LFD, Social Contracts, and Value

Rohan of Blessing of Kings is on the blogroll for a reason, and that’s because he’s a damn good pally who posts a lot of informative and thoughtful things about both the class and the game in general, so he makes for good Warcrack blog reading. Most of the time I agree with him. (Or her, I don’t actually know.)

Gevlon of the Greedy Goblin fame did his usual thing of sparking off controversy with his other usual thing of calling out the bads and attempting to change the social atmosphere to shun bad and posting about it. Rohan tut-tutted his methods, which are rather self-defeating as well as antagonistic (in the group he talked about, he got votekicked for his pains in trying to votekick a warrior whose DPS he deemed unacceptably low), but then opined that he was basically right in making an attempt to improve the quality of play in heroic dungeons, even if his methods were both doomed to fail and socially unbecoming.

So, I find myself in the relatively infrequent position of disagreeing with Rohan, who says:

Why then is it verboten to point this out? Maybe all the people who advise you not to make a fuss are just cowards. They’re afraid of being called “mean” or “elitist”. Who cares about about other people, so long as you get your badges. Much easier to take the safe route and avoid confrontation; to laugh about a poor player in guild chat behind her back.

Surely the better path, the harder path, is not to turn a blind eye to poor players, but to help them become better ones.

The difference between Gevlon and I is what we believe are the motives. To Gevlon, bad players are “morons and slackers”, who are bad players because they choose to be bad. In my view most people want to be decent players, but a lot of them don’t really know how to be good. They don’t see the path from what they are to what they could be. Or worse, they ascribe the difference entirely to gear, which is pretty much the worst mistake you can make if you want to be a better player.

Pointing out that a player has poor DPS is not mean. It’s a fact. If you can shame or push them into seeking out external information at Elitist Jerks or the WoW Forums, that’s pretty much the only thing which will make them better players.

Well, for one thing it’s entirely possible to be factually correct and “mean” at the same time. If I point out someone’s parade-float sized ass and I’m not their doctor or their hired nutrition coach or personal trainer, I’d still be the bitch in the situation because the size of their ass is none of my fucking business even if it is unhealthy or aesthetically unpleasant. It’s not their responsibility to provide me with an ass of pleasing proportions to gaze upon as a part of my public vista, and it would be rude, highly inappropriate, and definitely “mean” of me to call them out on their corpulence. Not my business unless they went out of their way to *make* it my business, and even then I’d probably be a lot more tactful than I just was.

Heroics, on the other hand, are a murkier area, because theoretically everyone is depending on each other to finish the instance and get their badges and loot without spending a lot of time floorgazing and racking up big repair bills. If the tank or the healer is bad, the party eats floor, and there’s relatively little that the rest of the party can do to make up for a weak link there- but a strong tank and healer and two or even one truly strong DPS can drag along weak DPS like so many tin cans on a car bumper. Thus, there are quite a few weak DPS, and quite a few strong players that are accustomed to the dragging, with varying levels of resentment about this.

First of all, it’s important to define what “weak” DPS actually is. Heroics are intended to be entry-level content, which means a forgiving bar for a DPS to contribute meaningfully- say 1-1.5k is enough, and triple digits are in the realm of “serious liability” territory. It was when the dungeons were truly new and no one had set an elite little piggy into Naxx yet, because they were the first place to go to start truly gearing up for the end-game content that sets the gamers from the nubs. Ah, but the player Gevlon tried to get votekicked was doing 1.1- enough for the content if on the low side, but well below the tank suited in blues, which to him was unacceptable. (I should note this was Halls of Lightning, not any of the new Icecrown instances, where north of 2k is generally mandatory.) So it’s sufficient DPS, it’s just also bad. The guy isn’t going to make the group wipe, but he is subpar.

I hear Gevlon described as a “libertarian” a lot, which is kind of funny to me because I usually approach life from a basically libertarian philosophy and run in those circles, and damned if I’ve ever met one as into social engineering as he is.* Heroics are entry level content, and the random queueing system has also made them lowest-common-denominator content; the implicit social contract is likewise lowest common denominator, as I have discussed before. Guilds have explicit social contracts usually laid out in the charter and policies, and that’s why we can make high demands of raiders and even fellow guildies in heroics- but the people you meet in the random system didn’t agree to that contract, just “I will provide the minimum level of performance required to complete the instance”. You can also form on-server ad-hoc social contracts by putting together a premade PUG yourself, stating your desires for an increased level of expectation. Social contracts weaken the larger and less voluntary you make the pool of people involved, which is why anarchy doesn’t work** and why the lowest common denominator can rarely be raised much without sacrificing a lot of people- which a pay-for-subscription game can’t really do. To my mind, this puts bad-but-sufficient DPS in random LFD groups in the same category as people with Macy’s Day Parade-grade asses: unfortunate and not what I prefer, but their performance as players is really none of my business unless they solicit help, so long as it meets the “sufficient” mark.

Whether or not it’s anyone’s rightful business to call out low DPS even if you do it as nicely and helpfully as possible, though, is a separate issue from the one I’m going to address next, which is that I think Rohan is making a pretty critical assumption I think is unwarranted, and changes the complexion of the issue a lot for me. To repeat from the earlier quote:

The difference between Gevlon and I is what we believe are the motives. To Gevlon, bad players are “morons and slackers”, who are bad players because they choose to be bad. In my view most people want to be decent players, but a lot of them don’t really know how to be good. They don’t see the path from what they are to what they could be. Or worse, they ascribe the difference entirely to gear, which is pretty much the worst mistake you can make if you want to be a better player.

Now, this certainly did describe me when I was a fresh 80. I signed on as a hunter to a guild run of Eye of Eternity while still wearing mostly blue gear when Maly was progression content, and I sucked. I did about 1.4k dps, and I was painfully aware after the third wipe or so that my low DPS was a big part of why we just couldn’t get the fucking dragon down. I wasn’t the only one, or the only problem, but completely insufficient DPS was the root of the problem. I had simply had no frame of reference that different raids had degrees of difficulty, or what the basic requirements of me in each place would be. I was mortified, and I dived into research to find the best places to gear myself up piece by piece, refine my spec, and learn the nitty gritty of my shot priorities, and found an addon to give me a ding to remind me when to swap out of Aspect of the Viper when I needed to be paying attention to a lot of things at once.

Now, the key points of this little confessional are this: 1. I was already running Recount without having been asked to, because I wanted to know how I was doing, especially in relation to my teammates. 2. I did not need to be asked to do any of the follow up work, because I was already aware of how to research and where to find the information I wanted. 3. I did not need to be motivated to identify problem areas and correct them. All I *needed* was to know I was doing poorly for my level and the content I wanted to do; everything else came naturally.

I always use strategy guides and websites and seek out as much information as I possibly can when I play the game. To me, the research process itself is self-rewarding, because then I can start planning how I want to use the game mechanics and which play style to refine and which content I want to shoot for. This process is not work to me; it’s a huge part of the fun of playing the game. That’s part of my personality; I don’t do it because winning the game is terribly motivating to me, or because I care all that much if I fail, but because the process itself is the reward inherent in the game. If I find the content tedious or the game too hard or too unsuited to my strengths and weaknesses as a player, I’ll put it down and walk away without a second thought except a mental note to trade it in at Game Stop. Achievement is not my drive, exploring and using a system is. In Bartle terms, I’m an explorer- I raid because it allows me to continue exploring and because the richest content is usually in the raids. If I were more of an achiever, I’d be in a more hard-core guild, but because my secondary motivations are social, I’m happiest in a casual raiding guild.

The thing about the Bartle test is, it applies to gamers– people who are already, by definition, pretty serious about playing games. World of Warcraft has as many subscribers as it does because Blizzard has found ways to appeal to not only all four main gamer motivations, but to true casual players as well- people that aren’t exactly gamers but play Warcraft because they get fun out of it. This includes the people who see strategy guides as silly wastes of time and money, people who are playing because they get to be a bear, RAWR, people who are playing to spend time with friends or family who are into the game, and everyone else that doesn’t get the same kind of inherent rewards out of studying and applying themselves in a game that I, and the general personality types that raid and that read and write Warcraft blogs, do. And there’s nothing wrong with that– it’s their fifteen bucks a month just the same as it is mine. They’re just getting a completely different kind of value out of the game than I am- and playing like me would significantly lower the value of the experience for them.

Speaking of value, before I close out this monster (and I’m already thinking I need to do a couple of followups on related subjects when I have time), I’d like to address the notion that players who don’t want to call out bad players always must because they hate confrontation or because they don’t want to be perceived as mean or elitist. It’s just flat not true. I generally will not try to kick a player unless they’re causing wipes and even then I won’t unless I see no other way to progress- but it’s not because I fear confrontation or being seen as a hardass. (I generally have more problems coming across as more intimidating than I mean to be than being seen as a doormat.) It’s because of that value thing again: I value having an experience where I don’t have to deal with intragroup drama far more than I value getting through the instance faster.

No, it doesn’t make my heart bleed. Far from it; I have no trouble breaking my foot off in someone’s ass when they earn it. I am polite until pushed not to be not because I fear being perceived as anti-social, but because I AM anti-social- I don’t really want to interact much with anyone who’s not a friend or guildmate or anyone else I choose to spend time with. The thing about courtesy and a little bit of distance is that it doesn’t just protect you from being seen in a bad light, it forestalls all sorts of tedious emotionally charged social interactions you’d rather not have. Having an argument with four strangers, or volunteering to coach them when they never asked or wanted me to, is infinitely more emotional energy than I care to expend on my badge-running- and it is less aggravating to me to work to haul a poor group through the instance (or quit the group) than it would be to try and socially engineer them. Being polite to everybody means you can glide through public life with little disruption- it’s the grease of civilization.

I don’t mind carrying weak players in heroics as long as they fulfill the basics required because they never signed on or agreed to anything more, and I don’t give a damn why they’re weak because neither the content nor their likely reaction to my obtrusive interest- interest that would assume they’re just like me, or that they suck as players or people if they’re not- warrants it. When and if they want to raid with me, and sign on to that contract of expectations, I’ll mentor or stomp ass as is necessary- but the people in LFD aren’t asking to and many would be affronted or confused that I assumed they’d even ever want to.

*Also, no true Scotsman would ever drink English whiskey. Trufax.
**In the usual blog circles I’m in, saying this would be like staring into a mirror and saying “Candyman” five times. Surely it’s safe on a Warcraft blog, though- right?

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2 Responses to LFD, Social Contracts, and Value

  1. Kristopher says:

    Heh.

    I just expect the folks in a randPuG to be under-equipped, as that is where they belong.

    I just ask that healers and tanks get their training in non-heroics first. The only person I won’t forgive is some numb-nut who queues as a Tank in a Heroic just to jump the queue … that person will anger me into putting on my tank clothes, assuming the role of tank, and vote-kicking his ass.

    On a similar note, I did PuG up with a group of retards from Ysera who were PuGging as a group of four: The first thing they told me was that they always kicked DPS’s that underperformed just before the last boss.

    I added their healer and the tank to my ignore list so I wouldn’t ever group with them again ( Belathis-Ysera and Shtroumph-Ysera ). I then continued the pug, a whipped their asses in DPS, despite the tank deliberately kiting mobs out of my AoE zones.

    I was sorely tempted at the end to pop frost to steal aggro, and kite Loken to the healer and alt-F4 on these bozos, but I resisted the temptation.

  2. LabRat says:

    Ysera? I can’t help but think it’s not a complete coincidence that’s where Natural Order transferred to, though it looks like your douchebags were from Invictus. Pity you can’t /ignore guilds.

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