How To Win Friends And Influence People

Section: 

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1) Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
2) Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3) Arouse in the other person an eager want.

-Dale Carnegie

"We need a healer," says Scott. His voice is mostly clear, with just the hint of digital edge on it, as if he's been chewing on pixels for an hour. Depending on your point of view, he has.

I scan the Looking For Group menu on the left of my screen, looking at names. Nobby. Gudhealr. Puffypuff. The thought that I'm going to spend a couple of hours overcoming online challenges with players who can’t properly use a random name generator fills me with a particular sense of dread. I briefly flash back to pre-school, remembering the kids who tried to jam their Transformers into G.I. Joe jeeps.

I get a message from Nickrunner. "I got heals. Invite." He's a paladin and lacks the communication skills I typically look for in a person - politeness, complete sentences - but it's late and I want to run the damn instance.

/invite Nickrunner.

I play World of Warcraft as a low-impact experience, something I can do while listening to music, running a load of laundry, or waiting for my girlfriend to finally finish fixing her hair. I also use it to keep in touch with my brother, Scott. We don’t discuss politics or get touchy-feely, but we enjoy killing ogres together while making jokes and mocking each other. WoW for me is very much a social game.

Being social with anonymous people on the Internet, however, is always a tricky thing. If I want to grind out my last few remaining levels, running around with Scott will work. But I want to crawl through the dungeons and see content I haven’t experienced, so I'll have to resort to a pick-up group. PUG. The acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of gamers.

When I socialize with strangers in an online game it means I’ve hit my last resort situation. I'd rather drive the filthy Horde out of Azeroth with my pre-existing social tribe, sharing in our common interests and hidden in-jokes, than try to make new friends. If I'm forced to choose between running infuriating fetch quests solo or organizing a decent 5-man run for an instance group - a process much like herding cats - I’ll typically go anti-social and play alone. In a game built around cooperative play and constant communication, there's something very, very wrong about that.

Here's our PUG for the evening:

  • Nickrunner, the aforementioned 65 heal-specc’d paladin who’s not big on grammar.
  • Darkhunter, an aptly-named 64 Night Elf hunter with a panther pet.
  • Tubal, a 64 feral druid tank with a heart of gold that loves to break my sheep.
  • Scott's 70 hunter. Note that this is his second level 70 hunter. He’s sensitive about it.
  • My 67 frost mage, wrapped in cloth bandages and ready to die.

Deep in the Underbog, we're methodically pulling groups of three or four mobs. There's not a lot of conversation, certainly no witty banter. I start to understand how kids on Xbox Live find it so easy to slip into casual asshattery. It's like I'm not playing with other people at all. When Tubal pulls a group of monsters before Nickrunner has his mana pool back and wipes the group, the mood goes from the previous calm control to intra-group passive aggressive bitchiness. It’d be all too easy to type a mean message and drop from the group without considering anyone’s feelings.

But that doesn't happen.

Instead of falling apart in a haze of pithy tells and resentment, the group reforms and presses on, adjusting our tactics organically without dissecting what went wrong. We are a group of strangers who have very little invested in each other, working towards a common goal - the destruction of a plant-like creature just to gain a fancy rare item only one of us can use. Not only did we get that rare item, a plate shoulder piece awarded to the paladin, but we utterly decimated the evil flower-thing with minimal casualties: namely, me.

Tubal types a simple message at the end that speaks volumes of how relationships work in our modern age. "If you ever need anything tanked," he sends to group chat, "send me a tell!"

In person, the sentiment would be too forward, too awkward , Even in Azeroth we'll probably never join up again. But there's something there, something open and honest in his message that makes him all the more endearing, the new definition of friendship in an anonymous world.

/friend Tubal.

Comments

I'm even less patient with the anonymous PUG than you, to the point that I just won't do it. I've flirted with the idea before, but when I think of how little I want to waste my time plugging through content with people I don't care about and who don't care about me, and with whom I'll probably be substantially impatient, I just won't pull that trigger. I'd just rather miss out on the content.

I shudder at the stories that come from the deep dark dungeons of WoW, and it would take conscription, a draft and an armed escort to get me to subject myself to that. You are a braver man than I.

Anonymous social interactions are weird enough, adding in the repetition factor due to grinding was what really weirded me out. Seeing the same vaguely familiar bunch of people for a few minutes before each zone in. Then getting really jealous when you noticed one wasn't showing up any more, knowing that their drop hit and yours didn't. Finally, realizing you're jealous of strangers for no reason. Pugging, the modern Cotillion.

I think my aversion to random social interactions on WoW was part and parcel of my eventual dropping of the game. I felt like the fun I was going to get from WoW was not worth the time I'd have to invest to get to the 'real' content. That problem seems to have been endemic to most MMOs I've played.

Is it wrong that one of the things I enjoy about WoW the most is the random interactions with people I didn't know before I joined a group? I actually PUG the vast majority of the time and have seriously contemplated moving to another server just so I'd have to find a new guild that didn't have my IRL friends in it. Talking with random people about the minutia of the game is... relaxing for me in a way joshing with my friends never has been.

Good or bad, the experience is still interesting to me. Hell, I was amused at the level 50 Warrior trying to tank Sunken Temple who hadn't done any Warrior quests. You know, the ones you do to get things like weapons, armor, defensive stance, and so forth. Sure he was a horrible tank and obviously didn't know much of the game (though he was persistent... I guess you have to be to get to level 50 without anything but Battle Stance), and yeah we didn't finish the instance. But hey, the warrior was still a nice guy and interesting to send tells to. And the Shaman in the group was great and actually offered useful advice to the Warrior rather than just berating him, which impressed the hell out of me.

I guess I still play WoW as a social experience, it's just more as an observer than a participant.

I like PUGs as well as known groups though i've never played a game like WoW with a standard contingent of hard/semi-hard/casual players. Back in Planetside (i remember the days when to play online you needed a real gun in your hands to shoot the lag dogs that rummaged in the backyard!) PUGs were pretty cool usually because i found that the more typing you do in a group talk the more people bond to you and each other - you can draw them out etc.

I hate VOIP and those type of programmes as i hate the sound of my voice and there's always someone running speakers with a mic on at the same time... so i'm less likely to talk...

For some reason I always love PUGs in City of Heroes. I think it's because the whole "random group of crazy and mismatched people punching hordes of enemies in the face for an hour" thing fits the superhero genre so well. Crazy, incomprehensible people who never stop running and only stop jumping when they're killing are odd when they're dwarves and somehow OK when they're purple ninjas with antennae.

I've always, from my first days of MMO's, played them with people i know. Granted some no more than being friends from other forums but over the years those people tend to turn into extended family. Between them and actual family. It's very easy to get in the mindset of "it's not happening unless it's with family".

Nice read Demi.

I hate people in Azeroth. The adult population has seemed to trend down in the past few years (or maybe it's just the massive influx of kids) so we're stuck on the school playground with a bunch of paste eaters.

Now, there are some decent kids. We have a couple great ones in our guild. They are mature, respect adults, and fit in very well. But for every great kid or teenager there are at least a dozen more spamming general chat, sending random whispers, and behaving like complete sociopaths.

That's the best thing about Guilds. Keep em tight, kick out the riff-raff, and pretty much throw on the blinders to the rest of the goons out there. It's a very selective process, but eventually you can cultivate some normal people to hang with.

I virtually soloed WoW, except for smaller instances played almost entirely with RL friends and friends of friends. When I hit 60 and large-scale raids were pretty much all there was to do, I quit. Don't ask me to socialize with random netizens. I'll play with them, but only in situations where the gameplay and teamwork involves little real social interaction (or uses built-in tools, e.g. TF2, BF2142).

I have a certain fondness for PUGs. Some would call me a masochist, but some nights during the peak of my WoW experience (4 raids weekly), I would PUG lower instances without even asking the guild for volunteers (a top tierr Horde guild on our PVP server). It could be to try and get the epic horse to drop from the Baron, a collection quest I had long since abandoned, or just to give my lvl 60 experience in UBRS to those on their BWL key quest.

It was admittedly easier for me being shaman. I was almost always a 5th. They had their tank, healer, dps, and tank's little brother who promises not to aggro the pat this time. 80% of the PUGs I joined didn't get out of Orgrimmar, and 50% of those PUGs wiped and gave up. Even if we finished, I didn't always get my stuff and died a lot too. But sometimes, we clicked. It was fun, and even if we wiped, it wasn't a big deal. I even remember a few pugs so good that the GL asked to reset the instance and we ran it again. It was those few times that made all the other sludge fun. That's what I miss about WoW the most, the random, out of the blue experiences that were so much fun, but you had to be there.

sh*t, I'm going back, aren't I?

I see the PUG as a kind of epiphenomenon of an IMHO deeper process--the creation of a social world within and at the margins of MMORPG's like WoW (my perspective is different, though I think only slightly, as a LOTRO player). It seems to me that there's a vital continuum with the PUG at one end, playing with your IRL friends at the other and, much more importantly for me, in the middle, groups of guild/kinship members whom you didn't know before you started playing the game, and whom you would never ever have met if the game hadn't entered your life. Man I love those guys in my kinship--the ones I'll never meet but who'll forgive me for letting my pet pull a train of elites onto our fellowship precipitating a wipe. Unbelievably enough, there's a tightness in my chest as I type that.

And then there's places like GWJ, also, I think, in the center, and, as far as I can tell, even more important because they span all of gaming.

Ah yes, the PUG. It's a hot and cold experience. Usually the numbing cold of the asinine behavior that is so common with WoW society. But, every so often, it turns out all right. I personally find soloing in an MMO to be boring and ironic. So that leaves guild and/or RL friends or the PUG for me.

Having given up WOW about a month ago, that brought back memories. Great writing, Cory. Very evocative.

Never actually played WoW but the experience can easily translate to other games.

I like CS:S. I like CS:S a LOT. I have a certain server I found once where my ping didn't get me killed that often and I stayed for a bit. The sense of 'belonging' bloomed almost immediately, a couple of people knew where my Nickname was originally from: "Childe Roland? to the dark tower came?" I felt accepted and I was congratulated more than once for my shooting skill (which if you've ever seen me play, know is so ironic it actually hurts a bit).

A year and a half later goes by, I still have 7 'favorite' servers I visit so rearely that "favorites" no longer applies.

I keep joining only one.

I say hi to everyone that by now is 'a friend' and salute the newcommers. Ioffer a few hints to the total noob and charmingly explain about Friendly Fire to people that would rather shot a teammate rather than type "FF" on the chatline.

For the last two months, my ISP has decided that I need to find a new CS:S home. I assume my ISP wants this, because of all my 'favorite' servers, the one I love, the one where I kid around, and literally Laugh Out Loud and not just type it it, is the only server that has tripled the ping and quadrupled the choke.

My shots miss, when I buy weapons sometimes it doesn't register. The game has become uplayable.

I join my other 'favorites' and die constantly. I makes sense: I keep playing looking back over my shoulder to see if my home has reverted to playable conditions.

I make a few kills. I get killed. I plant the Bomb. I rescue a hostage. A few players make small talk. Some times I joke back, but usually don't.

Sooner or later I always drop by for a quick visit. I get greeted and I imidiately cheer up.

I can play for about 10 mins and then my ISP notices that I have gone against its wishes.

Just realized I really needed to vent about this. Sorry.

Can you do a follow up to this if the guy ends out being a dick?

Purple_Haze wrote:

Can you do a follow up to this if the guy ends out being a dick?

3) Arouse in the other person an eager want.
-Dale Carnegie

It would make some sexy reading if he does.

Nice! It gave me terrible flash backs of PUG(ing?) in Final Fantasy XI and hating everyone leveling at Qufim and the Forest after that. I tried playing the game twice and just decided that MMOs weren't for me.

This is really good. I've managed to stay completely off the WoW bandwagon, but pretty much everyone I know who still plays it does so almost entirely for the social aspect... kinda neat.

I think PUGs are one reason I became jaded with WoW. I don't have much patience for 12 year olds bumming their older brother's computer, only to be kicked off in the middle of an instance. That said...I've made some good friends, and casual pals, that I still keep in touch with, either through WoW (at least when I'm playing) or otherwise online. Then there are the people who are on your friends list just so you can run instances with them or group casually. It's sort of a new age, relaxed way to make friends, but it works for me.

Its funny how life in a MMO has changed. EQ1 pickup groups would demand a resume and three non-family character references just to get on the waiting list to get on a PUG in a lousy dungeon like Karnors. 15 hour frenzy list anyone? Pickup groups in Mistmoore Castle? No one would survive the first deep castle train.

There has to be a happy medium between the two worlds but I have yet to see it.

The social grouping in WoW is unlike anything I've seen in other social type communication be it online or in the real and yet it has a few base groundings to our more basic real friendships and meetings. I've always been fascinated by just how much the social aspect of WoW has grown over the years since it's first release. How the community has come and gone with a great many formations of guilds and equally as many disintegration of said guilds. How a core group of WoW players have found within them the skill and ability to bring complete strangers around themselves all working towards a common goal or principle. No doubt these things exist in all MMORPGs but for some reason in WoW the phenomena has taken root and excelled past anyone's wildest imaginations. It really has shaped and rewritten the online dynamic as no other online community has. IRC and IM have their own methods and FPS and RTS games certainly do not have the same type of communication to form the type of social communion you can get from MMOs. It sometimes makes me wish I had the education and want for knowledge in an academic field that could theorize on the social details of it all and perhaps even write a thesis or dissertation on the topic of social community within MMO games. It would be an interesting read I theorize.

Kilroy, there's a book that does that analysis fairly well with respect to EQ: Play Between Worlds by TL Taylor. Not perfect, but worth checking out.

Certainly magic Voodoo here. I tend to feel that the best MMO is a like Diablo or Diablo 2. A chat room filled with insensitive jerks or whores selling their various wares, and the ability for me to password protect myself against all but my closest friends and family. It is somewhat disheartening when you plan an MMO or any Loot driven multiplayer game, and the concern for a virtual item becomes greater than humanity. How can I dare to be mind numbingly desensitized to the actions on screen, my life is- left click, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 OOOO, maybe a 6. The player created manners on proper "rolling" that we all should expect to be adept at every nuance is key. I mean it is in the manual after all.

It is nice to know that every person on a message board who ever threatened to beat me up with one of his 6 chins, also plays WoW, however.