If you read WoW blogs, or trade chat, it will have been impossible for you to avoid noticing that there are a lot of people out there who really, really don't like GearScore. It was only in the last month or so, when I read a post on the Pink Pigtail Inn that I really got to thinking about why GearScore had become a problem for the community.
So when I saw people complaining that GearScore was meaningless and that "Skill > Gear" I tended to side with the GearScore users. This was a visceral reaction to bad logic. Just because skill is more important that gear doesn't mean that gear doesn't do anything. Since some random guy starting a raid in trade chat has no idea whether some other random guy looking for a raid in trade chat is any good at all at playing the game, there is really no point in comparing the two. Both of the following things can be true at once:
I'd rather have a player in 251s than a player in 232s
I'd rather have a skilled player in 232s than a bad player in 251s
And for all of those "Skill > Gear" people, I would also rather have a bad player in 251s then a skilled player in 187 greens. Skill can't make up that deficit - for reasonable values of bad, at least.
What I was ignoring for a long time is that it's really not my problem. When I raid, I raid with my guild. If I for some reason want to do a PUG raid and they want me to have a certain GearScore to qualify, I have it. More generally, if they want me to have a certain achievement, or meet some other qualification then I have whatever they are looking for. No one has turned me down for a raid and I have little reason to think anyone ever will.
The fact that is isn't my problem, though, suggests that I should ask exactly whose problem it is. When I really got to thinking about this, I decided I should respond to Larisa's post that I linked above. I noticed my response was getting to long so I started writing my own blog post. Unfortunately that got a little too long as well - after some editing, I still have 25 pages on the subject1.
Because that's a little bit more than I would expect anyone to be interested in reading, I wanted to try to express some of the basic ideas I have on the subject more succinctly through a few blog posts. Naturally, I am aware of the fact that very few people actually read my blog, so I don't hit a much larger audience by moving from 25-page-internet-essay format to blog format, but still.
As I said, the key to understanding the problem with GearScore is really understanding who it is a problem for and why we should care. GearScore - and other related problems, like requesting people link an achievement for killing the boss before they are allowed to attend a raid to kill that boss - is a problem for new and casual raiders. It is a barrier to entry for people who want to check raiding out or who like raiding but who don't have a large number of hours to devote to raiding each week.
Just as importantly, I think we should realize that GearScore and achievements are not the problems in themselves. The problem stems from the current climate for PUG raids, and GearScore and achievement requests are band-aids for that problem.
I want to talk about this because I think it is one of the most important issues facing the game. People can say all sorts of negative things about WoW and specifically about the direction the game is heading in, but I think the fundamental answer to most of the complaints is the let people who don't like the game move on to other things and continue to make the game better. The experiment of trying to let everyone - or at least a lot of people - get involved in raiding is an interesting one, and one that was bound to create unforeseen problems. Finding solutions to these problems has a huge potential to improve the game for players of all levels of commitment and interest.
1. If you'd like to read it, it's here, though I wouldn't say it's really finished or polished.