My Dog Ate My Frost Resist Set

A comment by Malevica on a recent article inspired me to write about excuses.  Excuses for leaving groups, for missing raids, for poor performance, for lack of knowledge, for not heading to the dungeon when your group fills up and generally just not giving your all when playing with others.

WoW is a game, first and foremost.  Let’s get that out of the way.  Games (not just those played on the computer) have different levels of interaction with others, and different levels of commitment required.

You can stop a game of Solitaire to go make yourself a cup of tea without issue, but the pitcher can’t just walk off the mound halfway through game of baseball because his mother tells him dinner is ready.

I like to think of WoW as being around the same level as a friendly bowling team.  You don’t tend to bring substitutes to the alley, so if one person doesn’t show, the game is off.  If you’re in a tournament or league, an unannounced no-show may prevent your teammates from playing themselves.

I don’t think anyone believes that WoW should trump all else, or that nobody should ever be pulled away from the game for something important.  If a family emergency comes up, you have to go.  The issue is the subjective value of “important”, and the ability of people to be honest, both with themselves:

How much time do I *really* have available to me before I jump in this heroic or raid?

and with others:

I’m sorry, I can’t join the Thursday raid because I have a paper due on Friday, but I’ll be sure to unsign well in advance so you’re not left hanging because of me

We’ve all heard the various excuses for why someone fails to meet a commitment they’ve made to other players:

My guild needs me for a run

I have to go to eat

I wasn’t feeling well

Or the best excuse of all:

What I’d like to discuss (and what I think Malevica was getting at) wasn’t so much the veracity of the excuses themselves, but the need to make them.  Regardless of the reason you give, having to make excuses comes down to two things: not managing your time and assigning a different importance to WoW than the people you play with.

How Important is WoW to You?

When you PUG a heroic, you’re going to get a mix of people.  Some may be hardcore players farming emblems, while others may be once-a-week casuals.  Each person will probably consider WoW to be of various levels of importance.  Some will consider it less important than a phone call from a friend; others will let everything save a giant squid attaching itself to the side of their house.  You’re not going to be able to predict it, so when a member of your group goes AFK unannounced, there’s not much you can do other than press on (if the group can sustain the loss) and maybe mark them as someone not to group with again.

The bigger issue is time management: your ability to plan your leisure time such that when you make a commitment, you’re able to keep it.  If you have a lot of friends who like to go out at short notice, and you consider WoW to be less important than those friends, you’re probably not the best candidate for a raiding guild.

If you don’t control your own time (i.e. anyone who has to answer to a parent, spouse or S.O.), then you need to either come to an agreement on what time you can spend playing without interruption.  Respect those blocks of time – don’t try to squeeze in a heroic run when you only have 15 minutes left – only a flawless run goes that quickly, and some instances can’t even be done flawlessly that fast.

WoW Is Not a Job?  Or Is It?

When explaining my position on this to other people, I try to steer clear of equating WoW with a job.  There seems to be some taboo surrounding this.  I don’t really know why: paying jobs and serious raiding in WoW share many similarities.

Unlike a paying job however, your guild doesn’t have any direct authority over you.  You willingly play by the rules they set because you want the reward at the end.  If you don’t want to play by the rules, you leave the guild.  I can’t just walk away from my job because the compensation is so tightly interwoven with everything else in my life.  If I don’t like something my boss tells me to do, I have few options other than to do it.

For people who are more social, some of the problem may be in trying to explain to someone who doesn’t play an MMO why you choose to spend time playing and more specifically why you have to play at a specific time.  Do you remember trying to explain to someone for the first time that there is no such thing as a pause button in WoW?

There also seems to be a taboo against giving the same level of respect to your on-line friends as your real life friends.  If you do so, you’re a no-lifer who only has friends on the Internet.  Yet the same real-life friends who level such charges would think it rude of you to stand them up for an arranged meeting.  Having respect for your guildmates doesn’t mean that they are equal to your real-life friends.  While on-line friendships can be quite strong and long-lasting, they can’t really compare to seeing someone in person with the same regularity.

It almost seems that “respecting your commitments to others” is seen by some as the apex of friendship, whereas I would say it’s a basic tenet of any friendship, on-line or off.

No matter how well you plan your time, eventually life will come knocking.  When it does, be honest with the people you’re letting down.  Don’t make up silly excuses that your guildmates are going to see right through.  Most people are pretty bad liers, and people will think less of you if you get caught making up excuses than if you’re honest.

****This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

You may not even realize that you need to re-evaluate how you spend your leisure time until you get honest with the people you’re letting down.  If you find yourself having to skip out on raids regularly because of other social commitments, then perhaps serious raiding just isn’t for you.  Be glad that in today’s WoW, hardcore raiding is not the only path to gear.

Dealing With Excuses as a Guild Leader

What can guild leaders do to make things easier?  Make your expectations of members clear.  As I mentioned earlier, people raiding together who have different ideas of how important WoW is causes some of these problems.  The entire guild doesn’t have to rate WoW in the same place on their scale of important, but everyone should be pretty close to each other.  More than how often guilds raid or for how long, I would argue that it’s the level of importance the members place on raiding that classifies a guild as hardcore or casual.  Longer, more focused raids are just a natural side effect of getting a group people together who feel very strongly about WoW and progression therein.

Recognize that life happens, and try to be accommodating – to a point.  I don’t think anyone should have drastic measures taken against them for their first no show (except perhaps during a trial period).  But every no-show should be justified upon the person’s return.  If your loot system allows for it, consider a penalty for a no-show, with steeper penalties for successive no-shows.  If your members are aware of this, they should accept the penalty as part of being a member.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on burnout, which is apropos given where we are in the patch cycle (though interest is sure to increase with the speculation of 3.3 coming out next week).  People burn out, and certain classes burn out faster than others.  If you don’t spot this happening early, you may be able to do nothing when the person finally explodes and /gquits or takes an extended WoW holiday.  An increase in excused no-shows may be the precursor to someone burning out.  Do you have a process in place to make things easier on someone approaching the burnout point?  Once you have content on farm, do you rotate your less experienced tanks into the MT role, allowing the progression tanks to do some DPS?  What about your healers?  Are you OK with having a “critical” member of your raid team take a several-week break and come back without penalty rather than lose them?

Hopefully this has given both raiders and guild leaders something to think about.  We all approach our gaming slightly differently, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a common ground from which to play together with respect.

Until Next Time