Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘video games are happy things’

It’s Okay To Love DPS

Part of a sketch I never finished.

Cynwise and I have been on a similar wavelength lately. If you haven’t yet read his post that was a response to my post – it’s a great read and it will make you think. I started drafting a reply in his comments and I quickly realized it was going to become a full-fledged entry. So there is the background for you, and here are my thoughts on finding the character you love, and why it’s not always that easy.

The first problem is that DPS have a certain image in the community, especially pure DPS. I can’t even claim to be immune to this myself; there is something about tanks and healers that wants to invite trust. When I zone into a pug, I automatically assume that the tank and healer are reasonable people who want to succeed in the instance. (This isn’t always true, but we’re talking about my assumptions here). I assume that the DPS might cause trouble or disruption in some way.

Yes, I admitted it – I am prejudiced against DPS players, even when I’m one of them. The stereotype exists for a reason, and I think it’s self-perpetuating for several reasons. Self-fulfilling prophecies are funny that way. Let me tell you about a trollroic I ran a few weeks back (as a mage).

First off, I was excited to be there! I waited twenty minutes for the queue to pop, determined that I wouldn’t let the lure of quick queues dissuade me from getting some VP for Millya. We zoned into Zul’Aman and I did as I usually do – made a table, buffed the group, said hello. Everything went fine for a little bit but of course it was one of those rushrush jobs, everyone is in such an incredible hurry. We got to the Dragonhawk boss (I don’t even know their names at this point) and the tank said “Kill hatcher on the left.” Well, folks – left when facing the stairs and left when standing on the stairs are two different beasts. I killed the wrong hatcher. I’ve been in plenty of groups where this has happened, but this tank was so rigid that he stayed in the spot he’d been waiting for the eggs to spawn from. So mea culpa, I killed the wrong one, but at least a hatcher was killed. This fight doesn’t need to be a wipe unless no hatchers are killed at all (even then, I’ve healed through no hatchers being killed, but that’s neither here nor there). The group got really snarky with me, “MAGE killed the wrong one” etc, and everything continued in this vein for the entire instance. They wouldn’t sheep the mob I asked for (so I could spellsteal the buff). The fact is – I’m a keen pug observer, and I knew quite well that the real issue was the resto druid was not a very strong healer, except that I’d never say so. Somehow, I became the de fact scapegoat for this run. (No goat jokes, please). We wiped on the last boss because they wanted to do the “stand in the square” achievement, and I thought to myself (and almost typed sarcastically) “How are they going to find a way to blame THIS on me?”

Well. As it happens! I should NOT have used Time Warp at the Lynx (I always use Time Warp at the lynx) because the Dragonhawk is harder to heal and so clearly that is the reason we failed. At this point I just threw up on my hands and didn’t fight it. We killed the boss, not without a struggle (Time Warp notwithstanding) the druid let the tank die and then had to battle-rez him. I should mention, as a footnote, that I did 40% of the damage in this instance. Yes, that’s integral to the story, because apart from the Dragonhawk mix-up I think I was doing a pretty good job. When I left the group, the tank and healer were still congratulating each other on their respective awesomeness, because WHAT AN EPIC BATTLEREZ.

The point I’m trying to make is that DPS get no respect. I have seen this attitude mostly in tanks and healers, and yet also adopted by the DPS themselves. Think of self-deprecating comments like “I’m just a DPS,” or “He/She is JUST a DPS,” or “We just need a DPS.” There are more of us, so naturally, we’re expendable in the extreme. Heroic runs can be a revolving door of DPS players and nobody cares. There are three per group, or 5-6 per raid group. People think that what we do is easy, we are highly replaceable, and really not worthy of respect. Therein lies the problem for those of us who have the ability to play multiple characters: If everyone is going to assume you are a meter-humping mouthbreather, why wouldn’t you want to play another character?

Here’s where the problem gets sticky, especially for those of us who are responsible adults. You want to help (your guild, your friends, random pugs, whatever) so you make a tanking or a healing character. For a double-dose of responsibility you can make a tanking character with a healing off-spec! Now there’s no problem with this. It’s true that fewer people play tanks, and fewer people play healers. It may not seem so based on the blog community – I think there are more healing blogs than DPS blogs and more of both types than tanking blogs – but in general, the population is a pyramid with DPS on the bottom and tanks at the top. LFD queues bear this out as well. So someone has to play them – and the natural response of a thinking, responsible adult is to want to fill these roles. Because we know we are capable of doing them, but not because we truly love them.

This becomes a problem. I actually chose to play a priest when I first started playing because I thought it would be the most useful. The book that I bought about Warcraft (don’t laugh) actually asked the question, “Do you like to help people? If so, then being a healer might be a good role for you.” I did like to help people, and a priest could do that. It was the ultimate healer, a healer so healy that they had more than one tree devoted to it. I didn’t dislike healing. I still don’t necessarily dislike it. But the guild we were in had an abundance of tanks and healers, whereas truly good DPS were a great rarity. Consider the opposite to what the Warcraft guide was inadvertently suggesting: If you DON’T like to help people, you should play a DPS.

It’s not often you see DPS players advocate for each other. I mean – we are so disparate, a lot of times. You aren’t likely to have many people of your same class in a raid, especially a ten-person raid. You won’t hear a mage talk about solidarity with rogues or shadow priests. The other issue is that DPS are tacitly “competing” with one another. We want to be the best, to do the most damage, and that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a fellow feeling with other DPS. This only compounds the problem: DPS are seen as being selfish. They aren’t assuming the responsibility that the tanks and healers are, they get off easy, they’re a dime a dozen, etc.

It’s this attitude that drives people to heal and tank. Which wouldn’t be an issue on its own, if they weren’t hating every minute of it. Are you playing the class or character you’re playing because it’s what you really, truly love? Or is it because you feel that you have to because no one else will? Trust me, because I know. It leads to resentment. It leads to frustration. And ultimately it may lead to you not even enjoying the game you are playing, so that at one point you sit up in your chair and wonder what the heck you are doing devoting hours of your life to something making you miserable.

The problem that Cynwise and I both share (if you choose to see it as a problem) is that we are adaptable players, able to play multiple characters and learn how to fill other roles. That’s not me being self-congratulatory, and I also specialize in just two – tanking isn’t really my thing. This is a problem because we’re also the kind of people who want to feel as if we matter, and who want to help people. This is always going to result in a pull away from the somewhat isolated, self-sufficient damage dealing role. We’re not as helpful, not as useful as we could be, and it’s that potential that gets us in trouble. As Cynwise said, he can’t help but feel he could better contribute to the success of his team if he were playing a healer. Honestly though, I’m not sure.

An old friend of mine, a fellow DPS, once told me that many more people can play a healer decently (not necessarily exceptionally) than can play a truly outstanding DPS. I think it’s the kind of statement that can’t be verified, but the part I want to take away from it is not anything disparaging against healers, but rather, the clearly stated DPS pride that he espoused. He was the first person (and one of the few) I have met who was truly dedicated and proud of being a DPS player. Never apologizing just for existing, or for taking up a spot in a group, he knew that in any group he was a major factor in its success, and he was right. I know I could definitely stand to examine my own attitude towards DPS players, and I suspect we probably all could. Appreciate the unique challenges of all the roles without assigning value to them. Yes, there are fewer tanks and healers in a raid group. The role comes with greater responsibility and somewhat higher visibility when it comes to failure. But we can’t tank and heal the bosses to death. I think it’s sad that a mediocre tank or healer is more likely to receive accolades than all but the greatest DPS players. We’re playing what we love. It doesn’t make us shirkers, slackers or fail players. You have to play what you love, otherwise why are you playing?

Another unfinished sketch, this time of my mage on the OTHER side, Jikali.

Been Waiting A Long Time For This…

I don’t often blow my horn about my guild. (I don’t think I do, anyhow, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I do write about my guild’s experiences where they intersect with something I want to talk about. Every now and then, though, I just really want to go on about something significant.

Many thanks to Draos from my guild for a number of screenshots used in this post.

Six months ago we were finishing up our last heroic ICC kill. Things didn’t look promising from there – heroic Lich King is a fight that was highly tuned for a strict ten guild. That’s not to say that none have done it (I know of at least two and one is an awesome blogger)!

As the months went on, it began to look like an H LK kill would slip through our fingers. We were plagued by personnel issues as we flailed against the Summer Boss. There were vacations (including Voss and I going on vacation in October). We were demoralized. We actually decided to stop working on H LK, period.

Longtime readers will remember how we discussed and wavered about whether or not we would keep our strict ten ranking. Ultimately, we decided to drop it. It was more important to us to have all our guildies in one place. Many of us “stricters” went out and tried ICC 25 in the weeks that followed. Most of us didn’t get any loot, anyhow. We no longer “ranked.” We’d decided to let H LK go. It gnawed at me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to force the guild to do something that they didn’t want to do.

One night, I was flying around Icecrown with Voss doing Argent Tournament dailies. He told me he was whispering with one of our paladin tanks, Meraxis. Mer had gotten a whisper from a guy in a 25-man guild on our server. They’d been armory stalking us and wanted to know if Mer, Voss, and Pan (our discipline priest) would like to join their H LK attempts. I remember sitting silently for a few minutes and then turning to Voss.

We should be doing that fight,” I said to him. “We shouldn’t be doing it with some other people. We should be doing it together. Do you think anyone else still wants to do it? That is so wrong.”

“Let’s ask,” he said, and we asked in guildchat. My visceral reaction was one of simple wrongness – that our guildies should be working on such a tough achievement with some other random people, instead of their raiding guild. Everyone who was online at the time (some six or seven of us) wanted to do it. We made a forum post. Nine out of fourteen people responded with a resounding yes and two more told me later they didn’t realize they had to post for it to be understood that they wanted to do it. We wanted to do it. We started working on it again.

It was not easy to get the team together. Scheduling hated us. Vacations and timing hated us, but we kept at it, extending our lockout, re-clearing for more chances at gear that might make an infinitesimal difference on the fight. As the weeks ticked by we increasingly felt the crunch – there was a hard deadline for this achievement and we were staring it down. Last week’s attempts ended on a high note – we got him to thirty-eight percent, our best attempt yet.

This week, we got him to thirty-three percent. On our next best attempt…

I am not sure I breathed for the last five minutes of the encounter. It was all a blur of desperate, focused intensity. Our first Harvest Soul went without a hitch. We followed our paladin tank and danced the dance and our healers were incredible and we came through. Everything was going fine until the second Harvest Soul. Even that went fine – we came out, but our paladin tank dropped quickly.

“Can we get a battle rez on him?!” I blurted into Vent. Ulla got him up but then we went back into Shadowmourne and this time lost our holy priest. No one said anything in the tension but you could FEEL us all focusing. It was getting down to the crunch. As we came out, our poor unbuffed paladin ate another Soul Reaper and went down again.

“HANG IN THERE,” I yelped as Voss quickly picked up the big bad.

“Two percent left, come on guys,” our paladin said.

Living Bomb, Scorch, don’t get hit by Vile Spirits, yesss pyroblast, fireball, fireball, come on, come on…

Yes, you heard me. DEAD.

DEAD. The sound was deafening. We annoyed everyone by sitting and watching the cinematic again. No, there is no heroic version. But the incredible feeling of succeeding at this lent it extra emotion to me.

I have never been prouder of our guild. We didn’t get this kill earlier, and that’s OK. We didn’t even get it while we were “ranked” strict ten. But there is no one who has 277 gear (aside from our rings, naturally). We’re all dressed pretty much exactly as we were when we were still as strict as can be. In our hearts we’ve never been anything but a tens guild, and this is a great triumph. I’m immensely happy. I’m excited to go back and do it again since everyone was not there.

It also bears mentioning that this kill holds significant personal significance for me, for one very good reason:

I did it with my main. Not a single member ever complained to me that I swapped moonkin for mage post-4.0. Originally the intent was for people to “try out” new specs and classes, I’ll admit that I seized the opportunity to play the character I have missed since January. It was selfish of me. Millya’s gear isn’t quite as good as Shae’s was. But damn it, she is my Millya. She is Bane of the Fallen King, and I know who my true main always will be, and I couldn’t have done that without my generous and uncomplaining guildies. I don’t think I was holding us back in the final kill (for any WoL nerds, like me). But this story doesn’t have a star. Everyone tonight was awesome and essential to our success. I am so proud I could burst!

Congratulations, Business Time! Tonight you were all down to just your socks.

Oh, he's fallen all right.

Why MMOs Are Good For Your Children

These aren't actually my kids. Especially the pale one.

In a society where headlines tend to favour the sensational, you don’t hear much about the good things video games can do. We’ve all seen news articles and television features about the negative effects of video games. A search on Google for just that yields no shortage of results. As an avid gamer (and someone who has been an avid gamer from a very young age) I think it should come as no surprise that I’m going to go the other way with this.

First of all, I feel I should explain my point of view. I’ve been playing video games since Frogger was a big thing. I saved my money from my paper route to fund our first Super Nintendo. The plain old NES belonged to my brother – and I hated that he got to keep it in his room! I had to get his permission before I could play Bubble Bobble with my Mom. I spent hours watching him play Zelda. Later, I owned a Playstation, a Playstation II, and then a Playstation III. I played the old Sierra Games (So You Want To Be A Hero?) I don’t believe that playing video games has made me a violent person. It has made me a more imaginative person, and it definitely helped my hand eye coordination.

Criticism of people who play video games goes hand in hand with other tropes about loners, nerds, geeks – social deviants, aberrant, homely people sitting in basements because they can’t interact with “the real world.” At its core, most gaming is a solitary pursuit, instinctively mistrusted by folks who think you’d be better off joining the local bowling league or “getting some fresh air.” I don’t subscribe to the notion that some hobbies are “better” than others. They are just different. Obviously moderation is the key, here. When it comes to children, one criticism leveled against video games is that kids should be engaged in more physically active pursuits. On the one hand, I agree. Game systems like the Wii that involve movement are well-suited to kids and can help combine those two goals. But don’t forget, I grew up in an extremely Northern climate. When it’s minus fifty degrees Celsius outside, you don’t send the kids out to play. Winter lasts a really long time.  My brother and I fostered a lifelong love of video games, and I’m going to tell you why that’s not a bad thing.

Socializing

Obviously this is dependent on the age of your children. You don’t just want to set your kids free to talk to any stranger they meet on the internet! Game responsibly, people. But socializing, as you know, is a major aspect of any MMO. I have known people who played WoW with their appropriate-aged children, and either joined or created a family-oriented guild. There’s a story on the Warcraft site about a grandmother who plays with her kids, and her grandkids too. This touches on a recent Breakfast Topic over at WoW Insider about using WoW to keep in touch. I know that I read recently about a grandmother who was playing with her grandkids over a long distance. Speaking as someone whose grandparents lived on the other side of the country, I know it can be tough when you don’t get to see them and really, it’s as if they are strangers. As long as parents are keeping an eye on how the game is being used, I can absolutely see it as being a great tool to interact and spend time with family and friends. It’s cheaper than a phonecall and cooperative, too.

Sharing

Anyone who has read some of my pug horror stories knows that some people playing this game aren’t necessarily poster children for Ms. Manners. However, think of the last time you encountered someone who you thought exhibited bad manners. I’m a firm believer that most social behaviours are learned ones, whether you’re learning them in real-life or in a virtual world. If someone rudely Needs on loot or makes an unsavory remark and the rest of the group reacts in a civil but disapproving manner, there’s a message being sent. Even though you might think the teenagers playing this game don’t pay attention or don’t care, I might be a hopeless optimist to think that some do care, and some do notice. I meet many more polite and friendly people than I do real jerks. I’m not even convinced that the jerks I meet are actually young people.

Especially if you play along with your child and demonstrate these positive behaviours, MMOs like WoW are constantly providing opportunities to learn about fairness and sharing. Jimmy lost the roll on that sword? Well, better luck next time, but that’s fair. Everyone in the group worked to earn that loot. Another time he will win something that he wanted – and the group will congratulate him and he can thank them, graciously. Hey, it’s not just reading and math games that teach lessons!

This one isn't mine either. They're a bit gawky when they're young, aren't they?

Teamwork

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t much of an athlete when I was growing up. I grew tall very quickly and it took me a few years to coordinate everything. (Read: stop tripping over my own feet). I did eventually participate in some sports – mostly track and field.  My point is, while I’m sure WoW has its share of natural athletes that play – it might be fair to say that on average most players might not be. (Notice there’s many qualifiers, because I’m sure Awesome Paladin Tank who is ALSO nearly a pro football player will comment! Of course, I’m generalizing.) The point is, that many kids who might be drawn to MMOs may not be naturally inclined to team sports. Like me, they may have had an awkward stage. Or, to be perfectly honest, just not be much “into” sports.
I wasn’t even good at group projects or any other kind of group work. They always frustrated me. I wanted to do things by myself – this held true even into my college years. I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all to say that end-game experience in Warcraft has given me a new found appreciation and facility for working with others. Other people may eventually get this of necessity from a job or other task. Perhaps I just came to this understanding late in life – but I have found that working with a group of other people can be a great deal of fun. It was a skill I had to learn – and I think that it’s a valuable one. I wish I’d figured it out at a younger age – maybe if I’d been playing more social-based video games, I would have!

Organization and Leadership

I remember reading about Tam’s guild in Never Never Land. The majority of the guild was between the ages of 16-19, generally. I don’t remember what I was doing at that age (err I was on the yearbook committee?) but that’d be the closest thing I ever came to the elaborate HR Resource Management game that is running an (apparently successful) guild in WoW. Whether or not Tam actually stuck around, I think it’s still a pretty amazing testament to what a positive thing the game can be. These are teens who were scheduling raids, making sure everyone showed up to raids, leading those same raids. I think that’s fabulous! Whether you are leading them in a game or elsewhere,  that’s a valuable experience. Tam also mentioned that these folks had some of the strictest rules about respecting other people in the guild and not making belittling, racist, or sexist jokes. Even better.
At one point in our raiding career, Voss and I were raiding with a paladin and his two young brothers, a rogue and a mage. They were very much younger brothers to the paladin’s twenty-something, being eleven and thirteen. They  seldom spoke in Vent at all, and he helped make sure that they knew what their jobs were. His whole family played Warcraft so his mother would listen in on our raids from time to time. (Initially, to make sure that we weren’t crazy people). I’ve never known raiders more polite and appreciative than those two fellows. They were never greedy about loot. They were always on time. They never failed to thank us at the end of the raid. For the time we raided with them I think they were afforded an opportunity to raid with adults and their brother in a respectful environment – and they definitely proved that they’d earned the right to be there.

Accomplishment

There are some who might scoff at “accomplishments” in a video game. I don’t think any of them are reading here, though. Just recently I wrote about how thrilled I was to finally down Firefighter with my guild. We all had a rush of happiness and pride after killing The Lich King. That sense of setting a goal, and achieving it – whether it’s a holiday achievement, killing a rare spawn, or even just to hit max level is something that people of any age can appreciate and take pride in. Setting a goal and then figuring out the steps that will lead you to it is another valuable life skill. Obviously it isn’t one you can learn only from video games or MMOs, but it’s definitely a powerful incentive. The same young men I mentioned previously, who raided with their older brother – I remember one of them had more pets than anyone I’d met previously. He was especially proud of his Kirin Tor Familiar. This is a pet that takes a significant investment of time and planning to get! I still don’t have it with my own main! (I am just one book away, though. Just one…more…book!) I don’t think anyone held his hand through that achievement. He must have looked it up on Wowhead or perhaps Warcraftpets.com. to find out where the books would spawn. Maybe he discovered the Bookclub channel on his server and joined it to coordinate with others. In any case he was definitely taking initiative to meet that specific goal, and he was rightfully proud when he did. I like to think that he applies the same spirit to school projects or finding ways to raise money for a new bike.

You Kids Get Offa My Lawn

Kids that play video games are clearly violent malcontents who will amount to nothing in society. Or, it could be that they are learning things about team work, research, setting goals, and social interactions through interacting with their peers and adults in a cooperative environment. Who’s to say? I’m sure that many “studies” have “proven” the negative effects of video games time and time again, but until then, society at large will forgive me while I remain politely skeptical! What do you think?

Flee, flee, little ones!

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