I’ve found an interesting facet of having ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and playing MMORPGs. One of the difficulties of having ADD is that I tend to have problems filtering sensory input (ADD can be classified as a sensory disorder). Normally our brains filter information at a fairly subconscious level. Studies have shown that people who think they can’t make heads nor tails of the many conversations around them can still pick out the sound of their own name, for example. People with ADD tend to lose some of this capability.

If you don’t have ADD then try to imagine some situation in which you’re getting all sorts of input–I typically use a restaurant example. You’re having dinner at a popular restaurant. Waitstaff takes orders; patrons hold conversations at every table; the sounds of utensils on plates fill the air; you’re chatting with your dinner partner. Then your waitress comes along to ask if you want more coffee. Most people would be able to pick out what she said and realize she was addressing them very quickly–a part of the brain would realize the waitress was approaching the table and facing you, and give priority to her voice. I have to filter this information manually, so by the time I realize consciously that I should focus on the waitress, she’s already made her request and it has faded into the background with the rest of the conversations.

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Now imagine an MMORPG situation in which you’re getting all sorts of input–like a battle with ten enemies and four party members. You can’t just weave your way through all that information on your computer screen, picking and choosing what’s important to you–it all comes at you at once. Thus, adventuring in your average World of Warcraft instance dungeon probably isn’t a problem if you have a reasonably slow, careful group that takes its time, takes on one set of mobs at a time, and doesn’t run around all over the place pulling bad guys. But imagine that you have even one player who likes to run around all over the place, pulling entire mobs when you aren’t ready for them, getting you in over your head repeatedly, not giving you any time to get oriented. This becomes incredibly overwhelming very quickly. It’s sensory overload.

Unfortunately I find this happens all too often, and it can turn a very fun quest into a nightmare for me. This is most of the reason why I solo so much and avoid instance dungeons in large part. After all, I play to have fun, not to get overwhelmed, overloaded and frustrated. In order to really enjoy party play, I need the following:

  • A party leader who announces what we’re doing before we’re doing it, and who explains strategy rather than expecting everyone to pick it up from watching them. The more complex the situation and encounter, the more necessary this is.
  • Party members who don’t flip out easily or yell at others for making little mistakes. This is part of why I’ve never been interested in high-end raid dungeons–little mistakes there can actually wipe out hours of work, unlike the rest of the game.
  • Having my husband in the group. We both sit in the same room when we play, and I often rely on him to point out things that I miss, such as a caster that needs rescuing if I’m playing a tank, and so on.
  • A group that’s more interested in working together and having fun with the game than in rushing through everything impatiently to get it over with.

This is why I’m so keen on finding fun, calm, relaxed, decent people to game with, and I’ve been lucky to find some great ones–most of all my husband, who’s remarkably understanding of my shortcomings!

If you ever find yourself grouped with someone who seems to miss a lot of what’s going on, try some of the above tips–guiding them slowly and carefully, taking your time, etc. If they’re the kind of person who is embarrassed enough by their problems (or unaware enough of them) that they try to cover them up by rushing forward and not listening to suggestions, then this won’t work. But for some people it will.

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