Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ask Larísa: How do I help my better half to become a better player?

The other day I got a letter. It came from a fellow blogger, Zekta, from, who wanted a piece of advice. From me of all people! I can assure you I grew several inches. He seemed to think that I was some sort of Guinan figure, standing in her bar, listening to the customers, cracking sound advice with a touch of eerie mystery. Of course I'm not anywhere close to be anything like her. But it's nice to pretend!

I thought the best way to deal with this letter was to post it here, giving the other bar guests the chance to add their two cents to help out Zekta. And with this introduction I'll give the word to Zekta:


Dear Larísa,

This is Zekta from I would like some advice. I guess many people had asked the same question before, but this really puzzle me, and I don't know where to look for the answer. So here I am, in the bar talking to you. Being one of the most intelligent Gnome I know on Azeroth, may be you can shed some light on the mist.

Last year, my better half decided to join me in Azeorth (with her hunter and after I asked too many time), so that we can "stay" together in our gaming time as well. Everything goes well, I had to teach her most of the thing and protect her on some dreadful situation. We enjoy every bit of that, and We dash thru Azeorth, Outland and finally Northern.

Finally her toon is now 80 level, and as we all know, there aren't much thing left to do. I am sure PVP is not her type, cause she value more cooperative gameplay, But I am hesitate to bring her to the PuG as well. Most people in PuG is in a rush and unforgiving, I wonder how she would learn the skill of a decent player. While we are so get used to it, avoiding danger (The classic don't stand in the fire), OT and DPSing may not be as simple as it looks. I expect much from other PuGer myself as well, so I am not sure where to take her to, while I can guide her thru the moves.

I had tried couples of dungeon (including Lord Ahune) run while I run with my Restro Shaman (While I can reduce the chance of wipe), I hardly had time to provide advice while I am busying filling health bars. I don't have much RL friend in game that are still playing, so there aren't any "training session" I can organise. (Unless it's 70-level).

What should I do? Queue up PuG with a DPS with her? Pug on normal? Solo run 70- instance? Or do you happens to know where I can look up information for a new player.

I personally had a Hunter as well, so I know the class In and Out. But the basic instance run info, It's hard to explain for me. (Since we are too used to it)

I really want her to enjoy the game... But I gotta have place to let her know about the basics, so that if any player complains at her, she'll know if their point is valid. (And we know that how many clueless Pug finger pointer is out here)

I think there are many other people had the same problem too. The instance difficulties now is too easy for old player(Us), but still kinda harsh for new player...


Zekta Chan

Larísa's answer:

Dear Zekta,

I don't know you and you the lady of your heart in real life, so please forgive me if I'm jumping into the wrong conclusions after reading your letter. But to me it appears as if you're very protective towards her. You seem to be anxious to make sure that she's having a good time in Azeroth and that she won't stumble into some jerk, calling her names, making her feel uncomfortable. You're also very keen to shield her against potential failures, going as far as to play a healing shaman to compensate for her possible mistakes.

The question is: has she really asked you for all this help? Are you sure that she wants it? Could it be so that she might need a little space, so she could get the chance and the pleasure to figure out a few things on her own?

You see: the barkskin of a player doesn't grow overnight from nowhere. It's like learning to ride a bicycle. You need to fall a couple of times before you get it. Doesn't she deserve to enjoy the learning process like you did once upon a time, without feeling the pressure that she should catch up with you so you can play harder content together?

I've never played together with my better half. But I've read quite a few blog posts on the topic. Some bloggers obviously have a fantastic experience playing together as a couple. They enjoy having an interest in common and whenever they're online they're in a team. My impression though is that many of those happy gaming lovers actually don't live together. They use Azeroth as a way to see each other online between their real life meetings.

On the other hand - I've read more than once about couples where both play WoW, but on different servers and even on different factions. Sometimes it's because they enjoy different parts of the game, but there's also an element of getting personal space for themselves. As Spinksville noted in a blog post, where she described how she and her boyfriend were living in a small one-bedroom flat, where there wasn't much "solo room" for anyone. "And sometimes, being logged into the computer and playing a single player game almost felt as though it genuinely did add some virtual space to the house."

This quote is taken a bit out of context, but I still think you should really think about it carefully. Helping your girl friend is absolutely a good thing to do, but you might want to do things on your own, just for your own pleasure from time to time. And the same goes for her.

Ways to coach
With this out of the way: let's move on to your question. If you both agree on that you want to play together, if she really wants your help and if you enjoy being her teacher, where should you start to help her climb in the learning curve?

Well, to me it sounds as if you think that she might still lack a few basic skills that an all-round hunter should master. Maybe she needs to work out and practice on things as rotations, misdirecting, kiting and putting up traps. You can do this in several ways and I think you should try to vary it as much as possible.

Above all: don't worry at this stage about character advancement, loot drops or achievements. It's not important. What you want to do is to give her the chance to practice and improve in a non-hostile environment, where she'll get experience and hopefully also a little boost to her self confidence, which many new players need.

Seek out challenges that you can do as a duo to begin with. Do whatever group quests you can find in Northrend, just the two of you. At least the five-man quests should give you some resistance. Training sessions in a low-level instance is also a great idea.

Also remember: you don't have to be in the same group as her when you want to coach her. Try to vary the coaching a bit. You could for instance let her pug normal level 80 instances on her own. Instead of playing on your toon you could sit beside her, seeing exactly what maneuvers she does with her mouse and keystrokes, what spells she takes, how she reacts in certain situations. You can even ask her to comment on what she's doing aloud, letting her explain why she does what she does. With the knowledge of her actions and her reasoning, you'll be able to give way better feedback to her.

Another variant of this could be to switch roles. You said you know how to play a hunter. Well do that! Borrow her toon or pick out your own hunter if it's still around. Show her how you play it, tell her exactly what you're doing and what's going on in your mind.

Yet another idea is to find a few good instance videos that you could show her, preferably with hunters around. Watch them together and guide her through them, pointing out essentials that you think she could learn from.

Talking about online-resources: provided that she doesn't mind reading - why don't you send her to the blogopshere? I know The Hunter's Mark and Aspect of the Hare both have guides on different aspects, but there are surely many others as well. For some reason hunter's seem to blog and podcast more than other classes. They're there to be read and used!

Not overdoing it
Last but not least: there's nothing wrong with putting up a boot camp to get her going, helping her to grasp the basics of the game. Just be careful not to overdo it, not to be too pushy and enthusiastic about it. And know when it's time step back and let her try her wings in a PUG without you hanging around in the party trying to save her.

Zekta: you should put some trust in your girl friend! She can probably do much better without you than you imagine already. Eventually you have to give her the chance to grow on her own. She deserves it like every player does.



So this was the answer that your innkeeper could come up with. But if there are any bar guests who have more suggestions to Zekta, please speak up!


Zekta Chan said...

"My name is Guinan. I tend bar, and I listen."
- Guinan, 2368

I would say Larisa is a nice Guinan counter part in Azeroth, if we've got space ship, only shorter.
(Oh wait, we do have space ships)

Thanks to the detailed answer for me.
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye"
I guess you are right, After all, I witnessed the whole leveling process of her,
from a melee hunter to an okay hunter. (I did show her BRK's Baby hunter video from the first day she play :P). As most of the fathers facing hard time to know it's time to let their grown up kid goes may be?

Playing together was an idea of mine. World Of Warcraft is a nice game, and both of us are game nerd. On a more selfish side, as I am kinda workaholic, while I enjoy the time staying with her, I had an urge on doing something progressive, or do some learning. If we would stay in Azeroth together, I could ultize our time better.

On the backgroud on that, I would always want to make her time enjoyable
and most boy wants to be their princess's shinny knight, right?
(I know some of them are prince, but you understand the what I mean....)
Guess I am overreacting and worried a bit...
Thanks for the advice :)

Zekta Chan

I do follow Pike from time to time, who can resist that Robot Nerdy girl anyway?

Perdissa said...

Maybe I can give a bit of perspective as my wife plays WOW with me, and I have a couple of friends who also game with their wife/ girlfriends. Much advice comes to mind, but for the sake of brevity, I will only mention one point. As the innkeeper pointed out, you appear to be very protective of your girlfriend.

To share an anecdote, I had always had the impression and fear that my wife was a pretty average player, or even a substandard one. As we got to 80 and sometimes joined PUGs, I was very critical of her performance, and always saw ways that she could have performed better, moved faster, reacted more decisively. Doing this, I felt, would improve her performance such that no one would complain about her. I was terrified that people would criticize her and make her unhappy. To cut a long story short, I found out from other raiders that they actually found her to be pretty good, and she was feeling suffocated from my high expectations. If I’d let her do her own thing, she’d be much happier playing the game.

If she is interested in playing the game, she will find ways to improve herself. If she seeks your help, be ready to offer it. If she isn’t, forcing her to improve will just turn her off. Ultimately, forcing her to improve is futile.

Daergel said...

I am guessing that you are trying to shield her from the bad things as much as possible, as perhaps you think that if people in game are unkind, she may not play any more?

I reckon it may have taken a bit of prodding to get her to play in the first place, so maybe you are scared that she will give up, hence the overprotectiveness?

I would love my wife to join me in game, but sadly that will never happen, so you have half the fight already!

Jen said...

My boyfriend got me playing, and I'd say Zekta's style is the way to go. I started out playing with him next to me, showing me what to push and so on. We leveled together until level ~45, when I decided I could do this alone. But I never set foot in a dungeon alone, I was way too scared, so I can understand why Zekta would want to protect his girlfriend. She does have to get used to PuG shittiness at some point, so I think playing with her is a good idea (doesn't matter what kind of character). By being there she will be able to ask you questions, and if she's being bitched at by someone you can bitch back and tell her when she's right and they're wrong.

Of course, I don't know Zekta's girlfriend... so maybe a conversation is in order?

Also, what helped me a lot was my boyfriend's guild. I joined it around level 60 and they were a huge help - they knew I was new and scared, so they taught me how to play and took me to dungeons. Learning with 4 guildies was very nice.

And don't forget what Perdissa said... once she starts being a better player, don't go overboard in the other direction. My boyfriend constantly tells me I suck, and it's getting tiring frankly. I know he's a better player than me, but I *am* decent and I don't need to constantly hear a list of things I could do better.

Krytus said...

My better half joined me in Azeroth a while ago. I was already a level 70 back in Burning Crusade when she rolled her baby toon.

I rolled another toon just to play with her. But my main goal was to let her enjoy the game. I couldn't take away from her that sense of discovery. That faboulous memories while you're leveling through this world.

I clearly remember the first time I joined a PuG for a dungeon. The adrenaline rushing through my veins. Why should I deprive her of that emotions?

Of course I could give some advice if needed, or point her in the right direction. Teaching her where to look for information. But never force her to play the game you want to play. Let her take her own path in the lands of Azeroth.

Analogue said...

My husband and I play together - and I do mean together, we usually tank/heal things as a team. He got me into the game after we got married. But the number one mistake he made that might have ruined WoW for me was he suggested I roll a hunter - and that was already his class. I had trouble learning to play because he would say "do this!" or "why didn't you do that?" and I didn't have time to learn for myself. Finally I rolled a mage and while I leveled it with a warrior he rolled, I did a lot of it on my own too and finally learned how to play WoW.

Now we can play together and give each other constructive criticism, but I had to master some of the game myself first.

Number one thing: if she's happy, let her be. If what floats her boat at 80 is herb picking or pet collecting, let her do it. If she wants to get better at dps, point her at resources, don't tell her how, and DON'T ever get on her account and 'fix' her. Don't redo her spec, her bars, her gear, anything, while she's away. She won't know what happened when she gets back.

Larísa said...

@Zekta Chan: I'm glad you appreciated it. It's natural to want all the best for your loved one, but especially when you talk about your urge to progress, I get more and more convinced that the best thing you could do is to leave her more on her own.

: suffocated is the word, definitely. I think as you: only give advice if she really asks for it.

@Daergel: yeah, I think there's something like that too. The fear of losing her. Still Zekta says that she IS a "game nerd", so it seems to be a but of an overkill to worry that much.

@Jen: yeah, it has absolutely been a good approach for leveling up. But at some point she needs to stand on her own legs. Mayb it would even do her good to join a guild that is playing at her level of progression and experience?

@Krytus: that sounds like a good approach. To stay a couple of steps behind and let her find her own path.

: oh yes I could sign on that. Logging into her char and mess around with it... Hopefully that's out of the question to most players.

Anonymous said...

I have found it is a fine line to tread when attempting to help someone else with the game. On the one hand, you don't want to ruin the experience for your girlfriend, spouse, or, in my case, son. On the other, you want to insulate them from having their experienced ruined by a Pugger. See what I did there? I'm so clever, either way their experience is gonna be ruined! :p

Seriously, though, a genuine part of this game, outside of the inherent thrill and excitement presented by the game itself, is the different people behind the avatars - warts and all. Just as in real life, there are asshats and dbags all around, they are present in Azeroth as well. To think that we should Power Word: Shield our loved ones from the idiots deprives them, in my opinion, of seeing the full nature of the game. If life was all roses, would we dare appreciate them as much?

Lastly, as an end-game raiding hunter, I will be happy to provide individualized guidance - at only $24 an hour :) Seriously, though, there really is not a whole lot one person can do for another to make them a better player other than providing general guidance and support (kind of like real life) - I mean, at the end of the day, the person behind the avatar is the one who ultimately makes the decisions on whether they want to move out of the fire or not. Let your girlfriend experience the game and learn her character in her way - when the asshats show up, just be there to laugh at them with her.


Jen said...

@Krytus (and Larisa, and Zekta): Just make sure she likes that adrenaline. I was honestly scared shitless of joining a PuG (this was before dungeon finder) and I'm still uneasy on that character. If my boyfriend/guildies hadn't taken me with them to dungeons and raids, I wouldn't have gone by myself. Depends on each person's personality, so it's up to you to figure out what your girlfriend is most comfortable with.

(And don't despair if you don't like her choice, things change. After my second toon, and especially after dungeon finder, I leveled mostly in instances; in contrast, my bf can't stand grouping with random people anymore.)

Glacey said...

I really have to agree with Analogue- it is really hard to dig in and OWN your character if someone is helping you play all the time!

I tried to reroll a warrior alt once upon a time (Warrior is my hubbys main). That alt has now been long abandoned, because it was so hard being instructed in how to play. It may SOUND better to be able to ask questions at all times, but you never truely get the feel of the character. Not that asking questions is wrong, of course, it helps... but it's different when the person you are asking is a guildy or someone who isn't constantly accessible. You don't want to be annoying them all the time and you digest more.

Did you level without going into dungeons? Then start out on normals, most of the groups you will get under-80s, who aren't usually as cut-throat as the random heroics, in for a quick badge.

When my druid first hit 70, my guild was my lifeline. I would never have had the nerve to go into dungeons if I didn't know I had a supportive group. (Besides the lack of the randoms at that time...) Does that mean they didn't tell me I sucked? Of course they did! If you never get negative feedback from outside sources, you'll never get the feeling of accomplishment when you're told "good heals" from a random pug, or "yay, a hunter who knows what they're doing". It's a completely different feeling when it comes from someone who you don't know personally.

chewy said...

A few commentators have mentioned introducing their female partners to the game but I don't think anyone's mentioned the other way around...

My wife introduced me to the game and while we used to play together we don't anymore.

Levelling together was fun but once I'd learned enough and she was (and still is) a better player than I am we realised we wanted different things from the game or at least the space to do our own things.

It's still fun, we still share a hobby, talk about it and so on but we achieve our own goals in the game and that's fine too. In some ways it's even more fun, we often discover that we've felt the same way about a boss or some other situation which kind of reinforces why we've got a real life relationship, we feel the same way about things.

So my advice, similar to others, is let it happen as it's going to happen, explore together or on your own - it's still a shared experience. If you try and force it I don't think you'll enjoy it as much.

Video Game Philosopher said...

I was never able to get my wife that interested in gaming beyond PopCap esque games. I wish I could get her into an MMORPG, because then I could play without too much problem or stigma.

Sadly she will probably never play. Jewelcrafting with TBC had her close, but then she realized it wasn't what she thought (she thought she'd be able to really design things not just click two buttons).

Ah well

Zekta Chan said...

Thanks everyone for the inputs, and Larisa for posting the question,
It'll be an aliened question if I asked in my blog
Sorry for replying so late, since I have had a cold and take a day off yesterday (Still dizzling).

After reading, the first thing I was thinking is...
OMG, what had I done to her!
I am planning to have a long conversation with her, and consider what she'll want to do in the game.
I'll turn my helping mode from Active to Passive and see what we can work out in the.
And we'll probably gives the normal Pug a try :)

All in all, thanks for everything or Azeroth may end up losing a cute hunter. :)

I guess that would be happened to me as well if you didn't give the hint. Thanks for the heads up

@Daergel and Larísa
Cause I really appreicate her effort on entering (previously) my realm, I may be too keen to make sure everything okay... Yet I may had doing it in a wrong way though :(

@Jen and Larísa
Yeah, maybe I am still can't get used to let her run her own dungeon yet. Or may be she doesn't want to... Either way, I guess I better release my grips a little bit, and let her consider what she wants :)

I would hope so too, but she's so new to the game, and kinda sensitive I would said... we used to discard invalid comment from other pugger, but for a new comer that's kinda hard. (It happens when I first come to healer and tank role as well)

Well I can, since we have each other's account password (I know it's violate the EUA, but that's a couple thing...)
But I would never get into her playing character without getting permission, as a basic respect among couples right?

Sadly I don't have a guild to support me on that, :( I had been pugging like a year now, since I occasionally changing character, or stuff, and my game time varies a lot.
May be I should find a suitable one for her... (may be more casual one)

That's what I am hoping for :)

@VG and
I guess gaming is the one attraction force pulling us together. I really glad she do love playing game :)

Thanks Larísa