Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from the PUG.

So, this morning I have found, amongst the various WoW blogs that I subscribe to, no less than 3 posts on lessons and advice that have come up in running PUGs through WoW's new LFG system. Everything from "why we hate dps meters" to "mistakes healers make" to "why new tanks are terrified of the PUG". It's all interesting and as I read them, I can't help nodding my head, "Yup... yup... uh huh... oh, yeah..."

Anyway, it occurred to me that perhaps all these "lists" can be condensed into just a few useful lessons.

1. Take your job seriously.

When you join a PUG, you sign up for a role, and with that role comes an unspoken but understood agreement. A contract, of sorts. You have agreed to tank, heal or dps that instance until one or all of the people in that group put an end to that contract. You should know what your job entails, and what will be expected of you. No one is expecting you to be perfect, and there is nothing wrong with still learning how to do your job, but even so, you should handle your role with respect.

Let me offer a few examples.

In Top Mistakes Healers Make, Pyoska pointed out that when a wipe occurs, it is not the healer's responsibility to rez "that lazy bum" who can't be bothered to run back with everyone else. However, she does point out, "On the contrary, if only one or two people die in a pull, REZ THEM. Don't be a jerk." I would put this (very good) advice under the category of taking your job seriously.

Last night, Katria and I ran some instances, with her as tank and myself as the healer. We were way overpowered for the instances, so we tried an experiment. Katria ran several instances in her dps gear, which put quite a bit more weight on my healing than normal. Does this mean that Katria was not taking her job as tank seriously? NO. On the contrary, the entire time we were running these instances, Katria was highly attuned to how well I was able to keep her healed. Whenever her health dropped below a certain threshold, she immediately asked me if it was getting too rough for me. And when one boss fight during which she tanked in dps spec led to the death of another party member, she immediately switched back to her tank spec. Katria was pushing herself and me, to see how far we could go to do our jobs. She would never have attempted this with a healer who she didn't trust and who didn't trust her, and in the process, we both learned several tricks that will help us do our jobs better when we find ourselves in more challenging fights.

2. Mind your own little red wagon.

As I have just mentioned, when you get into a random PUG, you have signed a contract to fill a role in the party. YOUR role. You have not signed anyone else's contract. Therefore, your responsibility is not to ensure that anyone else fulfills their contract, especially not to your satisfaction. So, your job is to make sure that YOU are doing your job, not to ensure that everyone else does theirs.

To this advice, I will offer 2 caveats.

Sometimes you will enter into a secondary agreement with another party member, either before or during a run, to offer advice. This may be a one-time or continuous thing. When this occurs, you should take this responsibility seriously and respectfully.

A while back, I was in a HoL PUG where I noticed that when the tank pulled a group of mobs to him, the hunter would send his pet in before the mobs reached the tank, forcing the tank to move forward to where the pet had caught them. After this happened a couple times, I politely asked the hunter if I could offer a suggestion. He agreed, and I explained what I was seeing and suggested that he wait a couple more seconds for the mobs to reach the tank before sending his pet in. Suggestion offered, I went back to my job of keeping everyone alive, and I honestly don't know if he took my advice or not. It wasn't my business any longer.

The second caveat is this: While you go into a PUG with a single role to fulfill, the goal of defeating the final boss of the instance is a group accomplishment and requires some level of cooperation. Sometimes that cooperation involves ideas that might make a run go more smoothly or allow a group to get past a challenge that currently has them stumped. But when in doubt, Christian Belt's advice is a good one: "Before you link your [dps] meter in chat, ask yourself the following question: are the mobs dying? If the answer is yes, then why do you care?"

Thank you, Christian. I couldn't have said it better myself.

3. Don't be a hypocrite.

Other versions of advice include "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," or:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:3-5

But I prefer the simply and concise "don't be a hypocrite." Refer back to #1 and #2. Was there a wipe? If so, the first thing you ask should not be "who screwed up?" but "what can I do within my role to help out?"

Things I love to hear after a wipe: "Would a frost trap help out with that extra mob?" (from a hunter).

Things I hate to hear after a wipe: "WTF, newb, learn to tank!"

Let me also add that even if your performance was perfect and there is nothing further you could do to make a failed attempt successful (which is highly unlikely), saying the latter of those statements will only serve to demoralize the group and MAKE you part of the problem and, thus, a hypocrite. So, don't do it.

4. Have an internal locus of control.

I actually learned about this in my counseling courses. What is a locus of control, you ask? It is, quite simply, a person's belief of what causes the good or bad things in their lives. A person with an external locus of control will believe that they will never succeed because people always push them around. Someone with an internal locus of control believes that they personally have the power to control their own destiny. You've heard the phrase "when life gives you lemons...", right? Yeah, same concept.

When you go into a PUG, you can chose to let how others treat you determine whether it is a good or bad run. Or you can chose to MAKE it a good run. Your choice.

5. You will catch more bees with sugar than vinegar.

Can you tell that I love clich├ęs?

This actually has a much broader use than you might think. Do you have advice to offer? 100% of the time, how you offer that advice will make more of a difference than how awesome that advice is. I promise you. On a broader spectrum, do you want the strangers in your PUG to be nice to you? A cheerful "Hey there! How is everyone?" works wonders in getting the group started off on the right foot.

Sugar. It will get you just about anywhere.

So, there are my five pieces of advice to anyone who is running a PUG using WoW's LFG system. Or, really, to anyone who is doing ANYTHING at all. Go figure.

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