“You’re Not Playing It Right!”

treeRight there, up there, is a quote that makes me absolutely cringe when it comes to online gaming.  It’s not meant to be an exact quote, but more representative of a type of mentality that exists in MMOs — that there is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to be playing the game.  God help you if you’re the latter, because someone’s gonna teach you with a harsh “L2P NOOB!” and then you’ll be in tears, wondering if you should just up and quit and go back to tinkering around with Lite Brite (unless, of course, a friend comes over and informs you that your pegs are backwards and you should “L2Litebrite, noob!”).

I know there’s a lot of baggage that comes the oft-repeated phrase, “It’s just a game”, but the reason that is said is that so many people treat MMOs as very much Not A Game.  It is something More.  Something Important.  Something that doesn’t appreciate your messing around.  This is partially due to the competitive nature of players and the division of gaming types — those who play to win, those who play to enjoy, those who play to socialize, and so on.

“L2Play” folks and the “It’s only a game” folks are two ends of a polar argument that’s been going on  for a while now.  Are MMOs a game, or not?  And if they are, then why do some players try to impose their will on other players as to how they should play, spec their character, approach the game, and perform certain roles?  If this is “just a game”, why is there such intolerance to off-specs, non-optimal group compositions, and non-hardcore approaches to gameplay?  If we should “L2Play” to master a game and somehow derive more enjoyment out of it for it, then why can’t we see that it’s important to be challenged, to push yourself to achieve more, and to learn that how you play the game affects others?

As part of my job, I lead a lot of games with our teens.  Over the course of a decade or so, I’ve gotten wise to a couple principles of how teens (and really, all ages) respond in a social situation to games:

  • Everyone wants to “win” — it’s hardwired into them that this is their #1 objective.  Even if there is no set prize, people want to come out on top and be declared a winner.
  • In preparing a game, you have to assume that people are going to either bend the rules (cheat) or not fully understand them, and therefore have to be 100% clear in creating the boundaries of the activity.  You are the Rule-Maker (and also enforcer).
  • Players want fairness to apply only when it helps them, not others.
  • Players are quick to berate teammates for failing at a task (unless you actively encourage everyone to cheer their team on), because, as we said before, they want to win.

That understood, I have gravitated more toward games that are all-inclusive (i.e., don’t just pander to the excellent athletes), that encourage creative thinking and solutions within the boundaries of rules, and that subtly guide them to enjoying the game as a fun, interactive social event instead of a win/lose competition.  It’s not bad to win (and we still have winners), it just shouldn’t be the be all, end all of games, especially when you’re trying to grow a community with them.

In online gaming, I’m much more toward the end of the spectrum that sees this as “it’s a game” (I’ll take out the “just” there, since that’s a dismissive word).  There’s levels of obsessive behavior that can spawn from getting too far away from seeing that (which is true in most forms of entertainment/hobbies).  And personally, I want to be myself in these games, not what someone else says I should be.

(Question for those who play to win — at what point have you ever “won” a MMORPG?)

I’m okay with the game company being the Rule-Maker/Enforcer, as it’s their game and their right.  If they say I shouldn’t be able to fly, so be it.  If certain areas are off-limits, or by using bots I’m breaking their EULA, then I won’t.  But within the boundaries of the rules they set, I’m going to play my own way, even if that means I’m not playing optimally.

The “L2Play” crowd doesn’t care one way or another how I play the game — unless it affects them in any way.  Such as being on their team in a PvP situation, or in a tough dungeon crawl, or whatnot.  Then, suddenly, there’s enormous amounts of peer pressure to spec X, do Y and be Z.  If I don’t, I’m being a jerk and responsible for ruining their gaming experience.  Sound familiar to the list I posted above?  There you go.  Basic human behavior, 101.  Other players aren’t looking out for me, for what gameplay would make me the happiest, or what freedoms I should enjoy in my character development.  They’re worried that my self-centeredness will impact their own self-centeredness, and hence the conflict between the two sides.

Now, to be fair, when you play a social game with others, it comes with responsibilities that you can’t (or at least, really shouldn’t) dismiss because you’re so self-centered as to be the only person who matters.  Scamming other players, ninja looting, demeaning folks, engaging in exploits, trying to ruin other people’s experiences deliberately, stealing from the guild coffers, wielding your sexuality as a weapon to get others to do what you want, being completely one-sided when it comes to receiving help but never getting it — these are despicable actions, and they are almost universally hated by the game community, who polices such activity and uses peer pressure to keep total jerkwad anarchy from breaking loose.  If you’re a tool, then you’ll earn the rep as one, and reap the consequences.

So it’s important to be a decent human being who is considerate and respectful, at the very least.  Common sense stuff.  But there’s a line where the community, which has done good in squashing the more reprehensible behavior, decides to go one step further and start demanding that you shape up according to what is the best way to play, or else you too are being an ingrate.  This is where I part ways.

My stance is pretty firm: I, as a player, do not, nor never will care what you spec your character to be, what gear you get, or what you do in the game as long as it’s within reason.  I’m all for grouping with off-spec players and giving them a chance to try something different, as long as they actually try and not be an active burden on the team.  If all you want to do in the game is pursue achievements to accumulate meaningless points, then more power to you, as long as you’re having fun.

More guilds and players should lighten up when it comes to bossing others around due to some sense of superiority gained through better gear and more obsessive learning of the game’s mechanics.  I mean, hey, it’s great if you want to try to teach me something new or guide me to utilizing my class in a better way — I love to learn new things — but you need to step off the Better Than Thou Express before you start dictating that I must do this, or else.

I’ll close with an anecdote from way back when. I was listening to WoW Radio during the second year of playing the game (pre-TBC), and the two hosts were just berating the dumb idiots out there who decided to spec balance druids or melee hunters or whatnot.  How dare they!  They weren’t playing it right!  Why, these scum aren’t fit for living, nevermind a place in my group!

I think that was the last time I listened to that show, due to blood pressure issues.  Now, being a melee hunter (at least, back then) was a very non-optimal setup and often was indicative of someone who only had a basic grasp on his or her class.  But that doesn’t mean it was a forbidden way to play — it was allowable within the rules set by Blizzard, and in fact, permitted by the game’s setup to enable a player to make that decision.  But the larger group of players had long ago decided that it was a Wrong Way to play, and levied undue amounts of sarcasm, hatred and scorn for such folks.

Listen, you don’t have to group with these folks.  If you’re serious about achieving tough content, then it’s reasonable to set your standards high for teammates.  If you want to master the game, be the best you can be, and exalt in it — more power to you.  But that doesn’t give you the right to go overboard and begin passing judgment on all players in the game for not treating the game as you do, seeing it as you do, and playing it the way you do.

It IS only a game.  It IS important to learn how to play it and engage with others properly.  And it IS vital that we try to reintroduce a level of civility, respect and appreciation for a wide range of players, specs, goals and styles.

14 thoughts on ““You’re Not Playing It Right!”

  1. Jemere May 29, 2009 / 8:01 am

    why did you have to use THAT pic 😦 i liked that guide, used to link it to druids who asked me about resto raiding

  2. Hudson May 29, 2009 / 8:37 am

    While I can agree with most points, there is a difference between an off spec player trying something out and blah blah blah and just a plain IDIOT.

    I agree for the most part, but some people just are morons in game. Usually on purpose. But this is also why I don’t play WoW or many of its clones anymore.

    For example the DeathKnight that loots all leather items by rolling NEED because it has plus agility on it.

    Yeah, I have seen that. You cant teach an idiot like that how to play because they will just argue with you.

  3. moxie May 29, 2009 / 9:20 am

    I agree with you, Syp. While I do tend to consult sources like Elitist Jerks when planning out my build/gear because I want to make sure that I pull my weight in groups, I have no problems with folks who want to try different specs. Sometimes, those people with unusual or untraditional specs also know their class amazingly well and are able to pull off some crazy things with it.

    A few months ago I was in a raiding guild, and listening to some of those folks go on diatribes about how “so-and-so is a bad player because he has blue gem Y instead of a red gem Z” drove me nuts. Needless to say, I left and found a much nicer, more laid-back crew of folks.

  4. Scott May 29, 2009 / 9:26 am

    On the other hand, is it “teaching” when we say “wtf noob? y u rolling NEED on leather gear? l2p u f’ing nub!!1!”

    If we go in with the mindset that “everyone else is a moron” then that’s exactly how we will see — and treat — everyone else. Then we wonder why they’re thinking the same thing about us and say “screw that arrogant noob, telling me what to do… I’ll fix them *clicks the NEED button*…”

    We all have to “Learn 2 Play” somehow and some way. People all learn differently but bottom line, someone coming in to a new game/area/aspect is starting fresh and simply telling them “l2p nub” is not teaching. They have to learn by doing and learning from their mistakes. We all want to win and we’re not kind to those whom we perceive directly caused us to lose, especially in the anonymous world of the internet.

  5. Hudson May 29, 2009 / 9:49 am

    Well thats my point. Its not needed to teach, he was ACTIVELY ROLLING ON LEATHER and arguing about it. Like he knew it all.

    I make no excuses for idiots like that. What Im saying he was arguing for it and knew exactly what he was doing. Especially when he then insisted on drawing agro because his DPS was “so f**ING awesome!” and linking charts in chat.

    There is no being nice in World of Warcraft. Players swing either way. Asshats or decent folk. Trust me on this.

  6. Andrew May 29, 2009 / 10:22 am

    @Hudson:

    “For example the DeathKnight that loots all leather items by rolling NEED because it has plus agility on it.

    Yeah, I have seen that. You cant teach an idiot like that how to play because they will just argue with you.”

    I know we’re wandering off topic, but let’s not call people idiots out of hand.

    Not to be contrary or anything, but physical DPS leather is quite often a better choice than the plate gear that is designed for DPS warriors and death knights. In fact, look up some of the DKs and Warriors in high end progression guilds – especially pre-Ulduar you’ll see a TONNE of leather on them.

  7. Yeezrat May 29, 2009 / 10:56 am

    “Do your *&^%in job!!!” Has anyone seen that in-game? Not going into details or issues with about it but going to quote myself. “This is a job?”
    I started to write down a very long post but it wasn’t turning out right. This issue that has been brought up is too large and overwhelming for me to completely or correctly hammer out. I have strong opinions about the current subject and all of the underpinning issues that Syp brought up in this post. I DO NOT prescribe to Play to Win I play for Fun.
    Just to clarify the about comment was not direct to me but to a rank5 shaman in a T1 SC that had just started playing the game and this was his first SC.

  8. Hatch May 29, 2009 / 11:30 am

    My solution is just to not group with people who are going to make my attempted goal unattainable (or take much more time and effort to obtain). Yelling at them doesn’t help anything, they are entitled to play the way they want, I will just leave the group or not invite them to my raids or 5-mans.

    Since I’m firmly on the L2P side of the debate (even though I’m a lot more live-and-let-live than the people who piss you off), it seems from my perspective that you are over on the “it’s a game” side of the debate.

    I really like the insight you brought from you experience leading games with students. Puts a lot of it in perspective. But I think the amount of time and effort invested in MMOs compared to a one-time school game is probably the source of the added tension, and heightened importance. It’s a lot more annoying for achievers, or even people who enjoy being excellent, to have their success limited by someone else when they’ve invested so much into the game. Yeah, investing less is an option, but not appealing to many.

    You should definitely read a post Gevlon put up today about just this subject:

    http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2009/05/alting-and-hodir-rep.html

    Gevlon has an immature worldview and I often disagree with him, but he does articulate the extreme L2P side well.

    You do ask “then why can’t we see that it’s important to be challenged, to push yourself to achieve more, and to learn that how you play the game affects others?” That’s my question. I only get mad when people think they are entitled to a group or raid spot just for playing, even though they didn’t bother to L2P and make the grouping experience more trying to everyone else. I know it’s just a game, but I don’t get it when someone can’t take 10 minutes to read a simple guide (try raider 101 or just the first post in the related Elitist Jerks thread, no need to read all the math, just find out what talents are strong, what a rotation is, and what stats you want on your gear, for god’s sake!) If you spend 30 hours /played getting to 80 in WoW, how is even 1/2 hour spent learning how to play your class just not acceptable? How is it rude for someone to expect that?

    They can feel free to do something different than what the guide says, but if it’s way more ineffective then yes, they are failing their responsibility to the group and shouldn’t be in the group. They should be in a less successful group who plays their way.

    Basically, WoW’s audience is so huge and varied that we keep running into people who’s way of having fun is a direct conflict with our own. The only solution I’ve found is sticking to my small social circle of like-minded players.

    But the L2P crowd should be a lot less harsh about it. I listen to a lot of WoW Radio myself, and I agree that some of the hosts are waaaaay to harsh about “bad” players. I understand not wanting to listen to it, it turns me off too. But I find the rest of the show entertaining, so I keep listening and just write off their opinions as bad.

  9. Hatch May 29, 2009 / 11:34 am

    Oh and btw, there’s a big debate in the wow community right now about how plate classes actually want leather more than plate because of how it’s itemized.

    Leveling my DK I ran into this myself until I started getting into epics, which are better itemized for plate than blues tend to be.

    But warriors and Ret paladins actually still favor leather, and the devs are actively working on a solution and have admitted it’s a problem.

    So I guess you have to actually know what you are talking about before you tell someone else to L2P.

    Now if the guy was doing terrible DPS for his gear, that’s another story. And if he was annoying other ways (ZOMG LINK TEH METERZ LOLZ) then that’s a problem too. 🙂

  10. chris May 29, 2009 / 3:34 pm

    A couple of weeks ago I’m playing my Resto druid in Strand of the Ancients, when I get the classic “learn to heal noob” whisper. That is actually the first time I have ever heard that from anybody. I guess he didn’t notice that I was getting steam rolled over and over by like 4 death knights (at the same time), I think I died like 10 or 11 times. My thing is if you don’t like how people play, then get the heck out of PUG BG’s and form a premade group if your so leet. I guess I am still sore over the subject a couple of weeks later, it shouldn’t bother me, but it does…Sad really…

  11. Melf_Himself May 29, 2009 / 6:51 pm

    Look, it’s pretty simple.

    If you’re a “n00b”, you should play with other “n00bs” who don’t care what you’re running.

    If you want the experience of high end raiding or high ranked PvP, you should reasonably expect to take it on the chin and do what you’re told. If the other players are all running builds they consider to be less fun than optimal but they’ve made that sacrifice to better the team, why should you get to do any differently?

    The real problem comes when people impose this mentality at times when it doesn’t matter, or if they themselves are n00bs (especially if the build they are proposing is actually worse than the one you are proposing).

  12. Jeromai May 29, 2009 / 10:39 pm

    Ironically, it’s the optimal path seekers in City of Heroes who are now facing this pressure to “play my way or else” with the new Mission Architect system. This in an MMO that was one of the first to accomodate non-optimal specs and non-holy trinity gameplay on a very accepting basis.

    I wish more players would realize that they can’t expect everyone in the same game to play exactly like them. It’s fine if you don’t want to group or even interact with people whose playstyles you can’t stand. But MMO worlds ought to be a big enough sandbox to support a diverse range of playstyles – why not acknowledge that?

    Guess it boils down to human nature. We want to make the world comfy for ourselves in our own self-centered way and personal tribe only, screw the rest of the suckers, they’re the nebulous “them” enemy. Alas.

  13. James May 30, 2009 / 12:19 pm

    I was going to make the same point Jeromai just did regarding City of Heroes, and I think it reinforces the larger point of this fine blog post; folks shouldn’t be dicks to each other.

    The current mess in CoH reminds me of the bad name that min/maxers and powergamers (munchkins) used to get in PnP gaming. There’s not much difference in berating someone for enjoying efficient gaming and berating someone for not knowing how to be efficient.

  14. Poltergeist December 1, 2009 / 10:56 pm

    I love how people think they can join high end guilds and expect to “play they want to play”. The guild I was in had an application process you had go through to filter most of the l2play noobs out. When it comes down to it if you dont play well or the way we expect you to preform you get removed from the guild and you can go join a guild that is more level you want to play – hell we even will make recommendations, but GL on completing end level content and completing 25 man difficult achievements with ur melee hunter group LOL. LEARN2PLAY or gtfo and join a social guild and stop complaining. THere are plenty of other guilds out there for people like you who dont care about what is optimal and just play for playing sakes (which is fine and im all for that im glad people can do this and there are guilds for it i’ve been in few when I first started out and was a n00b). When you join a PuG group that is a bit different becuase you are playing with different people from different guilds – expect criticism if u dont play well how you take it is up to you. If you dont like it put them on ignore. If they kick you becuase you suck so bad and you keep getting the same response from most of the groups you join then maybe wow is not the game for you and you should try a game of checkers.

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