Principles to game by

When it comes to MMOs — well, and real life — I’m not really big on being told what to do. I don’t like being told when to log in, what to fight, whom to group with, all that funky stuff that other folks seem to think constitutes the core of the gaming experience.

I am not, however, an unprincipled slacker, and over the years there are a few things I’ve come to live by — when it comes to gaming or otherwise.

1) Pay it forward

If someone helps you and doesn’t want anything back (the best kind of help), make sure you pay it forward to someone somehow and somewhen. I’ve received a lot of solicited and unsolicited help, advice, and assistance over the years, and while I’ve not usually paid those exact people back I’ve made sure I always help others in return. I’m not talking showering someone with money in their first 5 minutes in the game, though I’ve been asked to do so many times; I’m talking about a range of stuff from the sublime to the ridiculous like “How do I join a chat channel!” to “Why can’t I find my arse with both hands?” Helping newbies is especially rewarding because those first few sessions in a new game can be utterly mind-blowingly confusing; anything that make sense of the input overload helps.

By the way, telling someone to go look it up on the wiki doesn’t really count as paying it forward, unless they’re a newbie and could benefit from knowing where to find information.

(I should admit here that I often take the “giving stuff” part overboard. I craft, so I’m always happy to make a crapton of stuff with which to outfit new players or new guild members. I don’t do it so much anymore because I finally realised my enthusiasm seemed to be putting people off. Being massively burdened by crafted goodness isn’t THAT confusing, is it?)

ykesha airship2) Put in more than you take out

This is especially true in guilds, but it works outside of them too — in groups, chance meetings, forums (hah!), whatever. If you play in any kind of a group or association, it’s just plain basic courtesy to not be the person hogging all the Foozle Fizzles — and if you are, make sure you put back more Fizzles than you took out when you needed them. This doesn’t apply just to items though — it also applies to time and attention.

3) Avoid drama

This one can be difficult, because incipient drama isn’t always obvious. The obvious drama-causers are easy to spot and thus easy to head off or ignore, but sometimes stuff just creeps up on you. When it does, DON’T escalate stuff. Don’t type before you count slowly to 100, twice. When in doubt, log out before you say something stupid.

I’ve probably contributed to my share of drama over the years, but it’s usually unintentional. I’m learning, slowly, that trying to help doesn’t always help and that sometimes shutting up is better than anything else. (Tough lesson for me to learn — now shaddap you in the peanut gallery.)

A corollary to this principle is that text chat can and will be misinterpreted if there’s any earthly way to do so. A joke will be read as an insult, and an offer of friendship (or apology) will be read as a slur or a come-on. That’s just the nature of the beast — but it contributes more to unintentional drama in MMOs than anything else.

Another corollary is: if you don’t have anything good (or constructive) to say, don’t say anything. In large guilds — or global chat channels — it’s impossible to like everyone and chances are you’ll be thinking “what a twat!” several times a day. Just don’t express it. It’s not like you have to go to dinner with these people afterward, and everyone has a right to play in whatever boneheaded way they want, provided they’re not griefing anyone.

4) Play what you want when you want

I’m done with playing because I think I should, because other people expect me to log in, because I can’t think of anything better to do or because I seriously don’t want to think about something in my real life. Those aren’t good reasons for logging on. If you don’t really want to log on then chances are, you shouldn’t. Find something else to do.

As for playing what I want to… I used to think I had to group with people and go out and kill stuff and try instances and things because “it’s what people do in MMOs.”  I’ve come out of the closet since then because I don’t much care for killing monsters and I really don’t like dungeons much (they make me claustrophobic, among other things) and, ultimately, I shouldn’t have to explain my playing preferences and actions to anyone. If MMO designers hadn’t wanted me crafting then they wouldn’t have put those systems in the game. If they hadn’t wanted me to explore, they would have made DDO. These days I play what I want, when I want, and I do what I like. I don’t interfere with anyone else’s fun. (No, I won’t raise the solo vs group debate here, other than to say that if someone else’s fun depends solely on me being online and available, then they need to find more (and more compatible) friends.)

5) Slack if you want to (to the tune of the B52s)

Yeah, this is really a corollary to 4) but I like to have headings that talk about slacking.

The second I start feeling pressured to do a certain thing or play a certain way in games, I stop wanting to play. The whole point is to have fun and for me, being directed and pulled around by activities is not-fun. For others, that’s the very definition of entertainment. Whatever it is, feel free to do it as long as you’re not hurting someone else’s playtime. (And yes, cybering in drood cat-form in Stormwind’s main square is hurting my playtime. I’m still scarred from what I saw. Get a damn room.)

There. I probably missed some, but the point of having a few guiding principles is that you shouldn’t have 137 guiding principles, or however many hundreds of Rules of Acquisition there are. What are yours?

16 responses to “Principles to game by

  1. Such true-isms!

    Playing what I want, when I want is something to hold onto for dear life and can be applied on all forms of online gaming.

    Nice post, Ysharros – please note the new blog platform cange by moi.

    Ta ta!

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  2. Excellent list and very helpful. Let me add some comments:

    1) Pay it forward

    I think it’s very easy to swamp new people by giving them stuff. A lot of people are quite put off. Remember for them as newbies graduating from a vanilla sword to a +1 sword themselves is an awesome moment. If you give them 10 Vorpal +5 Swords of Exp gain on day 1 you spoil the game a bit for people who would have enjoyed earning it more.

    The next point is that some people may become spoilt. You may teach them that the way to solve anything is to get stuff from high level players. That’s why Orgrimmar is full of beggars “10g plx for mount” “who can boost me???”

    I help new people where I can by physically going over and doing something when they’re stuck. “Ack, we’ve been in this dungeon 2 hours and can’t kill the last boss” – that’s when I would fly over to help. Or for a crafter “my sword really sucks. I haven’t found a better one for 10 levels, anyone know where I can get one?”

    Let them play the game and make the initiative themselves. Or make it a guild-wide thing, everyone in my Eve guilds gets cheap skillbooks (under a million isk) free and pvp-lost frigates and cruisers replaced.

    2) Put in more than you take out

    But don’t never take out. I’ve been in guilds that just fill with junk because all people do is donate. The stuff is there to be used, guys!

    3) Avoid drama

    A lot of times what is perceived as rudeness is actually misunderstood humour. I’m terrible for this because my humour is dry by English standards, English humour is dry by other English-speakers standards, and wordplay often is totally lost on non-native speakers.

    So if someone says something odd/offensive it could be a play on words or a Monty Python reference or the old favourite – the use of the pronoun “you” when one means “one”.

    As for negativity I refer you to my esteemed colleague Big Bear Butt:
    http://thebigbearbutt.com/2009/10/14/okay-this-one-time-ill-do-it/

    4) Play what you want when you want

    Agreed. I’d add that (as someone drawn to healers) playing a healer or a tank will see you get a lot more pressure to help and create a much bigger feeling of being the kid in the park football game who owns the ball and who is starting to feel like going home.

    You have to get used to spoiling other people’s fun when you stop playing. It’s the price you pay for being useful. You have to also be able to handle logging in one day and finding they’ve a new person doing your job (because you logged off). It’s cool, most groups run fine with 2 tanks or 2 healers.

    5) Slack if you want to

    If you’re in it for the long haul you need to contruct a game lifestyle that you enjoy. Not a chain of deferred gratification experience that seem more about the deferring than the being gratified.

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  3. Some excellent rules to follow. You’re right when you circled back to the golden rule of gaming: have fun! I bet more people would enjoy themselves better if they just went where the fun is and forgot all the drama.

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  5. Great collection of thoughts on playing with principles. Pretty much every one of them could apply to everyday life too and people would probably be much better off..

    One thing..

    “it’s impossible to like everyone and chances are you’ll be thinking “what a twat!” several times a day…”

    Erm.. I think you meant “twit” there.. *grins and ducks* or maybe not!

    😄

    D.

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      • Must… resist… Twitter… comment…

        Nice list, Ysh! As you might expect, Items 4 & 5 resonate quite well in this addled old brain.

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  6. Amen. Especially on the “play what you want, when you want” point. If you play to other people’s standards, you’re not going to enjoy yourself as much as you probably should for a game you’re paying for along with your utilities.

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  7. #4 and 5. Yeah. Things I’ve been struggling with lately and a big reason why I am starting to spend more and more time offline and hardly any time online. Kind of coincides with what I’m posting today. Already written, but haven’t published yet because I haven’t fully decided if I want to publish it.

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  8. I can say from experience that you (Ysh) hit a good balance between being generous and helpful, and being overwhelming. You gave me all those nifty bags in EQ2 and were always happy to answer questions, but you didn’t go so far as to take away the challenge of having to make my own way and earn my own keep.

    I think I personally sometimes err a bit on the overwhelming side, being a bit too eager to help newbies out by giving them everything they want/need, helping them through quests, etc. It’s hard for me because I genuinely like helping people, but I recognize that too much help is ironically not as helpful as the right amount of help.

    As for the second point, “Put in more than you take out”, that’s always been my way. When I was but a noob IRL, I learned a valuable lesson from the Boy Scouts: always try to leave a place nicer than it was when you arrived. I still pick up litter when I hike, and in general try to give more than I take. I was quite enamored of the guild chests for crafting goodies in our EQ2 guild, but always steadfastly put in more than I used, because I’m a firm believer in social contracts and in the moral of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: when we all work together and look out for each other, things work out for the best overall.

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