Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dealing with the pain of being a bad player

One of the favourite themes among bloggers is the discussion about what makes a “good player” and what makes a “bad” one. How should we look upon the players who perform sub-par, who die too easily or deliver less damage/healing/threat than expected, the once who consistently fail to move out of fire? Are they lazy bums, looking for a free ride, people who deserve to be called “slackers” and “morons” and should be ignored since they’re wasting our time?

Here are just a few samples of posts which recently have caught my attention. Green Armadillo at Player Versus Developer wrote an interesting post about incentives and explained why more advanced players don’t have much patience with players further down on the learning curve.

Klepsacovic at Troll Racials are Overpowered wrote a follow up, pointing out that there’s unfortunately no gear reward from teaching other players, which will lead to a behaviour where we overgear instead of learning and where we replace players instead of helping the new ones to improve.

While those two posts are very reasonable and written in a soft manner, some aren’t. Gevlon isn’t alone making blunt judgements about people, putting etiquettes on them as “morons” and “slackers”. Tobold made an effort to argue against that kind of vocabulary, but in fact it’s pretty commonly used, not only by forum trolls, but by bloggers. Probably it’s often done without much thinking. For instance David, who is an intelligent, well mannered and low profiled blogger, who rarely goes aggressive in his posts, wrote something in this direction in a comment at Ixobelle:
“I would say Heroic HoL is not hard - Heroic Loken is. He is a so-so gear check and the ultimate noob check. Can you shift between 2 predetermined locations immediately after each thunder nova emote? If the answer is yes, you win. If the answer is no, go to jail, do not pass GO, and go practice on normal HoL, which is meant for level 78 players and the legally blind.”
It isn’t ill meant it any way, but still I can’t help feeling a bit hit by comments like this. I haven’t yet survived a Loken encounter (though I must admit I’ve only done the instance a couple of times, for some reason it doesn’t come up as “top of mind” when it comes to picking an instance”. Am I a noob? Yes, maybe I am.

Doubting myself
All those posts about “skill”, “being good” and “being bad” have one thing in common: for some reason they make me feel a little bit uneasy, and for a while I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is because they make me think about which category I belong to myself.

Somehow the authors always seam to assume that their readers all belong to the pool of “good players”. But what if some of us don’t? What if some of us in fact are pretty crappy? There are moments when I think I suck so much that I wouldn’t blame other players for becoming annoyed with me. Maybe I just haven’t got what it takes, no matter how much I want to, how motivated I am, how much effort I put into learning, trying to make it all right?

Deep inside I know that Hafrot was spot on in a comment he wrote at a post at Rawrbitchrawr :
“Ultimately, play is about execution. You may have the right spec, and the right gear and the right macro's and know the strategy and loot table for every boss in Naxx... but if you can't stay out of a Shadow Fissure then all that knowledge is for naught.”
It’s painful to hear but it’s absolutely true. And I guess that’s the reason for the constant stream of self criticism that keeps running through my head. Every time I die at Heigan I feel like a complete idiot. Every time I fail at Loken, running either too far or to short away from him, I feel like hitting myself hard in the head. Every time I’m too slow to make a sheep or a decurse in a raid I cry a little bit inside, wondering how long it will take before my guildmates run out of patience and nicely and politely will ask if I shouldn’t rather join a guild of players at my own skilllevel instead of plaguing this guild.

It has happened more than once that I’ve thought that I’m a hoax, just waiting to be exposed. I probably don’t deserve to be in the semi-hardcore environment where I am. Do I really carry my own weight in a raid or am I rather a burden? Maybe people are just too nice to tell me?

I’m pretty old for this game and that’s probably one of the reasons why my situation awareness and my speed of reaction isn’t the best. Sometimes I think I maybe shouldn’t play the game at all. Or at least I maybe shouldn’t aim for higher raids. Perhaps I should go play some game intended for small kinds and elderly and let the good players enjoy the company of each other?

Thoughts of comfort
Now, this sounds pretty black, and it is how I feel, but don’t jump into the conclusion that I’m giving up. No way I will, at least not for now being. I’ve got a few thoughts of comfort in my pocket to help me keep up the spirits.

After all I do improve. It doesn’t always come as quickly as I wish, but I actually do. The frogger game in Naxx is just an example. The first time I was supposed to cross the slime highway I died a lot. Now I probably won’t, even though I’m not confident enough to make it a bet. That annoying thrusting-the-spear-quest in Stormpeaks is another example. No, I haven’t completed it yet, and I’m a bit ashamed about that, but at least I’ll hang around a lot longer now than the first try. It’s just a matter of time before I make it. And I last a bit longer at Heagan and I’m convinced I’ll make it eventually, depending on how long we will keep raiding Naxx when other raid instances are released.

I do believe that some of my problems are caused by the insane lag I get in 25 man raiding. Some of the fights in Naxx are more like slide shows than as movies, which makes just surviving a challenge and doing good dps on top of that even worse. I hope that I one day will manage to find a computer solution at home which will change this, and that will probably have some impact on my performance.

Another comforting thought is that even if some players consider people like me “noobs” and “idiots“, they actually probably enjoy the game more than they would otherwise, even though they don’t realize it. You see, thanks to my inferiority when it comes to Heagan dancing and other basics, those players can enjoy feeling good about their own skills, feeling superior. How dull wouldn’t the game be to them if everyone else was at the same skill level as themselves?

Finally I’d just like to cite Euripides at Critical QQ, who made a post on the “good player” topic, which really made my day and gave me some courage and hope. Among other things he wrote:

“A good player doesn’t need to have any skills. A good player doesn’t need to know anything. A good player can enter the game, play a hunter, and get all the way to level 43 petless and using Raptor Strike as their primary attack. What defines a good player is their capability to better themselves. If they are willing to learn, willing to research, willing to become better at everything they do, then they are a good player.”
Thank you Euripides for pointing this out. I’ll keep it in mind the next time my self confidence is dipping to critical low levels.


Anonymous said...

Amen to that last description of a good player. I consider myself pretty obsessive when it comes to knowing as much as there is to know about the game. But I totally understand that it isn't for everybody. Kinda like the question: what's the difference between a newb and a noob. The willingnes and motivation to learn counts for a lot, and I'm sure the classification of "moron" or "slacker" is only given to people that don't have it at all.

David said...

Maybe my language was a little harsh on Ixobelle (his posts tend to excite the crass, aggressive man-boy aspect of me) but its true Heroic Loken is very unforgiving - it demands full concentration on the part of all 5 players. If you lose one dps, you may be overwhelmed by the constant AOE damage before he goes down. If the tank or healer dies early, well that's a given it'll become a wipe.

I myself fell into my own category of 'no'. After a great deal of wiping, I went into regular HoL as an 80 in half epics, snoring through most of the run but studying Loken with a microscope to get his tricks down. And then I knew what to expect instead of having to learn on the fly in a hectic attempt.

To restate myself a little more eloqouently, dying to Loken doesn't instantly make you a clueless noob, but you sure as hell feel like one when you eat his lightning nova and go down. You know its coming - he does his explosions like clockwork.

I wish I ran on clockwork too, that way I would never ever make a mistake. But I get tunnel vision, my mind wanders for a brief second, my computer hiccups and throws off my casting for a moment, any little thing can cause a wipe and bring the dreaded name of 'noob' down upon you.

And I have died many, many times on Loken attempts, and still do. After a wipe, I go to my achievement list, as in disbelief, to the achievement showing I was in a group once that killed him inside of 3 minutes. I ask myself why I cannot recreate perfection on demand.

As my main is almost always in a healer role, I deal with the pain of being a bad player often. In a 5-man, if I misclick or stumble on one or two global cooldowns, the tank may die. And it happens more than I'd like. I see a dps take damage and I try to save him, and then oh crap the tank is at 25%, I try to cast my instant 10k heal on him, but I blow it by casting it on myself or a dps because I press the wrong key on the keyboard or misclick. By the time I realize my mistake the tank is dead. There is no doubt among anyone in the group the fault is mine, and I take the responsibility and apologize. Thankfully the players I run with are a forgiving lot.

To err is human, and thus, to noob it up from time to time is human, too. I wouldn't get too worried about other's judgements upon you. Practice and experience can smooth out our imperfections and make us better players, but we also need the support of our peers, not ridicule or name-calling. And when you do pull off your execution perfectly, the sense of accomplishment is that much greater.

Lily said...

Larisa, i think youre one of the better players ive played with in game. Maybe a little bit distraced sometimes, but hey, theres no law against that, is there? :)
Maybe it is like you say about the graphics being worse than you think.
I don't play anymore but i'd have to say one of the most annoying things while raiding during a boss fight is when you know what to do, youre trying to do it, but computer mechanics hinder you from doing it properly.. (eg. lag from AoE in Hyjal :-/ )
Anywho, check out some graphics optimization guides perhaps? Might help, you never know.

Favourite moment with you, in hc SV, where you just skip right pass me, thoughtlessly, straight into the last couple of groups before Warlord Kalithresh. I wish I had a recording of the Ventrilo just at that moment. :) Priceless

Btw, i have to say I enjoy reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

To me, a good player is one that is always trying to better themselves. I agree with the quote, a good player is always questioning themselves. If for example, a good player is being consistently out dpsed by someone who is the same class as them, they will ask questions and start discussions. Bottom line is, a good player constantly strives to become better. Just the fact that you are making posts like this one tells me that you are a good player, and I've never even played with you :)

DeftyJames said...

I honestly don't know how good of a player you are because I have never played in-game with you. But I can say that you are one of the best bloggers about the game.

What I was struck by after reading your post was an issue that I have longed complained about. I agree with GreenArmadillo about the incentives problem. But I think a lot of it has to do with mental flexibility. I grew up in a tradition where you "made do with what you got". We didn't have the luxury (and it is a real luxury) of kicking someone out of a group and then spamming trade with LFH, for example. That just didn't exist.

I think that part of the problem is not that players are bad, or that they need to learn, it's that raid and group leaders just want to brute force the encounters. Instead of taking a step back, assessing the talents in the group, and plotting a winning strategy around those talents; it's much easier to "kick and hunt" as I like to call it.

To me, it's one of the deep ironies about Blizzard's approach of "bring the player not the class". But that's a different comment.

Anonymous said...


We have some guys in our guild who make me feel like this (and then it makes me want to hit them), and I know I'm a decent player.

There's something wacky in player mentality that means for a lot of people, as soon as they have beaten an encounter, they will announce to the universe that it's easy and only a moron could fail (conveniently forgetting all the trouble they had learning the encounter in the first place).

I don't see what the problem is in admitting that an encounter was tough or tricky to learn. It's one of the nice things about reading blogs that people tend to be more honest and thoughtful about that.

Heroic Loken is easy in theory. Everyone knows what to do. But Blizzard gave so little time to react, I don't think it'd have killed them to have added another second to his casting time. That's the only reason it is hard I think.

Ixobelle said...

I'm not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination. I tanked old stuff (MC, ony, the 20 mans), and honestly found it funny how ridiculous everyone seemed on ventrilo. Everyone was so gung-ho hardcore, and lil isobelle the tank was just laughing (push to talk turned off, of course) because I finally realized why I was getting shield slam errors that one time: my shield was broken.

Stuff like this happens, and I tend to take it in stride. I'm finding more and more reason to enjoy the game --as a game-- now that being hardcore has taken a backseat to getting a few runs in while the kid's asleep.

One of my two favorite runs in my entire wow history was an UBRS run we did where some friends and I all grabbed matching sets of vendor greys and joined a pug. The priest and mage wore identical outfits (red flag #1), and the tank wasn't even wearing shoes (red flag #2). after wiping on the beast 5 times, we had to reclear trash again, and then someone finally inspected us. i told them "OMG IM SO SRRY, WE WER RPing EARLIER AND FORGT TO CHANGE BACK TO REAL GEAR LOL". then we put on our actual gear and blew thru the place. It was probably a mean thing to do, but the 5 of us couldn't breathe or talk because we were laughing so hard in vent.

a "REAL" player might never have the chance to enjoy something like that, but if what i do makes me "BAD", i'll happily be the trash-o-lastic warlock with a good attitude in vent any day.


why? it's a game, let's have fun.

Esdras said...

“A good player doesn’t need to have any skills. A good player doesn’t need to know anything. A good player can enter the game, play a hunter, and get all the way to level 43 petless and using Raptor Strike as their primary attack. What defines a good player is their capability to better themselves. If they are willing to learn, willing to research, willing to become better at everything they do, then they are a good player.”

Is quite possibly the coolest and most correct phrase i have seen.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: Actually I think we use “moron” and “slacker” a bit carelessly. Not always badly meant, but I think we should think twice before using it. I think it’s pretty rare that people play badly on purpose.

@David: Ah, thank you for the clarification. You describe the feeling of mishaps like clicking the wrong button much better than I ever could do. It’s exactly how things are to me. Reading about your experiences I actually get a big triggered. I really want to go back to HoL and learn how the clockwork runs to perfection. Doing it at normal, though overgeared, may be an alternative.

@Lily: wow, I had no idea you were reading my blog. Thank you for all kind words! I miss you deeply!

Oh, that Larísa-caused wipe in SV… Haha. .I had managed to forget about it, but now I remember it too clearly… /Blush. However it shouldn’t come as a surprise to my readers, I don’t hide my shortcomings.

I know you helped me once to sort out some drive routines and stuff. It helped at the moment but the 3.0.2 patch really screwed everything up to me as well as to many other players (just throw an eye at the technical support forum and you’ll see what I mean.

@Xoog: Well, following your and Euripiedes definition I guess I am. But if you look at the very valid point about the necessity of being able to execute I’m maybe not. On the other hand it’s all relative. I have encountered players who are worse than me at moving out of fire.

@DeftyJames: Thank you for your kind words!
I think you’re definitely on to something there. About the sadness of the brute force strategy rather than enjoying the challenge of making a good thing out of the circumstances, the resources you have available this time. May be worth pondering more about.

@Spinksville: Oh, you’re so right about that observation, how players tend to classify encounters as “as easy” as soon as they’ve beaten them, being totally unable to admit it actually took some effort to learn. The best approach is probably to laugh at it.

@Ixobelle: I just loved that story and you’re relaxed view on the game. Sometimes I think there’s a connection – the more skilled and experienced you are, the more relaxed can you be and laugh at mishaps.

@Esdras. Yep. Euripides is in deed a very cool blogger. I’m a big fan of him.

Carra said...

I'm not always performing on the same level every day and on some days, I'm playing rather bad. So I'm always willing to give people some slack.

However, it's very frustrating to see people keep on failing on things which are very easy for yourself. If you can run Heigan for 3 hours without getting hit, doing Thaddius for 3 hours without missing a polarity change, Loken with a blindfold then it's very frustrating to see that other people just can't do the same and manage to fail on each attempt.

If you know you are doing some things wrong yourself, you can improve yourself. If other people keep on making the same mistakes, it's frustrating. The first one is good as it shows you know you make mistakes and are willing to improve it. The second is just plain annoying as it shows people do not improve.

That sums it up: "It's frustrating to see that people keep on making the same mistakes and do not improve".

Gevlon said...

The good player improves over time. The slacker don't want, the moron can't. As long as you improve, you are neither.

BTW some encounters can be done "creative" ways. For example I reused my Murmur experience at Loken "running is for the weak, barkskin is for the trees".

Tip: the unglyphed blink take you to JUST the perfect distance.

DW said...

Gotta say, you hit some of my deepest darkest (wow)feelings spot on.
Especially when im asked to respec and tank.
If nothing else the thought of not beeing the only one feeling this way, is nice :)

Oh and on Loken, tell your healer to stop slacking and just all hug him on explosions. Even with a bluegeared paladin healing and a equally non geared death-knight tanking, that is very doable.

kyrilean said...

Before I even finished reading this amazing post, I had already formulated something along the lines of what Euripedes said, but nothing quite so elegant.

Somehow in my guild I've become the spokesman on vent for our guild meetings and I've made it abundantly clear to our raiders that the officers are interested in only one thing: improvement!

We don't care that someone "sucks", what we do care is what they're going to do about it. I agree 100% with what Gevlon said:

"The good player improves over time. The slacker don't want, the moron can't. As long as you improve, you are neither."

You, Larisa, are a good player.

Darraxus said...

If it makes you feel any better, I have never been killed Heigan unless it was a full wipe (which has only happened once in runs I have been on). We have 4 manned him on 10 man and 13 manned him on 25, but the fight is ridiculously easy to me.

You are obviously not one of the bad players. Bad players dont recognize their own deficiencies and dont make strides to change it. They think they are the best thing since sliced bread and get pissed when you offer suggestions.

You are not a bad player from the sounds of it. If you were, there is no way that your guild would have let you raid at 70 and then again at 80. Lag is unavoidable unfortunately, and I have an aussie buddy who dies every time on Heigan because of it.

Klepsacovic said...

There is a lot that can be explained away by lag. I've had problems with Loken, Heigan, and mostly recently: Thaddius, due to lag. When there's no lag though, they're fairly simple. With that in mind, what makes a player bad in the specific context?

Slow reactions would be one, and unfortunately may be a barrier which cannot be overcome by the player, though I can imagine scenarios where gear or a group strategy can compensate.

Getting mixed up: you just can't keep right-positive in your mind. Stick a post-it somewhere. Practice it.

I'd say that neither of these are truly bad. I'd say they'd limiting, but not bad. Bad is the last explanation: not paying attention. This one is hard to diagnose because it looks just like lag, sometimes even to the person who is failing. There's no strategy guide or game knowledge which can compensate for someone who won't pay attention.

If you are bad, do what most people do: say the content is stupid. Objectively I do feel that arenas are the extreme gear rewards from them are stupid. But give me a few seconds to take off my Non-Biased Hat and I will tell you how arenas are the worst thing ever added to WoW and blah blah blah... I'm not very good at arenas. I don't run with the right compositions (I also feel like restrictive compositions are s sign of terrible balance) because I'd rather play with friends. I don't practice because after 20 losing matches it gets frustrating. My real problem is that I get overwhelmed and start making mistakes. I've not done any arena since WotLK came out, I'm in no rush. I might try it again, but I've given up on being anything above maybe 1600.

It's hard to point at content and say: "I'm not able to do this and gear won't fix it." When that happens, people get frustrated, they start quitting. I doubt many people are really at the point of zero potential advancement. I doubt you are there. Keep practicing, think out some little tactics that can compensate for lag or slow reactions, get better gear and maybe you can just survive by brute force.

Whatever you do, don't get down too much. It's a game that people invest a lot in, but ultimately, it is a game.

Anonymous said...

I can't remeber where I left the comment, but I said that we're not good players because we blog, but we blog because we're good players.

The fact that you have these sorts of self-doubts and take the time to examine yourself and your performance in a critical light *makes* you a good player. You think about yourself,you think about your failures, and you resolve to do better. And you go one step furthur - you talkto the larger WoW community about your introspection.

I would never ever gkick someone as thoughtful and inquisitive as you. You can acknowledge your shortcomings, research ways to improve and vow to do better. That is the very definition of a great player.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that gear can also make any player worse. For instance, in the Heroic Loken example, our group just stands right next to Loken the whole time no movement required. We can only do this because our gear levels (and our healers' gear level) permit that lapse. So, not only do we no longer have to practice moving, we just expect our healers to keep us up no matter what we idiots do.

On Heigen we have one healer who parks himself in the corner and chain heals himself instead of moving.....

Larísa said...

@Carra: I can understand it must be frustrating to wait for us slow learners to catch up. I just wanted to reveal some of the pain that we feel. Sometimes I get the feeling that people calling us "slackers", "morons" etc don't fully understand how it looks from this side. And how hard we really try. (At least many of us, I think).

@Gevlon: yeah, but bare in mind that improvement can go at different speed... About the blink: actually I tried blinking first time I saw Loken. And at that occasion it seemed utterly wrong. But maybe the wipes I remember were for other reasons. I think it's about time I go see him again, it's been a while and I - as well as many players you see in pugs - have geared up in the meanwhile.

@DW: oh thank you. It really feels good to know I'm not alone in the darkness.
I'm very tempted by the non-moving strategies at Loken. Hope I'll find a group able to do that one day.

@Kyrilean and Oriniwen: thank you so much. That's all I can say. Whenever I doubt myself I can always go back and read your assuring kind words.

@Darraxxus: I don't know if it makes me feel better that you never ever fail at those encounters :)
But yeah, it is comforting that my dying won't necessarily mean a wipe, since Heagan really is doable with very few people (only that it will take a while).

@Klepsacovic: a very wise and well written comment. No, I think you’re right, I haven’t yet hit the roof, I’m still improving, if not always as quickly as I’d wish. And yeah, I’ve given up the Arena thing altogether. That’s not for me, it’s the simple truth.

@Anonymous: hehe! That’s a strategy that probably would fit me very well. Although I’d feel a bit like I was cheating…

Anonymous said...

'Bad' player is to vague -- 'playing' is not one proficiency that you can assign a skill level to. There are several variables which affect your ability as a player, and some which do not.

Reaction time, strategic thinking, adaptability to circumstance, general situational awareness, appropriate preparation and experience are 6 attributes off the top of my head which can lead to success in a given encounter, and I'm sure there's other. None of them necessarily have any direct correlation to the other.

So Loken's going to punish the person with either poor reaction time and/or lack of situational awareness, though they may well possess other attributes in spades.

Jess said...

I'm not a 'noob' by any rational definition - but if you go by the wow forums or most websites I see, I must be. It gets frustrating sometimes - where did the idea that you have to be freaking perfect to even try heroics come from?

Kinzlayer said...

It's my opinion that a good player does not necessitate the requirement of skills but of willingness to improve. A player with skill is just that, a skill player. Some do learn slower then others, some do take a few more tries then others to execute as required, and some do have technological limitation but it is those who never ask why something fail, what cause the failure, and how to improve, are the ones who constitute bad players in my opinion.

Birdfall said...

I'm in a weird player -- I know very little about theory or specs or even my own class, I never show up knowing strats, and I always make my husband tell me what to do.

But. If I do something once, I can do it again. In a month, in a year, I'll still know how.

What that means is that I need to be hand-held through the first try, and I'm lucky enough to have a husband who enjoys specs and gear and humors me enough to explain things out loud (when I try to read strats, my eyes cross), but once I have it, I never lose it.

Weird, huh?

Hafrot said...

Hi Larisa! Stomp just turned me on to your blog, so I'm catching up on some of your posts.

The whole idea of good players and bad players really is relative. It sounds like you put a lot of thought into the way you play and what you can do to improve and that is exactly what good players do. Euripides nailed it for sure. The want to improve is what makes good players, not some exclusive savant ability.

Don't give up on an instance or a raid because it seems too hard. I promise, not many got it right on their first attempt and no one gets it right every time. Players that are conscious of their shortcomings and want to improve are the ones I want in my raids every time!!

Aleathea said...

Hi Larisa,

Your post struck a chord with me, as I often struggle with the same feelings.

I have found that, for most of us, becoming a skilled player isn’t something that just happens. It takes time, and it is a painful process because it involves a lot of mistakes, and a lot of embarrassment, and a whole lot of frustration. And there are times when you fail so badly that you think you’ll never be able to face your friends, or yourself, again and you want to give up.

But you don’t. Instead, you get back up and you try again, and again and again. And, gradually, you find the things that used to be so difficult are now a little bit easier. And one day you realize that you are doing things now that you once thought impossible. And that gives you the courage to face the next failure, and you get back up a little faster this time, and in this way you grow – not just as a player but as a person.

It’s not a lack of failure that separates the great players from the scrubs. It’s how you handle failure, what you learn from it, and whether you have what it takes to get back up and keep trying.