Make a boring game fun again, play a different character

As I mentioned a bit ago in my blog about taking a break, I had been away from WoW for about a month.  With my vacations and vacations from other guild members, our raiding was pretty much put on hold until the new patch dropped.  To be honest, I really wasn’t even thinking about playing again.  I was just done with the game and my Mage (note: I am a terrible Mage).  However, as one of my friends was thinking about bringing his Mage up to shame me in the dps ratings, I was thinking about hoping over to my only other level 100 character, my DK.  I wasn’t having much fun playing my Mage and with another guild mate bringing up one, I just thought now might be a good time for a change.  So, for most of last week, and over the 4th of July weekend, I spent a good amount of time playing my DK and getting his ilvl up high enough to start seeing Hellfire Citadel, the new raid content.  And I have to tell you, playing something new can make a boring game fun again.

My Death Knight in World of Warcraft
My Death Knight in World of Warcraft

If the prospect of my and a friend essentially switching roles, he currently raids on his paladin, I don’t think I would have even bothered playing again.  However, I had a great amount of fun playing and learning how to dps with my DK.  Since I have almost exclusively played a ranged class since I started WoW back in February 2005, that’s when I rolled my Hunter Kanzto (haven’t played him in four months…), trying out a melee character was a whole new experience for me.

I no longer could plant my feet and cast anything and everything I wanted from as far away as possible.  Now I had to be in the thick of things, constantly moving while constantly trying to stay within range.  Some boss fights, that used to be a snooze fest for me, are now challenging due to the “new” (new to me at least) mechanic I had to deal with.  I even had to change up my action buttons a few times to get a more streamlined layout that worked better with constant movement.  I now have new found respect for those melee classes and players who always manage to do well in the dps race; I’m still not completely sure how you do it.

I also went a different route with how I was playing my DK.  While leveling, I was in a tanking spec and basically just outlived whatever I was fighting.  That’s pretty easy to do as DKs are notoriously difficult to kill.  However, taking things down just took too long.  After doing some google searching, I found a decent guide on how to be a DW Frost DK.  I not as unkillable as before, but I can take things down much quicker…well, quicker than I could in tank spec.  This brought on a new level of different and frustration for me.  Not only did I have to be next to the thing I was fighting, I now had to make sure I was doing everything right in order to survive.

Now, chances are that I am as terrible a DK as I am a Mage, but I do enjoy the challenge of figuring out what I need to do and when in order to maximize my dps as well as survivability.  What switching up a class and role did for me was make WoW different, fun, frustrating, and kind of new again.  If only my friend who hurry up and hit 100 with his Mage (he’s at level 98 right now) and gear them up so we can officially swap out for our raids.  Though, to be honest again, I did raid last night on my Mage and did have fun with it.  Though, the whole while I was talking about how much fun my DK is.

Playing something new can make old, boring games new and fun again, though your mileage may vary.  If I had to level my DK from 55 to 100, I never would have even tried.  But, this does work in other settings as well.  If you do not like or are bored with you D&D (or other systems) character, talk to your GM about rolling up a new one.  It can definitely change how you feel at the table and make the experience more enjoyable.

Have you ever given up on a game only to go back to it and play a different character?  Did it make the game fun again?  How about with a tabletop roleplaying character?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Learning to Adapt

We all game differently.  While playing a board game, roleplaying it up, or playing a video game online, chances are we are playing something while in a group.  And not all groups are the same.  In my board gaming group (going on nine years now) everyone at the table has a fairly strong personality.  This carries over to my roleplaying group as a lot of us are in both groups.  However, this isn’t the case for all groups all the time.  Sometimes we are thrown into a different situation and we have to adapt to those around us.

This adaptation can be as simple as toning down the amount of curse words; I admit, I have a pretty dirty vocabulary at the gaming table.  However, if I am with a group where they don’t appreciate colorful language, or there are kids around, I need to tone it down and I do.  I do not complain about it and the group doesn’t need to keep reminding me about it either.  I do it because it is polite and I want to keep gaming.

This carries over into roleplaying groups as well.  Not everyone in the group can be super boisterous all the time.  Depending on what everyone is playing, we might need to drastically tone down our conversations in and out of character so someone else can have their turn in the spotlight.  Some GMs might not appreciate a lot of side talk while roleplaying is happening.  Others might require you to pay very close attention to what is going on as they will only give you a few seconds to decide what your character is going to do on their turn.  Again, this requires us to adapt to the situation.

This carries over into games like WoW too.  During MoP while we were working on taking down Garrosh for the first time, the guild, as a whole, was on edge and didn’t appreciate screw-ups.  There was very little chatter at all while we were attempting bosses we hadn’t killed yet.  However, after we took down Garrosh and everyone one else quit until WoD, the new guild I joined was all about messing around.  They had taken down everything on a more difficult tier so they were more about having fun and helping everyone else out.  It was incredibly fun raiding with them.  Everyone was constantly throwing out jokes or saying complete nonsensical things to get a laugh.  The raid leader would even modulate his voice to add to the entertainment.  Had I ran with them with the mindset I during my old guild’s first Garrosh kill, I wouldn’t have had as much fun.  I had to adapt to their playstyle.

A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strateicon this past February.
A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strategicon this past February.

When heading to a gaming convention or trying to get into competitive play, multiply this need to adapt 100 fold as you will encounter all sorts of different people with a wide variety of personalities.  My friends who go to gaming conventions always share stories about some of the people they met at the gaming table.  They would go from wisecracking at one table to complete silence at the next.  They were always adapting to their fluctuating situation.

The adaptability you can learn from gaming with different groups is invaluable in everyday life.  If you are trying to branch out and experience new things and meet new people, finding a gaming group might be the way to go.  You’ll have something in common with the new people and you all will be there for the same thing; gaming.

What is your experience with different gaming groups?  Were some very open and joking often, while others were very on point and serious?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Leaving toxic groups

Throughout our lives we will encounter or be a part of a toxic situation.  It is unavoidable.  The gaming world is no different.  Be it with your online gaming group or your in-person tabletop gaming group, toxicity can spring up or develop.  Some of us will try to push through it, hoping that it will eventually go away.  We do this either because we don’t want to lose our friends, or we feel obligated to stick around so the group, as a whole, doesn’t fall apart.  I personally think this is the wrong thing to do.

Image credit: http://www.strasburger.com/fda-set-safety-limits-potential-toxic-elemental-impurities-approved-drugs/
Image credit: http://www.strasburger.com/fda-set-safety-limits-potential-toxic-elemental-impurities-approved-drugs/

Gaming, for most of us, is a hobby.  We do it because we enjoy it and because we get something out of it.  Be it a way to spend time with friends, unwind after a tough day at work, or just because we like it, we all have our reasons, or excuses, as to why we play.  However, when things get toxic, for whatever reason, the best thing you can do it walk away.  It is just not worth putting up with the toxicity in order to maintain friendships or a routine.  This has happened to me a couple of times in my gaming career (I’m using that term very loosely).  Both times did involve WoW and both times I left and was better off for it.

The first time this happened to me was during WoW’s first expansion, the Burning Crusade.  I had gone a few weeks without logging in due to work and other obligations and when I finally logged back in the first question one of my guild mates asked me was “where’s your roommate?”  We both played WoW and were both in the same guild, but he was, at the time, more active than I was.  When I saw that question, the first thing I thought was: “Seriously? I don’t log in for three weeks and the first thing said to me is a question about where’s my roommate.  Clearly they don’t think enough of me to ever say ‘Hi’ first.”  This really pissed me off, so I quit the guild right then and there.  That did cause some people to acknowledge my existence, but only in the form of “did you mean to do that?”  I hopped servers shortly thereafter.

In this situation, I was going to be the one to make it a toxic environment.  I took things a lot more personally back then, and I would have moped about, most likely complaining all the time.  It wouldn’t have been fun to play the game with me.  Thankfully, I recognized what was going to happen and removed myself before I caused a scene.

The second time this happened was towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King (the best expansion so far) and the beginning of Cataclysm (the worst expansion, without question).  We were one of the top 25-man raiding guilds on our server, but after weeks of trying to get down Lich King on heroic difficulty, we decided to quit raiding.  The next expansion was coming out soon and we all wanted to take it easy for a bit and relax.  Some decided to go for achievements in the 10-man raid.  I was called early one morning to help because someone else couldn’t and for the next couple of weeks we got all but two achievements needed for the epic mount.

The one weekend I couldn’t help, the rest of the group managed to get the last two needed achievements.  I thought, initially, “good for them, I’m pretty sure they’ll help me get those last two since I helped them.”  As you have probably guessed, they didn’t help; they didn’t even want to help.  I figured that that was fine, we have a large guild, and I should be able to find others willing to help.  I was finally able to.  Unfortunately, they weren’t the top tier that the other group was and we struggled for a couple weeks to tackle some of the achievements.

I was finally able to make one last push, a week or so before the new expansion dropped with some main people from the other group, including our raid leader.  And all he did was complain about how terrible the people I was able to find were.  He was so negative and such an ass, throughout the raid that I was on my last straw with him and the guild.  Once Cataclysm dropped, I left the second anyone in the guild complained about helping.  The raid leader had made it such a toxic guild for me to be in that I wouldn’t even tolerate other people in the guild complaining.  In hindsight, I probably should have left sooner.  I did write a lengthy letter to the guild leader explaining that I was leaving pretty much due to one guild mate being an intolerable prick.  I do not remember if I heard back from the guild leader or not.

Even though my experiences with this kind of toxicity have only been in online gaming, the principle of the matter is the same.  If, at any time, the group you are gaming with becomes toxic, you are much better off leaving.  You owe yourself more than you owe anyone else, and no one is going to be as concerned about your health as you are.  It will suck at first, but after some time, you will feel much better for it, as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.

I want to say that this applies to other, more emotionally invested situations you may or may not have in life.  Those are much more difficult and complex.  While the premise is similar, the difficulty in leaving is not.  It is much easier to leave a gaming group than it is to quit your job or leave all of your friends.  Therefore, I am not trying to draw a direct comparison between gaming groups, on or offline, and other relationships.  What I am saying is that if you find yourself in a toxic situation, you shouldn’t just let it fester and become worse.  See what you can do to improve the situation, but always be aware that leaving is a viable option.

Have you ever been in a toxic gaming situation?  Did you leave?  Why or why not?  Please leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Social interaction in WoW

People are, by nature, social beings.  Most of us crave or require regular social interaction with other people.  We gamers are no different.  How we get our interaction, however, may be different.  Most people think of video games as solo activities, and don’t get me wrong several of them are.  But, just because games can and are played alone doesn’t mean you don’t get any social interaction out of them.  Depending on what types of games you play, you can get a lot out of them.

The most basic, current example would, of course, be World of Warcraft.  I have already talked about working as a team in WoW.  Something that goes hand in hand with working as a team is working with others.  In WoW, there’s a lot of content that can be played through by yourself.  This is usually done through questing and achievement hunting.  Nowadays, we can even go back through old content that used to take several people to complete and complete it alone.  I personally get a lot of enjoyment out of that.  Current content or more difficult achievements or quests require playing with other people.

The tool of online social interaction
The tool of online social interaction

If you team up with the same people over and over, they become your friends.  And although they are just your friends in a video game, they are still your friends.  You don’t chat about random things with random people online, but you will with your friends.  I remember a rogue I used to party with often back in the vanilla days of WoW.  Bahaphat was his name.  While we were never in the same guild, we often did dungeons and quests together.  We would chat about how things were going.  After breaks I would take with WoW, one of the first things I would do when I came back was see if Baha was playing and see what he was up to.  I needed to reach out and remake the connection we had.

Right now, I am in two guilds in WoW; one on my horde character that I am currently neglecting, and one on my alliance character.  In my alliance guild, several of the members only play WoW to play with friends.  They never come online to go through content by themselves, they only come online when we are putting a group together to tackle raid content.  Our guild leader has expressed numerous times that he only plays WoW so he can play with friends.  We all get a social interaction fix off of playing this game together.

In my horde guild, they are a bit more tightly connected.  This is mainly due to them being from all over (unlike my alliance guild where we all work for the same company in the same town) and from being in one of the top raiding guilds in the U.S.  Because they spend so much time playing the game together, all the main people have become very good friends.  If you join their mumble chat you will hear everything from funny stories to how things are currently going with someone’s family.  Members even flew from all over to hang out and go to BlizzCon 2014 together.  It’s almost like they are a family.  Everyone is there to play and socially interact with each other.

How have you made friends in online gaming?  How do you keep in contact with them?  Please feel free to leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Image credit and source: Logitech headsets http://gaming.logitech.com/en-us/gaming-headsets

Paying Attention with WoW

Every day, without putting much thought into it, we must pay attention to what’s going on.  On a macro level, we need to pay attention when drive, when we walk, just to make sure we aren’t going to run over or into something.  On a micro level, at work, we pay attention to what we are doing to ensure we are performing out tasks correctly.  However, zoning out can happen and, when it does, has the potential to lead to bad situations.

Video games offer a great environment that encourages and develops paying attention.  And because it ties in nicely with last week’s blog about teamwork, I am going to referencing again raiding in World of Warcraft.

A screenshot of my Death Knight and Magmadar.  He was a terrifying boss back when the maximum level was 60.  Now that's it's 100, he's a piece of cake.
A screenshot I took of my Death Knight and Magmadar. He was a terrifying boss back when the maximum level was 60. Now that’s it’s 100, he’s a piece of cake.

Since the beginning of high end raiding in WoW, specific abilities of specific bosses were countered by abilities specific classes had.  One of the earliest examples of this is the Magmadar fight in Molten Core.  During the fight Magmadar would become enraged, which lead to a large increase in the amount of damage inflicted upon the tanks and the raid.  To counter this, the hunter class had an ability called Tranquilizing Shot.  If a hunter didn’t cast “Tranq” Shot during Magmadar’s enrage, it could easily lead to the entire raid dying.  So hunters had to keep an eye out for the enrage so they could counter it.

Similar things happen for each and every class in the game.  During boss fights, tanks need to know when to use their damage reducing cool downs in order to survive (a cool down is an ability that has a refresh rate anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes).  By paying attention to what the boss is doing, the tank knows when to use their cool downs.  Healers also need to pay attention to what is happening so they can make sure to keep the raid healed.  During certain phases or abilities, healers may need to use a healing cool down to increase the amount of healing they do in order to survive the fight.

Essentially, during every phase of every fight, with some exceptions, everyone in the raid has to be paying attention to what is going on.  Some fights might require you to completely stop damaging the boss in order to handle a specific mechanic the fight has.  In other fights, additional enemies might spawn with abilities that need to be dealt with immediately.  If anything is overlooked, it is very likely that the entire raid will be killed and the fight will need to be restarted from the beginning.  Many fights also have several things going on at once that all need to be paid attention to.  Therefore paying attention is crucial to the group’s success.

This lesson translates directly into what I do for a living, product assurance.  While testing a device I need to constantly pay attention to what is going on in order to catch any strange behavior.  I can pay attention on a macro level, just looking for anything out of the ordinary while testing.  However, I sometimes need to pay attention on a micro level to hone in on a specific behavior is order to diagnose what is going on.

Paying attention, however, isn’t exclusive to my professional field.  No matter what you do in life, paying attention is a crucial skill we all must have.  For some professions, like doctors, paying attention is extremely important because life could be on the line.  For others, paying attention ensures that we are doing our jobs correctly.  We all should strive to be good at what we do, and paying attention is a large step towards that goal.

If you have played WoW, what is your favorite boss fight?  If you haven’t played WoW, do you play any other MMORPGs?  Please leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Teamwork with World of Warcraft

Teamwork is very important in the professional world for most people are either on a team or rely on a team to get their work completed.  On a team it is important to understand what everyone can do.  It is also important to divvy out tasks appropriate to what each individual can do that contributes to getting the project done on time.  However, learning to be on a team, and to work well with your other teammates, can be a difficult task.  Some of us are lone wolves who try to do everything ourselves.  Some of us may try to sit in the back and not try as hard and let the rest of the team pick up the slack.  Neither of these types are productive or helpful, but there is something that can help these people, and others, realize the benefits of working and contributing to a team.

High level raiding in MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games).

I’ll be referencing WoW (World of Warcraft) because that is what I currently play.  Raiding in WoW brings a group of characters, often from the same guild (a collection of friends, either in-game and/or in real life that enjoy playing the game together) into their own instance where they have to tackle more difficult PvE (Player vs Environment) content.  This content is not possible to defeat without a group of people.  In previous expansions, raids took anywhere from 10 to 40 people.  Since it requires a number of people to complete, and a great amount of time to complete, it is imperative that everyone know what they are doing and what to look out for.

You can see me in the upper right corner run past the boss to the right.  That's where the Siege Engineer I am supposed to deal with is.
You can see my character in the upper right corner run past the boss to the right. That’s where the Siege Engineer I am supposed to deal with is.  If I don’t take care of the engineer, we lose the fight.

What you are supposed to be doing and what you need to look out for is highly dependent on what class you are playing.  If you are a DPS class (Damage Per Second, or just Damage), your job is to attack the creatures in the raid (this ranges from raid bosses to random mobs [trash] inside the raid instance).  If you have a special job as DPS, like I did on the Garrosh fight in SoO, you need to pay attention to certain things.  For Garrosh, my job was killing one of the Siege Engineers.  Failing to do so would result in a wipe (where everyone dies and we have to start again).  However, this is the same for everyone participating in the raid; you will need to perform a task when a certain event happens and if you don’t the whole team fails.

Because of this nature, each member of the raid team will be assigned specific tasks.  If one member of the team is unable to perform their task, they need to recognize it, step aside and let someone else handle it.  If they insist on doing it, and continue to fail, then they are doing a disservice to the team as a whole for the team can only progress if everyone does their part.  You will not be kicked out of the raid team if you cannot perform the specific task, you will just be reassigned to something else.  However everyone must be on the same page and understand their abilities and limitations if they want to be able to defeat the current raid boss.

This translates directly into the real world and into your professional life.  Just like my guild wouldn’t have been able to defeat Garrosh if I didn’t successfully handle the Siege Engineers, when you are on a team, everyone must do their part.  Everyone contributes to the project as a whole.  If you are assigned a specific task that you are unable to complete, you must let the team know so they can shift people around so that all tasks are completed correctly.  However, unlike with WoW, do overs in the professional world are rare.  Therefore it is very important that everyone on the team know what they need to do and make sure they are capable of doing it.

Do you play WoW?  What is your favorite aspect of the game?  Please let me know below in the comments and/or on Twitter.

Gif courtesy of https://gifyoutube.com/

Video source for the gif courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/user/AutoAttackTheGuild (Garrosh Hellscream fight).  This is my guild from World of Warcraft when we were Horde on the Destromath server.