First, an admission. I have been twinking in this game since I rolled my first character, a Dwarf Paladin on Kil’jaeden. I picked up skinning and herbalism early on, and immediately got sucked in to the auction house metagame. The next thing I knew, I was level 20, with a blue BoE mace, shield, and boots, and level appropriate greens for the rest of my gear. I had a blue BoE chest piece in my bank, and 30g in my pockets.
I got bored of playing my pally, and rerolled a Human Rogue. I followed a similar strategy with him, and kept him in a mix of blues and greens until I abandoned him at 33 to roll Stray, who actually started life as Eradicus of the Kilrogg server (/wave Girl Scouts of Doom). By this point, I had self-twinking down to a science, and comfortably leveled to around 28 with plenty of gold to spare. This was when the devs made an addition to the game that would bring twinking into the limelight, for better or for worse. Warsong Gulch was added to the game in patch 1.5, and twinked and untwinked lowbies began to regularly clash swords.
Before this, the ethics of twinking were never called into question. It was just something that you had the option of doing if you knew how to make gold, plain and simple. It made leveling easier and didn’t really hurt anyone in the process. Once Warsong Gulch entered the equation, however, things got a little more complicated. Many people who were fine with seeing a rogue with 2 blue weapons enchanted with Fiery rip through an even level mob were significantly less fine with having said rogue tear through them without breaking a sweat.
Nasty posts began appearing on the forums, claiming that twinks were simply players who “couldn’t cut it” at level 60. That accusation has followed ever since, along with many other less relevant ad hominem arguments. Getting back to my personal experience, as a level 30 rogue dominating WSG (the bracket was 21-30 back then) I found it quite amusing that people assumed that twinks were simply level 60s who couldn’t compete. Since that was my highest level character on the server, and indeed my second highest level character ever, all it was for me was a fun break from leveling. I wasn’t fully twinked, my only enchants were fiery on my swords and a %2B50 health enchant that I got free from a guy trying to level enchanting in Crossroads, but I still was more powerful than most of the lowbies in there. It was a great time, and was ultimately what motivated me to get to 60 and keep playing the game.
What I’d really like to get into here is the ethical question of twinking. Non-twinks claim that twinks ruin early PVP for them. For someone brand new to the game, I think that could be a valid point, but for someone who has been here a while and knows what’s up, I think there are two very solid counter arguments to be made. The first is, plain and simple, you knew what you were getting into. The existence, and indeed, abundance of twinks in the current incarnation of the game is blatantly obvious. You know what a glowing weapon means, and you’ve seen level x9’s carrying them unless you play blindfolded.
So when you take your level 16 priest into Warsong Gulch for a break from leveling, you should not be surprised when you run into the enemy base and get ambushed by 3 rogues decked in enchanted blues, and you should probably not waste your time posting on the forums about it. You have 3 choices, you can either go in and accept that you will be nothing more than fodder 90% of the time, you can shell out some gold and twink to a reasonable level, or you can just level past it, and wait to take a break from leveling until you are in the 40’s range, where gear is much less of an issue.
The second point, and in my mind the more weighty one, is that the early Battlegrounds with their twinks and non-twinks essentially represent a microcosm of level 70, with fresh 70’s and veterans. Yes, a level 29 hunter with Master Hunter’s Rifle will 2 shot your fire mage in quest gear. By that same token, a level 70 warrior in Season 2 or 3 gear with a Stunherald will 2 or 3 shot my 70 rogue in quest gear. What’s the difference? Well, there are a few. The first is that players who want to PVP as their main method of progression have to “pay their dues” at 70 in order to get the gear they need to compete, whereas a lowbie twink can wait until he has the majority of his gear to step foot in a BG, if he so chooses.
Advantage: Twinks. The second is that there is a finite gear ceiling in any given twink bracket, versus the soft cap of arena season / pve tier gear at 70. This means that for a twink, there comes a certain point at which gear progression is no longer a factor, and the only reason people are playing is for fun. The third point, which ties in nicely with the last one, is that due to this gear cap, anyone can compete if they want to, and once they get into it, they will find that there is an amazing sense of community, fun, and competition that is lacking from the 70 scene.
There are regular discussion threads on the battlegroup forums, challenges issued between other twink guilds, and 90% of the trash talking is friendly, unlike the 70 arena vitriol. Most importantly, in the battlegrounds themselves, you will generally never see a twink say “Hey, let’s just lose this one, it’s faster honor.”
I would say my stance on the issue is fairly clear. Twinking is a great, enjoyable part of the game that anyone can be a part of if they choose to. In closing, I’d like to simply ask critics of twinking to give it a shot themselves before they knock it. You might end up finding that this game is a lot more fun than you thought it was.