Part of that issue, I think, is that the phrase "stats don't matter," actually seems to carry several different meanings, some of which are more valid than others, and it's not always clear exactly which meaning a given poster is ascribing to it. And so it will often be the case that you see someone responding to one use of the phrase with arguments that actually address a wholly different meaning. So let's look at what the different things people mean when they say "Stats don't matter."
1: "Stats are not important to me personally, and I don't let them affect my enjoyment of the game."
This, I think, is one of the more valid meanings. These people are basically taking the attitude that it's just a game, they have fun playing it, and whether their stats are good or bad in the game is not going to affect the quality of their lives.And really... that's OK. It really IS just a game, and if a player in pugs doesn't want to stress over it, then that's their right. I don't demand that other players be good, just that when they're actually in the game they actually try. I have far more respect for a casual player who gives a match a real effort, even if they're not very good, than I have for the most skilled player who suicides out in a fit of pique.
The thing is, "what matters" in the philosophical sense is purely subjective. The problem comes in when the players to whom stats do matter insist that they have to matter to everyone else, or when they people to whom they don't matter insist that they have to not matter to everyone else. Sorry, but you don't get to set other people's life priorities.
2: "Stats don't say anything meaningful about how good a player is."
Usually, the subtext of this is "... so no matter how bad my stats are, I'm actually really good." IMO, this is the least valid use of the term. Good players do better in the game. The point of a match is to do damage, kill tanks, accumulate cap points, prevent the enemy from doing the same, and above all win. All of those goals have measurable stats associated with them. If you think you're really good at the game in spite of not being good at any or all of those clearly measurable things, I don't know what about the game it is that you think you're good at (and before you think I'm putting you down - I'm not good at the game either).
Yes, stats can be gamed to look better than your actual ability. Yes, you can be carried by platooning with really good players. Yes, it's possible that a player is really good now but have so many bad games in their past that it weighs them down. But the fact is that really good players do exist, and their stats will reflect their ability (particularly if you make use of tools like WoTLabs which display your recent stats independent of their past baggage).
In the sense of measuring ability, stats do matter.
3: "My stats aren't good; stop hassling me."
To me, a perfectly reasonable request. Berating people for bad stats isn't going to help them much, it's not going to help you much. It doesn't motivate people to get better so much as make them defensive and angry.
The biggest "talking past each other" situation I see is when a "stat denier" clearly means 1 or 3, and gets answered as if they were arguing 2. But others happen as well, and it leads to more frustration than is necessary.
So I guess this is all a long-winded appeal to people to please pay attention to what participants are actually saying and meaning in these arguments.
Edited by Somnus, Jan 08 2013 - 01:08.