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Changing Our Dialogue About PuGs

January 11, 2012
by

Read the following two sentences, and tell me which you are more likely to say, hear, type, read, or think on a daily basis:

  1. “That was the WORST group I’ve ever run with.  Thank goodness that dungeon is over.”
  2. “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.

Right?

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.

Isn’t it?

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?
BULLSHIT.

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:

Want a better PuG experience?  Raise your expectations, hold yourself to higher standards, and change your dialogue.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 9:55 pm

    The funny thing is that I am almost always pretty patient. I’m as helpful as I can possibly be. I will explain encounters and boss fights for newer players, or new 85s who’ve never healer/tanked/dps’d this fight. I also know that I’m abnormal in my behaviors.

    I get asked, fairly often, how I keep going. Why am I always patient, or always friendly, or always chatty? And I don’t always have an answer. Even when the group is absolutely atrocious! There were a lot of expectations on me because the PuGs would see my large mana pool, or inspect me and see I was in 391 level gear, and I can see the shift in the care people have in pulling aggro, tanking, grabbing adds, etc. It’s as though I were expected to make up for their bad playing.

    And yet I kept being nice.

    Each group is a new set of people. Each group has a different dynamic. The above-mentioned behaviors aren’t present in ALL of my PuG groups. I sometimes get sarcastic seasoned players who are mocking my friendliness.

    I think this is by far a healthier attitude to have regarding how we handle strangers in our groups and raids. And I don’t know why I’m always nice. Or why I refrain from calling people baddies or telling them they suck. Maybe because when I’m done I can scream a little, post a few nasty quips on twitter, but know I at least tried.

    Fantastic post.

    • January 12, 2012 7:36 am

      Great comment, Hestiah! It sounds like you have a great way to approach PuGs and I agree with you that it’s healthier to go in with high expectations. I’d much prefer to think the best of people rather than the worst.

      I have days when I act like you do, and others when I’m quieter and just want to get the run finished with. But even if I’m not in the mood to chat, I always say hello and thank the group at the end of the run. For me, that’s pretty much the absolute minimum group etiquette.

  2. January 12, 2012 12:32 am

    What a great read again Tzu! If only we could have “friendly PuG” time so that nasty people weren’t allowed to get into raids at that time, and only friendly nice people can, then everyone could have a good time. But how would that work? I don’t know but the concept of it is kinda cool.

    Everyone’s New Years Resolutions should be to be nicer in PuGs and LFR. That’s what I think.

    • January 12, 2012 7:30 am

      That’s a great idea for a resolution. 🙂 And my personal way to turn every day into “friendly PuG” time is to make liberal use of the /ignore feature. It gives me plenty of control over what type of behavior and language I want to see, and requires almost no effort on my part.

  3. Bristal permalink
    January 12, 2012 2:43 pm

    Very cool. Totally agree. With competence comes the tendency to forget how long it took to get there, and how hurtful a terse comment can be when you’re trying as hard as you can. I tend to remain silent and neutral when others are sounding off, avoiding conflict.

    It is important to take a stand, especially if you find yourself complaining about it later. Later isn’t the time if you really want to impact the community. Setting boundaries of appropriate behavior and immediately but gently communicating when they are crossed is the only way.

    • January 12, 2012 10:03 pm

      “With competence comes the tendency to forget how long it took to get there …”

      Such a great point, and one I hardly touched upon here. As we progress as players, it’s so easy (and so tempting) to look behind us at the next person making her way up and think “I was never that bad, was I?” It’s easy to forget that there’s always someone out there who is a better player than we are, and that they could easily be thinking the same thing about us at any given time.

      I agree – the moment to say something is when it happens. I make a point of not sticking around in groups who vote kick people for foolish reasons (i.e. “Your DPS should be higher in the gear you have,” “You still have green shoulders”). I excuse myself, saying that I disagree with the kick, and then leave. It’s not much, but at least I know that I’m not hanging around in a group that I think has acted badly.

  4. January 13, 2012 2:16 pm

    I love this post, Tzu. The Law of Attraction says that like attracts like. So negative thinking about PUGs only brings about more negative PUG experiences. On the other hand, positive thinking about PUGs will bring more positive PUG experiences. You’re totally right, it does start with us.

    “Don’t wait for people to be friendly. Show them how.” (-Unknown)

    Maybe as I queue, I’ll make it a habit to say, “I’m going to be grouped with 4 (or 9) of the funnest bunch o’ people in 3.. 2.. 1…” take 2 seconds out to greet everyone when I get there, and see what happens. 🙂

    • January 13, 2012 10:33 pm

      I’m always a fan of remembering to police our internal monologues, so I think that taking a moment before jumping into a PuG to remind ourselves to go in with positive attitude is a great thing. It’s difficult enough to communicate over the internet, and we have so many problems when we can’t interpret a person’s tone or emotion from the text they write. So when we go into a group assuming negativity as the default, we may very well be misinterpreting what the other person is actually trying to convey.

  5. January 13, 2012 4:24 pm

    Option 3: I greet people but no one says anything, The run proceeds silently and is over quickly. It was unmemorable and I will probably never meet these people again anyways, regardless of how it went – whatever…

    What are the incentives to -not- roll on loot only to pass it on to your guildmate to take that example? No one can see other than you. I don’t support this practice, but I understand how bad behaviour in general has no/very little consequence in LFD/LFR.

    “Want a better PuG experience? Raise your expectations, hold yourself to higher standards, and change your dialogue.”
    – So, if I had a bad pug experience, it was my own fault? What if I have done all this (and I have), and people are still either silent/mean, what then?

    Your post has a nice and positive message (and these messages are important too), but wouldn’t all the problems be gone by now if this was the answer?

    • January 13, 2012 5:34 pm

      I really appreciate your comment, Ironyca. From what I’ve seen in comments here and where the post was linked on MMO Melting Pot, I think that perhaps I was a bit unclear in my point.

      I am absolutely NOT saying that if you simply go out and be nice to people in PuGs (or life, for that matter) you will somehow be magically immune to dealing with the assholes. Nor am I saying that a bad PuG experience is your fault, or that there’s anything at all wrong with a group that simply finishes the objective in silence.

      What I was trying to convey, rather, was the importance of positive reinforcement over negative reinforcement. Trolls survive because we feed them; so don’t. I am constantly amazed at the long, drawn out conversations people will have with trolling players in LFD/LFR when all they had to do was /ignore them after the first rude remark. As I said in the post, we cannot change other people’s behavior. If someone is clearly being a jerk, then just choose not to engage them. We absolutely can take control back of our experience by choosing not to respond to the negative comments and then using /ignore to ensure that we don’t have to see anymore of them.

      So when we see tons of blog posts out there that amount to negative reinforcement for trolling players, then, yes, I’m going to plead to the community for a change. We can take control of our environment in WoW in a way that’s not nearly so simple in life. If there are players who I don’t want to engage with because of their attitude, then I don’t have to. Why, knowing this, does anyone enter into a fight with a troll? What’s the point? Nothing we say will change what they’re doing, so why can’t we simply choose to play in a WoW where they effectively don’t exist?

  6. Hawk permalink
    January 13, 2012 7:46 pm

    I really couldn’t agree more with this. I don’t get any charge at all out of being a problem in a group (or in real life either) and confess I don’t understand those who do other than being attention-seekers.

    I’m not at all sure I understand why it’s so difficult to treat strangers with respect or at worst ambivalence. It’s not that I’m unrealistic about how things go in LFD/LFR although I’ve been posting at people for a long time now on forums that most of my dungeon runs go off without a problem. They’re not that memorable for the most part.

    It’s not that difficult to venture a ‘Hello’ when you find your group and go from there with a salutory ‘Let’s rock this place’ as you start the first pull.

    I’ve put off most of the forum complaints to just that: forum complaints. Hardly anyone is going to go to MMO-C or the Blizz forums to post that “Ran Twilight last night. Everything went great.” So most of what you get is people venting.

    • January 13, 2012 10:49 pm

      Agreed – official forums aren’t really a place to look for positivity, which is why I’m making this appeal on a blog rather than there. (I write that as if I actually spend time on WoW’s official forums, when really I don’t care to go anywhere near them. :P)

      I don’t understand the drive to be intentional problems in a group either, though I somewhat can wrap my head around players who have a drive to “fix” people who don’t play a class as well as they do. I get that it can be very tempting to give advice to anyone and everyone we come across, but it’s important to remember not to offer it to someone doesn’t want it.

  7. January 16, 2012 12:28 pm

    Great post.

    I agree that we do have a responsibility as a community to be civil to each other. I personally try to be as pleasant or funny as I can be in Pugs. If someone is being abusive, I try to disarm them with humor and it does work most of the time. I do sometimes also get overly sarcastic with some childish behavior but it does seem to be positive in the end, in most cases.

    The thing I have a problem with is entitlement. I think ilvl does that to people. The 390 toon that wants to be carried while they watch TV or YouTube is no better than the PvP wonder. Both would make it ok if they were actually trying, but I often find that those people just don’t.

    I like the idea that MMOs can be places where we do better than in the real world when it comes to social interaction.

    I do admit that there are certain times of the day when I don’t que up or PvP because I can only stomach so much childish garbage.

  8. Tina permalink
    February 4, 2012 12:52 am

    I ran with a nice PUG through cata normals, things went pleasant. A few spotty heals, a few mobs trying to run away from the feraltank at times, but nobody died and we downed the mobs and bosses without difficulty.

    At completion, the healer needed on a healing piece, the beartank needed on a leather piece. Everyone else clicked Disenchant. Upon the needers winning their items, the other dps (high dps, raid geared) has to make a snarky comment to the likes of ‘really…you still need BLUE items? That is so….sad!’. Great way to make a nice run end on a sour note!

    Now why does someone feel the need to make nasty comment because, gosh…people who were wearing a mix of quest items, fresh cata greens, and some blues, actually needed an item upgrade? The healer and other dps were obviously fresh to cata and trying to gear up.

    If the other guy felt the need to run low level dungeons to get himself some ‘easy’ shards while blowing up dps meter in his raid gear…the least he could do is not be a jerk that someone might actually be using the ‘low’ normal cata instances…to get gear. He’s the one who doesn’t really belong-he’s the one who needs to be the most polite and recognize not everybody leapt into cata with full purple wrath/pvp gear perhaps, then right on into cata purples.

    I just tried to do what I could and remarked “great run guys, and grats on your upgrades!’. Everybody was new once, and gear was not made just to be disenchanted for your own convenience. Do mat runs with your guildies if you can’t behave yourself in Pugs!

    • Tina permalink
      February 4, 2012 12:56 am

      The healer and other dps were obviously fresh to cata and trying to gear up.

      Sorry, I mean, the healer, the Tank, and the other dps were fresh and gearing. I had a mix of HoT gear (just JP farming the normals). The snarky Dps was raid geared.

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