Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Setting myself up for... fun?

The other day I was tanking for my wife again.  I've been having great fun doing it, I must confess.  It allows me to see the game in a different light.  By that I mean, not only am I seeing the game from the tanking point of view, but also from the view of my wife who, by admission, is not very interested in the finer points WoW may have to offer.  She could care less if her rotation is solid or if she's specced right or has optimal gear.  She just wants to punch stuff in the rear and get loot, so she then can do more damage, so on and so forth.

Unlike her, I have spent countless hours in the past dissecting boss strats, optimal rotations, optimal talent setups and gear optimizations.  That's a LOT of optimization.  I guess you could call me... Optimus Exlucis.  No, please don't; that doesn't have the same ring to it.  It became apparent to me that I optimize myself in every way, shape, and form, and until last night I never thought about the reasoning behind it.

Why are players obsessed with being optimal?  That is a pretty easy question to answer in theory, but realistically, does having the perfect setup guarantee fun?  I mean, we are playing a game to have fun right?

The proof is on sites like Elitist Jerks or Wowhead, or even WoW Insider.  The official game forums.  In game.  In your own guild.  I'm sure you could find someone right now, with numbers to back up the claims that having a certain spec, rotation, gear setup, keybinding, addon, etc. will grant you the ability to kill whatever is in your way, be that in PvP, Dungeons, LFR, or Heroic Raid content.  And it's true: if you set yourself up to be completely optimal, you are putting yourself in a position for success, arguably more so than those who do not.  Don't get me wrong, if you are not skilled at the game, you will not have as high a potential as someone who is more skilled than you.  However, by the nature of the game and how characters scale in power relative to their gear and knowledge of game mechanics, optimization is key.

So... great.  Optimal.  Conformed, even.  Sure, big numbers, record kills, epic loot, glory, titles, achievement points, etc.  That's great for most.  My wife could still care less.  She has a point, too.  I mean, how much fun can a game be if you have to put in hours of work in order to kill a boss?  My argument to her has always been and always will be that I see it as more of a game; to me it is a hobby, a lifestyle, hell, even my lively hood.  Does that make it right?  I don't know.  I do it because I want to have fun.  That's where I got to thinking last night.

My gear is getting better, but my trinkets aren't very good for a Shadow Priest.  They're fine, they're just not the best; they're not optimal.  Does that mean my numbers are bad?  No, although they aren't the best.  I think I pull my own weight, especially in heroics where I do most of my gaming.  Where I'm worried is LFR when I give that a shot.  I finally am high enough iLevel to do LFR, but I am reluctant to do so, even now with better gear and more practice in game since my hiatus.  That doesn't mean the stigma is any less present, even in LFR.  In a vote-kick now, ask questions later mindset, the pressure is there for me to be optimal in order to avoid criticism, to avoid embarrassment, and to avoid the kick.  That isn't very fun.  And it's everywhere.  There's no escaping the mindset, especially in harder content where one mistake could mean failure.  Everyone is relied upon to be optimal.  That doesn't sound very fun either.

Yet it's everywhere.  There's always that one guy, the buzzkill guy, who has to chime in with the strat that will save the day, the rotation to beat all rotations, the gear list to epic glory.  What's worse is that I used to be that guy... to my wife.  Before I got help, I used to criticize my wife about her talent choices, gear choices, rotation, the way she fought bosses, etc.  She never wanted to run with me because I would point out how much better I was than her.  She wasn't having fun and she told me so.  At the time, I didn't think about it.  It's funny how time changes things.

So back to tanking.  Now that I am getting better, I can adjust my mood to expect people to be people in instances.  That is to say, not necessarily being optimal while I myself am not optimal either.  Especially as a tank.  Yet as a tank, even if I'm not lead, I control the flow.  Things kind of go around my pace, which is a great power in game I did not know existed.  Aside from the first time I tanked when I couldn't keep up with the DPS, I think I have done admirably, and now that I know what to do rotation wise, packs stick to me like glue... well, mostly.  No one's died yet still.  And more importantly, I'm having fun with my wife, and we haven't had that in-game in quite some time.

My anxiety is still there.  I always get nervous around people, I'm always shy, and I always prefer to be told to do something even if I know what to do.  The difference is I'm finding myself working through it more than ever, trying to be more active in my guild, being more vocal on twitter, even popping on Twitter Mumble.  It's been fine.  No issues.  Am I an optimal person?  Hell no, I mean I'm a pretty conservative person compared to most people I follow and interact with.  But that doesn't matter.  I'm just as much a person as they are, and no one's jumped out of the bushes yet saying I'm ruining anything.  Yes, my biggest fear is someone coming at me with a random tell, whisper, email, comment, or DM saying that I'm a bad person for what I believe or what I do or say.  It's one of the reasons I don't talk politics much and don't say much at all.  I don't want to put myself in a compromising situation.

But that's in an optimal world.  In this world, in reality, there is conflict.  There are real life bosses I will have to tank.  It won't be in optimal situations.  There will be times I won't get my full DPS rotation off.  There are times when we ALL are uninformed or unprepared.   In my opinion, it's ok to want to be optimal.  It's also ok if you aren't.  We can all still have fun.  And in game, and reality, if you aren't having fun, you're going to get bogged down.  That bogging down can take a toll, and you can wind up being Mr or Mrs Buzzkill.

As I was contemplating all of this, I was on Ask Mr Robot to see what my optimal reforges would be as a Shadow Priest.  I think today, I'm just gonna let it go.  I am sure I will do fine, and I'm sure I will still have fun.

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