The World of Warcraft is a very broad game.

I don’t just mean in terms of the size of the world, which is ridiculously expansive, or the scope of the gameplay, which encompasses everything from PvP to PvE to solo play. I speak in terms of the mind-boggling number of things any given person may want to (and can) get out of it, even within a single “branch” of the game.

We here at Aggro Management live almost exclusively in the solo and PvE branches of the game. I had a brief, unfortunate brush with Warsong Gulch back in the days of 2 hour queues and douchebaggery. Blizzard has since solved one of these problems, but I was scarred badly enough by the other that I’m unlikely to return any time soon.

Besides, the PvE game has come a long way, and there’s not much use for a tank in PvP, is there? There’s still plenty of douchebags in my home branch, but at least I can taunt shit.

So let’s focus on PvE. Even within our own guild/raid group there are many different people, who are after very different things. Sometimes – most of the time, probably – these things, if not exactly complementary, are certainly not mutually exclusive. Gear, for example. Lots of people want gear. Lots of people want lots of gear. And by definition, if you play the game, you will get gear. So really, that’s not mutually exclusive with anything.

But gear is a “physical” reward, more of a mechanic than anything else. It happens by itself. It can’t not happen. It’s almost more of a consequence of playing than anything else. I would imagine that those people for whom gear is a goal unto itself lead a relatively stress-free WoW life, as they probably don’t care how they achieve that goal, just that is achieved. As long as the epics flow and repairs don’t exceed income, they’re happy.

But what about some of the more ephemeral things?

Let’s whittle our PvE branch down to one of its many leaves – raiding (and, to a lesser extent, instancing. Maybe instancing could be a seed? I’m losing my own analogy, here). Outside of gear-mongers, there are roughly three other classifications for the more common “desired outcomes” of raiding (note that a person is not necessarily limited to any single item in this list):

  1. Nazis (in the colloquial sense, not the historical one)
  2. Lorewhores
  3. Braggarts

Ultimately, all of the above (even the gear-mongers) comes down to a simple question: what is your definition of success?

I, myself, am a Nazi (colloquially!), with a smattering of lorewhorishness. I’m a part-time lorewhore. I want it as long as I don’t have to look up six different WoWWiki articles to get it, you know? Or read the Arthas book. Please don’t make me read the Arthas book. I think I would rather wipe eternally on Hodir.

But anyway…

What I mean by a Nazi is someone for whom “success” is defined by a clean, orderly run. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you never wipe. It means that if you wipe, you wipe in a clean, orderly fashion. It means that targets are marked, kill orders respected, strats followed, and wipes analyzed. The raid group is a tiny army that operates as a single unit. Success is wrapped up in the smoothness of the run, not in whether the bosses go down or not. Did everyone perform at their maximum potential? Were the strats followed and altered (if necessary) effectively? Did things remain cohesive and in control at all times? Then the run was a success.

A lorewhore is, I like to think, self-explanatory. These are the folks who have actually read the Arthas book (and probably (hopefully?) cried the whole way through it). They’re the ones who write WoWWiki articles. They never skip the dialogue in Halls of Stone at the somebody-get-the-fucking-adds-off-Bronzebeard-fight. They raid because raiding is, by and large, where the lore is. They want to see the story play out. They want to know why things are the way they are. They want to fight the guys they’ve been reading about for the last fifteen years. Success, for these people, is simply seeing the content, and being a part of the evolving lore of the game.

The braggarts come in many flavours – from harmless and kind of endearing, to homicidal-rage-inducing. They care primarily about progression, because there is a certain degree of prestige and epeen involved in being able to say that you killed Arthas (bonus douche-points if you can add “before he was nerfed” to the end of the sentence). What these people want is to be able to say that. Success for them is defined as dropping as many bosses – the bigger, badder, and harder, the better. They’re after bragging rights, ideally with achievements they can flash around in the Trade chat.

Everyone who raids, I’m pretty sure, has some degree of all of the above (except maybe lorewhore…but would the encounters honestly be as fun if you had no idea who or what the last boss is? What epicness is there in beating Illidan if you don’t know anything about him? He’d just be a big purple bat-winged thing. He doesn’t even really look cool). After all, who doesn’t want to be able to brag about dropping Yogg-Saron (say it with me: “before he was nerfed”)? Who hasn’t fantasized, if you’re lucky enough to have an uber achievement, about “mistelling” a link of it to the general? And, by the same token, I think most people would prefer a clean, orderly run, to a chaotic, panicked run, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their goals. None of these things are bad, in and of themselves. And none of them are necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, you would think that they’re all actually quite complementary. If you have clean orderly runs, even on hard bosses you’ll eventually improve to the point where you can drop the bosses, see the lore, and flash your achievements all over the Trade.

Warning: From here on in, I drop any attempt at being unbiased.

Where things fall apart tends to be between the (colloquial) Nazis and approximately everyone else in the game. The prevailing philosophy seems to be that nothing is worth doing, unless you do it at a speed of 300 km/h, with an abundance of “just pull”, “lololololololol”, “wtf y i die”, and not nearly enough “/readycheck”. Oh, and don’t forget to vastly overgear whatever content you’re doing.

I’m just saying.

The vast bulk of people I’ve met who fall into category three – those who are after the bragging rights – tend to be obsessed with this mythical thing called progression, but seem to think that it’s something that absolutely must happen over night. A single wipe is enough to send these people into apoplectic fits because it’s taking too long, and the group is obviously shit, and we’re never going to get anywhere. To my view, progression happens as a natural consequence of getting your shit in order and learning to fucking play. Do a thing enough times, get everyone operating at peak efficiency, and the next thing you know, bosses will start dropping.

But this requires a time investment. And I’m not even talking “you must raid at least 30 hours a week”. I mean that sometimes you have to stop to let the casters drink. Sometimes you might want to take three minutes to go over a strat again to make sure everyone remembers all the pieces. Sometimes it’s preferable to stop after a wipe and look back at what went wrong so it can be fixed (as opposed to, say, rezzing and running in again immediately, before you’re even rebuffed).

It means acknowledging that there’s a learning curve to be overcome, and taking the time to do so. The answer to this is to (*shudder*) L2P – not to go get boosted through higher content, to overgear the encounters, and let numerical superiority carry you through (honest question to anyone out there who does this: I don’t understand the value of an achievement you did not make a full contribution toward getting. How does something someone else got you make you any cooler? What is the attraction?).

Sometimes you have new players who aren’t entirely comfortable with their class or role and are still getting their raid-legs. Those who are obsessed with progression and bragging rights over anything else can’t stand these people. Their solution is to remove them from the group entirely. Failing that, they’ll remove themselves from the group and find one that “actually has a chance of getting somewhere.”

Alternatively, you could take the time to help these people learn what they need to do and induct a new generation of raiders into the game we all know and love – in the process earning yourself what will (hopefully) become a competent raider, contributing member to your progression, and an appreciative friend. But hey, what do I know? Burn the noobs, guys. Burn them all. They’re holding you back.

On a slightly less biased note, I pose a legitimate question: what do you do when you’ve got two or more people in your raid who have taken mutually exclusive stances on the definition of success? If one is impatient to progress, whatever the cost (repairs, reagents, morale), and one is simply not interested in moving faster if it means sacrificing skill and learning (the downside of which is slower progression (or none at all if any of your raiders have hit their plateau and are unlikely to surpass it))? How do resolve the dispute? How do you cross the gulf between?

Is there really no compromise?

It depends on the group, I suppose, and the personalities at play. A conflict is rarely so simple that is has a single root cause. There’s usually more than one thing at work. Maybe there are raid groups out there that have a couple of people like this and, in the absence of other factors, they get along just fine. A bit of bitching, a bit of moaning, but nothing cataclysmic (ha ha! Get it? Cataclysm? …sorry).

I maintain that even though it may take longer to get ahead as a Nazi (depending on the skill and experience of your group), doing so will ultimately give you the rest of it. You’ll get the gear, you’ll get the lore, you’ll get the achievements – and more importantly, you’ll get them through skill instead of blind luck, which means you will be able to enjoy repeat performances.

Becoming a better player, becoming a better raid group, can only be achieved through practice, and that means taking the time to learn your class, learn your role, and learn the encounters. It means wiping. It might mean wiping a lot. It can’t be done by rushing through a raid. It can’t be done by overgearing.

There are some fights gear can’t mechanically compensate for. I don’t care how many pieces of T10 your group’s in – the 4-Horseman are still going to kick your ass if you can’t get your shit together and move like you’re supposed to. Where’s your numerical superiority now, bitch? It’s a shame you never bothered to learn how to follow a strat.

I can understand the desire to progress – acutely, in fact – and I understand how frustrating it can be when half your raid is up to snuff, and the other half is sort of…not. The game will only let you carry weak members for so long; sooner or later they need to start carrying their own weight. But does that mean you have to drop them entirely? Does that mean you need to lay into them for what basically amounts to a lack of experience? Especially if you’re partially responsible for that lack due to your own over-gearing and impatience?

It’s not really a question of right or wrong, I guess, just what you want out of the game and what you’re willing to pay for it.

WoW is a broad game indeed.