GW2: Resolving Cognitive Dissonance (Gee, thanks, raids.)

The advantage of it not being Blaugust is that I have some thinking time in between posts.

The disadvantage is, of course, being too lazy to actually sit down and post anything.

I’d like to thank everyone who weighed in on my previous post, as hearing multiple viewpoints really helped to nudge me over to a place of slightly more clarity than sitting around utterly blocked by cognitive dissonance.

One of the conclusions I came to was that I should try to avoid worrying so much about what other people thought or were feeling, in more ways than one.

Whether they like GW2 or no; whether they like HoT or no; whether they like raids or no, everyone will have a different opinion on this and it is up to them to react however they want and I should basically stop taking it so much to heart – which is a little tricky when you care about a game and would like everyone to share and enjoy it and delight in other people liking it too.

(In the last year or so, I’ve gotten way better at not freaking out and leaving a comment for people who say they don’t like GW2, even if they’ve obviously missed something in their first post about it. Ironically, it seems they come back to it months or years later and -then- suddenly grok the point that they had blinders on to a while back. Whatever. It’s not my business, right?)

In the same way, I’m working on trying not to grit my teeth when someone goes on and on about how they’d love for X content to be -harder- or more challenging than thou. Or vice versa, when someone puts up a big whine thread about how they got utterly destroyed by Y and plz nerf because they appear to be incapable of adapting to whatever Y was.

Whatever. They’re both entitled to that opinion. I’m entitled to give my own opinion on how I felt about it, but less so about trying to shout them down or somehow ‘convert’ them to my point of view. (Which is a pretty difficult perspective to hold on to when someone else who has no qualms about the latter tries to indulge in it,  but yeah, probably best for everybody’s blood pressure to attempt to ignore it.)

As for GW2’s introduction of raids, it seems like for every person that feels like raids pose an insurmountable obstacle and feel encouraged to quit, there’s another person who looks upon the raid as a barely achievable goal that can be held in view and thus encouraged to strive on, even before we come to the nitty gritty of who is actually capable of crossing whatever threshold or bar the raids are going to set.

The only way to tell whose opinion makes more sense, in terms of GW2’s continuing success and profit, is by actually somehow measuring the numbers that feel like the former versus the numbers that espouse the latter viewpoint.

Since the only people that actually have a metric like that is Anet, I may as well just leave them to monitor it (just like SAB) and mind my own bloody business.

Which brings my worrying down to just -me- alone, a cognitive puzzle that’s already problematic enough to deal with.

In my comments with Aywren, I realized that I was having some considerable difficulty resolving my raid reaction issues because multiple values were busy having a mad hatter conflict tea party in my brain.

Value 1: Positive, social experiences

It is important to me to play a game that does not celebrate competition and vertical progression over cooperation and horizontal progression. (This is why I avoid games like WoW or Wildstar or Rift or pretty much every other standard MMO out there on the market.)

Why?

Because it’s important to me to have positive, social experiences in a game and feel good about my gameplay time, rather than feel bad about any negative behavior (drama, toxicity, griefing, exclusion, etc.) that I encounter. (If the game doesn’t make me feel happy when I play it, why am I wasting precious leisure time on it?)

Value 2: Keep on playing GW2

It is important to me to keep playing GW2.

Why?

Because I really enjoy the lore and story of GW2 and want to see what’s going to happen next, because I love the art style and the non-holy trinity action combat and because there’s really nothing better that suits me on the market at the moment, long-term MMO-wise.

Value 3: Complete all content

It is important to me to keep trying to experience all the content when playing a game that I have chosen to devote long-term to. It is important to me to advance as far as humanly possible in a game, so that I can feel skillful and competent.

Why?

No real clue. It’s just how my brain is wired, I guess, for completist, collectionist, achiever type tendencies. Though to be honest, I think the primary motivator is Exploration – in the sense that I feel like I’ve got to see -everything- the game has to offer, and then the secondary Achiever comes around and tidies up, joins the dots because the dots are there, when the Explorer is sated and/or bored.

So therein lies the rub, the belief that if I prioritize value 2 and 3, chances are likely that value 1 is going to, at best, occasionally, and at worst, often, get shot in the foot and dragged around in the dirt.

Over-prioritizing values 2 and 3 lead to a sort of grim obsession when I keep on doing something of which I’m no longer deriving any enjoyment out of, and yet remain clueless for a long time that I’m not actually happy. Been there, done that, been burned quite a few times. So I’m kinda more wary about the situation occurring, and yet still equally clueless when it comes to actually identifying when I’m in the hole.

Neither do I find myself able to just drop one value completely, at this current point in time. (Others probably can, which makes their lives a whole lot easier.)

According to a random website I googled up, there are a couple of ways to resolve cognitive dissonance. (Other websites mostly suggest changing behavior or changing beliefs/attitudes as the two general big categories.)

1a) Minimize/Avoid – The “Who Cares” Approach

1b) Rationalization

1c) Acceptance

I’m pretty much using approach 1a for the cognitive dissonance involving other people part. I’m not really interested in rationalizing anything for other people, and I don’t think I’m Zen enough to manage dealing with the tension generated by realizing that person A can suck horribly at the same mob encounter that person B is calling a cakewalk and demanding something even tougher (yes, I know it happens all the time, no, I’m not sure that I would want to group with either person A or B, because they’re at a completely different skill level from me and somebody is liable to let the other person down at some point.)

Nope, not dealing with it.

When it comes to myself though, I’m hoping to find something a little more constructive than keeping the inconsistent values causing cognitive dissonance in place and having it jangle around my head every so often.

2a) Change the beliefs or actions

2b) Integration

I’m still working on a unified theory of everything here, so no neat answers just yet.

One belief I can modify, of course, is the somewhat fatalistic view that raids and any sort of group content that allows people to exclude others will automatically cause and inspire negative behavior.

(It probably still will, for the huge subset of somewhat brainless people who feel free to kick anyone that don’t fit their strict definitions for how an encounter should be solved, while not being able to adapt to new situations. Ok, no one said changing a belief was easy.)

But with some effort, it’s probably possible to find guilds who still believe in positive, social experiences, even while raiding, even if timezone issues and scheduling will be a massive bitch.

And given the complete spectrum of PUGs, it is probably still potentially possible to find PUGs that don’t indulge in the kind of behavior I deplore.

I’ll probably have to keep rough records of positive encounters, neutral ones and negative ones to work on changing this belief, I suppose.

(As for what other people are encountering, at any given point in time, I will leave that for someone else – like maybe the people paid to worry about their overall game community – to determine if there’s a problem and figure out solutions if necessary.)

The other thing that I’ve been idly considering is how exactly to modify my own part in creating positive, social experiences. After all, while I’m not outright spewing toxic crap on mapchat or kicking people from groups, I’m not exactly contributing much positivity either.

One possibility that idly occurred to me was to go around roleplaying a snarky, if friendly-ish, asura in my group content and/or start more PUG groups on the LFG more often. For whatever reason, when I’m on the charr, I tend to be a not very chatty strong-and-silent type. It’s just easier to wisecrack on an asura somehow.

Two little obstacles stand in the way of the good intentions. One is time. It’s just easier to be friendly when one actually has time to spare, which is not that available these days. (The perennial problem of having too little time when one has money, aka employed, and having zero money but plenty of time when one isn’t.)

And the second is gear and inventory issues. All my Agony Resistance is on one character at the moment and that’s a charr warrior. While it is perfectly possible to transfer account-bound Ascended gear onto the asura warrior, the logistics involved (both inventories have to be tidy, and there needs to be enough room in the bank) make me cringe and more liable to hit “join” on an already formed group and silently and smoothly get the objective done – to hell with positive, social experiences, I’ll settle for not-negative and efficient.

We’ll see.

I’m rezzing a bit more often, anyway. Maybe 50% of the time.

Value 2 is a given at the moment. I’m just not ready to give GW2 up yet. Ask me again a year later and maybe I’ll give a different answer. But for now, not ready.

Then I can also keep on going with the modified version of value 3 that I’ve pretty much been applying since I burned out from MUDs, which is at least -try- to experience all content and evaluate if the necessary effort is worth it on a case-by-case basis.

Whether GW2 raids fall into that category is going to be mostly up to fate, I suspect. The big problem is cat-herding logistics and timezones.

The good news is that raid rewards have a weekly lock-out, so it -may- be conceivable to find an NA raid that does stuff over the Fri/Sat overlap that is Oceanic Sat/Sun, IF one can’t find a suitable group in one’s timezone.

As much as I’d actually -like- to be in a daily group that does the experimental figuring out bit (because that’s personally the most fun to me, being able to adapt builds and try new strats, as opposed to just running it painlessly for the reward), well, *sighs*, let’s leave that bit to fate.

Blaugust Day 31: What Next?

And so we reach the end of August, after attempting 31 posts in 31 days.

We sort of cheated a little at the end, but well, producing walls of text has never really been a problem of mine.

(Producing wall of texts someone else might want to read, now, that’s a little trickier.)

Finding the time to sit down and devote an hour or two to  production of said wall of text, plus a picture or two, that’s harder.

I’d call the Blaugust challenge a success, as it managed to kickstart my blogging habit after a lazy July, and produced a number of blogs that I’ll be keeping track of, even after the month ends.

It’s been a pleasure jumping onto the madness train with a whole bunch of the blogging community.

To-do list wise, we got through about half of the items, and most of the important ones, which I’m quite happy about.

Trove has found itself a handy niche for the moment. I’m quite content to log on daily, fill the star bar for cubits, catch a challenge if I happen to be online for it.

The Tomb Raiser is level 32 or thereabouts. He can juuust about solo U5 dungeons if I’m willing to fight a little harder (ie. wait for energy to recharge and keep holding down the spam AoE button, rinse and repeat 4-5 times.) If I’m feeling lazy, then I’ll stroll through something a little easier in difficulty.

The remaining Trove goals are rather medium-term in nature. I’m working on a Sky Portal, solo, which means accumulating a fairly insane amount of resources that would be much easier to get if I had.. say, 5 or 10 members contributing a portion of the resources each. It mostly means I collect a little each day, stuff it in the bank and try to do more on the bonus days, and basically wait until the magic number is reached.

There’s always fishing for more ancient scales. Which usually means it’s TV show watching time in the other screen first, and fishing second.

Leveling up the Tomb Raiser’s gear any further would mean requiring a lot more flux currency than I can easily get my hands on, which usually means just wait for the hourly challenges and do those for some flux. Very.. time-limited. Working on it, but not in any hurry.

And there’s faffing about on other alts trying to level them up to 20, if I get bored of the above.

I still haven’t quite resolved where I stand on Guild Wars 2 at the moment.

Readers may have noticed that I haven’t bothered to make any mention of the front-page news announcement that GW2 is now… erm, what’s the correct phrase… “play for free” or whatever.

To me, it’s a total non-issue.

It’s too late complaining about the quality of the community. GW2 was going for 10 bucks for a long period, and I’ve noticed mapchat take a turn for the less-polite or patient, in comparison with the quality of the launch day chats.

Basically, politeness is a victim of popular success. The more popular GW2 becomes, the more people jump into the game, the higher proportion of people you will find that have been accustomed to certain speech patterns in WoW or LoL or other similar games and will act in a similar fashion in GW2, having never been fully immersed into the culture yet.

Add on a good dose of veteran impatience and the tendency of people to ape common frames of thought and a certain meta/elitist segregation that seems to have been occurring dungeon-wise (I watched with some bemusement today as someone gave a ranger a lame excuse for a fractals 10 and kicked him from the party – ranger had 3k AP, not exactly a noob – I did not join the vote kick, but I said nothing either, because I just wanted the damn daily done and didn’t want to get kicked before or during the event), and you will find some deterioration of friendliness, free or no free.

I see a great deal of players being all welcoming and social on Reddit, and I presume, in the game as well. Which is great for both them and the newbies – they get “new content” in the sense of having new people to play with / teach / help, and the newbies get that helping hand as well, and may both purchase the game and stick with it.

Which works for me, I’m not really “mentor” material most of the time, being all grouchy hermit and stuff, but hey, increasing game population means increase in all types of players and hopefully, increased participation in all the game modes I enjoy.

On a more personal level, I spent most of the day trying to work out what I was feeling and thinking about the whole “raids” bruhaha.

One thing I do know is that I’m getting increasingly tired of essentially being a martyr on someone else’s behalf, especially when they don’t seem to appreciate it anyway. Of being told I’m making much ado about nothing.

In other words, here I am, trying to be concerned about the really casual GW2 players who almost never see things like organized WvW or organized Teq or organized Triple Trouble or even organized guild missions, and keep obsessing about keeping barriers of entry low and for them to be on a relatively equal playing field so that they -can- join in, when they want to, and I generally find that most of the bloggers who profess this way of playing just seem to have “accepted” that they’ll never do it, period, so the whole activity just doesn’t exist for them, full stop.

It makes me just a little bit mad, this attitude of what-seems-to-me to be “learned helplessness.” The “I could never do it, so therefore I won’t even try” sort of acceptance.

On the other hand, I find the dismissive attitude of the self-proclaimed elitists annoying as well.

It’s really tempting and easy to segregate yourself into groups of people who think like you and play like you. It seems that -both- extremes are quite happy to indulge in this separation, as shown in a little Reddit flowchart that has been making the rounds lately – “In zerk? Go hang with zerk groups. Non-zerk? Go hang with non-zerk groups. Conclusion: everybody happy.”

Supposedly. Except that I note that the non-zerk groups have a tendency to not form, or take hours to complete, be comprised of more unsure players, etc.

To quote another Redditor, I feel like I’m basically undergoing a certain amount of “cognitive dissonance” here, because… let me fess up:

I’m generally lazy. I like my groups smooth and efficient and optimal. I like getting what I’m aiming for, when I group up, fast and painless. Unless it’s the weekend and I’m in a really good benevolent mood, I don’t have time to spend 3 hours teaching a bunch of people I’ll probably never see again how not to suck, in order for me to get what I want.

Given very little push, I am quite happy to fall back into old obsessive hardcore patterns and think elitist thoughts. With the right motivation, I’ll do whatever is needed to fall within the 10% who can do whatever it is I want to do, and who gives a fuck about the 90% who can’t, right? It’s not like most of them even -want- to. If they’re not even willing to help themselves, why should -I- care?

(You will note, all the “them” speech. Segregation. Division. Not community.)

Then I stop and I wonder if I should really let myself go down that road of thought. I’m not sure if I’d like the person that comes out the other end.

I suppose there is a certain amount of real world correlation and history at work. Singapore’s education system has always been “meritocracy”-based – which, during the time I grew up – mostly meant doing well at academic grades at an early age. If you scored top marks, you got shoved into the through-trains, labeled with really positive labels, and woe betide those that didn’t. They got the opposite treatment, pretty much.

It hasn’t been till the last decade or two that the very slow oil tanker has been steering in other directions, realizing that “merit” could be defined very differently (including musical, artistic and athletic merit, besides academic) and doing their best to recognize those with different strengths, as well as giving those who didn’t do well academically other possible and potential pathways to progress their education and careers (giving them the opportunity to possibly even overtake the supposed ‘elite’ once in the working world.)

The other thing the education system has been slowly attempting to do, through thick layers of bureaucracy, is to tweak policy for those who have somehow “fallen through the cracks” and don’t quite fit into neatly labeled categories.

The latest governmental propaganda is basically an exhortation to keep social consciousness in view, to have a heart, and contribute to the community, “No Singaporean left behind,” and so on.

I’m basically caught between being a pragmatic bastard and an ideal of someone better than that.

And I honestly don’t know which way I’ll go.

Is it at all possible to be an egalitarian hardcore raider?

Or do elitist thoughts and segregation away from the hoi polloi come as part of the territory?

(I’ll be frank, I won’t do a PUG Teq, when a TTS Teq is so much more enjoyable and efficient and equally available.

And there was a time when I just couldn’t be bothered rezzing anyone in the Silverwastes because they jolly well ought to waypoint back instead of just laying there dead and expecting someone to risk dying to peel them off the floor… especially when they die again in the next ten seconds that follow.

I’m feeling a bit more bleeding heart after a month away from GW2 and go for a rez, though it’s mostly to test myself and build quick reactions for future “challenging group content” than harboring any actual concern for the person or any expectation that the person will stay upright. Elitist? Probably.)

If I keep playing GW2, I will mostly likely do my best to get into and stay in a successful, regular, organized raid team.

(Unless it so happens that timezones and schedules are really restrictive and there’s no way I can wrangle something that fits.)

There’s no way I can ignore a mountain that is plonked down in front of me.

Not sure it’s worth it, really. But beyond the temptation of Legendary armor, there will be the basic fact that it is content I haven’t seen or played, and therefore must attempt until it is conquered (or I fall screaming off the mountain.)

I have no idea what’s going to come out at the other end. Burnout, drama, frustration, or just a bad case of elitist prick-ism?

Well. *deep breath* I guess we’ll find out.