For Love of the Game

When I was a young girl, maybe 4 or 5, my father decided to teach me how to play Solitaire. He and my mother often played a game as they watched t.v. or chatted at the end of the day, and this was a bit before PC’s were standard in anyone’s household, so no random game on the fly! My dad, being the great guy that he is, decided I should learn to play “real” solitaire where you partition out your game cards and then do the three-card flip. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that you can play (and enjoy) a hand of solitaire with the single card method, and why my dad felt I needed to learn the “real” way at 4, I’ll never know.

But I digress. After the first supervised games, I was left to my own devices, and I discovered something awesome. By flipping through the cards in my hand I could make a good guess at what was left hidden from my sight, and make better choices about what I should pull down and what should be left to linger in the flipping pile. How was I to know I was cheating!? (I actually don’t think it is, but you can be penalized for every flip of the deck or something. I’m still not quite sure since I still play solely for random amusement.)

Me: But Daddy, if I flip the cards, I have a better chance of winning.

Dad: Playing a game isn’t solely about winning. It’s about doing your best with the cards you’re dealt. You won’t always win, but you’ll still have fun trying.

This simple fact was repeated for me time and time again as I grew older. I was very involved in sports throughout high school, even if I wasn’t the best kid on the team. Although I’m highly competitive and I loved to win, I didn’t play sports because I had to win, I played because I enjoyed the game. Basically I walked away from all this adolescent molding with some very clear messages:

  • Don’t cheat
  • Play your very best
  • Play for the fun, not for the victory

Those lessons have carried over into the MMO world where I continue to “compete” against myself and NPC’s (and sometimes other players!) to play the best game. I think I enjoy raiding so much because it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll fail to some extent. You have to spend time doing everything you can to be the absolute best you can be to beat the challenges placed before you. And sometimes, the victory is never achieved, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a hell of a fun fight.

However, I am conflicted over the message that I feel many players are constantly barraged with day in and day out:

If you haven’t looked at the boss/dungeon guides before a fight you’re unprepared.

To me, this just seems like rifling through that deck of cards to maximize my chances of winning. I feel strongly enough about this, that I even notify guilds that it’s my preferred method of facing new content.

This might get me burned to a crisp, but for first encounters, I don’t read strats. Once I’ve seen the encounter for the 1st time, then I’ll read anything and everything I can find.

What is more fun that facing a new foe with a sense of mystery? Is it so bad to spend a night discovering for yourself what exactly is going on in a fight instead of relying on the experience of others to guide you? I’ve often found that after an encounter, I have a pretty firm idea of what’s supposed to be happening, but you always miss stuff the first time around, and at that time a guide can be a great way to broaden my understanding (especially of what’s happening to the tank or the dps). The reason I provide raid guides isn’t to take away your fun, it’s to provide that stepping stone between “I’ve seen and know my role” to “I need to explain this fight to other people, what’s everyone supposed to be doing” or even “why isn’t this working.”

Although I do carry that highly competitive person inside me, a victory without wonder, without fun isn’t the way I want to play the game. If you’re seeking new challenges, challenge yourself first. Be willing to die, be willing to discover for yourself, be willing to be unprepared. At least for one night ๐Ÿ™‚

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15 thoughts on “For Love of the Game

  1. You’re entitled to approach raiding in whatever method you personally enjoy. If that means showing up without any idea of the encounter, that’s perfectly fine.

    However, raiding is a team sport. If you put it in your applications and the guild is fine with it, then you’re in the clear, because everyone is on the same page. But there are usually many details to each fight that make it so you aren’t realistically going to make progress without looking at them in advance. And if everyone is looking stuff up except for you, you’re not doing your part. If someone else looked up stuff and is giving out assignments, you’re not really stepping freshly into the fight either.

    I didn’t look up ZA or ZG heroics before entering them. I knew that most people wouldn’t know what to do, and my gear and skill would be more likely than not to cover for any shortcomings. If I were just now going to step into them for the first time, I would want to spend a few minutes first, because otherwise I would likely be the weak link in any group I joined.

    If you have a full raid about to attempt a new boss, and none of you know any of the mechanics, you will probably have a miserable first night. People won’t know what killed them, why, how to avoid it, or the timing.

    I don’t think you need to have a full grasp on a fight before doing it, unless your guild expects you to (as a high end raider, I personally prepare as much as possible beforehand). But you should probably have a rough idea, such as knowing about interrupts, general placement, and what various debuffs or spells mean.

    Personally, I don’t think that knowing that Shannox leaves a bleed, there are freezing traps for the dogs, and he enrages at 30%, makes the fight any less enjoyable the first time. And I’d find it pretty frustrating to wander into Staghelm, and not have any clue what is going on. Why did we all die? Why is he a scorpion? Why did he go into cat form after most of us died? etc.

    I learn best by doing and by experiencing. I completely understand wanting to see a fight before worrying about all the details. But you’ll learn a lot faster if you know what to look for, so that you can immediately incorporate those experiences into the knowledge you already had. If you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time on a fight, I think in general, you should know something about it first.

    No one can tell you how to play. It’s not your job to do research in advance. But, it IS your job to do what is expected of people in your raid group, which generally does include at least a quick glance at the fight beforehand. Again, if your guild is all on the same page, then there’s no problem.

    A final note on the Solitaire example: WoW fights are generally designed with the expectation that the vast majority of people will have some knowledge beforehand, and a boss mod, or at least one person in the raid will, and can share information with others. If the rules of Solitaire were such that you could look through the entire deck, rather than being penalized, it wouldn’t taint the purity of the game to do so. While I loved the analogy, I’m not sure it’s fair to apply to WoW.

    • I think it was a good analogy when I first started to play the game. There was no expectation that players would know what was going on, and I suppose I still appreciate game design that allows me to enter an encounter that is designed with that expectation.

      I know that I get a lot more satisfaction from figuring out a mechanic all on my own, rather than having someone explain it to me. Because I am involved in a rather progression oriented guild, I can’t spend more than the first encounter with no prior knowledge; however, in these days of complaints of WoW dumbing down the content, etc. (even without the massive nerfs!) I think many players could benefit from being less prepared and creating a challenge for themselves.

      I do understand that not all guilds can/will be willing to allow their players to come to a raid with little/no knowledge of an encounter. I think that’s a shame, especially since most guilds are not competing with others in terms of server/world rankings, but rather raid because they enjoy the experience of downing internet dragons.

      • I agree that it was, at one point, a completely perfect analogy. However, that probably hasn’t been the case around T5. Certainly several years.

        I’m not sure if people would benefit from creating an additional personal challenge. If WoW is being dumbed down, it’s because there’s a perceived desire for things to be made easier, not for things to be harder. I think that for most people, the extra fun of solving a puzzle would be outweighed by the frustration of beating your head against a wall.

        On the overachieving end of the spectrum, you’d ideally have read the dungeon journal, and both watched a video and read a guide/mechanic breakdown, if not several of each. That’s not realistic if you wait until after the first attempt. And it’s not a lot of fun for people to have to break for a half hour in the middle of a raid so that people can do preparation that they’ve already had weeks to do.

        To borrow from your analogy, instead of comparing Solitaire to WoW, I’d suggest comparing WoW (or at least raiding) to playing cards in general, and a specific boss fight to a game, such as Solitaire. You need to know the rules, the game’s mechanics, before you can solve it.

        I think people would be happier if they were only worried about taking things at their own pace. Perculia and Hamlet’s post about the Decline of WoW talked about that. It shouldn’t matter if you are in Karazhan and others are in Sunwell, because you’re taking it at your pace, at the appropriate difficulty level for your group. Adding 50% hp and damage to your gear and throwing you into Sunwell doesn’t add anything to the experience, it just removes several tiers of potentially enjoyable content from the options.

        But in the current state of WoW, the sights are firmly set on completion. Wiping is seen as a failure, instead of a necessary step towards the end. It’s seen as bad, instead of a learning experience.

        In an ideal game scenario, I could agree with you. I like puzzles, logic games, etc, because the answer isn’t always easily found. Struggling to figure it out is where most of the fun comes in. But I don’t see that mentality persisting in the general WoW population. You might have a raid here and there who only worry about themselves, and enjoy learning the dance as much as actually killing the boss, but those groups are few and far between.

        • Here’s the link to Perculia and Hamlet’s post for those who haven’t read it: http://flavortextlore.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/failure-challenge-and-the-decline-of-wow/

          I suppose I’m just not happy throwing up my hands and saying “that’s not the game anymore.” It’s true, that’s not the expectation for most of the population. I know, in fact, that most of my group prepares heavily for upcoming fights and probably only lets me get away with my foible because it’s not causing a noticeable problem within the group. I imagine if I performed more poorly, I’d have a serious talk coming from my GM encouraging me to get my shit together.

          I know this article isn’t going to make the expectations for the majority of the population change. However, if it makes people think about why they raid, and whether they feel successful because they kill things, or because they are making progress on their own terms, I’ll be happy.

        • Since Windsoar is taking a bit of criticism from her post, as a fellow guildmate of Windsoar’s I think I need to chime in a bit here…

          If you have a full raid about to attempt a new boss, and none of you know any of the mechanics, you will probably have a miserable first night. People wonโ€™t know what killed them, why, how to avoid it, or the timing.

          That’s probably true for most of the players out there. However it’s not true at all for our guild. Our guild is filled with players that have really solid fundamentals. For example, our first raid in Cataclysm was Argaloth in Baradin Hold on 12/13/2010. At that time there was no info available to look up. Not even the dungeon journal existed. We were all fresh to lvl 85 as you could get. (In fact I was so fresh to 85 that I was lvl 84 while the trash was being cleared.)

          It took us 23 mins worth of attempts to kill him. Now everyone knows that boss is easy as they come, so not very impressive. But he was still a challenge for most groups for many weeks while they sorted it out.

          Production Company has a long history of throwing people into the deep end and expecting them to swim. (BTW Windsoar wasn’t the only noob that fight. That was the first time most of us did LK on those chars and the first time using only 1 tank.) Cataclysm has been no different. Many of our first kills have included a non-raiding shadow priest thrown into the raid because we were short players that night.

          It might sound like I’m just bragging here but that’s not my intent. My intent is to refute Plier’s underlining premise that “If you don’t learn the encounter you won’t know how to win when you attempt it.” My point is that if your raid team always knows what they are doing that they can go into an encounter cold and still win it.

  2. I completely agree that there is a unique sense of mystery and magic when you know nothing about a fight and go in blind. One of my favorite WoW experiences was going into the ICC 5-mans with four other guildies who had no idea what to expect either, and figuring everything out on the fly.

    Of course, the complication with raiding and the increased difficulty compared to 5-mans, not to mention that all-important responsibility to not ruin your teammates’ fun, makes things more difficult with raids.

    However, you could totally do the “blind” raiding on the PTR and enjoy everything unspoiled that way! There’d be no strats to even cheat with, and who cares if you wipe! It’s not real gold. And most importantly, you wouldn’t be hindering your guild’s progression on actual raid content. Maybe the PTR is the perfect solution?

    • I’m in a 5/7 HM pre-nerf guild that is perfectly aware of my foible, and as I pointed out, I always include this in my guild applications so that there’s no expectation disconnects ๐Ÿ™‚

      Why am I, in a less progressed guild than those who go after world firsts, expected to learn the fight beforehand when they had to go in blind (either on the PTR or as they begin clearing the content)?

      Once I’ve seen a fight, I’ll do all the research that I can, but I find this pressure to achieve somewhat silly. Most guilds will not be successful on their first night of attempts. I know that I personally find reading and understanding how that translates into actual mechanics difficult to grasp. Once I’ve *seen* what’s going on, I find the information much more translatable to understanding.

  3. You asked for it…

    I thought I was the only one! Mean I really dislike watching videos, and such, before a new raid/content. I like to feel the unknown. The mystery. Plus, you learn best by doing right? If anything I’ve really become a fan of the new Dungeon Journal (in-game). So far that’s proved more than enough. Working out your own set of tactics from what is on offer.

    Now, I think the main argument to consider here, is what our goals and intentions are. Are you competing for a server, or even world, first? Then your more concerned, and find joy, in downing (or overcoming the challenge) as fast as possible, and the anything else isn’t as high in priority, such as our thrill for the ‘mystery’. As long as each of us are happy with the way we are taking in the game, and aren’t kidding ourselves (When we could just enjoy it, rather than pretend to be something we’re not), then that’s what matters.

    I am a very competitive person also, and I have found a number of conflicts. The line between being competitive and having fun. Yes, you can say “if you enjoy being competitive, then your having fun” , I understand that, however, sometimes we forget to have fun (When there’s no need to be so challenging on ourselves to meet a ‘standard’)

    Really intriguing post!

    – Jamin

    • I would say that in my current guild, there’s a nice balance. While we are achievers, and our goal for every patch and expansion is to clear all the content and get all the achievements, we don’t compete against others: we only compete against ourselves.

      We also highly prize players who are self-correcting, so seeing an encounter and knowing how to be the most effective are generally things we leave to individual decision. Our raiding discussions/planning is primarily about the major goals and positioning.

  4. To state the obvious, Warcraft is a game. The goal of games is to provide fun, which is a sense of enjoyment about practicing and learning a skill. If you’re not having fun, then you’re not really playing a game, you’re doing something else.

    So really, it all comes down to how you want to view WoW. Some people take it very seriously, like a near-professional hobby, or even more seriously, like a job. Others don’t, they view it as a pass time and don’t bother with all the end-game “hard” content.

    As plenty of others pointed out, it’s important to find a guild that shares your view of the game; perhaps more than anything else, that will determine how well you fit in. If they take it much more seriously, you’ll feel stressed. If they take it much less seriously, you’ll be frustrated.

    So my very roundabout chattering here is to get to this point. Play it like you want to play it, but be mindful of those who play near you. You clearly do this, so I can’t fathom why anyone would have a problem with it. “That’s not the game anymore” arguments are inherently subjective because there are plenty of people to whom not knowing a damn thing IS the game (and apparently they’re all in normal dungeon LFD).

    Play how you want to play, but be mindful of those playing around you. It’s a good motto for a lot more than just WoW.

    • I hope those randoms don’t chase you away from the game again as I always enjoy your posts and discussion!

      I never understand why people take such issue with how others (not in their guild/group) play the game either, which is why I think I keep making these type of posts. Is it the philosophy of my entire guild: no. Can I be asked to change to conform either in my current guild or in a new guild: yes. However, that’s a bridge I’ll burn when I get to it!

  5. I completely share your feeling hereโ€”I like to actually experience new content, not just follow somebody’s script through it! Because of the team nature of raiding, though, it isn’t usually reasonable for me to go into a raid completely blind, except maybe right when it’s first released. And once it’s been out for a while, I suppose it’s not so unreasonable for folks to expect me to know what’s going on.

    Even at the beginning, though, you don’t always get what you hoped for: On the day when the Icecrown Citadel 5-player heroics first went live, I happened to be one of the first few people to log back in when the servers came up, and I went with a group for Heroic Forge of Souls. The tank had already played through all three on the PTR, so we had a disappointingly smooth run. By the time I got back to Dalaran, people were already advertising in Trade for players to go to the new instances — demanding things like “must know fights”.

    Must know fights? On the first day? That’s ridiculous.

    And yet, apparently many people think so. Personally, though, I like things to be hard enough that we have to wipe a few times to figure it out. I guess there’s no accounting for taste. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’ve wondered about this a fair bit, too. Our guild tends to mostly lean toward “let’s read the guides”, but occasionally we’ve jumped into a new boss or raid blind, and it’s been great fun – albeit with a high tendancy toward random death!

    It’s a different game either way, I think – if you already know the tactics it’s mostly about speed, skill and precision, if you don’t, it’s also about lateral thinking, observation, and tactical acumen.

    I’ve featured this post over on the Pot today – I suspect we’ll hear some strong opinions on both sides!

    • Thanks for the link! There’s definitely merit in both cases, I think it really boils down to your personality and what your major goals are: to beat things quickly, or to beat them “solo” (as much as that term can be used for a group activity ^^).

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