The Problem with PuGs
The problem with PuGs is simple. Take a community that’s become used to instant gratification requiring minimal communication; stir in a heaping scoop of internet anonymity, add a dollop of ego-centrism; bring to a boil amidst the already simmering tensions of a new expansion and earth-shattering class changes; and you have a recipe for … um … total disaster. Yummy!
I’ll be honest: I haven’t PuGed much. Actually, I didn’t PuG at all as I was leveling up my druid. If I couldn’t run a dungeon with my guildmates, then I just didn’t run it. Now that I’m feeling a touch braver (or crazier, you be the judge), I’ve attempted using the LFD tool a few times on my up-and-coming alts. The difference of a few weeks’ worth of learning new boss strategies and relearning old CC habits is showing in most of the groups I’ve encountered. My little gnome priest (newly respeced to holy so that I can play around with the glowy Chakra mechanics) has been really fortunate so far. The groups I’ve had were quite capable, with tanks who either overgeared the content or who had the good common sense to ask for CC as needed.
My shaman has not been nearly so lucky. Though she has a healing offspec, I’m leveling the shaman as enhancement both because I love the playstyle and because the majority of her healing set is still iLv 200 heroic blues from Wrath dungeons. (Hey! It was good enough to heal the ICC 5 mans on heroic … but don’t think I’d dare set foot in a Cataclysm dungeon that way.) So my shaman has been subjected to queuing solely as DPS, which generally takes between 20 and 30 minutes now. By and large, the issues I’ve encountered haven’t been with the healers, but with the tanks.
World of Matticus discussed this “Wrath Tanking Mentality” in a post written about a week after the expansion was released, and Allison Robert so aptly described the “unbearable suckhood of PuGing” more recently. It’s not just the blatant disregard for CC, the assumption that the rest of the group owes them something for the pleasure of their presence, and the disgusting presumption that being unable to survive pulling 6 elite mobs at once is somehow the healer’s fault that’s the problem. It’s that some of these tanks seem to flat-out have no concept of what they’re doing.
Take, for example, the in-progress Blackrock Caverns I found my shaman placed into after a half-hour wait. (In fact, it seems the only dungeons she can get into are ones that are already in progress.) The situation already appeared tense, as a feral druid in the group was arguing with the DK tank about the tank having rolled “need” on an Agility-based ring. The DK’s argument? That reforging made everything Ok, because he would just reforge the Agi to Stam …
So I calmly pointed out that primary stats (Int, Str, Stam, Agi, Resil, and AP) actually cannot be reforged, which is why classes are to roll on the gear that’s intended for them and reforge based on preference of things like hit, crit, mastery, and so on. No response to this, and that was fine. I didn’t want to chat or to have a Reforging 101 class; I wanted to finish my damn dungeon.
We continue on with a few more incidents, mostly close calls on trash that the tank isn’t marking for CC (I try to hex and bind elementals, his AoE breaks them anyway), and a near wipe on Karsh Steelbender because the tank holds the boss in the fire until his debuff hits 10 stacks. I comment “Excellent heals,” when we don’t die, the healer thanks me but admits we were very lucky, and the tank has nothing to say.
We get down to Beauty and are killing the core hound pups one by one when I finally speak up. The tank is failing to move when the pups do their fire breath that leaves a lava pool behind on the ground; when he finally does move, he manages to get his back against a wall with the pup standing in the lava pool so that the (all melee) DPS have no way to hit it.
“Move the pup out of the lava,” I say in party chat. The tank doesn’t, the rest of the DPS and I sit on our hands until it finally dies, and then there is a long pause.
“Oh really? I’m not SUPPOSED to stand in fire?” the tank asks, obviously sarcastically. “I thought it was a buff!! I guess I’m doing it wrong.”
I take the bait.
“You are doing it wrong,” I furiously type back. “A death knight tank rolling on Agility gear for main spec, refusing to use CC, and pulling melee mobs with death grip when there are casters just standing there bombing the healer isn’t doing much of anything right.”
Ok, so. I shouldn’t have said that. First of all, I’m a big believer in presenting yourself according to the reputation of the guild tag under your name, which I clearly didn’t do here. Beyond that, I fell into the tempting trap of internet anonymity allowing me to act in ways that I never would if this were a face-to-face conflict. In real life, I’m just about the least confrontational person you’ll meet, and I would never be able to say something like that no matter how much a person grated on my nerves. 95% of the time, the same is true for me in WoW. But that remaining 5% of the time, when someone manages to push my buttons just so, or just displays general ineptitude at every aspect of their job, it becomes SO much easier to make my displeasure known than it is in real life. A snappy, condescending, well-timed remark in a PuG’s party chat is such a guilty pleasure. You’ll never see these people again, they won’t heed a shred of your mean-spirited advice anyway, and you get the cathartic satisfaction of knowing that you’ve educated the unlearned masses in your own special way.
Except that’s not quite right, is it? Snippy remarks in party chat specifically aren’t designed to be helpful – they’re designed to be snippy. No one learns anything from what you’ve said, even if you were actually telling them something that could help, because the sarcastic delivery of the advice makes the person receiving it instantly close their mind to what you’re saying. On top of this, allowing ourselves to stumble (however reluctantly) into the realm of the snarky and elitist only makes a bad situation worse. Sure, we get the momentary satisfaction of the zinger. But all we’ve really done is contributed to the already too hostile environment that is PuGing right now. I’m not nearly so much of an idealist as to say that if we can each corral our behavior just a smidge, then all the idiocies and meanness we see in PuG groups will instantly disappear. I can, however, make an honest effort not to contribute to the negative atmosphere currently pervading LFD.
In short, the problem with PuGs is people. So long as the Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory remains true (and who can doubt that it always will?), there’s not much we can do except fight against our own instincts to prove our superiority to the World of Warcraft, one noob at a time.