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?