Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lincoln Attitude To Raiding

It was a rather gloomy raid for being a first-time-visit to a new raid boss. Sindragosa landed and she was huge and three-phased and offered all sorts of tricks to keep us entertained and on our toes.

It should have been the most fun and exciting night we'd had for weeks. Finally some challenging, un-farmed content, forcing us to be on our toes, bringing out our very best game!

Yes, It should have been a party. The raid chat and the vent channel should have been sparkling with little bubbles of enthusiasm. But they weren't. They were as gloomy as if we'd been standing freezing in a rainy DWP.

The missing spark
Certainly we had our reasons not to be too happy. The lack of sign-ups lately was worrying, delaying our raid start and making our composition far from ideal. And the server lag seemed to be back, after staying away for a couple of weeks.

But we also missed something else: we missed the spark, we missed focused hunger for more and we missed a smile on our lips.

Normally I'm blessed with having a guild with quite a dedicated kick-ass attitude, which so far has helped us progress quite far despite our modest raid schedule with three nights a week. I hope - or rather I believe - that this night was just a temporary setback, and problems fixed, we'll be ready to go again, knocking down walls, taking the sky.

However, I can't rid myself of the thought that we're seeing some effects of the late-into-expansion apathy that started a little while ago and now rapidly is spreading through the community. It's in the blogs, it's in the podcasts, it's everywhere.

Fighting apathy
The question is: can you do something to fight it? Yes, you can.

If you're a really bad case of WoW apathy illness, you should of course take the consequences and stop raiding. No one is forcing you to be in a raid, you know. Just telling you. Rather than having players who hate what they're doing, I think any sensible guild would rather see that you left so they can recruit players who still have the spark.

One of our mages just did this. He's a long term member, a bit of a raid clown, and he'll be missed. But if you don't enjoy raiding anymore, it's the only decent thing you can do - for your own sake and for the guild's sake. Hopefully he'll be back for Cataclysm.

Now, suppose that you're not so unhappy that you want to stop raiding. Let's say that you're just a bit whiny, cranky, in a bad mood. Is there something you can do about it?

Yes, yes and yes! You can't change your fellow players. You can't change the server lag (the report button is just a placebo thing to keep us occupied.) But you can change your own attitude!

The Lincoln quote
The American president Abraham Lincoln obviously never played WoW, but I still think he has something relevant to say about it:

I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I don't know if he ever said those words in reality - as always with those one-liners from supposedly wise guys, there's a distinct lack of sources and verification. Authors of "How-to-fix-your-life-and-become-successful-and-get-tons-of-friends-and-a-beautiful-wife-and become-rich-and-famous-and-get-laid-all-in-one-month" books don't care the slightest. Authentic or not, the quote fits perfectly into any handbook.

I like it, but just to some extent. I don't think you can apply it in any situation and I'll explain why. (Please forgive me for diving into stereotypes on the border to prejudices. )I believe my hesitation has to do with cultural differences.

On one side you find the Americans with their never-give-up-attitude that seems to be something they get with their mother's milk. It's like a natural life compass, encouraging them to always keep smiling, no matter what happens to them.

On the other side we have the Europeans, me included. We look suspiciously at all those constantly smiling people. It seems a bit artificial or even false. According to our view on life happiness isn't something you choose anymore than you choose what weather it will be today; it's rather the result of an equation- the effect of a certain combination of circumstances. There is something in the quote that shows a lack of compassion with other people, suffering from conditions such as depression, which isn't cured as easily as by just "pulling yourself together". And this bugs us.

Why Lincoln was right
However: when it comes to WoW I think Lincoln is quite right. If you want to be successful in raiding and happy with your time online, getting value for your subscription fees, you have to review your attitude and expectations. Things that you don't like may happen to you in game. You may lose that roll on a piece of gear, you may lose a battleground or wipe on a boss that you think should be a farm. But how you react to it is entirely your own choice.

With the mindset of the Lincoln quote, you'll notice: "Oh, the sign-ups weren't brilliant tonight and we've got a lag issue". But you won't let it drag you down and govern your state of mind.

Your next train of thought will be: "This means that I'll have to push my game skill even a little bit further than normal. We can SO do it. And we're going to have fun! Raiding is what I enjoy doing in my free time, and I like to hang around with those people. We're a fantastic team. Raiding makes me happy. Let's go and do this!"

I've used this technique myself in other situations, and it's amazing how it works. Try smiling (at least in your mind, even if your face doesn't show anything), and as by a miracle you'll find that the artificial smile will turn into a real one after a while. I don't know how many times I've pushed myself to go training, regardless of not feeling inclined to do it. I force myself to smile, pretending that I'm SO looking forward to do this. And half-way through the class, I always find myself completely energaized again, and I can't understand why I hesitated to go there in the first place.

I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I'm going to be a happy raider in every raid I attend as long as I'm playing WoW. I'm going to sparkle. And if I don't sparkle I'm not going to be a raider anymore. Then it's time to move on and do something else. I have made up my mind. How about you?


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Sparkle on, little gnome.

Klepsacovic said...

We Americans are perfectly capable of being unhappy and cynical and I am offended that you would even suggest that we have any predisposition towards happy thoughts. More seriously, there are ten thousand historical and cultural factors shaping us, but we do tend to have a generic attitude of self-reliance and therefore the need to self-motivate. Also we have nukes; those can brighten any day.

Less ridiculously, last week I'd been away due to life and only gotten online for the last hour or so of the raid. There was a spot open, but I really hate the last hour of raid nights. My friend knew this and said he'd rather go in with 24 people than burn me out. I had a fun evening.

Yaggle said...

Sure, it's best to be happy. But the next-best thing is to all be miserable but get the job done anyways. The worst situation is when you have people who decide that they are unhappy because other people are making them unhappy. I saw a sign at work a few years ago similar to your quote. It was, "Happiness is an inside job". I like that.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

"On one side you find the Americans with their never-give-up-attitude that seems to be something they get with their mother's milk. It's like a natural life compass, encouraging them to always keep smiling, no matter what happens to them."

This is the most inaccurate statement about americans I have ever seen typed. People are people, where ever you go. But the one thing americans don't do, is keep smiling. You have to beg to get a smile from most people.

To really catch my point, the happiest people in the US are on drugs. That's not smiling no matter what, it's "smoking so I don't give a shit".

Shannon said...

I actually find the statement wholly accurate. As an American living in America, I would never have noticed. But after having moved abroad for 10 years now, its one of the first comments I get around new people - how smiling and optimistic I am.

Shannon said...

Forgot to add, I personally do not find myself smiling and optimistic. I am a bit of a misanthrope. But I think I do have a different way of approaching things, as a result of my cultural heritage.

Len said...

I'm a big fan of REBT (rational emotive behaviour therapy) which is very similar in concept to Mr Lincoln's quote. It's all about the fact that people on the whole want to be happy (whether they be American, European or otherwise). To do that, you need to accept what's happening around you, or to you and not letting negative emotions or thinking spiral out of control and rule your life.

It's usually applied to people who have major anger issues, significant problems or poor relationships but well... raiding can encompass all those things :D

Dwism said...

Just like any sports, some days you feel more like playing than others. Point is to remember the good days and stay raid-fit for the good days.

Another way to pull yourself together is to remember that (case in point) after the angry dwagon you get to meet the big LK! That should get everyone psycked and pew ready :)

Thirdly is knowing when you are in risk of burning totally out, then taking a break. But to me, not feeling totally up for it, is far from a reason not to raid. Maybe it is because I see raiding as a sport, and not a relaxing little hobby (i pvp or level or run dungeons to relax). I guess its all about how you play the game and why. But signing out because you feel like "meh, I can't be bothered today" is really crapping on the other people in your raid-group, because they are there for you when you really want to raid. It is a two way street, such is social-gaming and team-sports.

Azryu said...

I'm actually surprised a sterotype like this exists pertaining to America.

Then again, I am not. We project the image of a land of opportunity- to be whatever you can imagine.

I don't think he is necessarily wrong at all though. Only you choose to let things get to you for longer than they need to. Of course you will experience the anger, frustration.

But after you experience all of the initial emotions, it is completely up to you how you want to deal with it.

You can decide that the world is not worth forgiveness and turn it away, you can choose to merely bear it, or you can choose to see past the rough times you are currently experiencing--- and glance into the future, where one would hope happiness awaits.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy ähm gnome, never comment world's leading democracy or the drama will be in range.

What you said about self-motivation is a good point, but still it is self not group motivation.

Group dynamics are a strange and you certainly have influence on it - look on your entertaining mage for instance. On the other hand, different mentalities (hobby for you, but sport for Dwism) creates barriers that can only be crossed on common ground.

Brightening up your groups mood is certainly good, but sometimes we have to deal with the fact, that a bad day is ... well a bad day.
At least on a bad day, you value every little smile.

The danger of always looking on the bright side (sorry for playing Monty Pyton) is, that you actually do not learn to handle depression.

That is one of the reasons why I do not agree with the smiling attitude. Always being happy, does not necessary make you happy.

It's accepting and dealing with the bad and valuing the good.


Ritsuka said...

i Always think of raids as a job atleast the 25man ones. i'm in there to do some damage and it is my job to stay alive and my job to perform.

10mans are the fun raids that i can relax in.

but i'm glad your sparkling atleast someone is :)

Gevlon said...

Completely true. Too bad for those who don't even gave up the hope they will get rich on their own (and hope for governmental aid), but even gave up the hope to SMILE on their own.

Good to see you are not among them!

Bigboss said...

Theres certainly apathy starting now and i honestly wonder how long blizz wanna stretch wotlk - if the expansion is indeed in august 2010 earliest i see a dark raiding summer ahead of 25man guilds..
the other thing that is very strong in my guild as well is core players - some people are 'mood carriers' more than others and when they're missing on our raids then the raids arent the same. especially during progress these people keep morale up in class channels and whenever they are missing our raids are a bit quieter and often the worse for it.

i dont think everyone is aware of this but such core players do a lot for the overall raid spirit and fun and even if you can't put your finger on it, something's missing.

lonomonkey said...

This feels doubly relevent with all the trouble we had in my soon to be ex-guild. I tried for a long time to keep a upbeat attitude but at some point I couldn't fake it anymore.

Since I accepted that I wasn't enjoying raiding anymore and would be stoping a lot of stuff I was wondering about cleared up and I found out that while you may keep on smiling at some point you got to take on the confederates.

In my case we had a very negative guild atmosphere going on and getting out felt good and brought the smile back on my face.

But still yeah, I'll try to get back to be happy asap.

Larísa said...

: * (This was as close as I could come to a sparkle)

: Yeah I know… I feel a bit ashamed using stereotypes like this; nevertheless I must admit that I HAVE met quite a few ever-smiling Americans visiting Europe. Maybe it’s just a pose they use going abroad?

@Yaggle: that’s a good one-liner as well. Lincoln quote or not.

Fallstar: As I said… stereotypes. Of course there are people all over the scale in US – and in Europe. There are smiling optimistic types here as well. Nevertheless the image of the cheerful Americans exists.

@Shannon: Interesting that you agreed.

@Len: While it’s not the one and only road to happiness I think it can help at least a few. I get help from thinking that way in certain situations. But not always-

@Dwism: Yeah, I think I’ve got the sports team image in my mind as well. I’ve never been a terrific team player tbh. Never were into that kind of sports. I guess that’s why it’s so interesting to try it out in wow.

@Azryu: When I ponder upon the quote it gets even better. You can see it from two perspectives. One is how you react emotionally and psychologically to what happens to you. The other perspective is what actions you take – when you decide that enough is enough and choose a different path.

@Usiel: haha, yeah… I’m aware that most of my readers are from US so I know it’s fragile ground I’m threading. US presidents… better stay away.

And yeah, I agree with what you say. I told you, I’m very European in my way of seeing things.

@Ritsuka: yeah, 25 mans are definitely more serious business than 10 mans. I really miss 10 mans deeply. The make my eyes sparkle more in some aspects.

@Gevlon: I suspected you would agree. Putting on a victim attitude was never your thing.

@Bigboss: Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll have to wait until at least September/October for it. And that’s indeed a gloomy perspective. *Shivers* I hope the new instance can keep us sparkling for a while, but I’m not too optimistic about it.

It’s an interesting observation you’re making about mood carriers. I never thought about it that way. Maybe a raid hasn’t just a main tank, but also a main mood carrier, who will influence the whole atmosphere.

: There definitely is a point where faking happiness becomes unhealthy and just an escape from dealing with real problems. Considering your latest blog post it seems that you did just the right thing to give up the smiling approach and get the heck out of there.

akiosama said...

Hey Larisa - great food for thought.

First, on the subject of positive thinking and Americans, I'll agree with many of the other opinions expressed previously that as a stereotype, it doesn't necessarily seem to fit with the American mindset - especially the younger generations. Depression, lashing out, and other such 'un-happy' behaviors and attitudes are quite common. We are not generally happy all the time, and, in fact, are quite adept at being angsty, whiny, cynical, and bemoaning our lot in life.

That being said, I agree with you that there is some good in the idea of positive thinking. The way you approach a situation, emotionally, as well as physically and mentally, can affect your performance in that situation. Mental distractions (a mental debuff), frustration (an emotional debuff), and fatigue (a physical debuff) can all show its effects in our performance. By trying to remain positive in outlook, one can fend off some of the distractions and frustration, and even revitalize one's body to a certain degree, and improve performance, potentially. There's a reason why the idea of a 'self-fulfilling prophecy' exists - if you believe you're going to fail, then you can and often will. Why not redirect some of that negative belief and up your chances for success, even if it's only negating the idea of a 'self-fulfilling prophecy' for the situation at hand?

As for apathy in raiding, even with new content, I can sort of see that happening, too. My guild has started working on progression, and we're not the fastest at it (we just finished Rotface for the first time last night), but it seems like we're making some progress.

However, for some reason, we weren't as excited at getting Rotface down as we were in the other guild firsts we'd done in ICC recently. There was cheering and laughter when we downed Festergut. For Rotface it was just "Good job"s going around, save our Pally healer - and that was only when he saw his Best-in-Slot Mace dropped.

So, there's frustration being seen in the learning curve of the fights, awkwardness in scheduling things in our guild - we're at that awkward 15 or so people who want to raid size, diplomacy issues with the guild we're running 25s with, and other such in-game drama which adds to the apathy, distraction and frustration.

I'm hoping we'll get past it, now that we're back to Marrowgar - we seem to have more fun on the first days of the weekly raiding cycle, as it's the time where we show the most success and the most shinies drop.

And if it doesn't, I'm sure "Cataclysm will fix it."

My 2 yen,


tufva said...

I used be really into Tai Chi (as in practiced it for several years). One thing that the teachers kept going on about was how you are in control of your feelings and reactions.

At first such a statement seemed weird - I feel what I feel, surely?

But really, you can control it.

Say someone is being really annoying. To the point of most people wanting to slap them silly. You can choose to allow that person to annoy you and wind you up. Or you can choose to let it all just flow around you.

It is your choice how you decide to react to something. Raid starting late and the mood being a bit down - you choose whether to allow that to colour your mood or whether you still sparkle.

I'm not saying it is easy, far from it - nor that I'm particularly good at it. But every now and then I will remember it and make an effort to decide how I want to react to something rather than just let myself be coloured by other people's actions or reactions.

So you go girl! Sparkle away! :-)

Anonymous said...

When I was participating in a Study Abroad trip in England, many of my classmates commented on how they'd smile at people but not receive a smile in return. At first, they were disheartened because they perceived culture clash while wanting to show how happy they were to be in the UK.

Our professor explained that we had brought our Southern habits with us that weren't part and parcel of everyday London life. It was fine if we wanted to smile, but there wasn't any need to expect that same cheeriness from others. In the end, for me it became an excellent method of introspection on the cultural forces that had shaped me and then guided my actions in a foreign country.

So your thoughts on American behavior are pretty indicative of how we often act when traveling abroad given whatever cultural baggage we happen to bring with us.

As for the topic of raiding in this post, I'm right there with you. :D

Analogue said...

Maybe you don't get to decide to be happy, but I've found you can decide how much of your unhappiness you want to inflict on other people. If you want to be liked by people, well, sometimes you need to act cheerful even when you want to rip their heads off because people like being around other people who are cheerful, not depressed angry people. Not to sound too much like a stupid children's song, but acting happy is contagious and sometimes you end up feeling more cheerful than you would otherwise.

Stewing about multiple wipes, or boredom with content, feeds into it. You'll definitely feel worse that way. The options are to embrace that gloom, or to quit whatever's making you miserable, or to act happy even though you aren't.

I think the smiling/happy is regional. When I've lived in the Midwest, West, or South of the US, people have been cheerful, while the east coast seems more dour...

Sedirex said...

I love this post. It's definitely interesting to get a glimpse at the mindset across the pond, as opposed to the idiotic mentality we Americans have picked up of "You can do anything if you believe in yourself."

Bristal said...

When I was a kid in elementary school, there was yo-yo "season", marble "season", and a variety of other odd little games that came and went and came again.

Organized sports are the most obvious example of activities with identifiable "seasons". If I'm going to play in a softball league it's certainly going to be Spring/Summer.

Fall/Winter is WoW Raiding season. New expansions are out, theres lots of new content and shinies to go for, and it's cold & dark outside.

Spring/Summer is "outside" season.
Blizz undoubtedly knows this based on the release date of their expansions and online numbers.

I continue to play a bit in the Summer, but getting three 25mans/week together when it's nice out, and light until 9pm, is unlikely and unhealthy IMO.

It's good for us all to take time off of a vigorous persuit and come back to it at some pre-ordained time.

Take a break.

Smile and the world smiles with you. Barf.

Kiddo said...

Honestly, I just take the cold-turkey approach - when raiding becomes dull for me, I start leveling one of my alts, doing some PvP on my mage, or (more recently) hanging out in SAN US. I end up having more fun than when I force myself or try to have fun when it's not - and whether it takes a week or a few months, I'm back in the game.

Larísa said...

: thanks. Yeah, the apathy is setting in, I see it everywhere. The sad thing is that it’s contagious. I’m not the slightest bored with progressing in ICC myself, but when people around you are, it’s hard not to take impression from it.
To be honest though, I’m not entirely sure Cataclysm will fix everything. People who have been around since vanilla seem to have a harder and harder time getting excited about anything these days.

@Tufva: Yay! Anc Tai Chi really seems like a good thing. I’m planning to start training some sort of budo the day I stop wow-ing, although it will probably be something slightly more intensive, like aikido.

: oh, thanks! Maybe there is a little bit of truth in the stereotypes then.

: I think many of us don’t realize how big impact we have on everyone else, showing our bad mood. It’s really worth thinking about if you want your raid team to be successful.

@Sedirex: thank you!

@Bristal: Well, I think there are very few guilds that never will take any single week off in the middle of the summer vacations. However, mid March… the ground is still covered with snow. In my world it’s way too early to slow down on raiding, especially with Lich King still to defeat.

@Kiddo: that’s fine provided it work for the guild you’re in. But you can’t really expect there to be a spot ready for you as you decide to come back. You might have been replaced in the meantime.

TheScribe said...

This post rather put me in mind of that character in the Simpsons Dr Hibbert. Who discovered that chuckling mindlessly was the way to go. It's true what someone said though about "mood carriers" this is very true and I have also found that these individual's are people who don't take raiding and the game ( and maybe life? ) as seriously as others.

I was in a guild that systematically got rid of these people over a period of a year or more. The were replaced by cheerless, nose to the grindstone type theorycrafters. As an upshot of this we did better and put out more DPS. Rotations were better, healing, you name it. The only thing that was missing was fun. A much under-rated and maligned resource. Loose this at your peril, you may find after you do that all the purples and progress in the world cannot replace it.

We seldom seek what it is we need and we only find it in the pain of joy's absence.

Wiggin said...

I think some readers need to enlighten themselves with this ever-so-timely written book: