Monday, September 28, 2009

Defying the Jante Law in the WoW Community

Have you ever heard about the Jante Law? Unless you're from one of the Nordic countries, I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't . If you're Scandinavian on the other hand, I bet you have.

It goes like this:

  • Don't think that you are special.
  • Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
  • Don't think that you are smarter than us.
  • Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
  • Don't think that you know more than us.
  • Don't think that you are more important than us.
  • Don't think that you are good at anything.
  • Don't laugh at us.
  • Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
  • Don't think that you can teach us anything.


This "law" was created by the Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in the novel A fugitive crosses his tracks, which was written in the 30's. I hardly know anyone that has ever read the book and I think quite few of my fellow countrymen even know about the origins of the Jante law. But the law has gotten a life of its own and become a saying that is commonly referred to.

In the novel, the ten commands are used to describe the mentality in a small Danish town called Jante, where no one is anonymous and no one is allowed to stick out from the crowd.

However, I think that not only those who have lived in small communities can recognize those attitudes. And that why it has become so established. Starting at school, we are many who have relentlessly been picked upon as soon as we've dared to differ from the "normality" in any way - by excelling, or by daring to believe in ourselves. We learned to arrange ourselves into the line, aiming to reach the roof rather than the stars, so that no one would hold it against us.

I've always lived in the maybe somewhat naïve illusion that the American culture was different. I thought that rather than questioning and trying to pull down people who excel to Earth, you would encourage them and let yourself get inspired by their example. A sound and generous way of looking at success, with a mindset that "there's always room for more people on the top. If he can do it, I can as well".

Lately I've began to wonder though. I would have thought that the WoW community was pretty much influenced by the US approach to the world. After all, without any scientific evidence, I would argue that there are more US bloggers than European, and the visitor statistics for PPI tell the same story. Blizzcon are mostly held in US and all the WoW podcasts I know of are broadcasted from the other side of the ocean.

But how is the atmosphere? Look at some of the responses that Ixobelle has gotten from his Blizzard Crusade adventure. Look at some of the trolls frequenting Gevlon's inn. Look at the constant picking on Ensidia - regardless of if they succeed or don't succeed to be number 1, you can bet that there will be something to complain about. Look at the forums. Look at how Ghostcrawler finally has decided to shut up because he can't take any more of it.

No matter what crazy achievement, no matter what astounding performances players and bloggers and developers do, as soon as they dare to tell the WoW community about it, you can bet that the Jante Law will trigger and they'll get a cascade of criticism thrown in their face. Sure, there will be a few cheers and some applauses as well. But far too often they won't be heard because it's owerwritten by the loud voices crying: "fail, fail".

So what can we do about it? Well, I'm humble enough not to think that I can change the mentality of millions of WoW player. (Or maybe I've been too infected by the Jante Law, so I don't believe in my own capacity in that matter.)

But at least I can keep an eye on myself. I've got a choice. I don't need to join the villagers of Jante. I can encourage excellence whenever I see it. I can believe in the people who build this wonderful world - gamedesigners, bloggers, guild leaders and ordinary players. I can believe in myself.

The Jante Law will only rule us if we allow it to do so.

45 comments:

Klepsacovic said...

That law is strange to me. About half of it is terrible: discouraging any attempt at improvement of anything. The other half seems more aimed at humbleness and is something very lacking. Sadly, most people seem to have lost the difference between humbleness and timidity, confidence and arrogance.

Tessy said...

Sometimes I wonder if the only way for many people to feel good about themselves is to make someone else feel worse.

Well, I don't believe in it - I don't expect things to be perfectly to my liking, I am content if they are good enough, and a kind word or some cheering on helps so much more than complaints or ridicule.

Btw, was interesting to find out the origins of the Jante law, I had no idea it was from a book.

Rem said...

Envy - the defining quality of a modern human being.

PS: Ghostcrawler didn't really retreat because he can't take any more of it, but because he observed the inability of the community at large to handle his presence, and thus the discussions being less and less about WoW and more and more about "why Blizzard and GC hate my class". I bet he could slay trolls all day and laugh about it, but found himself going in (ever tighter) circles.

PS PS: In an online game, anyone who has accomplished more than you has no life, and anyone who has accomplished less is a noob.

Tamarind said...

Like Klep, I'm slightly bewildered by the law - perhaps it's something to do with translation but there seems to be a genuine ambivlance at the heart of it. I think it's very important that people stop expecting the world to validate and recognise them as a unique and special snowflake ... but yeah the ignorance and bigotry stuff, not so much :)

I like the conclusion though - it's depressing how many people seem to get off on tearing other people down. Thankfully I have only experienced supportive huggles from the blogsphere. Long may it continue. I will, however, take inspiration from your post and try to be more supportive myself.

Vigorless fragmentary said...

The JL is rather symptomatic for the mentality in northern europe. at the same time these states are among the most stable and socially secure in the world.
'be mediocre', 'dont be better than your neighbour' - or 'lagom' how its called in swedish - has deep roots in people's thinking, society and politics, sometimes to a point where you could almost speak of a liberal form of 'neo-communism'. people don't strive to stick out of the mass.
(for further reference see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagom)

you can argue if this is good or bad, whether it lacks the spirit of improvement or competition. but on the other hand it works for those states and just look where the whole competition-mania has brought us, the USA is a great example of how the 'look i'm better'-mentality has brought society down. either you're an achiever or a nobody, there's nothing in between and the pressure is not just psychologic but quite real in society and economy. it has spawned greed, recklessness and social injustice - far from a healthy or human system.
i'd much rather prefer to live in scandinavia, even if the 'JL thinking' sounds somewhat drastic it serves a longterm purpose.

Gevlon said...

Excellence is not something the crowd allow you.

Excellence is something you do against them.

They will never let you above the roof. You have to break it with force. No one will help you, most because they are happy in Jante (where they can feel the part of the mighty "us"), some because he is busy with his own roof and can't give more than "good luck".

This is why success is always anti-social. If you do it right, the masses will hate you.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

There's not much room at the top. Saying there is, is nothing but a lie to get others to work beneath you in hopes of going up.

Everything ends at a point. President of a company, Mayor of a City, Owner a business.

You can only climb so high before you're stuck, or trying to figure out how to fake your bosses death.

Carra said...

In other words "don't make us jealous".

If people complain that you're a no lifer because you have a world first. Or if people complain that you're ruining the game by making 20k gold a week it really comes down to "I wish I could do that". But since they can't they just end up ditching anyone who is better then them at something.

The laws are obviously flawed. We can fit people in bell curves for everything. "You're not smarter then us". Take an IQ test and see where you land on the spectrum. Some people will be better then others. Other people will be better at other thigns. We should find our strengths and use them. Not neglect them just to prevent other people from being jealous.

Suicidal Zebra said...

A similar concept is the Tall Poppy Syndrome", which describes the idea that genuine exceptionalism and overt pride in ones' accomplishments are treated with disdain in some cultures. TPS exists to a greater or lesser extent in all cultures, though on the face of it US culture suffers from it to a much lesser degree. Personally, I think the most egregious example is the UK Tabloid Press, who appear to take great pleasure in tearing down anyone who displays any form of high achievement unless they conform to very stringent societal stereotypes.

Of course, the problem isn't that this 'Syndrome' or 'Law' exists, but rather that it is so difficult to divorce yourself from as the actions of others in your community will still be significantly influenced by this attitude. Your only option is to move to a more positive community, which is hard in the real world and nearly impossible on the Internet.

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: Humbleness is indeed a good thing. However I believe it’s better if it’s born from personal maturity and insight than if it’s something that is forced upon you by the community for reasons bordering to plain envy.

@Tessy: yeah. The people who cry “fail!” loudest are probably the one with the lowest self esteem. Very small people. Smaller than gnomes.

@Rem: About Ghostcrawler: there may be several reasons I think. Perhaps all aren’t spoken aloud.
And I second your second PS!

@Tamarind: The more unique snowflakes, the merrier! Sure, some of them will fall to the ground and melt, but wow, weren’t they shiny and pretty when they whirled in the sky?

I’m glad if I somehow can inspire someone to be a bit supportive. The wonderful thing about showing your support and acknowledging the golden nuggets you see in others is that you as by magic get inspiration in return. Replenishment.

@Vigorless fragmentary: I think you’re quite spot on about this! And I am happy in many ways to live where I live. However the lack of appreciation of excellence IS quite annoying. I think it has improved a bit the last few years, with influence from the rest of the world, but the JL is still quite strong.
Maybe I’m wishing for something impossible: to combine a decent lowest standard of living for everyone, with appreciation and support of the ones who strive to reach the stars.

@Gevlon: Do I hear Ayn Rand speaking? :)
But do you really think that my appreciation and support for Ixo, yourself, Ensidia and other people who dare to stick out, is antisocial? I think it’s pretty much the contrary.

@Pangoira Fallstar: if the bosses chair is occupied you start a competing business. Or you’ll find another area to excel in. There’s always another mountain top to climb.

@Carra: Exactly my opionion. I don’t go around blaming the world because I’m not a member of the national team of soccer. I try to explore my own resources and find out if I have talent or passion for something else.

@Suicidal Zebra: Yeah, it’s hard to just turn your back to it and try to isolate you away from the JL-minded population. And the question is if it makes the world any better. As by a thought Captain the First has a post up today dealing with this issue. http://noobding.blogspot.com/2009/09/can-one-woman-change-world.html

tufva said...

Oh how well I remember this from when I was growing up. We were steeped in it already at the age of 10. I vividly remember someone drawing a beautiful picture and of course several people commented on how well done it was. However, the person who drew it couldn't (social pressure being what it is) say "Thank you, yes I am really proud of it, I think it came out really well.". If you are complimented you have to play down whatever you are being complimented about. I always assumed the Americans were better at that whole thing, but maybe not.

The Jante law is an awful thing, but its presence in the collective unconsciousness in places like Sweden cannot be denied. To this day, I really struggle accepting a simple compliment without adding something to the thank you to play it down. Just saying "Thank you very much, that is so kind." is the hardest thing ever to say. Unbelievable I know!

But back on topic, even if we cannot accept compliments for ourselves, if we can break out like Larisa suggests and compliment others often and eagerly and show that we appreciate who they are and what they do - then that can only be a good thing.

Dw-redux said...

success is never anti-social. Unless you try and avoid human contact and succed at that... I guess.

And supporting people you like (like Ixo) in their attempt at success isn't anti social either. And there are plenty of examples of people succeeding and still getting applause for it. (like Jay-z, who isn't modest about it: I'm feeling like the world's against me Lord;
Call me crazy but strangely I love them odds)

Caroline said...

First, thanks for the reference Larisa, had no idea that Jante Law actually came from somwhere.

And what tufva brought up, the worst thing might not be that one hardly gets compliments for a job well done, it might be that it's so so hard just to accept it! And that is something social I think, if noone around you just says "thanks, that was kind" - how would you know that that is how you should respond?

Vigorless fragmentary said...

There is nothing antisocial about success nor does the Jante Law tell people not to succeed. whoever reads it that way hasn't understood a fundamental part or has a very primitive definition of success.

unfortunately in big part of the western world 'success' includes the failure of others. the rich feed of the poor and great success goes hand in hand with economic exploit and social injustice. countries with a very successful/rich upper class usually also have the biggest and worst degree of poverty. again, the US (among others) are a remarkable example - a selected few actually live the 'american dream' while the vast majority of american citizens struggle at a very low living standard and existential minimum compared to the rest of the world. these are facts.
'success is not enough, others must fail' - to sum it up. the definition is egocentric, highly antisocial and history has shown many times that every such system will breakdown once decadence has reached its peak.

On the other side we have modern states such as norway or sweden. their social thinking does not discourage success, this is plain false. but success is defined by the 'best possible outcome for the most people' rather than just empowering few individuals. hence the average living standard of every person living in these states is higher than in the rest of the world and there is remarkable peace and prosperity. the best living conditions for everyone, this IS real excellence.

success yes - others must fail, no. it makes all the difference in the world, so dont be too fast to dismiss the basic idea behind the JL. a lot of what we call 'excellence' is not excellent at all - if success is only there to distinguish yourself from others then you got it wrong.

Klepsacovic said...

@Gevlon: You're half-right. It all depends on the crowd. Some people are proud of the success of others. Some are jealous. The trick isn't to say "f- you" to the crowd, the trick is to find the right crowd. In the end we all have to stand on someone's shoulders to get higher and it's best to not point out all the flaws of those below, lest they decide to let you fall. In other words, almost no one is so perfectly self-contained that they can truly survive alone.

Thistlefizz said...

The desire to destroy the success of others is as old as time itself. When the person next to us rises higher than we are, in ignites a primal urge in us; an instinct of self-preservation, at the expense of all around us. The challenge is twofold. First is to elevate ourselves beyond our primal nature and encourage success of others. Second is to allow ourselves to succeed despite the cries of failure all around us.

It can be discouraging, especially in the online world where it seems hatred and criticism flow freely. It may seem like there isn't anything we can do. But there is. What we can do is not allow ourselves to be dragged down into the flame wars, the trolling, the jealousy. We can't pretend that it doesn't exist, but we can stop it before it starts by not participating in the fighting.

Maybe I'm a little too idealistic. But I really believe that while it may only take one rotten apple to spoil the bunch, it takes only one voice of reason to quiet the mob.


~Fizz

firespirit said...

You know, I have always thought something like this existed, specifically in the WoW community, but I had never actually put it into words. This hits the nail on the head.

Gevlon said...

@Larísa: you are special. Why do you think people are coming here?

You may think you are just one person like everybody else but you are very much not. If people would be like you, there would be no need for goblin tricks.

Most people are not like you. Most people are... join a "we have tabberd /w for inv" guild and you'll know.

Stupid Mage said...

Maybe it's the American in me but when I read it, I interpreted it to mean, "We're at the top, you can't be as good as us"

More like a statement of superiority. Laws of the elite if you will.

Larísa said...

@Tufva & Caroline: Oh, don't tell me about it. I really don't know about how to receive a compliment in an appropriate way. It's really stuck in my system, the urge to say "oh no, I'm nothing, I suck, you're all wrong, yada yada yada.".It's a destructive habit, and it takes some effort to break it. First step of course is to reach awareness about the behavior.

@Dw-redux: I must admit I have no idea about who Jay-z is, but I'm sure it's a great guy ;)

@Vigorless fragmentary: but do you really think that success of an individual always requires the fail of others or is in opposition to the success of a collective? I don't want to see the world in such a black and white pattern, as little as I wan't to sort people out in "winners vs losers", "goblins vs M&S". I belive in the potential in every single person I meet. I think that we all can excel. One way or the other. And because others fail.
And as I said before: I think there are some benefits of the "Swedish system". We've succeeded much better in the health care sector for instance than they have in the US. IMHO. But don't idealize it. There are flaws. And the oppression from the Jante Law definitely is one. There's SO much talent, so much manpower wasted because of that.

@Thistlefizz: oh yes, I agree on that. I believe that this attitude goes far back and probably it has been successful at some point as well. But if you're a victim of it you see it a bit differently. You have to be pretty strong not to be dragged down by it.

@Firespirit: thanks!

@Gevlon: you've told me that so many times. And for once I'll try to live as I learn, not arguing against you, listening to the Jante Law, insisting on that "I'm nothing special." I'll just simply say: thank you for your compliment and your support. Cheers!

@Stupid Mage: that's quite a different interpretation of the Jante Law, but I assure you it wasn't meant or isn't seen that way in Scandinavia. This is about the pressure to follow the norm of mediocrity, and to not dare to stick out your neck and believe that you can achieve something else.

akiosama said...

Fascinating, Larisa. Absolutely fascinating.

I'd never heard of the Jante Law, and after hearing about it, I'm not sure I'd agree with it - except to say that people shouldn't forget about the need for group success (in Wow) in favor of purely individual performance.

I thought that this was a very interesting phenomenon when looking at WoW, especially since there are ways that improving individual performance can actually hamper group dynamic and success. When looked at from that point of view, some of what is said in the Jante Law makes sense.

However, I don't think any group can survive with NO individuals. Somebody has to break the Law to make the group succeed.

Again, a fascinating topic, Larisa.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

PS - I did a more full follow-up to this topic on my blog - check it out and let me know what you think!

Stupid Mage said...

"that's quite a different interpretation of the Jante Law, but I assure you it wasn't meant or isn't seen that way in Scandinavia. This is about the pressure to follow the norm of mediocrity, and to not dare to stick out your neck and believe that you can achieve something else."

That's a shame. It could easily be a source for group pride. Not one Scandinavian being better than another Scandinavian, but Scandinavians as a whole being in some way better than say...Americans =)

Salaryn's Sword said...

Games that have wide area chat channels tend to draw out a wide variety of commentators, people who jabber just to be saying something whether it is relevant or useful or kind.

The same thing occurs on forums. It is actually, I think, a function of people trying to stick out in the crowd, even if it is in a negative way.

So...while these folks may seem mediocre and be examples of Jante's Law, they are actually the opposite. They want attention, negative or not. Poor babies.

Mullets said...

Now I don't know where the readers are from or were the author is from. But this law is for me an everyday thing.I live in Denmark,and this is a law that is implemented in us from we are very small, how? To be honest i don't know.
It's a scary thing. but a story that shows the Law of Jante. Is a qoute from an American exchange student we had in my class.

" American students aim to be the best, we are not satisfied with being mediocre. Danish students on the other hand is perfectly okay with being at par or sub par with their peers, the important thing for them is not to stand out."

This qoute for me sums up the Law of Jante very well.

But when i think about it, I can not see myself in a community without this "Law" mostly because it is printed into our minds from birth.

Anonymous said...

In Holland we don't have that law, but we have a saying "sticking your head up above the mowing field", which means basically the same as that law. It is sad to realize you are right at its application to WoW :/

Anonymous said...

Whoops, same anon as above, but I wanted to add that it seems sad that Blizzard seems to cater to Jante and seems to be intent on allowing less and less situations in which people CAN stick their head out above the mowing field, risk of having it be chopped off be damned.

Doc said...

This certainly is thought provoking.

I think the tendency to attack or ridicule those who are different is an almost instinctual one.

While I'd love to say America was different in this regard, but I can't. In many ways it seems that our concept of "winners and losers" has become our own version of Jante's law.

For instance, think of a person who opens up a new hamburger restaurant/diner. Through hard work and sacrifice they manage to grow into several restaurants, is doing well enough to continue to grow, and is well known locally for how good their food is.

What happens too often now is that this individual, instead of recognizing their success and potential, would rather look at a company like McDonald's. Because of their own inability to consider themselves a "Winner" on their own merits, the only way they can achieve the status they so desire is to redefine McDonald's as a "Loser" through disqualification. As long as they can consider a more successfull entity "Disqualified", they maintain their sense of being a "Winner." Our change in the sense of "winning and losing" is resulting in our own "force of mediocrity."

What we have apparently forgotten in our mentality is that not everyone is playing the same game. The diner cook who wants to make the best damned burgers and fries and is always improving his skill need not berate and belittle his boss in order to feel a "winner", his "game" is not business ownership, its making good food. Likewise, if the diner owner didn't set out to create a multinational fast food chain, he need not compare himself to McDonald's, they are playing a different "Game".

Another way to view how our mentality has changed we can go to an extereme expression of "winners and losers", where the taker of 2nd place considers himself "first loser." In the past they may look up to the 1st place taker, strive to push themselves more, to improve themselves until they are the "winner." To resolve that they will overcome any obstacles in their life, no matter what. Now, I fear, a more common reaction would be to bemoan anything about the winner they could, to find any excuse to disqualify his achievement. "His parents by him better shoes." "He doesn't have to work after school, so he gets to practice more.", etc., etc.

I always feel uncomfortable when a talented person seems afraid to acknowledge their skill. I feel saddened because so often it seems a person's full potential may be locked from them. I genuinely feel horrified that a culture would so ingrain a mentality so that a person is afraid to feel pride in what they do. I take great joy in seeing people's talent and think it a good thing to take emotional stock in their continued success. I want to see what they are going to do next, how they are going to edify all of us next.

Anonymous said...

People confuse humility and lack of self-esteem. In order to be humble, you must be acutely aware of your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Humility is about being able to take an objective view of how you fit in the world. Humility and confidence are natural partners.

Anonymous said...

In New Zealand we call this the 'Tall Poppy' syndrome as in the tall poppy is the one that gets cut down...

Green Guts said...

I really enjoy how you have incorporated what I consider to be a "Pscyhological Assessment" of the WoW community into your thoughts on how interaction has been as of late ;) Keep on truckin!

Arioch said...

Well you see, there's only a limited amount of success and happiness in the world - a fixed supply if you will.
So if one person over there is happier than that person over there, the first person is STEALING HIS HAPPINESS. Selfish bastard!
The same can be said for success.

/sarcasm off

There is something inherent in many people to see another person's success/happiness as some how detracting from their own.

I think people also follow a similar rationale with pain and suffering. If he's suffering, then I'm not doing as bad; hence the popularity of shows like Jerry Springer here in the states. And possibly why the most popular posts on my blog are about me getting screwed in some way. Happy to share the pain. =)

Anonymous said...

What t sounds like is an extension of the "red monkey" experiments. In those old experiments, a monkey that was part of a large group was taken aside and painted red, then re-introduced into the group. Because this monkey was "different", the other monkeys literally tore this poor guy apart.

In short, we, on an instictual level as human beings, have a need to conform. In the days where we were barely discovering fire, this was to preserve us from large predators. While we have outgrown the NEED for it, the INSTINCT is still fully there and in force.

Personally I hate what the law represents. Some people read a benevolence in it, I read it ALL as a sort of oppressive weight I'm quite happy to throw away. First rule of being different, stop caring about what others say.

I've been there, I've done that.

- Polecat

Mach said...

Critics, nay-sayers, "haters" will ALWAYS accompany the successful. It is part of success. True, there will always be supporters and fans, but it is human nature for the loudest (and most obnoxious) voices to be of the critics. Though we should recognize honest and accurate criticism, we cannot to excuse people's inability to give a pure and honest congratulations. However inexcusable this lack of consideration, it should never be expected.

I think the Jante Law is a fairly accurate generalization of all humanity (and not just US culture) and we shouldn't be surprised or offended when we see it. As the saying goes "Don't feed the trolls"; we shouldn't even listen or respond to those who cannot rise above the mediocre mass-conscious. There is no quick quip that will help them see their own ignorance. Only maturity and life experience will help them, and even then, they may never be able to think for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Don't have alot of time, but don't count Ghostcrawler out. He really does have a pretty thick skin, and he can trade insults with the best of em.


Maybe I'm naive, but i do beleive him when he says hes just not posting to steer the forums a certain way.(even if i dont believe all the other stuff he posts!)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double post. *blush*


But this Jante Law is alot to think about. It's radically different from an American standpoint. While we get this sometimes with the calls of fail, there is a flip side. I'll post a longer analysis tommorow, if thats alright . (its bed time)


-Ty

nugget said...

This is sorta a tangent, but I waddled over to look at the comments on Ixobelle's tryout, since you talked about them here...

...and I didn't find any of them to be negative, or slagging off, or mean, or don't bother, or... anything like that.

To me, those comments, even those that might have been harder to take, were given in the spirit of constructive criticism.

I don't think design school actually taught me much OTHER than being able to distinguish constructive critiscism from destructive criticism. Get a bunch of art students together in the same room to critique each others projects in front of a tutor, and oh boy oh boy oh boy... At least here, it's a bloodbath. ;)

Learning to pick the constructive, useful criticism out of that kind of bloodbath is, I would say, one of the only lasting 'good things' to come out of my design school education, with regards to education. But it was a huge one.

YMMV of course!

Larísa said...

@Nugget: the criticism against Ixo was given not only in the linked post but in a couple of others as well (including one that he deleted). And at Broken Toys. He got a lot of support as well, but I think some of the comments crossed the line and weren't intended to be "helpful". If people really cared about his success they would rather e-mail him, offering constructive advice privately. I did so and I'm certain a few others did as well. We don't need to feed on other peoples struggles to reach their dreams to feel better about ourselves.

Larísa said...

@Akiosama: I’ve never quite understood why the excellent performance of an individual necessarily is opposed to the performance of the group. On the contrary. Highly successful groups manages to let the individuals perform at their maximum and make best possible use of their unique talents. Hey, role playing ftw…

@Salaryn’s Sword: The griefers trying to stick out by being negative about others? Hm… I’m not sure I buy that. They don’t display any piece of work of their own, just commenting/putting down the work of others, while hiding in the collective.

@Mullets: I’m from Sweden. And it has been noticed by ethnologists that the Jante Law is commonly spread here. I don’t know how it is in Denmark, but considering your quote it seems that it’s prevalent there as well.

@Anonymous: yeah, it seems as if it’s important not to stick out in Holland as well. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard that the HUGE windows that are so common and the very thin curtains that you can see everything trough have to do with your Calvinist tradition. It was a way of displaying that in this home there was nothing going on that could displease anyone, nothing appropriate, nothing sticking out of the norm.

@Doc: good observations. And I agree with much of it. I think there’s a lot of unhappiness and frustration in the world that is there because people don’t have the courage to recognize their own talent and to put up their own goals to work against, without so desperately constantly look for the approval of the surroundings.

@Green Guts: thank you for your appreciation. But don’t expect a ton of psychological posts here from now on. It won’t happen. This blog is purposely unpredictable and very mixed, without any clear line at all. We write out of passion about anything wow-related that happens to come into our minds. Sometimes it may be about psychology. But many times not.

@Arioch &Polecat: oh yes. There’s a lot of not-too-flattering “instincts” that will trigger that sort of thinking. But I think we can fight it if we make an effort and pay attention to it.

@Mach: Yeah, I guess my message is that I don’t expect that I can tear down the wall of the Jante Law. But I can train myself not to be let down by it, not letting it rule my life, my decisions and my view on myself and others.

@Ty: I’m not sure where you’ll post your analysis, on a blog of your own or here. But I’m looking forward to see it.

nugget said...

@Larisa

Moo! That is troo. I did see some deleted comments, but they didn't register in the context. ^_^

I didn't see anything on the comments list when I was reading that would qualify for being mean, is what I um.. meant.

And as for 'send the constructive criticism privately', I'm kinda of two minds about that. I mean =/ if others thinking of doing the exact same thing can learn from Ixo's courageous try, isn't that good? And if the comments were meant to be constructive, then why send them privately? Or is it that constructive has become conflated with 'stuff that people want to hear'?

Ss an artist, and as a professional, all I know is this. When it comes to criticism about my work, one way or the other, as long as I can sift out whether or not there's any emotional 'load' to what's being said, I try my best to see if the criticism bears weight. Especially where it's the criticisms I don't want to hear. That's one of the best ways (IMO of course) to improve. The hard part is looking past both the (perceived) emotion of the criticiser, and my own emotional reaction to it.

There have been times when I've received criticism that's been MEANT to wound, but at the same time, has held truth. It's like that saying about your enemies being more honest with you than your friends are willing to be.

I'm in no way defending people bashing other people over the head when they're feeling down. XD

I just feel that I may have not really made what I was trying to say clear. If I've muddied the waters even more, I'm sorry. ^_^ It's prolly just that 'different worldview' thing popping up.

akiosama said...

@Larisa,

It's not that the excellent performance of an individual is detrimental to the group in itself, but that too much focus on individual excellence can be detrimental to the group, should that become a higher priority to the individual than group success.

Take for example a certain mage that I run with regularly. She puts up GREAT DPS for the group we run with, usually top 3 in 25 man raids. She understands the fights pretty well. She's not bad on the utility spells.

But...

She's so focused on DPS that she tends to pull aggro. To her, it's a mark of pride that there are very few tanks that she's run with that can let her go all-out and hold aggro from her. Heck, sometimes it's a game to her to try to pull aggro off the tank and make him work. (Guess who the tank usually is.)

She has, on occasion, made snap decisions about what she's going to do during an event on her own, sometimes countermanding what the raid leader asks her to do, in order to keep her DPS up. This is usually in regard to target selection - she hates to switch targets in the middle of a fight, if she doesn't think she needs to, because it potentially lowers her DPS. Worse yet, she's been known to say that she made the right decision, if the group succeeds.

She's a Recount spammer - which is a reasonable esxtension of the above two points. If she's top DPS for a fight, and her numbers are 'good', those numbers are going to be reported in Guild chat at the minimum. (We tend to run multi-guild raids and, thankfully, she rarely posts that on Raid chat.)

And she's one of those that can be perfectly satisfied in a raid group saying "That went well - I was top DPS...", and chalk up most failures to 'everyone else'. She knows her job can be narrow (both on her mage and on her Disc priest (a single target healer), and has been known to not listen to the Raid Leader during strategy (since she feels she knows the fights), and still ask at the end of the explanation "So who do you want me to focus my DPS/heals on?"

It's this form of focus on being 'special', on the individual performance over the group, that I feel can be perhaps negative in a group setting. I think that the Jante Law is designed as an extreme example of focusing on group over individualism, but, as with any extreme example, it's taken to its ultimate extreme, and therefore, comes across as completely negative.

A balance between individualism and group focus needs to be met for the group to succeed. Too much focus on the group with no real focus on individual performance will probably lead to mediocre performances by all, especially if it's considered negative to stand out in any way. On the other hand, too much focus on individual performance can cause those individuals to make decisions that increase their own personal success (based on whatever criteria they base success on, other than the success of the group), while negatively impacting the group's success.

I have seen the latter many times in WoW. It not that rare, in my experiences, especially since it's quantitatively easy to record and display.

The former? I don't think it exists in WoW - I could be wrong, but, somehow, I don't think that WoW attracts people who are purely communal in thought process. It doesn't seem to mesh with the whole 'level, get gear, get better' nature of the MMO genre.

I do believe that individual excellence does contribute to the group - if everyone provides individual excellence, while still being able to meet and attend to the goals of the group. It's when focus on the individual excellence takes priority over meeting the goals of the group that it gets destructive.

I hope that clarified my thoughts a bit. (Hrm... I more hope I just didn't confuse it more. =p)

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

What's my main Again? said...

To be honest American culture reflects the opposite of JL. But seems to be similar in the end result.

Children in america are growing up in a system that tries to make everyone believe they are special. They go about this by rewarding everything including the mundane. Graduation celebrations for every grade level, sliding grade scales so that more people pass, and everyone getting some award even if its "best gum chewer".

These celebrate mediocrity instead of celebrating those who actually succeed. You may have written a perfect essay but the moron next to you recieved the same grade... so why would you work harder in life?

The result of all of this is what you see on the forums. Players wanting the same reward for less work. They want to raid but not improve themselves. They want the loot but not if it takes effort. They will decry world firsts because their whole lives they have been told they are special... but in RL they find there are people who are better then them.

Ironically both systems end up with the same result... the mediocre trying to tear down those who succeed.

nugget said...

The spammy nugget is backzor!

This blog post here, and its very insightful and interesting comments seem tangentially (very tangenty nugget is me) related to *this* blog post's Jante's Law topic:

http://www.subtraction.com/2009/04/09/dear-designer-you-suck

...and if it makes non-design people's eyes glaze over, I apologise in advance! XD

Larísa said...

@Akiosama: that sounds like a damned annoying person to have in your raiding team - asking her to do her job properly instead of just chasing dmg chart placements has nothing to do with the Jante Law imo.

@Nugget: Nice post. And yeah, constructive criticism is a good thing - and it's damned hard to give. However I'm of the philosophy that praise should be given publicly and criticism as far as possible privately. If you want to build a solid team and motivate people that usually works best. Although I think that this discussion has become a little bit off-topic.

nugget said...

@Larisa

*Batter falls off in embarrassed clumps*

Guilty as tangented!

akiosama said...

@Larisa,

Sometimes, yes, she can be a frustrating person to raid with. She's not all bad, though, she's far more motivated than others to do things, has a very good network of players to help complete groups when we're short people, and in MOST cases, she does her job fine.

There are just those times...

Thanks again for the fascinating topic, Larisa. Your writing continues to inspire.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama