Playing with friends vs playing with strangers

It’s amazing how different the experience can be between playing with friends and playing with strangers.

It’s Us vs Them. Friendly NPCs vs Enemy NPCs. People who are there to help you vs people who are there to annoy you. Moral support vs obstacle to be overcome.

Even if you are the perfect Pollyanna and see all strangers as potential future friends, truth is there are a lot of random players you would never want to be friends with. Maybe they’re horrible people. Maybe you are horrible people.  Maybe they just play so differently that you have nothing in common. Nothing except … a brief meeting in an instance run, like two ships that pass in the night. But then again, some of the coolest, most hilarious, and most unexpected encounters I have had with other players has come from random people in instances. They can’t ALL be the enemy.

How we act with friends

So your friends or guildies are people who you know and encounter in game frequently. You know each other’s in-game history – who is the new alt, who knows the instance backwards, who likes to rush, who prefers to go slow, who loves/hates achievements.  And hopefully, you trust your friends.

You are more likely to have discussed your goals for the run before zoning in, and more likely to discuss any issues while in the instance. So for example, if it’s an achievement run, people will know before they join. Friends will also (usually) not boot you if you are having a bad day, it’s enough that you say sorry and explain that you were hungover/ distracted/ stupid and don’t do it again.

Since they are friends and you expect to be dealing with them again, you’re more likely to agree to any requests (can I take this for my alt/ offspec? can we try achievement X?). You have an understanding that they’ll reciprocate. in future if not right now. It’s all part of building an ongoing relationship and strengthening existing social bonds.

Your friends will not only listen to requests, they will also listen to criticism and helpful suggestions. So if someone really isn’t playing well, you expect a friend to take helpful advice without throwing their toys out of the pram — admittedly a lot of this comes down to how the advice is given.

On the other hand, because you’re comfortable with each other, you may also push the bounds more than with a random group. If you want to try crazy deathwish pulls, you do it with friends who you know can handle it. Messing around together is part of the fun of gaming with friends, whether it means attempting instances when you underman or undergear them, running Gundrak in 3.5 minutes, or pulling two more groups before you realise that the healer died (I have never done this, it’s purely hypothetical! And we didn’t wipe anyway!)

Playing nice with others

There may be some people out there who treat every random PUG member as if they were a long lost friend, but they’re not the majority. However, some people genuinely are more careful and polite with strangers than with guildies. Others treat strangers like trash (or like NPCs, which comes to the same thing).

If you want to come across as classy, pick the former rather than the latter. It also encourages other players to reciprocate, nudging them towards ‘treat this person like a player, not an NPC.’ To humanise the other player. Yes, this is like the way hostage negotiators act, possibly a chilling concept.

When the hostage-taker gets to know the hostages and sees them as human beings, it becomes more difficult to execute them.

We call this behaviour playing nicely with others. Whether or not it’s really worth it in a 10 minute instance run with people you may never see again is up for debate. This also follows Henry Higgins’ sage advice: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

So if you want someone to act like a lady, treat them like a lady.

There are times when players will just disagree on what it means to be polite. Is it polite to ask for an achievement? Is it polite to say no? Is it polite to queue up for a random instance if you haven’t bothered to gem and enchant your gear? Is it polite to queue as a tank if you can’t tank and don’t have the gear for it anyway? Is it polite to throw a strop, pull three groups, and then vanish mid-fight if someone doesn’t agree to your request?

These aren’t issues we have with guildies. There’s no need to pussy-foot around being polite, because they’re friends so we feel more comfortable to just explain how we feel. And hopefully no strops ensue.

Do you play differently with friends than with strangers? Any way in particular?

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12 thoughts on “Playing with friends vs playing with strangers

  1. I just like playing with my guild. I don’t feel all stressed out. The problem is I have gone back to playing WAR without basically knowing anyone. I have to say it sucks, and probably will be the reason I unsubscribe again.

  2. I don’t play differently, and that may be one problem I have with pugging: I expect 100% from them, especially from support when I’m tanking. Then again, the guildies are so well geared that there is no doubt about their -or their alts- support.

    I’ve been thinking the situation from the other side though. When you join a new guild, how soon can you expect to be trusted enough and how can you tell you are trusted to be part of the ‘team’? You will never be ‘one of the oldies’ because you have just come in, but you won’t be the ‘new kid’ forever.

    But like I stated in the beginning, I do not play differently. My main focus is to be better in what I do, not evaluate others except when they deliberately fail. Even then I’m first offering help and guidance -if I can- and it doesn’t change a thing if it’s for a guildie or a stranger.

    C out

  3. Playing good with others.

    I do try. I’m running more PuGs these days. Part of this is having my own tank, part of it is being slightly off-colour and wanting the lack of interaction of the PuG.
    Mostly I find PuGs fine. Occasionally you just get a case of fail, like the feral druid that refused to res as ‘Am not resto, ‘tard!’ or AFK. I was particularly annoyed by the t10 rogue who appeared to be on /follow and did zero damage outside of boss fights.

    However the thing that gets my dander up is the bizarre achievement desires of PuGers. Nutellea syndrome I shall refer to it as Spinks has covered the topic well.
    I try to be polite. I try and help people through or explain I do not in fact want to spend time wiping on getting les-rabi or whatever (as I already have it on my main and dont care about the others) BUT and here’s where I am perhaps being _bad_ is that once I’ve noted that politeness has failed I simply either vote kick the offender or leave party. I simply dont have the time/energy to get into it with the lolkidz or want the hostility. Add to /ignore and leave. And in a really bad example I just leave. (The shammy healer is stacking spirit, the Dk tank is in Blood presence and has no def gear and the mage pulled despite nobody having mana :- including him. All in one group.). I’ll be polite and try to explain/educate where it looks like there’s at least the ghost of sentience….but sometimes the mountain looks so large.

    To paraphrase a hostage rescue expert of my slight acquaintance*:- Sometimes you stop talking and just shoot them all before they do anything else silly.

    (*Okay I spent a great couple of days being taught how to kick down doors, not to brush against walls when sneaking up on someone, the proper manner to grenade a room and when its okay to take their wallets. The actual phraseology was somewhat more direct and to the point. Interestingly one of the most famous hostage situations was resolved dramatically during daytime for the TVcamera’s just to send a ‘no tolerance’ message. As opposed to doing it with night vision gear while most of the bad guys were asleep. Sometimes it’s worth making a noise to modify behaviour. Cheers Mssr MacAlvennie a fantastic couple of days and my sympathy for your recent loss)

  4. Although it is very, very well written, I had expected a bit more, after reading the headline.

    Being polite is of course always the best choice in life, however you can directly influence any group if you use their behavior pattern to your advantage.

    To explain the basic concept, I beg your pardon of introducing some denglish, but sadly this very self explaining phrase does not exist in English (or at least I have not heard it so far):

    Schmidt sucht Schmidtchen – Smith searches for Smithy

    Although it has a bad connotation it basically says, that you are always searching for someone who is similar to yourself but “smaller”.
    Besides, we know a phenomenon called Echoing: I attend the Sites, Blogs etc. which share my opinion.

    Obviously a PuG is not an Echo-Chamber, since it consists of different people with different attitudes.

    Keeping in mind, that no form of zero or no communication exists, everyone in a PuG is sending and receiving signals to find his peers.

    I hate Smilies and Leed Speech, for this strangers often consider my messages impolite, on the other hand I have found most of my peers because of using mature communication.

    People can get aggressive, if you question their opinion. So instead of calling them wrong, a better idea would be saying “Yes, but …”. This obviously does not solve the problem that he is wrong, but gives him the chance to keep his face, while following your suggestion.

    I hate Voice Chats, but most Raid Leaders tend to either explain nothing, or to give a long history of the boss childhood, his parents and his last votes for nutella subventions, or just get aggressive during the fight, shouting at everyone, asking them to do things, they are already doing. (More DPS!!! Overheal!!!)
    Because I hate it, I have been chosen as our Raid-Tourist-Guide (follow the Umbrella..), and they love me for doing the job.

    … but, when we start Raiding with PuGs, they tend not to listen. The average PuG Raider, is either Twink of some high end raider, or someone who is deeply convinced of his abilities, why should he listen, to something he already knows?

    At that point we achieved the best results by giving Raid Lead to our Ladies.
    (Banning the Singstar Addon usually is enough to make them talk.)

    The effect of a female voice to a testosterone tortured, lonely soul is incredible.

    So Yes, treat others the way you like to be treated. … or treat them the way that suits your purpose the best, without making them feel being used.

    • I think you’re right actually, this is a huge topic and I have only just brushed the surface.

      For example, MMOs often feel friendlier when they have just gone live because people have not yet completely settled into their cliques. It may be inevitable that an older game tends to feel more unfriendly, purely /because/ a lot of people treat friends better than strangers.

      Also, a game that encourages people to play often with large groups of strangers (eg, WAR battlegroups) will tend to feel friendlier than one that encourages them to form into tight-knit 25 and 10 man cliques … there’s some food for thought there, especially since ‘networks of friends’ are one of the things that tie people into a game longterm.

      And wait …. is there really a Singstar addon? :) I must get it.

      I do think there are ways in which game design can make a game friendlier. I wonder if the WoW team will dabble in social engineering for cataclysm, aside from having guild goals.

      • Yes, there is a Singstar Addon, and being able to use turn your headset so loud, that you can not hear your own voice usually encourages the Singer and ends in deep panic of its surrounding. It is a tool of great powers, that not everyone is supposed to use.

        It’s funny, that you mention Warhammer, because we talked a few days ago about our experience there. Actually, I think it is a pretty good example social wise.

        Regarding your hopes for Cataclysm, I think it is fair to say, that Blizzard reached for the first time a Crossroad.

        Either they stick with the current US/Asian Style, based on Competition and Soloesque Development. (Keep in mind, Asia is their biggest Market.)

        Or they start focusing on European Teamgeist and Player generated content.

        My suggestion is, that they go with the later, because Warcraft has completed it’s life cycle and adding social components, does not bind as many resources, as having to create new Encounters over and over.
        Besides the fact, that you already mentioned, social networks tying customers to a game.

        Personally, I think they are preparing Warcraft for a niche, with all those shiny, arcade style Games on the horizon, ready to satisfy the “I am Hero” Clientele.

        Coming back to your topic, there are two social extremes in an OnlineRPG, with the majority being somewhere in between.
        The one extreme, plays the game for Teamwork and Group experience, like the original P&P Games.
        The other extreme, is the SoloRPG Player, who faces the problem, that outside of the cellar, nobody cares for his achievements. For him, the OnlineRPG is stage and arena.

  5. I don’t play differently. I expect a kind of behavior from players (mature talk and OK play). If a friend does 900 DPS, I don’t kick him more or less. I’m just much more surprised, telling “how on Earth he got in my friend list?!”

    With strangers I’m simply more prepared for negative outcome of our encounter. But I won’t act differently. After all, the friends became friends exactly because they passed the test as strangers.

    • I see it this way. The people who treat everyone the same won’t care if you act civil or not, they’ll treat you the same anyway. But the people who treat friends better? They’re more likely to be nice to you if you are polite first. And it might be nice in a useful way, like giving you extra advice.

      So on balance, it makes sense to be polite.

  6. I don’t think I play very differently when I’m with my friends or strangers. I guess I just have more fun with my friends because we actually talk to each other. Pretty much every WoW PUG I’ve done, no ever says a word! It’s a real shame.

    I really believe strongly in strangers becoming friends though. All of my great cyber friends were once totally unknown to me and I can recall when I first started grouping with them. We just kept bumping into each other, eventually joined the same guild and now are all best buddies.

  7. This is one of those interesting topics that most of us take for granted or don’t tend to think about much.

    The truth is, I’m a lot more lenient with my friends because I know their capabilities and, more often than not, I’m on vent with them and we can discuss issues more openly.

    I try to be as polite as possible with strangers, and sometimes have even found friends among them – although with everyone on different servers, they are more passing than permanent friendships. But I tend to let my friends get away with more with less comment (pulling aggro, pulling mobs, running ahead, etc) than I would ever tolerate from strangers.

  8. Friend != stranger? Or does it take more to be called friend in the context of this article?
    Its allways good to start polite. But it’s easier to stay polite with strangers, while it is more necessary with friends.
    If a stranger does the same bad thing again and again, you can politly ignore him and have no troubles. Just try to do that with a friend! Drama incoming…

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