Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dungeons Are Hard

Well, for some people. Like me. Other people breeze through them, but they represent a serious investment for me and, worst of all, the difficulty can never be nerfed (at least for as long as they are current content).

I don't mean performing my role in the dungeon. That was difficult at the start of the expansion when, as a healer, mana was tight and damage was reasonably high. However, now I overgear pretty much everything. And, really, even if I consider lower level dungeons on lower level alts, dungeons I don't necessarily overgear, I really never have much trouble playing my character. Dungeons aren't hard for me in that respect.

It's the social aspect that makes it hard, that makes it an investment that I have to weigh every time I queue. I'm not at all bad with people, in my daily life, in my personal life--even in my World of Warcraft life, with guildies and in-game friends. I wouldn't call myself socially awkward or anti-social. I get along with people, by and large.

However, in all those respects, the people are accountable to you in some respect. Even if it's as thin as the knowledge that the interaction is taking place with your real-life person, that's an accountability that puts quite a few limits on socially unacceptable behavior. In that setting, I'm fine with people. 

That, of course, is an overly-complicated way to introduce a pretty commonly-expressed sentiment that people given anonymity will (as a population) act quite a bit worse with respect to social mores.

Let me, though, start at a more general level before getting back to that.

Faking It

Even in "real life," I've become a pretty introverted person. In elementary school and junior high, I was a pretty introverted kid. I was the kid who took a book to school and spent recess sitting alone reading the book, because that's what I wanted to do. In high school, I was much more extroverted and friendly and that extended into college years. However, since then, it's been a slow descent back to introversion. Currently, my natural inclination is to keep to myself and avoid contact.

However, I avoid doing that at times. You can become a hermit, but it's not advisable. Some amount of socialization is healthy and you don't want to end up cut off from everyone. You don't want to be a dark presence in the company of friends, because then you'll be shunned.

So I force myself out of the automatic introversion and chat with people in an outwardly social manner. In fact, I'm so good at forcing myself to do this that people sometimes mistake me for outgoing. But I'm faking it!

This begs the question (and people have put the question to me directly), "What's the difference? How social one is is defined by how one interacts, so how can one plausibly define two identical results differently; one as real and one as fake?"

It's a good question, but I believe I have a good answer. 

The "bad answer" (by which I mean, the one with no explanatory value) is that it feels different. I know what it's like to want to interact and do it naturally and I know what it's like to do what I do today and they don't feel the same.

The better answer, from an explanatory standpoint, is the energy cost. Doing it naturally is effortless, because you enjoy doing it and it's the instinctive action. Faking it, however, requires the mental and emotional exercise of forcing one's self out of one's comfort zone and therefore carries a much greater toll and costs more energy (while generating no combo points).

I can experience this dichotomy even now. I am actually quite naturally social with people I'm very comfortable with. With those people, it's natural and I can interact with them easily for a great deal of time. It costs little, so it takes a long time to become mentally/emotionally exhausted. However, with strangers or casual acquaintances, it's forced and that costs a lot more energy per minute. Doing this exhausts me (again, on a mental/emotional axis) much more quickly.

I'm good at faking it, but my endurance isn't great in this mode. I can seem very social and chatty, but my clock is counting down rapidly.

Was This About World Of Warcraft Or Something?

I was just getting back to that, actually! I "recently" (end of November or so) switched guilds. I was joining the guild of a long-time friend, and several other friends were joining at the same time, but that still meant most people in the guild were new to me. I was leaving a guild of people I had known long enough to be quite comfortable with (including a good friend there, too).

For the first few months, I was faking it. On guild line, in vent, in raid chat...I didn't want to maintain a sullen silence, because no one likes sullen silence, right? I wanted to know the people I'd be spending so much time with per week, but I wanted them to know me, too. I consider myself reasonably interesting and occasionally funny, so I wanted people to know that. So I chatted on all those lines and made my little jokes and banter. It was tiring, though. Not tiresome, but tiring. The raiding was the easy part, the pretending-to-be-what-I-could-eventually-be-once-I-came-to-know-them-better was the part that taxed me. (Also taxing? Reading that hyphenated abomination I just created in the previous sentence.)

It's easier now, as I know them all better and they probably know me somewhat better. I no longer feel like the newcomer with no defined personality. Mission accomplished, but it came with effort.

So, this gets me back to where I started: dungeons are hard. A behavior of mine that I didn't really understand until I began to think about it in these terms now comes clear. Generally when I queue for dungeons, I queue for several in a row. Sometimes, a bunch in a row. There are times when I just want to run some dungeons, for the experience to level up or for gear.

What often ends up happening is that I run the dungeon, it goes well with no conflict and someone re-queues the group once it's finished. I'll watch one person after another re-queue as I hesitate, trying to decide if I will. And then, after saying something cheerful like "Good group, thanks!" I'll drop party and manually re-queue.

That, at face value, simply doesn't make sense, in my opinion. As I noted above, this happens when the run was smooth (so everyone was generally competent at their job) and there wasn't any conflict. I still want to run more dungeons. Why, then, would I turn down an instant queue with a perfectly reasonable group (the kind of group I'll hope to get in my next queue)?

The answer, now I realize, is simply that the social pressure got tiring. Even though I'll still be dealing with strangers in the next run, it'll be a new set of strangers. I can start over...I don't have to keep "being a person" with the same set of people. It sounds pretty strange and I'm probably explaining it with language poorly, but the longer the time spent with a group of people I don't know, where at any moment I may be called upon to interact, the more the toll. Re-queuing feels like a chance to recharge. Even as a healer (I'm usually a healer), my queues are generally not completely instant...more in the 1-5 minute range. That proves to be a nice mental/emotional recharge period. Plus, I get a new group of people. That does help ratchet down how much energy it feels like I've spent, since I'm not trying to extend the time of being nice or interesting or whatever with a group of people, I'm starting it from scratch.

Hopefully, the above paragraph made sense. It makes sense to me, because I know what I mean. Reading it over, I can see how it might not make sense to someone not already familiar with what I mean.

When you add in the knowledge that anyone in the party could be a griefer or that the first adversity (or any random event, really, from your point of view) could turn one or more people into raging jerks, that adds to the cost. The energy isn't only spent when I say something or when someone else says something. Some of the cost is just the presence of other people and that cost goes up when you have no reasonable expectation of what those people will say or do.

That is what makes dungeons hard and an investment. Each queue, I have to decide how much energy I have left for faking it. Depending on what else I've done during the day, I have more or less desire to spend that energy. Running a dungeon with friends substantially reduces the energy cost (indeed, reduces it to about 0, if I'm running with 3-4 other friends). Raiding with friends and guildmembers is about 0 in energy cost.

Running a dungeon with a PUG is costly, though. And until I can solo it, that cost can't be reduced by much of anything Blizzard does.


  1. This is why I rarely run dungeons these days. Having lost the safety net of a guild who knew me and who I felt reasonably comfortable with, I find running with randoms really hard. I think it's because deep down, I feel as if I'm terrible at the game. That at any second someone is going to realise what a fraud I am and start pointing fingers.

    Which considering I have zero problem doing random battlegrounds is strange even I have to admit. Perhaps it's because I feel it's harder to apportion blame in the chaotic frenzy which is pvp, especially of the random variety or that I blend in easier.

    When my husband played a tank, I actually used to make him two man heroics with me. It might have taken a bit longer and have a few sticky moments but at least I felt safe.

    Not sure why, but I find faking it outside the internet to far easier. Maybe because on-line, our avatars are expressionless and it's our actions/words that count. I keep telling myself that this expansion it's going to be different, but it never is.

    1. I totally understand how you feel. I can still remember how long it took me to use the random dungeon finder tool for the first time, when it was introduced. I kept bringing up the screen to queue and staring at the button, willing myself to click it...and then after several minutes of that, I'd close the screen. Took a month before I could win that contest of wills with myself.

      I think it might be easier to fake it outside the game also because you have much more expectation of how people are going to act. Outbursts that are routine online you'd only see in real life from someone suffering from Tourette Syndrome or some kind of psychosis. ;) Anonymity really makes social interactions dicier, which increases the social cost a lot, IMO.

    2. Honestly, this seems to be a more common situation these days. I know many people who will go into a battleground and whether they're good or not will get chewed a new one. Mention a dungeon for an upgrade and unless it's a guild run (or at least the person asking is going) then no way.

      Through analysis, I would suggest this is because of two reasons. The first, is that such talk is more or less commonplace in battlgrounds and again it's regardless of your skill level. Dungeons, not always.

      More importantly, and you touched on it, the fear of not being a good player. To that I say, run dungeons. Run them at low level on alt at first if you need to. There's a good portion of instances in this game that have no impact whether you're a good or great player. They involve just not doing anything truly stupid, or griefing. Most players concerned about dungeons aren't the type to do the things that cause failure. It's the arrogant ones that want to down the dungeon in under 5 minutes who cause the problem. Sure, they'll try to blame you but the fact is that's just not the case.

      So go, perform your role to the best of your ability and when in doubt fall back on "this is my first time here so any details along the way are much appreciated." Even when you have jerk groups there's usually at least one person in the party who will help you out.

  2. Your post really speaks to me. I have very much become an introvert in the past 6 or so years. I've even been told that if I don't watch myself, I could end up becoming an agoraphobic which is frightening in and of itself. I have to force myself to want to be social and even then, sometimes, I just to it because it's what's expected and not what I want.

    I queued up for random heroics last night and while I felt satisfied with completing them (two were new to me) I closed the day with a raging headache from the stress of having to "perform" in the group and anticipating how everyone else would react if we wiped, etc.

    I like the safe group myself which almost always includes my husband as a healer. I'm not so sure there's anything wrong with that either.

    1. I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with preferring "safety" with those you already know and like. Sometimes you're up for putting out the effort of the social presence of strangers, sometimes you want something more relaxing.

  3. You've made perfect sense. All those MBTI and like tests give the definitions of introversion and extroversion not as how you behave around people, but as whether being around people is energy-giving or energy-draining. Grouping as an introvert can be extremely draining, especially if you are working to maintain a friendly and approachable persona. Don't make yourself feel worse by politely absenting yourself after a nice run. You need it, and it's okay.

    Personally, I don't requeue unless it's a supremely friendly, excellent group because I find the social pressure too difficult too.

    1. Yeah, that's exactly my approach, too. Some groups are friendly enough that, at least for a while, it doesn't feel too draining to remain with them. So in those rare cases, where I actively like the people I just ran with, I can re-queue.

  4. Fellow introvert here, thank you for this post!