and there's so much of it that I rarely run out of things to do. Usually this only happens as the game nears another expansion or patch, I start to get a bit bored with the current content and find myself thinking: "Hey, I haven't been to Arathi Basin in a while! It could be a laugh."
However, it never takes long to remind me of why I prefer PvE over PvP:
1. I'm a "carebear" at heart.
I want everyone to be happy and wish no harm on anyone. By default this means that a game where the main goal consists of smashing other people's faces in is not exactly my cup of tea. I much prefer things like PvE raids, which are focused on co-operation. This is not to say that PvPers don't need to co-operate at all, or that there's no element of competitiveness in PvE play, but the focus is definitely different.
2. I'm not very good at it and not likely to get much better.
There are games that you can enjoy even if you're bad at them, but WoW PvP definitely isn't one of them unless you're a grade A masochist who enjoys dying over and over and over again.
Hardcore PvPers often scoff at PvE as being too easy and that PvP is the domain of people with real skill. I agree and disagree at the same time: I believe that both require skill, but of different kinds. PvE is a sort of brainy, theoretical thing. The key to it lies in acquiring knowledge: which stats to gear for, which dps rotation to use, where to position the boss, where to stand during a phase transition. Obviously it'll still need some work to actually put all of it into practice flawlessly, but generally the things that are required from you as an individual are not awfully difficult: push this button and move a little.
PvP is exactly the opposite. There is some theory behind it about things like what to dispel when, who to kill first in a group and the like, but these are pretty loose for the most part. On the other hand your reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination will be tested massively, as even a split-second delay on a key ability can make the difference between victory and defeat. And this is something that you can only improve by actively practising it over and over again; no amount of reading about it will help you.
Which brings us to my problem: my reflexes are not very good to begin with and I'm a so-called keyboard-turner (le gasp!). Why not? I'm a PvE healer and have to move only very little (like to take two steps out of the fire). To get better at PvP I'd have to change my playstyle... but getting better at PvP would also be the only reward, and since we've already established that I don't like it all that much to begin with, why bother?
3. PvP involves too much loss of control.
This is about stuns and crowd control, something that certain people complain about endlessly to this day. You can call them QQers and cite examples of games that don't have these mechanisms and how their gameplay suffers from it, but balance issues aside, let's be honest: losing control over your character in major ways and over longer periods of time is simply not very fun.
I've found that this has become worse than ever in WOTLK with things like death knights yanking you off your mount from thirty yards away and freezing you in place, or abilites like Thunderstorm allowing players to physically push you off the edge of cliffs and the like. It's fun to laugh at maybe once, but if you get a bunch of these spells chained at you it just makes you want to walk away from the keyboard since you can't do anything anyway.
4. WoW PvP is very isolated.
It has been said in the past that WoW is mainly a PvE game and PvP feels a bit tacked on. And it shows. In PvE, everything seems to be connected to something else somehow. I do quests for the Kalu'ak to get rep so they give me a great fishing pole, which I can then use to fish up more useful fish, which I can then use to cook better food, which I can then use to get better raid buffs... and so on. The only reasons to PvP are 1) because you're really into it or 2) to earn honour and buy gear that will make you better at PvP (which then kind of leads back to point 1). There's little connection to anything outside those little battleground and arena boxes that we can join at the click of a button. For this reason I find it very easy to just completely forget that PvP even exists, as whether I do it or not has no influence on the rest of my game experience.
Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I've seen how attempts to lure PvE players into PvP have gone horribly wrong. BC gave us PvP epics that were better than a lot of PvE rewards, causing lazy PvE players to join battlegrounds and then go afk while their team mates earned them honour. Children's week saw people desperate for a violet proto-drake joining battlegrounds en masse and sabotaging their team just to get an achievement. This is obviously not a good way to go about it.
However, Wintergrasp for example does something very right in my opinion, even though I don't do it that often and am not too fond of VoA. It makes PvP meaningful to more people (even those who don't participate) and offers a wide variety of rewards, some of which are even useful for non-PvPers. A lot of my guildies participate in VoA whenever they can (and do their best to help the Horde win it) even though they don't care a lot about battlegrounds or the arena. That shows me that Blizzard did something right there.
5. PvP tends to bring out the worst in people.
We've all been to a raid where someone snapped after the umpteenth wipe and drama ensued. We've all had a pug with some jerk who made us lose another part of our faith in humanity. But for each and every one of those bad experiences I had a lot of good ones.
In PvP, I've found, it's the exact opposite. Every now and then you'll run into a battleground where people actually work together and talk nicely too each other, but the large majority of them will be filled with abuse about how people need to "l2p", how everyone in the raid is made of fail and so on. And that's just your own team mates, the people who are supposed to be on your side!
Let's not even get started on your enemies. Sportmanship, what's that? An opponent who realises that he can beat you once will continue to hunt you down just to kill you over and over again until you give up and log off. If he can't kill you he'll call for reinforcements who'll then stomp you into the ground over and over again. All is fair in love and war, and as far as people's behaviour goes, WoW PvP is definitely a lot more like war than a friendly competition.
Why do I PvP at all then? Sometimes it does make for a nice change of pace to escape from the grind into another little world within the World of Warcraft. Sometimes I can smile at an opponent who shows an amazing amount of skill. Sometimes I team up with some random guy and we do great things. But it never takes long for me to miss PvE again.