Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture

Archive for the ‘Polls’

Patch 4.3…

November 29, 2011 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, Cataclysm, patch 4.3, Polls

Happy belated Thanksgiving to my fine American friends out there. I love that holiday and all the gastronomical joy it brings… :) and it’s just a lovely idea too!

I’ve been so utterly buried in my work that when a friend said something about “DS” to me, I had to ask what he meant. I thought he was referring–at first–to the handheld gaming console. How sad is that? And how ironic. I should be on top of these things, considering it’s sort of my line of work! Just tattoo slacker on my forehead. (Note: Just in case you’ve also been buried in your work, DS is “Dragon Soul”. I’m so embarrassed!)

Anyway, 4.3 is here and there are more fiercesome foes to fell in the furious fight for first amongst heroes! Since it’s the boring “day before” I tend to like to put a poll (gasp, yes, a new poll!) up to see how we’re feeling about the changes. Are we jazzed? Ambivalent? Terrified? Disappointed? I know some classes/specs are not feeling any love from Blizzard while others appear to be on the verge of a Great Leap Forward. But don’t fear, neglected ones, there’s always the next patch! Nothing ever stays the same in WoW-land. So a few reflections:

  • Are we in a reign of terror? I know that Deathwing–lore wise and geographically speaking!–did kind of throw the world into a bit of chaos, but aside from knowing he’s coming in the next patch, have we actually considered this period of time in our WoW history to be “Deathwing’s reign of terror”? I think we might have forgotten the amazing things he did to us last year, particularly once we had the thrill of being randomly struck dead by him.
  • Is the new raid content exciting? The Deathwing encounter sure sounds intriguing in concept and some of the fights have that new car smell, but it seems like sometimes we just get into the habit of saying something like “Oh that boss is just like x-boss but with an extra debuff”. I don’t think that’s Blizzard’s fault or anyone’s fault, though. I think that’s what happens when you become experts at a particular process or situation. And while not all of us are on the bleeding edge of the raiding race, many of us have been around the block enough times that we’re now used to the nature and arrangement of certain fights. I’ve even written about this and categorised the various key elements of boss fights because some parts are just familiar ground. Certain predictable factors are now customary in raiding and we tend to veer toward the associational in our preparation and explanation of a particular boss rather than being able to look at it with a completely fresh perspective. So yes, while the content is exciting I’d say that’s as much about the content being new to explore and because it allows for a new race to start than the fact that the bosses might look different, throw us a few new curveballs, and drop fancier loot.
  • And what about everything else? Will we use the raid group finder? Is transmogrification not just a cool word to say but also cool to use? New dungeons? Rogue legendary weapons? Class balancing? Void storage? The list goes on!

Anyways, what do you think?

New poll and a long-overdue raid-themed musical medley!

September 12, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Polls, raid-themed musical medley, raider, Uncategorized

So what do you eat while you raid? And what about drink? I’ve created two polls in anticipation of an even bigger–and fun–”research” project I’ve got in the works with the folks over at DREAM Paragon. Participate in the poll now and read up the results and participate in some other fun things starting in the next day or two! It promises to be appetising… or at least  I  hope it won’t give you a dodgy tummy…

And then I realised I’ve not done a raid-themed musical medley in ages. I’ve picked Elbow because I love them and there are some funny song titles that made me think about some of the quirky social outcomes and costs associated with the joys and perils of raiding.

First we have Grounds for Divorce. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told–when random non-gaming people discover I’m researching World of Warcraft–about a divorce or near-divorce caused by playing World of Warcraft. And the most frequent culprit is the “Oh he [sorry guys, it's usually a he] wouldn’t get up from the damn computer when she needed to get the kids to bed and she gave him an ultimatum:  it’s us or the game.” Luckily most will choose their families over the game, but there have been some cases where the game gets identified (whether fairly or not) as the cause of marital or relationship problems and, sadly, its demise. Saying that WoW is the sole cause of a relationship failing is a problematic notion, but I think one can easily see how it might have been a contributing factor.

Next we have Lippy Kids. Ahh, those know-it-all kids in a PUG or on vent or TS during a raid; the ones who seem prone to losing their cool or posturing a bit too much. They tend to be afflicted with a bad case of superiority. Of course sometimes it’s warranted and their gaming skill and ability far exceeds the more relaxed raiding group they’ve found themselves entrenched with–and due to their youthful impatience, sticking it out with less able groups tends to bring out the Lippy in them. But other times they may be infected by that misguided sense of self-assurance about their skills that is neither warranted or demonstrated. Either which way, these misguided Lippy Kids tend to have the least patience for failure and the lowest capacity for self-awareness of their own inability to perform. I’d say they often have a higher rate of /gkicks and vote kicks, too. Ahh to be young and Lippy…

And to round up our trio, here we have The Bones of You. Yes, your bones. Piles of them. You’ve wiped 62 times tonight, haven’t you? And your bones lay there as a stark reminder of your repeated failure. Maybe if you plan it carefully enough you can re-die in the exact same spot.

And finally, because I just love this song so much, here is Great Expectations. :)

The gender mix-up in raiding

February 10, 2011 By: Ladan Category: gender issues, Polls, raiding group size, raiding guild

We’ve all seen it before… a 25-man Horde raid with about 19 female blood elf characters… or a 10-man Alliance raid group with 6 female draenei and 3 female night elves… but that’s not a demographic correlation with who are actually playing those characters. We don’t have more female players than male. We just seem to like playing female characters. I remember this one time in my guild (Alliance). Over the course of one week about six of the guys (and I knew they were guys from talking to them on vent or knowing them in RL) had suddenly changed their previously very male character to a female character. Of course I had no idea until I took 5 seconds to look at them during a raid and then had to do a double take. “Weren’t you a guy last week?,” I wondered, alarmed at this sudden decision of quite a few guys to head to the gender reassignment clinic and get certain things snipped off while adding other parts…

Of course, changing gender isn’t a painful and prolonged surgical procedure in World of Warcraft (unless parting with cold, hard cash is painful to you) and from my chats with raiders it’s almost never done because the person has a deep need to explore their issues of gender identity through an online game. It’s usually far more practical or aesthetic in origin. Here represents a composite of comments I’ve heard from male players about why they’ve changed their character from male to female or why they prefer to play female characters:

  • A shapely female draenei is nicer looking than a male draenei. [Many raiders have commented that they think male draenei look like unattractive bricks; kinda feel sorry for them.]
  • Male blood elves look lame. [Actually some players use a more derogatory word here but I won't include it myself. :P ]
  • They would rather stare at a female character’s posterior while they play.
  • Their gear looks better on a female character.
  • They heard that female characters get more help. [This is an intriguing one, because it can also carry through to female players--to controversial effect.]

In my informal discussions with female players, it is rarer that they will intentionally create or roll up male characters. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I will say that I have one male character (a death knight) and I am not as comfortable when I play him. It does not feel like a kind of virtual extension of myself. I wonder if the gender character choice is less important for some players because they have a more detached relationship with their character. They look at it as a kind of conduit, a conduit that connects them to the game world and is merely the means by which the player does his or her actions inside the game. As a result, there is no great deep thoughts (like what I showed you above) as to why they pick a female character over a male one. But then again, I do know quite a few raiders (myself included) who do put thought into their character’s look and name, so I’d not say we’re all completely arbitrary about it. I just think it’s not as important as, say, how we like to set up our UI for raiding or what spec we’re using.

So we like the look of a female character, apparently, but that’s not who’s sitting behind the computer. Based on the informal results of the poll (with almost 200 participating), it’s extremely rare that female raiders (that’s the player, not the character!)  are equal to or exceed the number of male players in their raid groups. Anecdotally, and after almost 4 years of raiding, I have to agree with this. Before the poll I actually posited that most raid groups would include 10-20% female players. I’d say 39% is not a majority, but it’s a significant amount, and it gets even more significant when you add the less than 5% to 33% results as well. Let’s look at the results:

What is your estimated average male/female player (not your characters!) ratio on your raids?

  • Between 10% and 20% female players. (39%)
  • An average of 20% to one third are female raiders. (22%)
  • Less than 5% female in our raid groups. (22%)
  • No female players raid with us at this time. (11%)
  • We’ve got an even split (50/50) of men and women. (3%)
  • We have more female than male raiders in our group! (3%)

If you exclude the extremes (even split of male/female players, more female than male raiders, and no female raiders at all), 83% of respondents have at least 1 female player raiding with them. And this can go up as high as 22% of respondents having as many as 8 female raiders in a 25-man raid group or approximately 3 (I can’t really say 3.33, as that would require slicing up raiders.. unless 1/3 of a raider is a gnome?) in 10-man raiding groups.

What I’d love to break down further are roles and responsibilities of male and female raiders next. Of those women in your raid group, what percentage are healers? Ranged DPS? Do you have any as tanks or melee DPS? Again, speaking here from my own observations, it’s less common (though it definitely does exist!) to have female players playing tanks or melee DPS. I seem to be quite stereotypical: I’ve only ever raided as a healer or ranged DPS.

And what about roles on the raid team. Do you have a male or female raid leader? What about class leaders? Who hands out things like loot? Calls out commands? Maybe you find it easier to hear commands from a female voice, if it’s less common? I myself have been in a raiding guild with a female raid leader and I thought she was excellent. There’s at least one other highly ranked raiding guild on my server that has a female raid leader and a couple of the world’s best guilds have female raid leadership. But you may find it more common to have female raiders in your guild taking on the role of GM or other administrative jobs (the Web site, social gatherings, etc). Often viewed as a job that requires intense people skills (especially if you have a really big guild with a raider/social member mix) and management ability, it may be a more natural draw for a female player. Also, a 2008 study of EQ players found that  female players tended to spend more time in the game, (Williams et al, 2008)  maybe making it more feasible for them to manage the house, as it were. The same study, incidentally, said that about 80% of EQ players were male, while 20% were female. I believe we may have a slightly higher percentage of female players in WoW (maybe 25%?), but I think, on average, we have less female raiders. The EQ study did not look at raiders, just MMO players in general.

Also, if any of you are in or know of an all-female raiding guild, I’d love to hear about that. I know there are some all-female competitive gaming teams out there, but I wasn’t sure how many were represented among MMO raiding. I do believe that part of the reason we have fewer female raiders than male are practical reasons: time and skill. Despite the fact that female MMO gamers may spend more time in an MMO (or in EQ at least), we don’t know when they are in game. Evenings (when raiding happens) may not be as feasible for them to participate, especially if they have household or family obligations–or feel more guilt if they don’t tend to them, at least. And with less available time, it may be harder to develop their characters to be raid ready, along with learning the fights. But this also correlates to busy guys who aren’t raiding. Some of us just don’t have the time to commit to raiding.

As far as females being excluded from raiding, I really can’t find any evidence of that. Even when I spoke to the world’s best guilds–who generally, though not always, have fewer females than the lower ranked guilds–they were emphatic about not caring if the raider is male or female. They worried more about performance. If a female raider can carry her weight, she’s more than welcome, is what I’ve been told time and time again. In my interviews with some of the guys from Paragon they have been almost forceful in their emphasis that when they raid, Xenophics (their only female member at present) is never even looked at as a girl, just as a raider. Some have pointed out those cases where a female player has tried to use her status as a woman (see the last bulleted item above, too) to get preferential treatment or attention. That is viewed as extremely offensive to players who have seen that in action. Often called the ‘tittie ticket’, there has been a practice reported of some female players who flirt their way into a high performing guild to secure valued raid spots and gear, despite their inability to perform. And often this causes a lot of tension amongst the raiders in the guild. It’s an ironic manifestation of the “sleeping with the casting director” problem that has many of us cynical over why a physically gorgeous woman who can’t act might get a part in a movie, when an ordinary looking woman who acts as well as Meryl Streep never gets a chance.

But this is where it always confuses me. We don’t judge raiders by looks. Often we may not even know what they look like (can you really trust that pic you were sent?). We judge on performance. So how can we allow a poor performing raider (of any gender) to stay in the group. Well, I suppose that’s our overall performance and forgiving nature coming into play. We can (especially in 25-man raiding) tolerate one really poor performer as long as everyone (or some of the group) exceed the average. And we do it a lot. And we usually do it for social reasons; they are a friend, they are family, they are the partner of one of the raiders, they are just a nice person with just crappy lag/gear/computer.

But at the end of the day, while elite guilds may have had the problem of the gender card being manipulated for personal gain, I think in general, a female player–as long as she can perform at the same level as everyone else–is as welcome on a raid as any other player.


Williams, Yee and Caplan (2008) Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (2008), 993-1018.

The poll where I asked you to tell me if you’d paid to raid

January 31, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Polls, progress raiding

So I will admit I’m a bit surprised by the results here. I honestly thought more of us had spent money to change our races or servers in the pursuit of improved raiding performance or experience. But, this was how we responded:

Have you paid (beyond your subscription) to change your main raiding character’s race to improve raid performance and/or changed servers for better raiding opportunities?
    • No. (46%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed servers for better raiding opportunities. (20%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed both servers and my race for raiding. (20%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed my race to help my raiding performance. (14%)

But a modest majority of us, 54%, have spent money above and beyond our subscription rates to improve raiding performances or experiences. And 20% have actually spent money to change servers and races. I am curious, of that 20%, how many have done it more than once, too. I also wonder whether the 46% of us who have never paid out money would be willing to pay to move servers if their raiding guild fell apart and the only way to continue raiding was to change servers.

I think this tells me that for raiders, paying to move servers or change races is a small price to pay if it results in a better raiding experience.

New poll about progress raiding

December 11, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Polls, progress raiding

So I know this poll is a bit problematic. After all, my guess is that we could all pick several things and maybe even additional reasons that I haven’t listed here. But polls aren’t about being nice–they’re about making you give an opinion! So think about it–what, amongst all those things, do you find yourself enjoying the most?

Not all of us are progress raiding in Cata yet, so we may have to relate to the WotLK progress raiding experience to make the decision.

Patch day poll

October 17, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, class spec, patch day, Polls

I’ve not kept this poll up for long as we’re now, mostly, post-patch day and it’s quite a different experience to think about things after something has happened versus thinking about them in anticipation.

But the results are interesting, suffice it to say!

  • Figuring out the best spec, glyphs, new rotation I can before Cataclysm. (55%)
  • Keeping on top of the information and changes so I don’t lag behind. (34%)
  • Trying to relearn how to play my class. Again. (21%)
  • No concerns, it’s all good. (10%)
  • That the changes from patch could throw off our raiding or achievement progress. (0%)

At least more about what you did not vote for in comparison to what you did vote for. A whole whopping 0% of you voted for the following: “That the changes from patch could throw off our raiding or achievement progress.” I would imagine that’s partly due to the current state of game content, the removal of that throne debuff, and the fact that for most of us, I imagine patch day is a more personal experience. The idea of how we’re going to manage post-patch, what we need to redo and re-learn.

I, for one, did probably less than I should have in advance to understand what was going to happen to my main class and spec. And what a surprise when I logged in. My own prediction–that I’d have to do a lot to keep on top of these changes to my class and spec–came true for me. I think it feels like a game that’s had a makeover. It’s the same thing, but many details are very different. It’s also a very interesting pre-software release strategy by Blizzard. Global beta testing! But I digress. Let’s continue to review the results here.

The literal work of managing the details of one’s main character (and spec) was the leading response to the poll questions, with 55% of respondents. After that, keeping on top of information and changes was the second highest response (34%), with learning how to play your character again the third response (21%).  Only a few of you (10%) were completely unconcerned about the changes. Could that be because you were already well versed in the changes? Could it be because of your current attitude and perception of playing? And I wonder now how those responses would have shifted in the aftermath of the patch. Would that small minority still feel that the patch was no big deal and would the number of those who have felt they’ve had to relearn how to play rise?

Regardless, anticipation of a big patch like the one we’ve had this past week leads the majority of us to expect to have some work to do to navigate the game successfully. This often involves a sense of urgency so that we only have a short bump in the road. It also creates an interesting reaction amongst gamers. Not to say that those who were engaged in the dialogue are regular raiders, but I was amused when I logged into WoW after the patch went live and saw the annoyed responses to those people on general chat who were asking patch-related questions. “Check Google” was the common response. That being said, no one likes an unprepared gamer. We have little patience for ignorance.

Raiding computer set up

October 01, 2010 By: Ladan Category: computer, play space, Polls, raiding

So I was mulling over what to put up as our next poll topic… and Alex saved me. She and I have chatted quite a bit in the past about spaces for gaming (and she even allowed me to interview her and her partner, Andy, about this). It’s been mostly focused on where we play, how we set up our spaces of play, and ways in which people play communally. There are two points of interest in relation to Alex and her partner’s playing set up:

1. They are avid LAN gamers. That’s local area network gaming to you uninitiated–where people gather in huge spaces to play together or share files over local networks for a whole weekend (or longer) . It’s a phenomenal spectacle and, according to my friends who keep encouraging me to go to one, an awesome gaming experience as well.

2. They happen to utilise a communal space to set up their computers and play. It’s not unheard of for a couple who raids together to literally set their computers up in the same space together. In fact I know quite a few cohabiting couples (married or living together) who generally prefer this mode of game play. The interesting feature with Alex is that it’s not just her and her boyfriend who have their computers set up next to each other, but their housemate has his computer set up next to them too!

So today, Alex sent me a photo of her, Andy, and their housemate all sitting together, side by side, playing computer games. And this triggered a question.

Do we really always game alone in those dark, isolated rooms, hiding from the world?

I think that’s the general perception of what a computer gamer is like. I definitely have personal experience being asked questions along these lines.

I firmly believe that in every stereotype there are some kernels of truth–meaning that in this case there are individuals who probably do isolate themselves socially and geographically in order to game–but I also believe that in general, stereotypes never hold up.

I tend to run into more and more cases of people who prefer to be near each other while they raid–or at least near other people. One person I interviewed, Mark, explained that because he has a family and wants to interact with them, he would actually not raid at all if it meant he had to be removed (aka in a separate office) from where his family hangs out in the evenings. In the case of Mark’s family, that’s in the living room. In order to bring together his desire to still raid (it’s way better, he says, than watching the reality tv his wife likes to watch) while still seeing and interacting with his family, he has set up a computer in the living room.

This need for social interaction and connection–within and without the game–does not resonate with this stereotypical image of the spot-faced, antisocial, reclusive young male who hides in a dark room in order to game.

So where do we like to set up our computers to raid? In our bedrooms? In a communal setting? Do we use laptops and float about? Add your input to the poll!

New poll

September 04, 2010 By: Ladan Category: clothing and kit, Polls, subculture

I’m interested in talking about clothing + kit (AKA gear) next in my gentle wander down the raider subculture map…

So in honour of that, here is a poll that lets you share a thought or two. As always, do feel free to comment if you’d like!

Leading raids: what is our experience

August 26, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Polls, raid leader, raiding

I have been travelling most of August, so it’s nice to sit down and really get back into the blog. First I want to say a quick thanks to Stars, the top-ranked Chinese guild (world #6), for our recent discussions about their experiences raiding. I’ll be putting up some comments from that discussion in the very near future!

Let’s look at our last poll. Thanks so much for voting, everyone! Even though it’s not what I’d call a comprehensive sample of WoW raiders, it’s still very interesting. Here are the results:

Have you ever led a raid?

Yes, I regularly lead them for my guild. (14 votes, 30%)

Yes, I have done it occasionally–usually off night runs or as a back-up. (12 votes, 26%)

I have led a PUG or a guild run once in a while but it’s rare. (11 votes, 23%)

No, but I often have assistant/helping duties during a raid. This includes helping plan strategies. (6 votes, 13%)

No, I’m just happy to do my job and get instructions. (4 votes, 8%)

My first observation here is that the majority of respondents (approx. 79%) have some sort of raid leading experience, whether it is an ongoing, intermittent, or infrequent role. An additional ~13% have some sort of task to assist the raid leader, either as helping plan the raid or to performing a role during the raid (calling out instructions, loot master, schedule arranger, etc) . This indicates to me that the majority of people who raid probably  have done some kind of raid leading at some point.

Does this mean that leading is integral to the raiding experience? I don’t know conclusively, but the results of this poll seem to suggest that involvement in leading is almost as prevalent as raiding itself. I know we rely on teamwork a lot, and most would describe raiding as a team-based experience, but perhaps it’s also one that relies heavily on leadership skills as well.

I will say, anecdotally at least, many people view raid leading as a mixed bag. It’s seen as a privilege and necessary to raiding, but quite a few raid leaders I have interviewed mention getting ‘burned out’ doing it. This experience of burn out often coincides with experiences of failure and inconsistent participation. Something is going wrong with the raid–low attendance, too many mistakes, conflict in the guild. Trying to lead a team in real time situations can be challenging enough; leading a team in a virtual situation may become harder, I suppose, when you have to contend with additional variables like repeated failure, distorted space, variable time, unreliable technology and inconsistent skill.

So what of failure and leading raids? I have long felt that failure is an inevitable feature of the raiding experience. And perhaps leading amidst failure is the inevitable lot of a raid leader. Most raiding guilds I have spoken with (and accounts I have perused) speak of the need for raiding teams to not let failure deter them–that each failure should teach them something and spur them toward success.  A poll I put up some months ago now asked how many times people recalled spending on boss attempts. 61% responded that they could recall spending more than 50 attempts on a single boss fight (when learning it).  Now, how do you lead through that? Obviously we  have found a way to make it work because we keep going, we keep trying, we keep failing, and we keep succeeding. And we keep leading.

A couple quick updates

July 30, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Polls, raid leader, raiding

Hi everyone!
Hello from warm and beautiful Wyoming in the USA.

So I’ve put a new poll up–all about raid leading. I’m curious to see how many of us (yes, the many thousands of you that vote on my site) actually take on raid leading duties.

I’m also in the middle of writing up some notes from my chat with Paragon last week and my latest reflections on another aspect of our subculture: clothing and kit. I simply LOVE that topic because I feel it’s an amusing and fascinating element of our culture. It’s hard to write properly while away, however, so it may be a few days before those posts find their way online.