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?

It came from the PUG: Do you want cheese with that?

Unfortunately(?), all my random groups this week have been pretty good so instead of pointing the finger at outrageous behaviour, this week we’ll have to settle for mildly annoying.

Achievements are not the Marmite of WoW, very few people actively hate them with the passion of a billion blazing suns. They are more like  Nutella. Everyone likes Nutella. (Oh no, I missed World Nutella Day! How is that even possible?)

But most of us like it in moderation, and not with every single meal. I reserve the option to say, “No thanks, I respect that your tastes differ from mine but I’ll have my steak without Nutella today.” Frankly, Nutella with steak is an experience you want to share only with very close and special friends, who will put up with experimental cooking techniques and later forgive you if it turns out to be disgusting. Now, imagine Nutella if you also won a special prize for eating a whole jar without throwing up. And if you ate every meal with people who insisted on slathering it over everything and forcing you to do that too.

Yeah, you might go off it after awhile too.

So, back to achievements. A poster on the EU boards this week suggested that the LFD tool could have an option for people to select if they wanted to do achievements on their random run.

This is actually the worst idea ever for the players who do want to do achievements on their random runs.

  • Everyone who just wants some quick badges will not select achievements.
  • Every experienced player who already has finished their dungeon achievements will not select achievements (at least not on their main).
  • Every player who hates achievements will not select achievements.
  • Every player who does not feel like talking a random group through one of the more complex achievements will not select achievements.
  • Anyone bored who wants to grief people WILL select achievements.

Nope, the best way to get dungeon achievements sorted out is either to assemble a group on your home server, or bully/ cajole a random group into doing them. Guess which of those options is easiest for most players?

Now, I don’t actually mind being asked if I want to do an achievement in a dungeon run. But I expect people to give up on it gracefully when I say no. Naturally in random groups, this often does not happen.

I was called a noob this week when I declined to attempt Oculus with 5 bronze drakes. No, the reason I don’t want to do that is because I am NOT a noob and I just want my quick and easy badges without having to care whether a random group can sort out drake cooldown rotations.

Given the reluctance of people in the group to speak up or show any other behaviour that would distinguish them in any way from a doormat, I should not have been surprised to see 4 obedient little bronze drakes, and then me on my red. I left. Perhaps they got a tank who’d put up with those demands and got the achievements for them. But I still wonder if the silent members really cared about the achievement or were just falling into line with the most shouty person in the group.

As a basic rule of politeness, I go this way:

  • If even one person in the group wants to kill an extra boss, then we go kill it.
  • If even one person in the group does not want to do the achievement, then we don’t do it.

To me, the basic assumption of LFD is that the group will clear the instance with no special achievements involved. So I think anything that differs from that needs group buy-in.

But achievement junkies are often not polite. They try to bully groups into doing their achievements. They harass and abuse anyone who does not fall into line. So I save everyone the bother these days and just leave as soon as the question even gets asked (unless it’s the sort of achievement that we were going to do just by completing the instance anyway.) No, I am not interested in helping Joe Random get his achievement. I don’t like Nutella THAT much.

What would it take for you to boot someone from a group?

I’m finding the most difficult part of running instances with the new random LFG tool isn’t necessarily in handling other players of varying skill and experience. No, it’s deciding what to do when someone else puts up a vote to boot someone.

Or even worse, being in a situation where I wonder if I ought to kick off the proceedings. The vast majority of my groups have been great. But I did run one heroic which threw up the amazing combination of a rogue who put out 800 dps and a mouthy death knight (1200 dps) who insisted on pulling every group in sight because apparently that’s what dps do on his server. Hint for the clueless: If you do pull massive amounts of extra trash, make sure you have the nukage capacity in group to kill them in a reasonable amount of time. That run would undoubtedly have been a lot more successful if I’d actually booted at least one of those players. As it was, we wiped twice on Loken and then I left to go play with some guildies instead.

Like most players, I’m not fond of drama. If I’m running an instance, I want a nice fast smooth run with friendly people. I don’t want a shouting match, I don’t want to have to share virtual space with people who offend my soul, and I really don’t want to be the person to tell Ms 800 dps that she isn’t good enough to group with me.

But I wouldn’t hesitate in a moment to boot someone for sexism or homophobia (for example). I’d even mock them as I did it.

I’m not sure why the idea of booting someone for not being a good enough player bothers me so much, but I have no problem with booting them for being a twat. Surely if the group will fail if they are there, that’s good enough reason to find a replacement. The needs of the many, etc.

I can only conclude that it’s a form of geek social fallacy: ostracisers are evil – I wouldn’t like it if I was thrown out of a group just for not being good enough, so I don’t like doing that to other people.

How about you? What would you boot players for? Or in fact, what have you already booted them for, and why?

Rudeness? Stupid name? Didn’t want the competition for a drop? Poor play? Poor gear?