Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The increasing reluctance to decide things in advance

Something has happened with the way people look on their calendars. I see it in real life and I see it in Azeroth. People just seem to be more reluctant to make commitments and set arrangements than they were a few years ago. When I ask my kids what plans they have for the night, their answers generally are pretty vague. Their main priority is to keep all alternatives open, not closing any door unless they’re really forced to. Maybe something more fun will turn up an hour later? If they say yes to something they’ll have to say no to something else. It’s as if they can’t bear the thought of missing stuff. The sad thing though is that this behaviour often actually leads to that they DO miss things, since they made up their minds too late and the moment has passed.

Change of mindset
It’s a change of mindset, and even if the kids are worse, I see it a lot from people in my own age. The fact that we’re always available to each other through cell phones and Internet access for some reason this gives us an excuse to let everything float and postpone our decisions to the last minute.

This way of seeing things actually clash a bit with the mechanisms of a raiding guild. Coordinating the schedules of 25 people (or rather 35-40, since no raiding guild can exist without some extras) isn’t easy to begin with. And it certainly doesn’t get easier if people wait until the last moment to declare their intentions – if they’ll be available to the raid of the night or not.

The problem is that this indecisiveness has a huge impact on a lot of other people. It happened the other night when we were 21 signed up, a few sign offs and a whole bunch of people who hadn’t left any hint at all whether to attend or not attend as late as an hour or so before the raid. Eventually we managed to assemble 25 players and got our raid going, but we were pretty unsure until the last moment what to do. Go for the 20 man achievement for Sarth? Or Sarth +2 dragons? That was the question. Who would be in the raid, would there be any raid at all? Our GM and RL got pretty pissed off and wrote a flame post about it on our forums and I really don’t blame him.

The problems
If you want to leave all your options open to the very last second, you certainly keep your own freedom, but you’ll do it at the expense of the freedom of other people. Of course we all have different life situations. Some people have few real life obligations and don’t mind to switch raiding night whenever it’s required. For others - players like me - every single raid takes quite a lot of planning. We negotiate with other family members so that our plans don’t interfere with theirs. There are kids that need to get rides to their activities; there are parent meetings, schedules at work and other things that must be settled in advance.

Another aspect is preparation. OK, the raiding content now is pretty easy if you don’t go for the hardest achievements, but it still takes some preparation. You need to fresh up your memory taking a quick look at the planned boss fight of the night. Even in the era of “Bring the player, not the class” you still have to pay some attention to the setup. Depending on which players have signed up you’ll adjust your destination for the night.

Of course things may change. Of course real life may intervene and you’ll have to make a late unsign due to the boss requiring you to work overtime, illness in the family, a computer breakdown or other misfortunes. But to neither sign, nor unsign until the very last moment…? That kind of “playing-whenever-I-happen-to-feel-like-it-attitude” is exactly what PUGs are for. But it's not the way to go for a steady, healthy, progressing guild.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting observations, Larisa! I notice the same indecisiveness in my kids. I tend to be a planner by nature, so it can drive me nuts!

Kiryn said...

Scheduling is precisely the reason why I decided to leave the raiding guild that I was with throughout BC. I felt obligated to sign up whenever I would be available, even when I knew I'd be really tired after getting home from work.

I'd go to the raids and not really enjoy myself because I'd much rather be taking a nap or leveling one of my alts. But at the same time I know if I marked myself as unavailable, but then showed up on an alt, I'd get a bunch of accusing whispers. Or maybe I'd get home that night and not feel so tired after all, but not be able to raid because all the spots are full.

I eventually came to the conclusion that progression raiding simply isn't for me, and left to create a simple bank guild for myself and my fiance. I PuG Naxx on the weekends, and playing my alts is so nice and peaceful without the constant inane chatter of green text on my screen.

Anonymous said...

Ah, ragging on the teens; always good to get the blood of adults pumping. :0 Teens will be teens the world over, so no surprise there.

I do think you raise a good point however about raiding and guild leadership. It's not always easy to know who is behind that toon, what their life situation is like, and so on. Ideally, the guild leader should have some idea about those facts for coordination purposes but the bigger the raid and the bigger the guild the more logistics come into play. I'd never want to be a guild leader because frankly that smacks too much like work and I play to have some fun.

I can't help but wonder if there is more going on the guild than meets the eye, however. If people are avoiding commitment there normally is a reason why. There could be lots of good reasons besides just the fact that people are avoiding commitment for it own sake. In that context, I'm not sure a rant from the guild leader is helpful. It's a good emotional release but rants are not the type of action that are going to encourage more commitment.

Anonymous said...

You're spot on, the instant / immediate culture that we have been evolving into certainly does have serious flow on impacts in game.

If you're still con convinced, cast your mind back to a world when mobile phones did not exist and you had to meet 5 people at the Cinema, around 7.25pm. It took planning and back up plans.

Its all about picking your mindset, and finding like minded players. If your guild is not suitable, now is the time to change. With Ulaudar being released soon many guilds will be looking critically at the guild roster. Now is the time to define your boundaries, and play with the same like minded people. better to change now, than try to change in 5 weeks.

Great point Larísa

Rich said...

I had a girlfriend that would do this, and it annoyed me to no end (*had* a girlfriend should be the main point of that last sentence).

I'd ask her what we should do the next weekend, or if she'd like to go to Event Z, and she'd always waffle and say she wasn't sure. She would do this on the phone to her other friends, as well, and no one in our circle of friends could understand what she was 'holding out for'. Perhaps Jesus was going to swing by and fly her to the moon on a moments notice? I guess it's pretty good to leave yourself open should that moment arrive, but yeah... it was pretty frustrating. We aren't together anymore : /

I'm more of the opposite type, it seems. People ask if I'd like to do something on the weekend, and I just tell them straight up "no". I really have no problem saying I have other plans already, or that I'd rather just have a quiet weekend at the house. You go camping and have fun, I'm going to just relax at home.

Maybe some people see that as rude or something? They'd rather waffle around the issue, and leave a big "maybe" hanging in the air, so they can have their cake, and eat it later if they decide to?

Bleh. Make up your mind, and quit beating around the bush, says I.

Klepsacovic said...

In WoW I can see where it came from. The constant troll spam of RL>WoW finally sunk in, too far. People became so convinced that WoW was secondary to RL that it lost all priority. At some point people stopped seeing that it's not anti-social to stay in one night and live online. WoW was pushed from game night with online friends to a space filler, a subscription solitaire, not just in the playstyle (whenever you have a bored moment), but also in the focus (less social).

RL? Well that's just being indecisive. Or a jerk. I tend to do things as they come when I'm with my friends. That's just how we do things. With family though, things tend to be scheduled and I stick to it, or at least try to and mark failures to follow it as failures to follow it rather than pretending that I'm leaving options open.

The last few weeks I've been missing raids. But I make no claims to be a raider. My status is casual, I do not expect raid slots when I show up three hours after they ended, and I don't complain about progression or anything else. I recognize the cost of my freedom. This I'm trying to change: taking a night or two and telling my friends that I'm going to be raiding then. Fortunately they understand; nerd friends ftw! :P

It's a bad cross of too much caring with not enough motivation. Is that just wanting something for nothing? Perhaps.

Andrew said...

I like your comments, very well constructed. Part of my studies focused on teams and team dynamics so this particular topic is close to my heart. I’ve never been a serious raider, would like to do the odd raid and see all the content out there, but not at the expense my enjoyment of the game. I like Kiryn’s comment, they tend to ring true for me as I have a busy schedule with Family work etc. I don’t always want to do serious raids so I say I’m busy or log off, then I hop on with an alt and grind with him, fortunately none of them are in any guild so I get an easy night of fun in.
Getting back to the point being made, yes the culture of today is to leave options open, and that is just plain stupid. My job entail planning so if we don’t plan and commit, we are generally going to fail. This works by saying yes or no, not being indecisive. If you say no to doing a raid then at least the RL knows what to plan for.

Gevlon said...

That's exactly why I like PuGs. Someone is always online when I want to raid.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back up and writing again Larísa!

I tend to see WoW-raiding as kinda similar to soccer practice - you have (in my case) two nights a week set aside for this.

On occasion you will be a little tired and not up for raiding, but you'll go anyway. Some time you will have to sign off due to RL issues, emergency or planned ones. Most of the times you'll go and have great fun raiding.

Luckily I'm in a guild with lots of similar-minded people now, but this indecisiveness was abundant in my old guild and it really pissed me off, because like you say, it's at the expense of other people's freedom, I could have done so much other things instead of just waiting around for people to show up :/

It's like people don't want to take any responsibility for doing things nowadays or for committing to anything, like you say they want every door open just in case.
It's a pretty self-centered way of behaving and I think it sucks.

Anonymous said...

@ Sophie: thanks! Even though I’m not really a planner by nature, I understand the need for planning to make life work. But obviously everyone doesn’t.

@Kiryn: It sounds like a good solution for you. I guess it’s the equivalent of sports. Either you want to be free – then you go to a gym whenever you happen to feel like it. Or you want to be a part of a team. Then you agree to turn up at specific hours and people can rely that you’ll participate most of the times.

@DeftyJames: Well there actually was some discussion after the rant. A few people have vented what they felt about it. It remains to see if it will have any effect on the willingness to sign/unsign in advance. I think one reason for the somewhat distracted way on looking at raids may be that we feel that we’re running out of content. Nothing to beat more than Sarth+3 dragons. And more and more gear is sharded. Probably people will be more motivated when the next raid instance is released.

@Typhoonandrew: well, fortunately enough the non-signers are still in minority. I like my guild and most people do sign up, so I have no plans on switching. But it sure is annoying. I think that those modern minded people who refuse to make a decision whether to come or not don’t always realize what impact their behaviour have on other players. Their freedom is at the expense of ours.

@Ixobelle: yeah you’re right, it may be an effect of the fear of taking conflicts. I think though that those people who don’t make up their minds will cause themselves a lot of unnecessary stress. Keeping everything open is quite demanding. It’s easier to relax when you’ve once made up your mind.

@Klapsacovic: You’re adding another side of the issue, and I think you’re right. I can’t understand why it’s almost “dirty”, something to be ashamed of, that you want to schedule your wow playing just as you schedule a football training. That it is something you value and have decided to do. Just because it’s “just a game” doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about your commitments in it just as you care about any other hobby you perform in cooperation with other people.

@Sojourner: I have the fullest respect for the choice you do, just like Kiryn. The problem is when you join a Raiding guild and still want to keep your freedom to sign up in the last moment. Then you should better be in a casual guild and pug when you happened to feel like doing a raid.

@Gevlon: not always, unfortunately. I raid 25 man two nights a week. In the weekends, Friday and Saturday night, I can usually log on late, about 22.22.30, after having spent the evening with my family. Then it would be great to find a 10 man pug, but most of the weeks I fail at it. It seems like the servers aren’t big enough to provide PUGs at any hour of the day.

@Tessy: thanks!
And yes, as I said in a previous comment, I don’t quite understand why you can’t look at WoW the same way as you look at any other hobby where you’re relying on other people. It’s not that I don’t accept that people unsign because they have other things to do. I myself can only make 2 out of 3 raids, and that is also our attendance requirement. But I can’t understand why it’s so hard to leave a decision let’s say one day before.

Anonymous said...

This kind of thing is what makes me wonder whether I'll want to raid when the time comes. Right now I'm reading so many blogs and paying attention to so much high-level-content news that I'm practically foaming at the mouth to see it. And really, it won't be that long... I'm in the last ten levels of original WoW now, so some of the content I'm coming up to was part of the early endgame, then it'll be off to Outland for high level BC content...

But in the past I have struggled with overcommitting sapping the enjoyment out of my leisure time. I'm definitely going to give it a whirl when I get there, because it's the goal I've had all along, ever since I realized how much there was still to do once you hit the level cap, but I'm afraid that seeing the content is going to require me to make commitments I'll find burdensome.

Maybe I won't. For things I've really loved in the past, I haven't cared how much time I had to invest. If I really want to raid the commitment won't be a problem. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

And I definitely understand where you're coming from, wanting people to not draw such a distinction between committing to an online hobby or to a hobby in the "real world". In fact, I'm getting kind of sick of the "RL vs in-game" thing. I'm just as me in-game as I am in my kitchen at home. WoW is my real hobby and guess what, it's PART of my real life!

That'll be my next post. ;) Thanks for the inspiration and sorry for the wall of text.

Fish said...

I can't quite fathom why people don't do more planning. Time is like any other resource, and budgeting time is a necessity the less of it you have. Maybe its when people have almost limitless time, the need to budget is less because they have so little accounted for. Personally, if I don't budget time for something, it generally doesn't get done.

Anonymous said...

@fish - my lack of planning comes from the struggle to keep so many medium to high priority items going at the same time. WoW is a priority, but ha to be measured against what else is on (as you'd expect). When my Gf is away I can mix my time up in a totally different manner to when she is here in town. That means the raid schedule goes from "yes, I'm always there", to "maybe, and only yes if the guild pre-schedules something".

Trouble is that when too many folks also have the same attitude you reach the critical mass of slackers, which grinds the guild to a halt. Then the dedicated players who are always available think about leaving.

I love the idea of scheduling wow like it was a sport or movie, but the other folks in my life do not see it in the same light, so backlash against that concept. They probably backlash harder than if I was in a regular sports team. Going to Football would be ok, but going online for a raid is apparently akin to playing Nintendo for 5 hours.