I haven’t spent a lot of time in-game over the past two weeks, and have been feeling rather apathetic about everything, WOW included. Winter always leaves me a bit depressed – from the bitter cold air that freezes the inside of my nose, to the pale-but-blindingly-bright sun that doesn’t provide any warmth, to the insane traffic jams that steal precious time from my day. Feeling down always leads me to a lot of introspection, but most of it is too disjointed to form into an intelligible blog post. I finally landed yesterday on something worth rambling about.
At the beginning of the year at work, we are required to fill out our “individual development plans”. I’ve always considered them to be tedious, irritating, and serving only as lip service – a way for the company to pretend to care about what I want in my career. This year though, I have a new manager who surprised me by being insightful and actually providing me with useful feedback. He actually cares enough to get to know me and help guide me towards things that fit my strengths. For the first time in a while, I actually felt a spark of hope – hope that I will find a role within this company where I actually enjoy what I do, and won’t come home every day for the rest of my life feeling exhausted and unmotivated.
As with everything in life, my brain found a way to apply this topic to WOW. Yes, WOW is “just a game”, but to most of us who have played it significantly, it’s a bit more than that. The social and political dynamics within raid groups, guilds, servers, forums, and the blogging community are utterly fascinating and complex. Every player in WOW has different motivations, different levels of commitment, different time availabilities, etc. Our evolution as players in WOW is actually a career, and we should consider being a bit more thoughtful about it if we’re going to continue investing so much in this game.
One definition of the word career is, “a person’s progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life”. Though we often ascribe the word purely to our occupation or “day job”, it is applicable in many things that we do.
Unlike our work career, it’s unlikely that we’ve taken a planful approach to get to the current point we’re at in the game. Since it is “just a game” after all, it’s more natural to go with the flow. We drift around the game from noob to hardcore to casual; from this guild to that one. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a game of Chutes & Ladders, where a random throw of the dice can send us back to the beginning again.
While we don’t want to think about WOW in an overly serious manner, there is some value in analyzing our goals and motivations to see if we could get more from the game or find a place in the community that would make us happier.
Much of the guild drama that goes on could be solved if everyone was simply on the same page. Tensions emerge when people want different things – even unconsciously. People in WOW rarely recognize when it is time to move on from their current “position”, until after they’ve burned bridges or caused issues within a guild. Players feel burdened by commitments and relationships, even to the point that they will continue to play the game in a way that makes them unhappy. Just like with our RL jobs, we need to be mindful and aware of our satisfaction level, and pick up and move on when the time comes before we find ourselves truly miserable – in fact, in WOW it’s far easier. In Azeroth, we aren’t constrained by the need to keep making money to support our family – we are much freer to use our time towards maximum enjoyment.
There are a variety of motivations and preferences that are brought to the table once we get into the raiding piece of the game. I’m going to discuss four primary motivators or “orientations”. Most raiders will likely have a combination of all four, but there will be a tendency to lean towards one above the others. Being aware of our own motivations and values is important in choosing a raid team, a guild, and our direction in the game. If you are self-aware, you can leverage your strengths and keep your weakness from becoming fatal flaws – but if you are oblivious, you could find yourself miserable, and ruining the game for others around you.
Obviously I’m generalizing and stereotyping heavily, but thinking about these orientations and the examples given can help you identify where you lie on the scale, or at least get you thinking.
These are the raiders who want server firsts, who care about rank and progression above all else. These players will do whatever it takes to be the best. Guilds like Paragon or Method are full of players who are primarily motivated by advancement, but you will also find this kind of player scattered throughout the WOW populace. Being the best is an admirable goal, and when in a leadership position, such a player can really shine. These players may work tirelessly towards getting the precise BIS gear, spend hours practicing rotations, and are truly min-maxers.
On the negative side, guild-hopping is common, as the player may strive to join the guild on their server with the best reputation and rank. A player who values advancement most highly, but doesn’t have the skills to back it up, will likely run into a brick wall in their WOW career and can make others around them miserable.
A player oriented towards challenge gets the biggest rush from tackling new content – and even wiping over and over again. Most of us have felt that rush when we down a boss with 2 players standing, and the dots somehow kill him - moments like this are vital to those who value challenge. These players enjoy taking risks, constantly seeking that next thrill. They are valuable in driving the team forward to new things, instead of getting lazy on farm content. Their passion is contagious, and pushes other to be their best.
The longer we play, the more skills we develop. Someone who has been raiding for years likely has better reflexes, situational awareness, role understanding, and experience that makes them much better than they were when they began. As we gain skills, the things we face seem less challenging than before. A player motivated by challenge may initially be satisfied with running just heroics, but will quickly get bored when they’ve mastered the encounters. Retro raids may seem fascinating and interesting at first, but this player will start to get the itch to raid more seriously. A player motivated by challenge will get frustrated when they are held back by people who just show up to raids completely unprepared. The casual guild that once felt like home starts to feel stifling, often causing the player to lash out at those around them.
This player may also need to switch classes or roles often to maintain the thrill, getting burnt out when they feel like they have mastered their previous main.
A player motivated primarily by balance is trying to juggle a lot of things in their life –various hobbies, a family, a demanding job, etc. They will try to make the most of their limited time in-game by doing what they most enjoy. Many adult WOW players find themselves with this orientation. These players can be very efficient and focused members of your raid team if you give them a chance, as they are used to managing priorities and tasks. By some definitions they may be “casual” players, but it doesn’t mean that they lack the skills needed to get things done.
This player may not want to raid on a regular schedule, or may have to step out of instances often to calm a crying baby. This real life first attitude is very healthy and admirable, but sometimes the lack of focus or commitment can cause issues within a raid group. An upset to the balance in one area of their life may cause them to sacrifice time in game, leaving your raid team out to dry.
The social player cares most about interacting with others. They are often overly generous, wanting to be liked by guild members. They will be the first to answer a call for help on a quest or one more for an instance. They are loyal to the core, and thoughts of leaving the guild to join a more progressed raid team wouldn’t even cross their mind. They can help bolster the morale of your group and keep everyone laughing even after countless wipes.
Social players can come across as annoying or overeager. They may also take it very hard if you ask them to sit out of a raid due to performance issues.
The career path in WOW is full of ups and downs – stressful moments and utterly enjoyable ones. Looking back upon it, it’s easy to see how much we’ve changed and grown as players since that first day killing kobolds in Elwynn Forest.
We probably wouldn’t have chosen the path we took, but the experience was nonetheless valuable. Now that we’ve seen the highs and lows, however, isn’t it time to seek out a play style and a place that truly fits us? Drifting around with no particular awareness of what we want out of the game can work, but it can also leave us stuck in a bad situation with no understanding of why we’re unhappy.
Are you satisfied and happy with your current “position” in WOW? If not, then what can you do to change it? Can you adapt to your current situation, or do you need to find a new guild or server? Identify your motivations and values, and be true to them. Don’t let a miserable situation drive your love for the game out of you (and if you’ve lost your love for the game entirely, perhaps it’s time to “relocate” to a different game).