Last week Stabs at Death Knight Spree published a series of articles where he launched a model of how to regard the WoW players from a sociological perspective. He suggested that we all could be sorted into one of two categories. Either you’re a producer or you’re a consumer. To get the full picture of his ideas you should read the original articles:
The short version:
“Producers make player-enhanced content happen. They start groups, form guilds, lead raids, invite other to battleground pre-mades. Consumers join these activities once they have been initiated by someone else.”
Typical producers according to Stabs are guild officers, raid leaders, tanks and healers. Typical consumers are dps. Producers like to craft things. Consumers like to shop at AH and love vanity items. Consumers expect to be summoned to instance runs and won’t tell people when they go AFK. All according to Stabs.
Spinksville did a post that connected to this topic, but preferred to call the categories “Active” and “passive” players. She also gave some suggestions about how to encourage the active players – or at least refrain from discouraging them.
Not following the pattern
After pondering upon this for a few days (it really gave me some food for thought, so thanks for sharing your ideas Stabs!) I’ve come to the conclusion that I disagree to some extent. Or at least I don’t quite recognize myself.
For instance I took Stabs questionnaire, and ended up with a more or less even result, with a slight overweight to producer – in spite of Stabs suggestion that most players are leaning heavily towards either side or that dps are consumers per definition.
I’m not a raid leader, that’s true. I don’t think I have the deep knowledge about the encounters and the mechanisms of each class to do a good job doing it (unless it’s a very easy encounter that everyone in the raid knows by heart). That makes me a consumer. On the other hand I always make my way to the instance without expecting to be summoned and I’ve never ever failed to tell the raid when I go AFK. That’s not about being a producer. That’s about showing common sense and it’s something that is expected from everyone in a raiding guild, officer or plain member, tank or dps, “producer” or “consumer”.
The lack of flexibility
However, even if I disregard of those details, I see a problem when you categorize people this way, pointing out some ones to be leaders and others to be followers. The problem I see is the lack of flexibility. It’s so easy to let those ideas become “truth”. It’s so easy that people get trapped into roles that suited at one point in their lives, but that they currently don’t enjoy.
Have you ever heard of officers and guild leaders being burned out? No wonder. This is the effect when you – and others – look upon yourself as a “producer” by default. Once a leader – always a leader. This assumption isn’t only wrong; it also creates a lot of unhappiness – in Azeroth as well as in real life.
This is the reason why so many people who have proved not to be suitable for leading others still are found in managing positions. They don’t dare to switch and take the role of a “follower” or a “consumer” for a while, even though they’d be better off in it. Because one way or the other they make a judgement, where the “producer” role is supposed to be more prestigious, so they fear to let go of it, no matter of what it will cost them.
A different approach
What I am suggesting is a different approach to being a consumer/producer, follower/leader, passive/active or whatever you prefer to call it. I think that we have the capability of both roles within ourselves and that we should see WoW as a great opportunity to try it out. In real life I’ve lead people, in WoW I don’t, and I’m quite happy to be one of the foot soldiers. It gives me plenty of opportunities to study the leadership of others from the side and to see and learn from what they’re doing.
I understand quite well though that leading other people, being the organizer and the initiator, is stressful in a way that many players who’ve never tried it probably don’t realize. The little I’ve done of this, as when I more or less accidentally ended up leading a pug in Karazhan, gave me a completely new view of what raid leading is like. And because of this I think that we should be much more open to take turns in both roles.
Just because you’re leading the 25 man raids you don’t necessarily have to take upon yourself to lead the 5 man instances. Let someone else be the initiator, let someone else “make the content happen”, as Stabs puts it. Just relax and let go for once!
And just because you’re not a raid leader or officer in your guild, it doesn’t disqualify you from initiating an instance run. Of course you’ll feel a bit insecure and uncomfortable in the role to begin with, but if you’re honest about it I bet people will understand and give you any support you need, at least if you’re playing with guldies. (Puggers may be more unforgiving).
Look at flock of birds on the move. See how they take turns in being the one leading. They share the loads. Sometimes they’re in the front. Sometimes they’re not. And there’s no big deal about it.
Am I a producer? Am I a consumer? Yes and yes. It’s all depending on my mood of the day, what shape I’m in. Sometimes I’m a producer, not hesitating to swim against the current if that is what is needed. I’m full of energy and I’ll happily try to form a group for an instance, an achievement or whatever my current goal is. Other days I want to relax after a long and intense day at work and I can’t assemble enough motivation to initiate anything. I’ll come along if something comes up, or else I’ll just consume and enjoy whatever solo content the game has to offer.
Azeroth may be digital in one sense, but humans aren’t. We’re not one way or the other. We’re all full of shades and possibilities – if we're only openminded and humble enough to be willing to explore it.