Changing Our Dialogue About PuGs
Read the following two sentences, and tell me which you are more likely to say, hear, type, read, or think on a daily basis:
- “That was the WORST group I’ve ever run with. Thank goodness that dungeon is over.”
- “That PuG was amazing! Everyone was so polite, friendly, and helpful.”
(Hint: Option 2 is not meant to be read in a sarcastic tone of voice.)
I doubt we need an empirical study to convince anyone that the clear winner would be the first statement. Every day we read thousands of words in dozens of blog posts detailing how PuGs force us to encounter some of the lowest members of society, and horror stories of the latest atrocities committed by these people. And the reason why we read and hear so much bile directed at PuGs everyday is because they really are populated (almost exclusively) by wretched, miserable people.
Well it sure seems that way, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s primarily what we read about whenever someone blogs about a PuG or (more recently) Raid Finder. So when we step into a PuG, it’s best for us to be on the defensive, have our guards up, and prepare to suffer through the most obnoxious hour of our day. Better to go in with low expectations and not be disappointed.
Or is it possible, just maybe, that expecting bad behavior in other people makes us more likely to see it? Could it be that going into a PuG with a bad attitude puts us more on edge and, therefore, more likely to interpret behavior as bad and let it get under our skin? When did our default become expecting the very worst out of people, and why on earth do we think that’s ok?
Earlier today, Squelchy posted about the growing trend of guilds heading into Raid Finder together, rolling on many more items than they would actually use or need, in order to stack the dice in their favor. A commenter agreed with Squelchy’s position that this is a pretty awful thing to do, but pointed out that “morally driven behaviour has no place” in modern MMOs. I’d wager that many people reading this feel exactly the same way. Moral behavior in WoW sounds great on paper, but is too impossible to be practical and, therefore, matter.
Know what I say to that?
The idea that moral behavior is pointless in MMOs is only true if we allow it to be. Do you want to see a friendlier, more helpful environment in PuGs? What are you doing to make that change possible? How are you making every group you step into decent place to spend half an hour? Are you greeting people? Are you showing patience when someone asks a question about an encounter? Are you aware that WoW is not universally easy or simple for everyone who plays it? Can you imagine that perhaps someone in your group has only recently leveled to 85 for the very first time? Can you choose to /ignore a player who is acting badly, rather than rising to the bait?
I’m not naïve; I recognize that there will still be players who are having a bad day and decide to take it out on strangers. I know that trolls exist and will continue to frustrate the rest of us for the life-span of the Internet. But the only behavior we can change is our own. The only perception we can change is our own. If we want to see a shift in attitude, we must start by changing the dialogue.
WoW Insider, that behemoth of WoW-related news, used to run an amazing feature called “Random Acts of Uberness” which was a subsection of their Classifieds column. These “Random Acts” were described as being ” … when another player lights up your night with precise play, a wicked sense of humor or unexpected generosity that your login becomes something to remember.” I sent WoW Insider a message on Twitter yesterday morning asking whether the column had been retired, but didn’t hear back. When I looked around on my own, I found that the last Classifieds post to feature “Random Acts of Uberness” was in August of 2010. The last several instances of the Classifieds have requested submissions for these Random Acts, but we’ve yet to see any posted.
Is it possible that there are just no more friendly players? Obviously not, as we encounter them all the time. But the absence of Random Acts makes me wonder if we – as a community – are spending less time looking for these good people, care less about rewarding them for being good people, or both. I can only assume that, if WoW Insider keeps requesting submissions for Random Acts and not posting them, they must not be receiving enough positive stories to be able to make an article out of them. Considering that most of those old Random Acts articles only featured 2-3 stories at a time, it seems like we’re in a sorry state.
So, I’m done with the negativity and the ranting. I recognize that we all need outlets, and that discussing a negative experience in a PuG can help get it out of our system. But the WoW community has a bad rep, which is only getting worse, for being childish and uninviting. If we want that to be different, and if we care about changing the experience that we have in this game, we must do the work ourselves. The only possible answer is to look at ourselves and our own expectations, and to stop using bad behavior to justify more bad behavior.
Here’s to celebrating those “Random Acts of Uberness” again, and to making sure that friendly players get just as much of attention as their trolling counterparts. Several fantastic examples of bloggers writing about their positive encounters with new or inexperienced players have cropped up in just the last week:
- Troll Bouquet describes how being nice can make all the difference.
- The Reluctant Raider writes about helping a new player learn how to quest.
- The Ready Check offered advice about dealing with conflict in LFR.
Want a better PuG experience? Raise your expectations, hold yourself to higher standards, and change your dialogue.