Did you beat the world boss Ashava in the Diablo 4 "Server Slam" beta? The answer's important: it will decide your standing in the upcoming game's social order.
Beating the level 25 monster at the beta's level cap of 20 was no easy feat. It required a decent group of other players, some grinding for legendaries to beef up your character, and, most of all, lots of time and patience. The boss only spawned every three hours and could take as long as 15 minutes to kill.
But if you did manage to slay her, your reward was the Cry of Ashava—a golden horn that, when the full game releases, you can hang on your horse's bum.
It wasn't a spectacular incentive on its own, but apparently it did come with online clout. Some of those who did earn it are now lording it over those who didn't, calling them "bare-mares" or "hornless", and mocking anyone who suggests that earning it was a bit too much of a time sink. "Welcome to the Ashava Trophy Club, lords and ladies," says one post in /r/Diablo4 sitting at 2.1k upvotes. "The other... folk... May stay outside… Doesn't it make you positively giddy, that these... people... have not attained a modicum of skill when they were galavanting across the beta?"
"If you put any effort into the game you could have gotten the trophy," says another. "I think any 20 could kill Ashava on world tier 1. The people that didnt get it put little to no effort into getting it."
There's a whole subreddit, called ATCLub, that's dedicated to congratulating each other on their Ashava trophies. It even has its own Discord. "Should I feel pity for the bare-mares?" asks one post. "...or are they truly scum that I should proudly prance past whilst they slowly bleed out whilst attempting a random chest encounter?"
Another raises concerns about fakers, and calls for verification once the game goes live: "Not to be elitist or unwilling to believe that many of our fellow kinsfolk might actually be fibbing in order to appreciate the camaraderie, the fellowship, the wisdom and the strength of this fair elite club." Meanwhile, various memes call those who didn't get the horn "fucking idiots", cheer the fact that it's no longer available, and dub themselves "a higher class of human".
People aren't being completely serious, of course—in the run up to a highly anticipated game's launch, fans are always looking for ways to blow off steam, and the Cry of Ashava has become an easy in-joke to rally around while they wait. But it does reflect an already ugly side of the community.
Underlying the bare-mare comments is a "git gud" mentality where people are, on the whole, extremely dismissive of anyone who struggled with any aspect of the game. Expressing frustration with the Ashava fight is routinely met with mockery and derision—"You're just whining because you didn't get the horn" is a common refrain, and many of the posts on the jokey ATClub subreddit have an undercurrent of genuine spite towards any nay-sayers or critics.
Ridiculous as it is, bare-mare is already becoming a catch-all insult—I've been told my concerns about Diablo 4's balance and combat are simply the thoughts of a man with an unadorned mount. Ditto my colleague Fraser, accused by many of being a bare-mare for pointing out that the Ashava fight was pretty tedious (despite him having unlocked it being the whole crux of the article). Listen: words hurt, and they don't just hurt me, they hurt my poor hypothetical digital horse too.
All of which is to say: this Ashava trophy obsession is joking around, but it's also already being used to do a lot of mean-spirited gatekeeping. These people are likely on a vocal minority of the eventual playerbase, but it feels like a very negative attitude is already colouring the discussion. When the game actually launches, what kind of community are new players going to be faced with?
If you're part of the Ashava Trophy Club, I can only say I hope you find a horse quickly and enjoy your station and privilege. As for the rest of us bare-mares and hornless peasants… perhaps we'd better accept our lot, and grovel in the mud as our betters pass.