Monday, December 19, 2011

We play this game for fun, right?

There are a few recent posts out there in the WoW blogging ether whose intersection I want to talk about a little bit.

The first is Cynwise's post on motivation - and I highly recommend watching the presentation by Chris Hecker that I linked in a comment on that post.

The second and third posts are Karegina's post about LFR and Windsoar's response, touching on mental illness more broadly.

What I think is important about looking at these three posts together is that if you find a good answer for Cynwise's problem, I think you're well on the way to having a good answer for Karegina and Windsoar. I shall tell a short story to illustrate what I'm getting at.

To begin the story, we'll have to go back to the Burning Crusade. The raid guild I was in at the time was working on Mount Hyjal. I don't think we'd yet begun progression on Archimonde. In those days, Cursed Vision was the best hunter hat (and rogue hat, ret hat, cat hat, enhance hat,...) in the game, but obviously we weren't at Illidan yet. The second best hat was the season 3 PvP hat.

At the same time, my boyfriend was playing a holy paladin and the best healing gloves in the game were the PvP gloves.

The solution seems obvious, right? Obvious and, if you did arena PvP at all during season 3, pretty horrifying. It's hard to imagine a worse pair of classes to arena with at that time, and it's especially hard to imagine a worse pair wearing mostly raid gear.

I won't go into the process in detail, but we did get our PvP items, at the cost of sinking a lot of time into doing an activity that wasn't fun for either of us and made us fight and like, really? Fighting with the person you love over WoW arena losses is pretty unpleasant. And so we swore it off foreverrr-r-r-r-r!

Until, you know, Cataclysm. Kinda. Independently of other things going on, I started to do some PvP on my priest, just random BGs, and it was a lot of fun! It was even more fun when I did them with guildies, because as few as 2 or 3 of us working together could really dominate a BG. And one of the guildies I was doing them with was my boyfriend (on his DK), and we weren't fighting! Yay!

I don't remember who initially brought up the idea, but at some point it was suggested by someone that myself and my boyfriend and one of our guildies do 3v3 arenas. I thought that two factors would keep us from fighting. First, now it was me healing instead of him, so I figured he'd be less stressed by watching healthbars drop. Second, we were doing it with another person, which I thought would be better. I'm not sure why or how.

Instead we ended up in the same place we'd been before, in BC. We stopped queueing for arenas, and honestly since then I haven't done any WoW PvP.

Looking back, I think that the core mistake we made was forgetting why we'd started doing BGs together: they were fun! It wasn't particularly fair of us to (mostly) steamroll uncoordinated random BG teams, but we were having fun playing as a group, and we didn't need to have a full raid of 10 people online to do it.

So once we'd kitted ourselves out in honor gear - which took no time at all with a 85%+ win percentage - we said to ourselves "we could do arenas! We could get rating and better gear and titles and stuff!"


We shifted focus from the intrinsic fun of wrecking BGs with friends to the extrinsic carrot of titles and rating and stuff. And part of what tripped us up is that we were right about some things. We were all individually pretty capable people! But it takes a while to pick up the specialized skillset for arenas, and even then you're still vulnerable to hard counters. More importantly, the MMR system does its best to give you a 1:1 win:loss ratio, and if you're chasing rating then every loss is like "ugh we lost rating points" and it just feels crap.

Similarly, when we were doing arenas for points in BC, we wanted those points to buy things with. Every loss meant we'd have to queue one more time for the necessary points to buy the things we thought we wanted.

If you're going to be doing arenas, you should be doing them because they're fun for you. Not because you want gear for your raid toon or a cool title.

By the same token, if you're going to be queueing into LFR, it should be because you want to do LFR. Sure, when I'm in there on my hunter I'm partially doing it for gear, but it's also fun for me to do things like compare my damage done with others and just sort of watch the on-screen chaos of 25 totally uncoordinated people flailing away at nerfed versions of the encounters. For my priest and now my warrior, LFR is a way for them to do what they do in a raid-like setting.

I have encouraged my raiders to do some LFR for the gear to help with our normal-mode progression but I have also (I hope!) been clear that I totally do not require them to do so. I have tried to emphasize that I've had fun with it, and getting free purpz is a surprising side effect of that (seriously, every time I win a roll I'm astonished).

The flipside to this is that I think some guilds might require people to clear LFR weekly until they can't get anything more from it, and I think that's ok too just so long as the guild as a whole agrees to that.

What is definitively not ok is a guild that says it's fine with people that don't do things like farm the TB trinket or farm LFR but then puts a lot of pressure on members that don't want to do those things. Especially because for some of our fellow raiders and friends there are issues that magnify and compound the flaws of extrinsic rewards, totally wrecking their enjoyment of the entire game:
A couple of  years ago during a depression, I almost completely disappeared from the game. I felt too pressured to do anything but group activities, and I just couldn’t handle it. When I screwed up my courage and started telling people not now I found that, not only did my guildmates not despise me for leaving them high and dry, but I could handle playing the game on a regular basis again.
From here.

We all choose this hobby. We choose to fork over our $15 every month. We do it because we want to. It's surprising, then, that it can be so hard to keep an eye on why we choose to do that. I actually think that keeping up with this blog has helped a lot with that, for me at least, because when I get really excited about something I write about it.

I've always got a record of the things that have made me happy.

So hey - has anyone else tried that? Especially if they're feeling crap about the game at a given moment, either written down or gone back and read a previously-written bit to remind themselves about why they're in Azeroth? If not, it might be worth a shot.

And if you're considering doing something that you dread, or simply have no desire to do - I say just let it go. Concentrate on what's fun. Jettison the rest.