Thursday, December 17, 2009

Social Noob: The Story of Mick

I must confess, when I saw the title of a recent post by Klepsacovic – ‘What to do with Social Noobs’ – I thought he was going to be taking potshots at Gevlon’s newest experiment. I was surprised instead to find it a post about people who may or may not be able to master WoW, the game, but are unable to master social interactions that are (mostly) necessary to gameplay. He examines a couple of different types of social noobs, from the outright selfish a-hole (i.e., people who are deliberately rude, disruptive, etc.) to people who may not mean harm, but are just unable or unwilling to communicate well with others. In the end he asks, ‘Can we save the social noobs from themselves?’

Last night we were forced to use the Booterang* (one of my all-time favorite in-game items and quests, by the way) on a guild member. He was a social noob. Is he an outright selfish A-hole or just stupid, and is there any hope for him? This is his story. We’ll call him ‘Mick’.

Mick was tanking an Ony-10 pug. The raid leader forgot to set MasterLooter. When the big girl fell, and the loot windows popped up, Mick rolled need. On everything. My first inkling that there was trouble came when I got the following whisper:

‘Who’s the GM of your f-ing guild?’

Talk about social noobishness! This is not usually the way to open a conversation. If he walked up to me on the street or in a place of business, I would have gotten defensive, or maybe hostile, who knows. Fortunately I stayed cool and responded politely. He told me about ‘f-ing ninja Mick’. After making some inquiries with Mick, the original whisperer, and one or two other folks in that raid, we kicked Mick out of our guild. I only hope that he had the decency to return the loot for proper distribution. The angry whisperer calmed down as the event unfolded, though he did apparently spam trade chat for a bit about the ninja (I have yet to see anything on our realm forum about it, hopefully that will be the end of it), and I think our guild reputation has remained untarnished.

There are multiple faults here. One of course is the Raid Leader, for goofing and forgetting to set Loot Master. I suspect we’ve all done this once in a while; in a guild raid it’s not an issue, but obviously can be trouble in a PuG environment. Mick for sure is at fault – you don’t exploit an opening like that just because it’s there. However, I also have to think that WoWsociety is also partly at fault: for assuming that all members of this society know the ‘rules’. I suspect that much of the social noobishness in the game comes from people who have just not learned the rules.

My own first run-in with WoW rules came back in Blackfathom Depths so long ago. We killed a boss, and a nice chest piece dropped. I rolled need and won. A little later something else dropped, I rolled need and won. Someone in the group said “You’re not supposed to roll on everything!” Thus chastised, I don’t think I rolled on a single thing for the entire rest of the run. But here’s the thing: How was I to know? This was my first toon, and probably my first real group. Nobody had ever explained the protocols of loot to me; there’s no real manual, maybe some guidelines on the Blizzard website, but at that point in time I wasn’t really using those kinds of resources. I had no friends or guild to guide me. I was completely on my own, trying to figure out how this strange society worked. I was both a WoW noob AND a WoW social noob. There I was, level 23 or so and already a loot ninja, though nobody called me that (and I might not have really understood if they had).

But what about Mick? Should he have known better? He’s no WoW noob, he’s been playing for about 3 years. However, he’s also a bit new to raiding and high-level heroics (from his character history, he never had a level-capped toon until hitting 80 last spring); is it fair to expect him to know those rules when he’s relatively inexperienced?

There would only seem to be two ways to learn these rules: From written sources (i.e., websites, magazines, etc.), or from other players. Written sources are not good for everyone – I’m amazed at the number of players I’ve run into who can’t seem to bother to look up information on the web for themselves, and while there are certain behaviors that cut across the entire game society, there are also many customs that are specific to each server. That leaves other players as the best source of the rules. For my part, I learned by taking cues from the people I played with, from paying attention to what party and raid leaders said, and from coming right out and asking. In this way I moved out of the rank of social noob even when I still played like a WoW noob. However, in order to raise yourself out of ‘social noob’ status you have to have the desire and the ability to learn. From what I observed about Mick, he did not have the ability to learn.

It’s a shame, too. Despite his annoying tendencies (in-guild he was a lot like Chester the Terrier: Anyone-wanna-run-something-let’s-do-something-are-we-raiding-tonight-we-should-raid-something-who-can-enchant/gem-this-what-enchant-should-I-get-for-tanking-where-do-I’AAAARGHHH!) he was enthusiastic about the game, and desired getting involved with raiding. His first actual guild run was Tuesday night; he did passably well, and spent a lot of time afterwards discussing tankie stuff with our other tank (on the other hand, one of the people from his fated Ony run told the GM how he was not using a tanking weapon while tanking. /sigh). I don't believe he's an 'outright A-hole', though the folks in the raid would disagree. In the end, it was his inability to socialize well and to learn from the people around him -- in short, his social noobishness -- that cost him a guild spot. Though not for long: I noticed by the end of the night he’d caught on with another. I wish them well.

*The Booterang is supposed to knock sense into worthless, lazy peons. I would like to think it knocked some sense into Mick, but we're more than happy to let his new guild find out.

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