Whiny Post Day: What would you sacrifice at the altar of progression?

A couple of weeks ago, Klepsacovic came up with the idea of Whiny Post Day.

And so I announce to you, the first annual Whiny Post Day of March 17. On this day, bloggers everywhere are allowed to make one whiny post in solidarity with their fellow bloggers who are also making whiny posts.

Tobold and Larisa have already taken up the challenge, and I’m very intrigued to see what other bloggers come up with. I suspect that for all of us, the topic we select here is fairly core to how we feel about blogging and MMOs.

It’s a game, why do so many people want to make it like work?

I have been a gamer for most of my life.

My great aunts taught me to play Rummy and Poker. My grandmother taught me to play Scrabble. At family gatherings, we often brought out the board games. And let’s not forget the epic sibling battles over Monopoly which often wound up with the board upended and pieces all over the floor. Later on, I played RPGs with cousins, and with friends at college. And there were computer games – single player and MUDs/ MUSHes. Collectible card games like Illuminati. And so on.

But aside from the single player games, all of those gaming activities were social. The games had objectives and we played to win, but they were social activities. We played because we wanted to play together.

I thought in the beginning that MMOs would be like that also. They weren’t so dissimilar to our MUSHes really, just with extra graphics, more grind, things to do with other people … and less roleplaying.

But the basis of MMO relationships isn’t the same as with RL friends. Friends in MMOs form because they want more progression and think you can help. That’s the basis of all MMO relationships. In many ways, it’s like being at work where networking and cultivating ‘work friendships’ is important for your career. This isn’t true of everyone, of course, it is possible to wind up with a tight knit group of people who all have similar attitudes and goals and work on your progression together. But you will likely meet because you all wanted to run the same instance, or blast through some quests together, or work on some other joint progression-related goal.

This is why friendly guilds so rarely work in WoW. Everyone can act friendly as long as it suits them, but as soon as they have to choose between sticking with the friends and progressing together or jumping to another guild with faster progression, the majority will jump. Again, it’s very similar to a work atmosphere where no one would ever expect you to delay your personal career for the team.

I’m not immune to this lure, I switched raid groups during the last WoW expansion for this exact reason. But it was only recently that I had more time to think about exactly why this pressure made the game less fun for me. And it’s because I don’t play games because I want to play ‘being at work.’ Maybe that’s fun for students who are intrigued by the world of work. Or maybe it’s fun for people who want to play at corporate career making if they’re not happy with how their real job is going. Or maybe for people who are high flyers at work and can’t switch off.

But I am a social player. There is a limit to how far I can enjoy a game where people are more friendly to me when I am leading raids (because they want a raid spot) and will ditch me as soon as they get a better offer. I expect that at work, where it is both logical and pragmatic.

And I think I come full circle now, back to appreciating gaming with RL friends and family. Not because there would never be any pressure to guild hop or progression hop in MMOs if we all were playing together, but because I know that our friendship is based on something just a little more.

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19 thoughts on “Whiny Post Day: What would you sacrifice at the altar of progression?

  1. But, but, but what if Progression isn’t necessarily your primary goal? What if it’s more about the people and having fun with like minded individuals? What if you could give a rat’s tail if you ever killed the main Baddie in a expansion BUT still played the game with a semblance of knowing what the hell you are doing? I don’t care if I ever kill Illidan/Arthas/Fill_in_the_blank, I DO get a lot of joy from doing things in dungeons the proper way with people who are having fun as well. Ragefire Chasm at level with no “gogogogoggo” Types can be as much of a blast with friends as downing the newest baddie.

  2. I don’t see how RL friendships would be any different. Don’t tell me you did not have girl friends who ditched you in the second they found a boyfriend!

    The only difference between RL and MMO in this respect is that RL progression is slower, so the “friend ditching” rate is much slower. It may gives you the impression that these friendships hold. However it’s just like the circumstances being more stable.

    • I don’t know. In my experience, RL friendships begin when you meet people with whom you have something in common. Sometimes over the years people drift away because they don’t have those things in common any more (eg. you make friends with people at university because you’re all living so close by, but when people move away, they realise that for some of them that was the only thing they had in common.)

      It does happen in games too, I suppose. Just more quickly. And you can make friends with someone and then they decide to get all hardcore progression and move on. But it is unnerving when you know that you’re still all playing the same game, and hanging out would be as simple as whispering to someone or grouping with them, but people still drift away.

  3. Here’s my honest take on MMO friendships. Most of them are built on a foundation of virtual quicksand. When all is said and done people will always choose progression, advancement and loot over friendship and camaraderie.

    People are self-centered.

    Sure you will find some exceptional people who you’ll meet but 95% of people are in it for themselves. Other players are just a stepping stone for them to be used.

    Once a guild is of no use to someone suddenly they find reasons and excuses to find a better guild. I’ve seen this time and time again as I’ve been playing MMOs for over 11 years now.

    The sad thing is that with WoW it’s accelerated and even worse since there are less group interdependency mechanics that bind people together.

    The magic of virtual worlds is that they give you the illusion that other people care and are your friends. And why not? Virtual worlds are all about illusion in the first place. Nothing is real here and that goes for the friendships. The faster a player learns this, the better.

    • “Most of them are built on a foundation of virtual quicksand. When all is said and done people will always choose progression, advancement and loot over friendship and camaraderie.”

      In a loot and gear-based system, I agree that that’s so.

      Having played Guild Wars for over a year, in a NON-gear-stat-loot based system, I have to say, it greatly favours friendship and camaraderie.

      I have more Guild War friends now, after a year (as in, people I just like talking to, and playing with is a bonus), than I had in my entire 3.5 years in WoW.

      Environment changes how people behave. Certainly, I was much more calculating and mercenary about my associations with people in WoW – even though it took leaving, and finding I’d made not a single real friend – to realise it.

      Just trying to say, don’t tar all MMOs with the same sad gunk. I believe it’s gear-loot-progression that to a very large degree, forces these choices.

      • Agreed, Nugget. Those are real people on the other end, even if they are presented via anonymous masks. Do we not all wear masks of a sort in “real life” anyway?

        I’ve made friends in MMOs and even in blogging, but it’s not because they do stuff for me, it’s because of shared interest and mutual respect.

        I find that friendship is more about what you give, not what you get.

  4. Heh, that’s the very reason I’ve been MMOing with mainly the same group of people for 9 years now. (Primordial Malice FTW!). Of course, that’s also why I haven’t seen the uber high end of most of the games since EQ1. But that’s ok – I play with friends, real friends, and that’s more important.

  5. I was actually having a discussion with one of my officers about this. We were looking back to the past of our guild, now that we’ve breached the 1 year mark. We started out as “That Guild”, the one that advertises in trade chat with ascii symbols in in it’s name. We’re now one of the better raiding guilds on the server. And we made a lot of changes in between. And loosing the Umlaut was not one of them.

    Sometimes, what you sacrifice is a price you don’t pay. As we talked, we started to tally the toll of people. Me taking over as GM, shifting from free rolls to DKP, instituting a website, absorbing another guild for raiders, changing the raid schedule, and changing the criteria for raid invites all helped us become the quality guild that we are right now. But each step, we lost people who didn’t want to go that far.

    We looked at some of the people that left, and figure out where they went, and where they are now. For the 32 people who raid regularly with us at the moment to where we currently are, at least 54 other players who were happy with how the guild was running at the time, have either quit raiding, or quit wow altogether as a result of those changes made.

    My choice to pursue progression has left a trail of bodies on the way to that goal. That’s what we sacrificed to get to where we are now.

    • It is a sobering thought, until you remember that if the guild had not chosen to pursue progression, you would still have lost people. They just would have been different ones (possibly including yourself, if progression was a main goal for you.)

      I know I have played games that made it easier for players with different goals to be in the same guilds than WoW. But even then, if someone wants to get more hardcore, the chances are that a specialised guild will meet their needs better than their original friends.

      It’s all very goal oriented, which makes me sad.

      • “It’s all very goal oriented, which makes me sad.”

        Aye, that’s the heart of it. I wish it were play oriented. The way I play, it is, but I’m well aware that I’m not normal.

  6. The rub is of course that progression is fun.

    But is it worth the price? Your milage may vary.I wonder what the new developments in Cata’ will do for this as the current model is certainly flawed.

    On the other hand I do know some people who actively enjoy guild politics and all the rest of it most of us consider traumatising. The same is true in all human activities of course from The ‘Womens Institue Mafia’ [you wouldnt believe the amount of back stabbing and duplicity I witnessed once over over a prize winning victoria sponge] down at my local village hall through to actual politics.

    • “But is it worth the price? Your milage may vary.”

      It’s probably worth the price if you are the progression minded person who isn’t getting ditched :)

      • I was actualy thinking…no it isnt worth it in either case…ie getting left behind by progression minded Guildies or actualy doing that yourself. Basicaly it sucks either way.

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  9. I’m glad for you you are finding a way to be happy in playing the game of Wow!

    Just be careful in implying that someone who is in fact goal-oriented in their gameplay is ‘doing it wrong’ or not enjoying it at all.

    It’s the old goal-oriented vs social-oriented dynamic. Both can be valid, and a good balance can be struck.

    I myself don’t play with my RL friends that play Wow. I talk Wow with them all the time, but my preference is in fact quite goal-oriented, and that’s the way I like it.

    Kudos to you for finding your way!

  10. I’ve been approached several times, as I know at least half a dozen other players in our raid comm. have, by groups more progressed than ourselves. Some of them moved (several of whom moved to a raid comm with their RL friends, which may or may not have been the deal-broker). As far as I’m aware, the majority who have thought about it have actually opted to stay. All of them had… well, for want of a better word, skill to succeed in those groups.

    Those are just those who have been nosed out by other groups and actively asked if they would like to switch. I’d be astonished if there weren’t another dozen or so who hadn’t entertained the thought of switching.

    As far as I’m aware, we’ve had some 70 players in our raid comm. over the 14 months we’ve raided in Wrath. About 40 of them are still currently active. Most of those remaining 30 ceased raiding rather than leaving for another group.

    So, based purely on our group, I’d disagree that everyone is fundamentally progress driven to the extent of guild-hopping to achieve it. I can’t argue with progress-orientated play: I know for a fact that whenever I fulfil my current goal, I almost immediately loose interest in the game for some period of time. But at least in our little corner of the WoW world – with more than a few players who would fit in extremely well, in my opinion, in much more progressive communities (of whatever avenue) – we’re mostly happy to stay in our social raid group.

    In fact, I giggle inside when I hear of someone who jumps ship to enjoy more progress, only to find that more progress isn’t all its cracked up to be, and jumps back.

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