Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tee-Ball Mentality

This is going to be a very rough topic, both in subject and presentation, as there is a lot to say and it does not always flow well from one point to another. "Elitism" is a rather touchy subject, and perceptions of what makes someone an elitist vary from person to person and situation to situation. So, in truth, what makes someone "elitist"?

My step-father often talks about the "tee-ball mentality.” Everyone gets a turn at bat, everyone gets a hit, and everyone gets to be told they're special, no matter how well they do. I experienced this first hand growing up. I have absolutely terrible hand-eye coordination. I never could hit the ball off the tee. Yet it took about ten minutes of me swinging and missing or swinging and hitting the tee instead of the ball for them to take me off the field, making the whole team wait for their turn.

How does this translate to the discussion of elitism? It's the idea that there is no "wrong" or "bad," which makes being an elitist (or even being perceived as elitist) equivalent to being scum. I was very, very bad at tee ball, but no one would say anything because I was five or six years old and it would have made me cry. Instead, they just let me embarrass myself every game until I was allowed to stop playing.

When I join a group, I expect that the people I am grouped with are spec'd and geared appropriately for their class and have an idea of what they're doing. If they're new to the encounter, that's fine. Boss strats and trash pulls can be explained during the course of the instance. However, you cannot "fix" someone's gear/gem/talent choices in the middle of a raid. And how often must you die to the same thing, receive the same warnings, and be coached through a process before it is determined that there is something wrong?

Some people may say expecting a certain talent setup is elitist. It goes with asking for "cookie cutter" specs and setups. However, cookie cutters tend to be cookie cutters for a reason; they are the most optimal build (with some leeway depending on gear and focus). Messing with a cookie cutter can be innovative, possibly, and if you can prove there is value behind it in both words and performance, then you are set and fine. And there is some truth to the knowledge that it isn’t all a DPS or healing race, but it can be a marker of how well you’re contributing. As well, cookie cutters tend to make more allowances for mistakes, as generally a mistake in an optimal build will not be as much of a detriment in a build already lacking optimization.

For certain classes, there are one or two trees optimized for PvE and one that, while doing well, is not the best choice. For example, the Hunter class. While Beast Mastery used to output the highest DPS, now higher-end guilds expect their hunters to be either MM or Survival, with possibly a dual spec so they can have both. Beast Mastery has been relegated to a sort of gimmick fight, like Yogg-Saron without keepers, where your pet is doing more steady DPS than your hunter (who must constantly be turning away), and burst DPS shines. So, when accepting an applicant for a serious raiding guild, the BM hunter would be turned down in favor of a Survival or Marksman. This could seem "elitist," but guilds pushing hardmodes, server firsts and progression races want their groups to be min-maxed to the extreme.

But if it's a PUG raid or instance, or a less rigidly defined guild? The BM hunter can happily take a ranged DPS spot and do well. But, if they have not optimized their build, it almost counts as two strikes against them. PUGs are not the smoothest of runs, historically, and having along a non-hit capped MM hunter wearing Spellpower mail is much more likely to get the boot than a BM hunter whose pet didn't aggro the next trash wave because it was on passive. Is this elitist? No. If you're not contributing, you're dragging everyone down with you.

Now we should probably talk about “what right do other people have to critique my gear/spec/gemming?” And it kind of depends, really. Are you standing around in Dalaran minding your own business, when someone randomly whispers you to tell you that your gem choices are wrong and it would be most optimal to go this way? Well, it would depend on your mood and whether they’re right or not. That one is your affair. But in an instance or guild? I feel every member has every right to discuss another’s spec or gear or spell choices (in a non-aggressive, non-insulting manner), or their boss strategy. Why? Because if you are “doing it wrong,” then you are not just hurting your own performance. You’re hurting the performance of others. PUGs would run a whole lot smoother, bosses would die a lot faster, and people would get a lot more loot if everyone was a bit better at doing what they signed up to do. And, yes, when you accept an invite into a group or raid as a certain spec, you are signing up for a role, and it is expected you should perform.

I could possibly be considered "elitist," in some ways. I try to take things in stride, but I cringe when I see weird or incorrect specs. Like the 0/71/0 Frost DK who tried to tank Sartharion and couldn’t hold a lick of threat, my tolerance has a limit, and there becomes a point where it is possible for you to just be bad. Inexperience, I can handle. I have gently coached both friends and strangers through encounters they had never seen before, helped people with rotations and spec choices, made them glyphs and directed them to websites for more information. But willful ignorance or stupid choices that are repeated consistently, with perhaps a glaring lack of insight of class mechanics at 80? Ouch.

Everyone has their limit. When the Resto Druid who is running Nexus with you stands in front of the dragon in multiple attempts (after being informed that this is a Bad Idea), and does not shift out of chains so they don't stack their debuff, and pulls trash multiple times during the instance because instead of staying in already cleared hallways, they find it more prudent to run into the uncleared room to heal from a distance, there comes a point where you just break and you mentally categorize these people as "bad." Whether it's bad at situational awareness, bad at gear choice, bad at optimization or bad at understanding "this is your role, please play it," there are, in actuality, people bad at the game. Whether or not they can improve is not the issue, it is that they are, at that point, bad. And if you point it out...

This seems to instantly make you the bad guy, if you bring this up. It’s a game, bro. Chillax. We’re all here to have fun. I, personally, cannot have fun with more than a few wipes on content that should not be being wiped on. I can understand a learning curve. But at what point am I allowed to tell someone “What you are doing is wrong. What you have been doing is wrong. Stop. Being. Wrong.” without being a nerd-raging jerk who takes the game way too seriously? My gaming enjoyment is being affected by your terrible choices, yet me imposing a more correct, studied, optimal way is often seen as much more diabolical. This is the “tee-ball mentality.” Everyone gets their chance to hold up the team by swinging the bat awkwardly and wildly, and how dare you make any insinuations that perhaps they are not doing it right.

Do not misunderstand me, there is true elitism. When you exclude people because of inexperience, or because their gear makes the requirements but does not exceed them (so you’ll have to slow this Naxx down just a bit), or when you laugh at their lack of achievements, then that’s elitism. When someone isn't given the chance to show you why they chose a certain spec or why that they can succeed despite their detriments is elitism. Expecting someone to come to a raid in a spec appropriate for what they will be doing, in gear properly itemized and gemmed and a decent understanding of their class mechanics is not being elitist.

As well, "casual" has nothing to do with being "bad." There are plenty of serious raiders who do things badly. A person can be a casual and still optimize themselves during their time of play. Saying "hey man, I only play this game two hours a day" is no excuse to hop into a pug and pull 900 DPS at level 80, just the same as "my main's in the top guild on the server" is no excuse, either. If you cannot contribute properly, you are hurting other people's game time and enjoyment, and you are probably being carried. Though I tend not to speak like this generally as it sounds conceited, I have carried groups through instances and helped carry in raids. It is Not Fun. Not at all. It is frustrating and stressful.

Sometimes there are circumstances that actually necessitate elitism. Le gasp! But it's true. If you're working on One Light in the Darkness, it's probable you won't include anyone, no matter how epic they are, that has not at the very least killed Yogg before. It's perfectly acceptable to turn away someone who is, perhaps, geared enough for the encounter because they lack experience. That person may have contributed well, they may have been able to pick it up, but it's not worth it for those who have taken the time to learn the mechanics to bring them in and hope they can catch up.

Recently, on Vigilant's application forums, there was a rogue applicant. He was given a set of questions about certain choices for gear he had made. He itemized in an odd way, and suggestions were made that could increase his DPS by increments of 20 to 70 DPS. He adamantly refused to go with what he saw as "minimal" upgrades so he could play his way, while stating that this was the way he did max DPS on the boss. Our guild rogues run multiple spreadsheets constantly to check gear and DPS outputs, experiment with specs and gem choices. They are open to suggestion, but when someone is saying something wrong (did you know, you can be wrong in playing the game!), and there is intense melee competition in a guild, they will get turned down. And so he was, both for his insistence on gimping his own DPS as well as his attitude. No, we'd never seen him play, but he showed to us he wasn't worth the investing the time to do so.

Is my guild elitist? Definitely. Do we have to be at times? Definitely. Do we exclude people without experience or gear? Definitely not. If we did, I never would have gotten in. But we require the min-maxing and research necessary for downing hardmodes, and it is clearly stated that this is necessary for invitation. If we were a casual guild, the guy probably would have gotten in. He had epic gems and was fully enchanted, had good DPS (by his admission, anyway) and was available at raid times. But the top end raiding guilds have to be elitist to continue pushing server firsts and hardmodes. It is what their guild is designed to do, it's what the members want to do, and so the elitism is warranted.

WoW is, all things considered, a highly social game. You have to realize that when you interact with a group, your gaming enjoyment is not an isolated entity. By interacting with others, you become connected to their enjoyment. Low or slow DPS, inefficient healing, lack of awareness, or a chaotic spec can quickly irritate or stress the people around you because they have to pick up the slack. WoW is not tee-ball, and I don't expect people to wait around while I swing futilely at a ball I can't hit for hours on end. Is it fair that I should have to wait for others?

Elitism has its place, even if you may not necessarily like it. It isn't always good, and can be wielded inappropriately. But many things would be impossible without it. Without it, would there be any incentive to stop walloping the tee instead of the ball?


@valkyrierisen said...

I'm cheering and screaming in fan-girl-gasms. Really. And somehow I will not post this to my guild forums, where I've been made out to be the "bitch" and the "elitist" because I expect people I group with in Ulduar to play well. /sigh

Kayeri said...

What you are saying is basically, you expect competence in play, gear choices and gems/enchants/glyphs. That would be true of any raiding guild taking in someone for their raid team.

Your guild, due to their position and their desire to keep that position, needs more than that... They need the MOST competent players with the gear to match.

a few weeks when you applied to Vigilant, you knew you had to have the best stuff... so you re-gemmed, re-enchanted and put yourself in prime condition for the application process. You knew you had to be at your peak for serious consideration.

If I were ever to apply to our Vigilant-equivalent, Drow, you bet I'd be looking at their resto druids on the armory, checking them out and comparing them to what I had before I ever put the app in. They are the best for a reason, after all.

Too bad this guy wasnt flexible enough to think that way... he might have become a good raid member if he had. And you are right, rejecting someone on that basis is not elitism. A guild like Vigilant demands the best and will only accept that. ::grinning and clapping Bell on the arm::

Jong said...

What a scrubbish rogue.

I didn't know you got into the guild. Belated grats! Hope you fun running with them.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has thier level of play and style. I respect those who want to be in these cutting edge guilds and explore the content as thoroughly as possible.

I do believe you're claim here is correct; in that to participate in such activities you're by default elitist.

While I've appreciated and learned from some of your advice on being a resto druid here, as a result of this particular article I'm dropping this site from my RSS feed and daily visit.

The ego that comes with elitism is something I refuse to tolerate in my method of game enjoyment. I won't fool myself into ever even thinking I'd raid with a guild such as yours and thankfully both your guild and I would be completely okay with that.

Resto Druid

Bell said...

@valkyrie - I'm sorry you've been stamped that way for asking for people to play well. It can really suck. Glad you enjoyed the post, though!

@Kayeri - flatterer

@Jong - there is apparently a lot you don't know about me! :P

@Anonymous/Treecaller - I would like to think I keep my ego relatively in check; if I thought I was the best of the best, I'd have no reason to improve. I wish you all the luck in your continued WoW playing, and I hope other Druid blogs are more to your taste. :)

Hana said...

For the most part I agree with the post, especially when it comes to raiding, but when I'm pugging 5-mans (or an easy raid instance) I care less.

Not everyone is going to research a spec online. It involves a time investment outside of the game itself. As a raider it's a necessity. But for the person who plays infrequently the thought of reading up on a build might involve a trip to GameFAQs at best.

All I ask for a pug is someone to be competant, and depending on the level of difficulty of the instance/raid the competancy bar moves up or down (competancy being a combination of gear and ability to play). For a heroic, the competency level is relatively low. As long as they can follow instructions and do decent dps/healing/tanking it doesn't endanger the group it doesn't matter to me if their spec isn't cookie cutter.

Metaphor said...

How about people who, will being really good at playing their class, aren't good players overall? I have had so many groups lately (not all PUGs, my guildies keep pulling this too) where we're clearing trash in a heroic and all of a sudden... two DPSers are afk. At best you get a "be right back" and maybe it's true. Or mana users who refuse to drink between trash fights and so go OOM and start wanding. Look, I get that honeymint tea costs gold. That's why I run my dailies. I don't complain about re-applying GotW every time you wipe us.

Or being smart enough to figure out kill order without the icons? You know how much damage you do, you should be able to tell if you're the only DPS'r on a mob. It makes the healer's job way easier when you drop the mobs 1-2-3-4 rather than all at once (and I'm not talking about AOE damage, just single target DPSers who don't play right)

Look, I know how DPS-ing instances goes. I have a mage that I love dearly who never gets to come out because the only time I get to run heroics is if I'm healing. It's not that hard. Don't stand in the fire, don't pull aggro, don't wander off to talk to your mom halfway through without telling us!

Resto Druid

Alaron said...

Hah! A /vent post cleverly disguised as inventive commentary! :)
Well, /signed, obviously, but I imagine the average WoW blog-reading person isa a bit above the norm, so I don't think you'll get a lot of disagreement. Unfortunately, WOW by itself doesn't give you a lot of tools to teach you how to improve, so many people still have never had that lightbulb moment (I can find out WOW stuff OUTSIDE the game?!?!).

You've inspired me to make my own post on this on my blog. I'll link it here in a bit.

Alaron said...

Posted my response at

Anonymous said...

All good points.

It breaks my little healer's heart when I get called up to PuG some 80s through H ToC - and the DKs still have that 'new-80' smell. Just because it's WoW's latest loot pinata doesn't mean it should be top of your to-do list after the big ding. Especially if you have never done a Northrend instance before. And even more especially, if you won't admit to not knowing the fights.

I am always happy to point things out (like run out after the first bosses dismount) but I can't explain things to players who adamantly tell me they know the fights. Even after they get lost coming in. And don't know where to find a lance. And wonder where their action bar suddenly went. By which point you've already started and you may as well finish it.

Because if you bail (even after the numerous wipes on the same fights for simple reasons like tanks without threat, or DPS not targeting the tank's target) YOU are the bad guy. You're the jerk, the bitch, the prima donna, the elitist funsucker who hurt some DKs feelings.

On the plus side - those people will never ask you to heal, ever ever again.

Resto Drood

Thedoctorr said...

I would say your spot on here.

Vigilant manages it's necessary elitism very well. I had applied at another high end raiding guild about half a year before I apped at Vigilant. The two experiences where quite different and I was talking about this same topic just the other day with a friend.

The other guild was by no means "wrong" in their approach and I was/am not angry at them or anything like that, it was just interesting to see the two guilds approaches.

The other guild was very quick to reply and ask questions but they knocked back people much quicker and more often. If there were too many of a certain class or the persons gear was not up to scratch they got the DECLINE.

When I apped at Vigilant (admittedly more prepared) I expected them to be harsher than or at least as harsh as they are the top ally guild.

Not the case.

While they had no problems knocking back people who didn't make the cut for the reasons Bell outlined, they did not decline people based on current numbers of that class. Instead the app was given an honest warning that their class/role was full and that joining would mean competing for a raid spot. This to me makes so much sense. Competition breeds excellence. Also, people whose gear was not up to par BUT was gemmed, enchanted correctly were given the opportunity to explain their choices and with Bell as a perfect example, join the guild anyway.

The elitism displayed by Vigilant's app process is very well managed and results in a fair go for any competent players to prove themselves and excel. I think this is a good example of where elitism is necessary BUT fair. The word does not always need to inspire negative connotations.

Bell said...

@Hana - I think it's important to do well when you're pugging because you still are having an impact on others' enjoyment. I do not set the bar quite so high (basically, if you are doing decent DPS, if we are not dying, no mob is hitting me in the face, and you're getting out of the fire, you're fine) but I believe there is still a bar. So I think we agree on requiring competence.

@Metaphor - Being good at your class and not being able to survive or taxing the healers/tanks/other DPS is just as bad. I was in an OS 25 with a hunter who demanded I heal him through lava walls because then he could do DPS on the boss. He was pretty close to top DPS too. But I refused to heal him. Why? Well, for one thing, he never tried to dodge. For another, we were doing OS 25 with only three healers. I had to prioritize, and he just wasn't worth it.

@Alaron - actually, I'm not venting here. It's a topic I've been thinking about for a while, and though you might not be able to tell, I worked off and on with this post for over a week before posting it. I'll be glad to read your view on this!

@Anonymous/Verdian - Heroic ToC is the one place I dread pugging. There is the wipe on the first pull, the not turning away on Eadric the Pure, the attacking of the Confessor when the memory is up, the standing in exploding ghouls or poison muck or what have you. It's still surmountable, but man if it isn't hair-pulling painful.

@Thedoctorr - I couldn't agree more. That's why, even though it seemed a long shot, I chose Vigilant to app to.

ArchDruid Angela said...

What you say about casual and bad being different things is completely true. I have played with several people who are really good at their class, but don't have loads of time to spend in game, and their gear and achievements reflect this. In contrast I have played with people who obviously spend a lot of time in game, and have the best gear money & grinding can get them, and are still completely clueless.

I don't PUG much anymore, but when I do, I always have to keep my fingers crossed to avoid the people you have described in your post... we all know the type!

Tittertot said...

Good read