standing at the back in my sissy robe

July 6, 2009

We may not have to atone for evil doing until the next world but we pay for stupidity in this one

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now about ignorance in WoW.  Gosh, that sounds like a portentous introduction to what is actually a rather simple topic.  I guess I shouldn’t have weighed in so heavy with the Schopenhauer.


When it comes to instance bosses (and raiding, from what I’ve read, looks even worse), the way WoW works a lot of the time is that if you don’t know how the fight works in advance you’ll probably fail.  I think the notion behind it was originally that you’d learn by doing.  Shamus Young characterises this sort of gameplay as Do It Again Stupid and, although it’s the kind of gameplay that drives me mad in single player games, there’s a degree to which it works moderately well for WoW.  I mean, sometimes, you get what’s going on and you muddle through by sheer luck and a bloody minded refusal to lie down and die.  And if it’s been a smooth run I often quite enjoy the first post-boss corpse run in which you’re all typing at about hundred miles a hour: “okay, we take out the healer first,” “yeah, yeah, and when he mind controls, if you use entangling roots, then we should be able to moderate the damage,” “I’ll off-tank the adds” etc. etc. It feels genuinely exciting.  There’s nothing duller than a fight you know you’re going to win.

But, sometimes, going in cold and hoping for the best is not what you need.  Maybe it’s been slightly tense, maybe it’s past your bedtime, maybe your shield is flashing yellow, maybe your tea is getting cold, who knows.  In which case you can alt-tab and look it up, or somebody can talk you through the fight.  But the point is, in order to make a decent go of things, you really need the knowledge.  Not only knowledge of the forthcoming fight, but knowledge of who amongst you knows what.

The amount of times, I’ve stood there at the top of the steps of ZF watching the tank who said he knew exactly what he was going go charging straight down to the bottom and get torn apart by the gazillion trolls.

Now I realise that there’s no obligation present in the game to act as an educator to all and sundry, but equally I’ve noticed a widespread contempt for ignorance which makes it genuinely difficult to admit it if you haven’t done something before. Just on principle I usually do – I don’t want to be the guy who fucked everything up by not coming clean.  And if I had a gold piece for each time someone has sneered at me for it … well … I’d have some gold pieces.  Similarly, if I had a gold piece for every PUG that crashed and burned because somebody didn’t have a clue what they were doing and wouldn’t admit it …  well … I’d have some more gold pieces.

Ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity, or even being a bad player.  It’s just a natural part of the learning curve, and it becomes a hugely problematic one if other players sneer and bitch at you for it. It’s like PUGing in an Orwellian dystopia, where nobody dares say anything lest they another player turn them in to have rats stuck to their face.  I suspect it comes down, like everything else, to WoWcockism – but quite frankly I think you’re trying to add inches to it by deriding other players,  it’s beyond the help of science or religion.

I remember when were running AN, the warlock who was leading the group, took about 2 minutes before each boss fight to outline it for li’ll ignorant me.  And I really really appreciated it.  Not only was I a super effective healer of a fabulousness but I feel pretty confident about running the thing again.  The first time I do an instance, I consider it pretty much my duty to learn it and that’s a whole lot easier if it doesn’t go past in a blur of bewildered panic.

Anyway, before the final boss, the lock was running us through the strategy and the local deathtard, who was bouncing all over the place in what was either an orgy of impatience or desperation to go to the toilet, suddenly interrupted.  “Strategy,” he said, “1) Pew Pew 2) ??? 3) Loot.”

“Is 2) a wipe” asked M’Pocket, dryly.

Which, I think, says it all really.



  1. Of course, it’s a lot better if you have a regular Someone Awesome to explain stuff to you. My little Noobtard Deathcow is tanking much better now he knows what ‘taunt’ is for…..

    Comment by Claire — July 6, 2009 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

    • Hehe, it’s a little bit like the blind leading the blind – I’m not a natural tank by any means. Also you’re a much higher level tank than I’ve ever been, so noobcow must be doing something right 🙂

      Comment by Tamarind — July 6, 2009 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  2. Muahaha – love Y’Pocket’s comeback.

    I really related to this post, because it ties into probably my worst WoW moment ever. I was fairly used to (and not half bad at) deriving the strategy from what people talked about before the run, and early sneering of the sort you talked about had gotten me out of the habit of asking. Actually, it had mostly gotten me out of the habit of running instances. Well, my first trip into Heroic Mechanar, I didn’t ask, and the postive-negative charge boss came up. Needless to say, I wiped the group. I will *never* try to do a boss fight again without knowing exactly what I should be doing, because a bit of embarrassment because you asked is a temporary thing. After the wipe, you could have fried an egg on my face – it was much, much worse. So, lesson learned.

    Comment by Kahleena — July 6, 2009 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

    • Yes, indeed, much adoration for M’Pocket Tank.

      Your story precisely illuminates why people sneering is hugely harmful. I get myself in that kind of mess all the time (like the time I decided I was too clever to ask who was tanking and wiped the group) but I’m fighting against it. If there wasn’t such a stigma against admitting ignorance then people would be much more comfortable about it. I mean, it doesn’t make anyone any worse a player, simply for not knowing something, just as it’s not your fault a group wiped because everyone was too stupid to stop and talk things through for 30 seconds.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 6, 2009 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

  3. Maybe I’m just spoiled. My tank partner and I lead all of our PuGs, and we’ll generally explain the essential “if you don’t know these things you’ll die” stuff, regardless if people say they’ve been there before or not. We don’t really see much sneering, my tank tends to filter out the stupids before he’s even done putting the run together.

    The first time we went to each of the Northrend instances, we weren’t really ashamed to say we had never been there before, because invariably our group consisted of two other people who had also never been there before (or had, but they had no idea what they were doing those times) and one person who had been there eleventy-million times on his main already and was happy to be the center of attention by explaining it to us all.

    Comment by Kiryn — July 6, 2009 @ 5:43 pm | Reply

    • I should move to America, clearly.

      The thing is there’s very often a leadership void in the PUGs I’ve run. I’ve stepped into it on occasions and having M’Pocket Tank along helps because you’ve suddenly got 2/5 automatically on your side, instead of being the lone voice going “don’t you think we should mark.” Often the person who put the group together couldn’t lead the way out of his own arse, and has no interest in doing so anyway.

      There’s a genuine feeling in a lot of the PUGs I have run that instancing just happens somehow, with no co-ordination at all. Or else that the tank should lead, although M’Pocket Tank hates leading because she wants to concentrate on, y’know, tanking. The whole system is kind of messed up, alongside the fact there are never enough people wanting to run instances so it’s not like you can filter for stupid because stupid is often all there is.

      God, I’m jealous of you and your tank 🙂

      Of course, running with friends is entirely different. I miss those days.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 6, 2009 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

      • Honestly, I don’t know how I would do it without him. PuGs by myself never go very well, rarely go at all in fact. I usually end up sitting around questing while in LFG chat, and I occasionally get a whisper from someone asking if I want to go to X place I put myself in LFG for (else why would I put myself in LFG for it? silly people) but then the group usually falls apart before we even have a full 5 people.

        If by some miracle we do manage to get 5 people, it almost always falls apart before two people manage to get to the instance to summon the rest. Lack of initiative, really. The few times a run has actually completed has usually been because it was a low level place and one of our members just said “Forget this, I’m calling my level 80 friend to run me through, you can tag along if you want.”

        It’s why I rarely run anything without my tank along =) He just /who and whispers people politely asking them if they want to run X instance, something I’d never be able to do.

        Comment by Kiryn — July 7, 2009 @ 1:40 am

  4. Honestly, in my opinion the number one thing a PuG can do to lead to failure is assume that everyone knows what they are doing!

    Even if you are learning content cold, you want to share what you may, or may not know from prior experiences (i.e. we learned that this guy spits fire from his nostrals randomly, and you should move from it).

    Any PuG group that I am leading, I give everyone the opportunity to ask questions or let me know privately that they’ve not done it before. I find that the 2 minutes it takes to explain an encounter is far better than the 20 minutes it takes wiping because people don’t know what to do =)

    Comment by Beruthiel — July 6, 2009 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

    • That all sounds wonderfully sensible and I try to do that when I lead PUGs myself. Unfortunately the Ignorance Stigma is so severe that people often resent even the suggestion that they might not have done it all before, and won’t admit it, even privately, and may, in fact, get snippy with you for asking.

      As I was saying above, in a lot of the PUGs I have run, there’s been a distinct leadership void but it’s a void nobody seem to *want* filling. The prevailing attitude seems to be that instancing just happens somehow, when actually it requires communication, team play and a modicum of organisation. I think this is connected to WoW Machismo – i.e. that the game shouldn’t take any effort, and you should just to be able to blitz through it in purples with your heirloom shoulders.


      Of course I’m generalising (and whinging). I’ve run with some great PUGs, sometimes leading, sometimes not. And I remember them all fondly.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 6, 2009 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  5. I like to put it out there right away that I’ve never been somewhere. What can be irritating, is even in doing that at the beginning.. there’s still some people that will say right before a boss “Ok, everyone know what to do? Pulling!” with no pause.

    Then I’m trying to say “No, I haven’t been here, so clearly I don’t know…”

    Granted it could be a fight I’ve read on (but I’m talking about 5s in this example), but at least a brief rundown/highlight of what to expect would be appreciated… since I just said I’ve never been here.

    Now with 10mans, even if I read up on it… I still need to see the fight and try it at least once before it all clicks together. Some people think reading strats equals knowing the fight with yer eyes shut… but that just isn’t always the case. I don’t know the full effectiveness of how/where I should move or whatever until I have to actually do it.

    Comment by Syrana — July 7, 2009 @ 2:11 am | Reply

    • Yes, I’m exactly the same. i’d just prefer not to have people sneer at me when I do.

      Hmm, perhaps it’s because you’re of the female persuasion – at the risk of being harsh on the male of the species, I suspect we react less badly to women admitting ignorance because it allows us to enjoy pleasure of educating their small minds. (I hope sarcasm is coming through appropriately in that sentence). Actually, yes, the more I think about. Whenever I’ve ‘fessed up on a female alt people have generally been nicer about it than when I’ve been on Tam or my druid.

      Also, even if you *do* know what to do, I like a brief pause before pulling, even if it’s just to say I’m ready. The amount of times I’ve been sitting round, takin’ a mana break, only to look up and see the tank on the other side of the room, getting hammered … well … I’ve seen it a lot, and it depresses me =P

      I agree with you about understanding fights. I always need to participate at least a couple of times before I fully understand what the heck is going on.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 7, 2009 @ 9:56 am | Reply

  6. […] Learn by being led or learn by watching?  Two equally fascinating glimpses into figuring out how to take on difficult boss encounters. […]

    Pingback by /AFK – July 12 « Bio Break — July 12, 2009 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  7. I’m a man, and I ask for directions…

    Nearly all the Northrend instances I have done have been with PuGs… nearly all of them as Heroic 1st time around.

    if I haven’t done it before, I pipe up at the start and say:

    “I haven’t done this before, but I’m a quick learner”. More often than not I’m the last Gnome standing…

    What I nearly always do as we approach a boss is ask the question:

    “How we going to do this boss fight?”

    This is for 3 reasons…
    1) refresh my memory.
    2) Bring people up to speed that are too scared to ask
    3) Avoid a wipe by ensuring we are all on the same page… it’s amazing how often there are 5 different strategies for a boss, and all 5 players do their own thing.

    But that said, I have always found that I am one of the few people in a room to ask the stupid questions… or at least the 1st one to break the ice.

    Comment by gnomeaggedon — July 15, 2009 @ 8:58 am | Reply

    • Yes but you are a rare gnome.

      Seriously, though, I’m exactly the same – I ‘fess up when I don’t know something, and I always want to stop the group and talk the fight through, even if I’ve done it a bunch times, before we all charge merrily to our deaths.

      The problem, as it strikes me, is that the majority of people are unwilling to do this, for fear, I think of being judged. And, quite frankly, a lot of players do judge. I remember M’Pocket Tank was running a heroic t’other day and she asked, before the start of the instance, who had done it before because she hadn’t. And one of inevitable deathtards replied, with a sneer, by asking “is that a real question?”


      Comment by Tamarind — July 15, 2009 @ 10:14 am | Reply

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