MMORPG Pick-Up Groups

It’s time for another rewrite of an old blog post from more than a year ago. But first, we have a new cafepress design (you can blame my husband for this one); we have more upcoming as well:

Warlock Soul Stone–Section Design

Warlock Soul Stone Ash Grey T-Shirt

After a year and a half of playing World of Warcraft and playing in a number of pick-up groups (a group formed of folks who need the same quest but otherwise don’t all know each other, now referred to with some amount of fear and loathing as a “PuG”), I have my own set of rules for when and under what circumstances I’m willing to join a pick-up group:

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1) Never accept a group invite from someone who sends you an invite without so much as saying one word to you first. I tried giving people the benefit of the doubt for a while, but not once did it work out well. I finally came to a conclusion about why: If someone’s social skills are lacking enough that they don’t realize that it might be wise to at least ask someone if they want to team up, or ask them what they’re actually working on, or whatever, before teaming up with them, then they probably aren’t going to be fun to work with.

2) People make mistakes. Someone might accidentally press the wrong key, or get distracted, or miss seeing something, or momentarily forget a detail of how something works. Don’t simply assume that they don’t know what they’re doing unless they keep making the same mistakes over and over or the things that they say indicate a lack of knowledge. If you team up with someone and they find it necessary to explain in great detail exactly what you’re doing wrong and the very basics of how your abilities work every time you make the slightest mistake, it’s probably time to find a new party member (or a new party). Similarly, don’t join a PuG unless you’re willing to accept that the other players won’t be perfect players, they won’t automatically know how to play well as a team with you, and they’ll make their own mistakes.

3) Things go wrong–it happens. It’s easy to mis-judge distances and accidentally pull an extra mob or some such thing. Sure, if someone’s constantly doing the same thing wrong over and over and won’t respond to pleas to do otherwise then you have a problem. But if you constantly blame your party-mates any time anything goes wrong, they aren’t going to want to group with you. On the other side of that, don’t group with someone twice who repeatedly makes the same mistakes and won’t listen to any polite suggestions to try something else (unless you’re patient enough to be able to handle this with equanimity). You’ll only frustrate yourself this way.

4) Remember you’re on a team. Teamwork is important. If you aren’t coordinating well it’s time to come up with plans for how you can do so–not simply toss blame around. Come up with loot-sharing rules you can all agree on (or at least settle on). Try to find compromises that make everyone happy. Don’t just expect the other folks in your PuG to team well with you–try to team well with them.

5) “It’s just a game” is something that it is important to remember; getting killed may be inconvenient, but it isn’t the end of the world. Mistakes may make things more difficult, but they aren’t the end of the world. However, “It’s just a game” is not a valid excuse for behaving badly, nor a valid reason why people should have to put up with bad behavior.

Yes, this is spurred on by a particular experience more than a year ago, in addition to a handful of general ones. Someone asked to join up with a group I was in. He proceeded to take over, giving orders and telling everyone how to do things. Fine, okay, he had some grasp of strategy, so we were willing to let him do that to some extent. However, where we drew the line was when he constantly told everyone how to do their jobs and what they were doing wrong in great detail, and blamed them for every little thing that went wrong (even when he was the one who charged ahead and attacked things without warning, or didn’t let anyone know what he was attacking, and so on). He was self-righteous and patronizing and had an attitude of “I know everything”–yet couldn’t communicate worth beans and couldn’t understand why anyone objected to his attitude.

[Ego requires me to add the following addendum to the above story: We went back to the same place a day later without said obnoxious person because we still needed to complete the quest there. We were worried about trying it with one less person, but thought it was worth a shot. In fact, without the person who kept insisting that we were the ones causing all the problems, we were able to complete the quest without a hitch and without dying once! I found that rather satisfying.]

I really enjoy World of Warcraft and have met some people through it who are truly fun to game with–in fact, I’ve met a couple of my now-real-world best friends through PuGs in Warcraft, believe it or not. But I’ve noted some patterns in the people who turn fun gaming experiences into exercises in frustration. They’re the people who don’t understand how to deal with others. You can often recognize them by their lack of social skills, evidenced by things like failing to ask before inviting you to a group, assuming stupidity in everyone around them, yelling at people who screw up, insisting “it’s just a game” to excuse bad behavior but taking anything you do or say way too seriously at the same time, and so on.

PuGs may be a “necessary evil” if you don’t have a huge guild with people of all levels constantly on (and not many people have this), and certainly it’s good to give folks a chance. It’s also good, however, to keep an eye out for the folks you know you won’t enjoy working with and to simply avoid them where possible. You can’t control other people’s behavior (nor should you try), so you’re better off accepting that there are jerks out there and staying away from them. It’s also good to try to avoid being one of these jerks–many folks indulge in some of these behaviors without ever realizing it.

Posted in Gaming, News & Musings

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