Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Confidence Game, Chapter 1: Self-Confidence

Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead once said of the band ‘We’re not afraid to go out and fall flat on our faces.’ By their own admission, the Dead did that many times (‘We usually do pretty bad at all the big ones,’ said Jerry Garcia in reference to Monterey, Woodstock and their shows in Egypt). Despite failing on some of the biggest stages of their era, the Dead continued on for 30 years as one of rock’s most successful and enduring acts, confident in themselves and in their fans’ unwavering loyalty.

Self-confidence ultimately starts at home. The way we are raised by our parents or caregivers likely plays the biggest role in whether we have it or not. Grow up in an environment that is encouraging and not overly critical, with people that accept mistakes and love you anyway, and you are more likely to have a solid foundation of confidence. That foundation is either further built up or eroded based on our experiences moving along further in life.

In many ways confidence is less about our self-assuredness and comfort with our own skills as it is about not being afraid to fail, to fall flat on our faces, as Weir said. If you think about the times you’ve NOT tried something – like asking a girl out, trying out for a sports team or the school play, submitting an essay for a contest – no matter how you rationalize it, it’s almost certainly because you’re afraid to fail. You may tell yourself that she’s probably got a boyfriend, or you don’t have time to commit to the team or whatever. It comes down to fear of failing, of being rejected, which is a lack of confidence.

Confident people, on the other hand, have little to no fear of failure and are willing to take chances as a result. Psychologists note that there’s no direct correlation between skill/ability and confidence (and I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of this): there are plenty of competent people who have no confidence, and lots of confident people with no competence. One doesn’t need a track record of success to be confident.

It’s somewhat surprising then that we see so many people who lack confidence in the world of the World of Warcraft. When you come right down to it, there’s no real risk involved. We’re talking about a computer game here, not trying to stem the flow of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or finding a cure for cancer or AIDS, or running a country. There are no risks to take in WoW. You wipe a group, so what? You didn’t just make a gaffe that’s plunging the world into nuclear war. Nobody gets fired, no one’s marriage ends, nobody gets killed over a mistake made in the game. Given that, we should all be playing with confidence – a willingness to fall flat on our faces.

And yet I constantly see examples of people with no confidence in the game and, I confess, I sometimes exhibit this a bit myself. I see tanks who are more than willing to let the other tank do the hard jobs (kiting Rotface slimes and grabbing adds, Bumble-driving on Putricide), I see healers running their mana tank dry 1/3 of the way into a fight because they’re so afraid of screwing up, I see dps who panic and lose all semblance of a decent rotation (or get so wound up trying to maintain that rotation that they forget to move out of the fire or interrupt or dispel the debuff of almost instantaneous death, etc.). So many people out there need to loosen up and find some confidence. Unlike real life, if you die you get to come back and try again. What’s the worst that can happen?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Confidence Game: Prologue

When Ruby Sanctum came out near the end of June my realm was down for the Super-Extended Maintenance (24-hour variety). The following day was a regular Icecrown run, so we didn’t set foot in there until a whole 2 days after its release. We didn’t do so well. Actually, we did quite well on the trash and the mini-bosses, although I think there was at least a little bit of luck involved with Saviana Ragefire: we killed her without really knowing how we did it, which was evident the next time we went in there. Halion was a different story. The big lavender dragon ate us alive during phase 2. We took several shots at him over the night and crawled away, vowing to get him the next time.

Over the next three weeks we took several shots at Halion, but they were half-hearted attempts at best. At that time we had another dragon on our minds: Sindragosa. We were working hard with a Super-Extended Raid Lockout (2 month variety), and Sindragosa was all that stood between us and the big boss, Arthas. Our raid group was spending 2 nights a week, about 3 hours each night, working on Sindy. As much as people were excited about ‘new content’, the truth was most of us were really focused in on Sindragosa, Arthas, and claiming Icecrown Citadel as our own.

So we would go in and take our shots at Sindragosa, and we made our progress, finally conquering her on July 8th. For the rest of July (one week off for vacation) we went in and worked on Arthas: 10, 11, 12 attempts or so per night, sometimes more, once less when we just had absolutely no mojo whatsoever. Halion? Well, we would pop in once a week and get him to phase 2 and die. Four, five attempts, no real nights of bashing our heads against the wall like we were doing with Arthas. Our minds were really on killing Arthas and, on the odd week or two where we didn’t try Ruby Sanctum, no one really seemed to care at all.

On August 11 we finally vanquished Arthas along with some personal and guild-wide demons. We did it on our second attempt for the night, which left us, once all the screen shots, rehashing the fight and running up and sitting on Bolvar’s lap (well, not really. That would be kind of disrespectful, don't you think?) was finished, with about 2 hours of raiding time. What to do? Ruby Sanctum! Why not?

I think it’s no surprise that, buoyed by our conquest of Icecrown, we went in and had little trouble with Halion. On our second attempt we hit phase 3 (which I think we had done maybe once before), though all the dps for the physical realm were dead. Our third attempt was magic, and down went Halion. Two guild firsts, two big bosses in the same night. Kingslayers! Twilight Vanquishers! There’s nothing we could not do!

The confidence we gained that allowed us to roll over Arthas and Halion as easily as we did started the previous Monday when we wiped to Arthas 12 times. The progress made that night in particular fueled us. We walked into Icecrown Wednesday knowing that we could do it, feeling pretty strongly as a group that we would do it, but not being so cocky as to set us up for failure.

Confidence in yourself and your raiding team is such a key ingredient to success in WoW, yet it easily the most fragile. Over the next few posts I’m going to look at some of the elements of confidence and the effects they have on the group and the individual. I’m going to leave off here today with this gem of a commercial from a few years back. While it’s about ‘experience’, most of it applies to confidence as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

Back in February while traipsing through Dalaran on some important errand, I came across something new: a giant statue of Tirion Fordring. ‘What the hell is this all about?’ I wondered, before realizing that it must signify a Lich King kill. I clicked on the plaque on the statue, expecting some kind of written explanation. Instead, I was treated to the video of Arthas’ last moments on earth (included here because I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, one way or the other). I almost closed it without looking, as I wanted to be surprised for the eventuality of my guild killing Arthas, but curiosity got the better of me, and I watched it through. At the time I thought it was a good scene, well-crafted by Blizzard and, seemingly, a fitting end to the story of Arthas (and a surprise to me. I was sure that Tirion would become the new Lich King). While I never went out of my way to watch the video (i.e., I didn’t sit around in Dalaran for hours clicking on the statue), I didn’t avoid it if it happened to come up somewhere else, though I was afraid that overexposure might lessen the impact if we ever did manage to kill Arthas.

Last night my guild finally, finally, finally killed the Lich King. We’ve been extending this lockout since the end of May, when we emptied Putricide’s Laboratory of Alchemical Horrors and Fun (has there ever been a better name in this game?) of the Not-So-Good Doctor and his ‘experiments’. We spent the month of June re-clearing the Blood wing, which actually went much easier than it had the first time, and playing with Sindragosa. Sindy was vanquished on July 8th, and it was on to Arthas.

By my count we spent some 60 attempts on Arthas. We made good progress into phase 2 our first two full nights there; following a week off, we found ourselves set back to dying in phase 1 transitions. Would we never get it? On Monday of this week we actually twice ventured into the previously uncharted realm of phase 3, where we died insanely fast – nobody saw the inside of Frostmourne, nobody even got the chance to kill off or kite or soak vile spirits, that’s how bad it was. But it was a good kind of bad, because we were back to making progress.

Three days later, our first attempt ended in phase 3. We were very positive and hopeful that maybe, just maybe, this would be it, though experience tells me that we’re often very good early and decline over the course of the night. Would this be a case of ‘first, best attempt’? No! Our second attempt yielded a victory. Arthas’ health seemed poised at 11% for a ridiculously long time, and when I died I wasn’t sure if I was killed by his Uber Spell of Instant Death or the bucketload of Vile spirits that were chasing me around.

Once it was clear that we had killed him, there was a lot of chatter in vent. While all of us had read strats and watched videos, nobody was 100% sure what would follow, except that we did not want to release. While Arthas boasted to the still-frozen Tirion about how he was going to create the 'greatest fighting force the world has ever known' out of us, vent was full of chatter: ‘dps and heal’, ‘watch out for defile’, ‘did we win?’, ‘I don’t think there’s defile on this phase’, ‘we’ve won’, ‘I think there’s still defile’, etc. But Tirion broke out and smashed Frostmourne, Terenas brought us back from the dead, and we went to town, unleashing the months of pent up frustration (1650 holy paladin dps, ftw!) on the incapacitated Lich King. The achievements popped up, and there was much whooping and rejoicing, and the cinematic kicked in.

As I said, I’ve seen it before, I know how it turns out. So did everyone in my raid group. But I watched it anyway (and had to turn up the sound for my wife, who must have hit something on her keyboard and skipped the scene). As Tirion picked up the helm and pondered his future as the next Lich King, I had a sudden realization:

Vent was absolutely silent.

Our group had been extremely chattery in vent between attempts, caught up in the excitement and adrenaline no doubt of feeling so close to victory. Defeating Arthas as a guild was the pinnacle of the expansion, literally eight months of sometimes ridiculous levels of angst and frustration. This was the moment to bask in the glory, to revel, to party.

And no one said a thing.

We watched from our computers in New York, Florida, Manitoba, Texas, California as the drama played out once more. Separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, yet completely together. Despite the lust for loot that drives so many to play the game (and soon raid chat was filled with people linking their hoped-for drops from the soon to be attempted heroic fights), the moments of silence as we watched the cut scene told me a lot about my guild members, and why we were there. And it wasn’t for the loot.

The King is dead. Long live the Kingslayers!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blood Elf Porn!

Note: With thanks to Gevlon for trolling, and Tobold for actually taking the challenge.

Pst! Hey, you! Come over ‘ere, I’ve got something to show you.

You heard about this little gizmo? The Super Snapper FX? Yeah, that’s the one. You – what? You’ve used one? What for?

Huh, well how about that? Well, it turns out you can take pictures of things besides turtles, too. Here, check this out.

Eh? Eh? What do you think, you like that? No? OK, OK maybe dwarfs should keep their clothes on. But wait, you look like a worldly-type man, eh? You’ve been around. Maybe you like things a little more…exotic, am I right? Eh? Eh?

Yeah, I thought so. Take a look at this! Troll women are pretty nice eh? If you get past the tusks that is. And those hands…heh heh. Wait, wait! Don’t go anywhere! I can see you are a man of the highest taste, and I have some very tasty – err, tasteful, yeah that’s it – tasteful pictures right here.

Check this out. These came direct from the pleasure palaces of Quel’Thalas itself! Eh? What do you think, you want to buy some?

Eh? What’s that?

Well, sure they’re girls.

I mean, look at that, right there! It’s clearly…


Well, I think they’re girls.

Ah, what the hell, you'll never know the difference, anyway. Am I right? Eh? Eh?

Wait! Come back! I've got goblins and gnomes with a worgen, I've got...damn.


I think they're girls....