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Archive for the ‘competition’

The Story About eSports and Sexism and How Gamers Can Change Things *Fast*!

July 03, 2014 By: Ladan Category: competition, eSports, gender issues, IeSF, SEUL

Anyone following news around gaming and the industry is likely to have seen the report that emerged from Finland’s Assembly event (their huge gaming convention which takes place each summer) that the Hearthstone competition was limited to male players only. This came up initially when a Reddit user posted the advertisement on the competition rules. This caused a lot of discussion and prompted criticism of the Finnish eSports Federation (SEUL), though the SEUL pointed out that they were restricted in this way due to standards set by the International eSports Federation (IeSF), of which they are a member nation. According to SEUL, they (along with other Nordic country members) had been actively lobbying to get rid of this segregated-gender approach without much success. But that all changed yesterday.

 

Until just recently (as in yesterday), and for quite a while evidently, the regulation had been in place to facilitate one competition pathway for female gamers and another for male gamers. And it wasn’t just that the pathways were gendered, the types of games available for males and females differed. Starcraft II could be played by both males and females; but Hearthstone (the trigger for all the forum and media coverage) was just for males. This was done, in part, to help eSports better mirror other types of sports (thus legitimising its place within the cannon of ‘sports’) and to promote and encourage eSports among female gamers, who are a largely underrepresented demographic on the competitive edge of the gaming sphere. This justification (on their Facebook page) did not satisfy the many readers/gamers out there who were suddenly tuned into the issue and as a result the IeSF called their Board together and made a decision (influenced by Blizzard, Hearthstone and SC2 producer, most likely) to change their approach, now having an ‘Open for all’ competition category (which all players can compete in regardless of gender) and another one for female players only (aimed at encouraging more women into eSports as they are so woefully underrepresented globally).

 

What I first found amazing in this sequence of events was how quickly this all happened.

1. The Reddit post was made on July 1.

2. A PC Gamer article (among others) was posted on July 2. There was a subsequent amount of negative backlash around this issue on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere over these two days.

3. Blizzard got in touch with IeSF on July 2.

4. The Board of IeSF met and changed its regulations on July 2 to allow for ‘Open to All’ competitions while also maintaining ‘Female Only’ competitions.

This seems to demonstrate that gamers/the games industry can work together to effect change very quickly. That’s not to say that the arrangement is perfect, of course, but at least now a game like Hearthstone can be played by both male and female gamers (I play Hearthstone, for goodness sake!) in a competitive, sanctioned event sponsored by the IeSF.

 

I understand why IeSF felt that in order to legitimise eSports within the larger canon of Sports they wanted to do something to stem the major gender gap. I also understand that as an international organisation it has to consider how games are played in different cultures and regions.  But as Phil Savage (PC Gamer) wrote (in his article linked just above), segregating games that were not designed to be played by one gender alone does not seem to be the way to do it. I also don’t think that games companies are going to want their games to appear to be sanctioned by something like the IeSF as being for one gender alone–that’s a PR nightmare in the making… Even though I know it would be naive to suggest that a lot of the games we’ve evolved into an eSport aren’t designed with males in mind (even if that’s just a subconscious thing), I don’t think any games company wants to suggest that they would deny a 35-year-old woman a chance to play that game if she so desired to. So yes, have a ‘ladies’ only’ event, but make sure it’s the same games as the ‘all can play’ event.

 

Also, I think there are a few key issues that need to be addressed to better balance the gender gap in eSports:

 

1. Are we including the right games to attract more female players? I feel like we’ve just barely skimmed the surface of what’s possible with competitive gaming and perhaps the ones we’ve started off with are just generally less appealing to female gamers or have fewer of them playing in the first place. I’m not saying we perpetuate stereotypes of the types of games females play (the issue won’t be solved by having a Candy Crush tournament) but more that we ensure we really explore what games can be developed into a competition and perhaps look at proactive development with women in mind rather than following the market.

2. Does the way we set up an eSports federation or standardisation of eSports rules necessarily have to follow what we do with other Sports? I don’t see why they have to. It’s a whole new way of competing. Yes, it’s a lot like a sport, but that does not mean it has to be exactly like other sports. No one would ask that how we approach Athletics (Track and Field) is identical to how we approach, say, Darts or even the Luge. And there are well-established sports that cross the gender barriers: Equestrian events, some Sailing, Chess, etc. Maybe this is a GameSport or a SportGame… or a whole new word.

3. Are we encouraging enough women/girls in the right way to get into and consider competitive eSports? There aren’t many opportunities for kids of either gender to get into competitive eSports (I saw a BBC piece recently where eSports organisers were lamenting how UK gamers don’t play enough computer based competitive sports–but I didn’t hear how they are setting up local leagues with younger players to encourage them to get involved and coach them to compete) but as boys tend to gravitate toward computer/console gaming at an earlier age than girls (if ever) perhaps it’s not surprising that for some teenaged/young adult males, it’s not such a huge leap to go from amateur PVPer to a pro-gamer as they’ve been doing that with their school mates for years already. Girls may need more structured encouragement or training to realise they can compete.

4. Is it helpful to lump all types of computer/videogames under one single eSports Federation or set of regulations? As with item 2, I don’t think we’d regulate Baseball in the same Federation as Rowing.. but at this point we seem to be doing that with eSports. I realise that’s because things are fledgling at this point and there may be ‘sub-federations’ or categories of eSports in the future, but this could be another reason why this gender divide is perpetuating itself.

 

The IeSF is located in South Korea and while it aims to represent the world and promote eSports as a legitimate sporting activity, it is just six years old and has only 42 member nations. Most notably, countries such as China, Germany, the UK and the US are not members, despite being what I’d term ‘gaming nations’. What is notable about IeSF, though, is that the federation does have a wide geographical range and a nice mix of emerging and developed economies. What is laudable about organisations like IeSF is that they are actively trying to make eSports part of the larger body of sporting.

 

And of course, ‘everyone’ out there (with the exception of the ‘pro-gamer’, the eSports fan, the eSports industry, games designers, and the very fledgling eSports regulators) is still coming to terms with the idea that little Joey who likes to play DOTA2 so much could a) be GOOD enough at it that he might win a world championship, b) actually win some prize money for his efforts, and that c) we’d actually call it a sport. But that’s how things emerge and become mainstream: slowly but with a growing body of understanding around how the ‘sport’ works and re-evaluating our own personal definitions of sport. I still remember being surprised that there’s a competitive sport that combines mountain climbing and ironing. Who wants to iron at altitude? Blech.

 

In my own research, I engaged–more on serendipitous terms than with any strong intentionality–with studying the emergence of eSports during my three-year study of raiding in WoW. In the final weeks of my thesis write up, in fact, top ranked raiding guilds had begun to engage in ‘boss fight’ raid races to see who would clear a dungeon the fastest. They were remarkably fun to watch, well cast and demonstrated how very large teams (up to 25) could compete against each other. It wasn’t just the rapid responses of two SC2 players competing against each other or the 5-player teams engaged in PVP.. eSports was emerging and growing in scope. I won’t deny that the majority of gamers I spoke with tended to be male. I noticed that while many female players were raiding in casual or more relaxed types of guilds, the higher up the competitive food chain I went the fewer female gamers there were. This was largely due to either an issue with time (many female gamers I spoke with just didn’t have time to raid as much as the competitive guilds required), a lack of confidence or experience (many doubted their abilities to ‘keep up’), or certain highly ranked guilds choosing to restrict membership to males only (it reduced the ‘drama’, they claimed).

 

Since its fledgling beginnings around the turn of the milennium (though there was a lot of such competition happening well before then), the activity of gamers engaging in organised competition began to be termed a kind of ‘electronic sport’ or eSport, though most conventional sports fans might (and still do) roll their eyes at the idea of people with computers or video consoles ‘playing a sport’. I still remember going to a Leisure Studies Association conference in Leeds some years back (early into my PhD) and going through the dynamic features of raiding and gaming in an MMO. I was still struggling with a kind of vocabulary around what mattered to serious raiders and how you could qualify their approach to play. As I showed other academics my screenshots of player-modified UIs and how ‘add-ons’ enabled and sustained competitive gameplay, one of them chimed in ‘Well, it looks like a sport to me.’ I was gobsmacked. I mean I’d been feeling this way myself, as many of us have within the world of game, but I felt really validated to hear from another person–one who researched conventional sports science and one I would have cynically predicted to critique or knock down my notion of raiding being a kind of sport–that this looked like a sport. This had a major impact on my approach to my research going forward.

 

It will take a long time before we’ve worked through the nuances of what competitive gaming really is and if it’s truly a sport like other sports or if we even need to mirror it like everything else. Maybe it’s more like a GameSport or SportGame. Maybe that very hybridisation transforms the idea of play and gaming and sports in a way that we’ve not really considered yet. And we have a very long way to go before female gamers feel like they’ve got a place at the eSports table and that they are even welcome to take place. In those cases were women really were equally part of the gaming equation, I felt like the gamers had stopped focusing on ‘who’ was playing, but more about what they were doing. At the very least I don’t think we’ll get any closer to sorting these issues out any time soon–the gender divide is huge in many areas of modern society and seems to be taking a few steps backwards in some alarming ways. But the good news is that in a very short period of time a major issue that IeSF’s member nations had been debating about for quite a while was resolved–with some fan critiques, some belief in gender equality, a lot of social medial and a (very big) games company. Maybe we can teach the rest of the world a few things?

 

 

Are we on the verge of something new all over again?

May 11, 2012 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, competition, Dragon Soul, raiding, speed race

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s do-or-die time for me with my PhD thesis writing and to add to that I’ve had a lot of side projects, a slowly recovering hand injury, and even a recent bout with pneumonia slowing me down. Something had to give and it was my own beloved blog. Even my interviews with raiders on youtube have slowed down (though I’m excited to be doing an interview soon with vodka, so keep an eye on that!)… but anyway, I have something on my mind (and in my thesis) that I wanted to put up on the blog.. it’s about the ways in which we ‘own’ the game (WoW in this case) to the degree that we influence new changes and developments in the game itself.

Henry Jenkins, in his 2006 book about new media technologies called Convergence Culture, wrote about how the design and environment of MMOs allow a significant degree of intentionality (and content) created by the player population itself (what he refers to as ‘consumer-driven content’ [172]). He also shared insight from game designers (Raph Koster, in particular) about why an MMO thrives: it is the degree to which players can claim a form of ownership of the game itself (165). And when I look at the raiding component of an MMO like WoW, I can see ownership in the form of the specific ways that we choose to engage with the game and how we appropriate its elements to serve our own gaming purposes. When it comes to raiding, look at how we’ve shaped the game.  We wanted to make the raiding experience smoother? We wrote add-ons and modified our UIs. We wanted to figure out how to solve problems during a boss fight? We made and watched how-to videos. We wanted a competition to see who was the fastest to clear content? We made progress sites and publicised the news far and wide. Now competition is not new in raiding. We’ve been competing against the game and each other since raiding began, but the ways in which we manifest this competitive inclination keeps evolving and adapting.

The latest example of this ‘ownership’ in competitive raiding is the recent trend for top raiding guilds to organise (amongst themselves for the most part) speed races. A raiding speed race (if you’ve not heard of this before) is when two guilds race against each other (starting at the same time) to be the first to clear the content of the agreed upon raid instance. And in the case of these raiding guilds we have had a recent race in April with the US guild vodka and EU guild Method racing each other.  Of course we’ve got Blizzard to thank for the earliest examples of these races, whereby they’d have a staged spectacle of two top-ranked guilds during a hyped up Blizzcon event (oftentimes American guilds, for the logistical ease of it) battle each other for supremacy.

The 30-some thousand viewers logged on to watch the race mostly via Athene’s livestream as he, and Kina (retired vodka raider and one of the minds behind Learn2Raid), commentated.  I think it’s safe to say that none of us really knew what to expect. I myself sat down to what I thought might be a predictable race with little drama (since these guys are superplayers who never make mistakes, right?), expecting to watch it out of loyalty to two guilds I know and like  and wanting to contribute my part to the opsharecraft charity drive (aimed at raising US$1 million for Save the Children), which was the motivation for the two guilds to participate. Method won that race against vodka, but only by a small margin. Method’s execution was flawless, bordering on poetry in motion at times, but vodka’s attempt to regain the time lost (from an early wipe) was heroic. It was actually an exciting race in the end. Perhaps the amazement in Athene’s own voice gave it away. Maybe none of us thought it would be as dramatic and fun to watch as it ended up being.

So now we’ve decided to ‘own’ this type of event and stage them ourselves. Yes that first one was was set up for charity but we’re starting to see how it can be a fun way to actually transform an element of the raiding race into a spectator experience of competitive raiding. We aren’t just refreshing the raiding tracking sites (wowprogress or wowtrack, for example) to see if anyone’s downed a new boss, we’re able to see for ourselves a version of that race.  Sure it’s not the starting point of the raiding race of a particular tier, but it’s a raiding race of a new form, repurposing the same content and displaying it (and performing it) in a new way. It’s raiding recycling in action.

And apparently we want more of this. This Saturday (May 12), four raiding guilds—this time Paragon (EU), STARS (China), Exorsus (Russia), and Blood Legion (US)—are engaging in a speed race with US$2000 at stake and more benefits to the same charity drive.  Read up about it here. So yes, built on vodka and Method’s trailblazing race in April but offering something more: more guilds involved and more money at stake. Will this make the race more exciting? And are we seeing the first steps toward a new way to engage in the competitive in raiding?

For more reading:

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press: New York.

Raiding Roundtable Discussion with Top Guilds

January 09, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, Dragon Soul, patch 4.3, podcast, raiding, World of Warcraft

I had a chance to sit down tonight with seven of the world’s highest ranked raiding guilds to discuss a few things about the Tier 13 race:

  • the LFR ban
  • the current rankings and the shifts from previous tiers
  • the problems with content and raid encounters in the current tier of raiding
  • the state of the raiding race and its future
  • the emergence of Asian raiding guilds as dominant

Participants were:

  • Absalom from Blood Legion (US)
  • Arx from DREAM Paragon (EU)
  • Cika from Exodus (US)
  • Crusher from Stars (TW), via email
  • Dusk from Envy (EU)
  • Grafarion from vodka (US)
  • Sco from Method (EU)

I am very grateful to all seven participants for their time, perspective, and insight. I think we had an interesting discussion and quite a number of salient points were brought up about this challenging raiding tier. I did want to point out that I did try very hard to get in touch with KIN Raiders and some of the 10-man raiding guilds (like Silent) and was unable to get their participation in the call. I imagine language and time barriers contributed to that failure. I know that more perspectives would have resulted in an even better podcast and I can only say that I’ll try harder next time to get these additional perspectives to the table. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the wall of sound!

New poll for a new year!

January 04, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, raiding, rankings, World of Warcraft

Hey everyone! Happy new year!  I hope 2012 is a great year for all of you. We’re on the verge of the Year of the Dragon, which could make it quite a dramatic year indeed!

So not much to report, though I did just put a new piece up on the Paragon site that should be of interest to my thinking readers. Also, if anyone out there has run across any other mainstream media pieces about the recent tier raiding race, please let me know? When I say “mainstream” I mean your national newspapers, the BBC, CNN, etc.

Right now I’m toying with a few ideas for expanding my site and hope to share those in the coming days and weeks, but for now I’ve got a new poll up and hope you’ll share your thoughts. We’ve definitely had some changes in interest in the raiding this tier (unlucky tier 13 anyone?) and I’m curious about how much of an impact the release of the new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic has had on this tier. I realise other issues may be impacting the race such as the LFR ban or the Christmas holiday season, but I’m wondering if SW:TOR is signalling anything. I’ve often heard the prediction of the demise of WoW when a new and highly anticipated MMO is released but so far none have been able to knock WoW off of its pedestal.

Unlucky Tier 13 and the Christmas Raid-Themed Musical Medley

December 22, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, Dragon Soul, raiding

Seasons Greetings! I hope you have a happy Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and have a great New Year! Apparently the world is ending next year so make the coming year count, guys!

Unlucky Tier 13

It’s been quite a Tier so far and if you’ve not had a chance to view any of the content I’ve been covering over at the Paragon community site, please do feel free to check it out at The Raid Observer. So far we’ve had a number of events that have made the current tier one of the most contentious, unexpected, and confusing to date. I’ve been joking around about this being an unlucky tier due to its number (13), but maybe I’ve not been too far off. It’s definitely been very unlucky for some guilds. What we’ll have at the end of the race is honestly anyone’s guess. Anyway, a few highlights of what I’ve been seeing so far, in no particular order (and things anonymized for obvious reasons):

  • A bug around the LFR is exploited by certain top guilds and a large number of temporary suspensions are handed out for up to 8 days.
  • The heroic race begins without a significant number of the longstanding top-ranked raiding guilds involved. They’ve either opted to wait until the bans are lifted or reform as 10-man teams.
  • A higher than usual amount of jabs, jokes, and accusations are pointed at those involved in the “scandal” and some begin to predict a US-dominated top based on the fact that the majority of top ranked US guilds did not engage in the LFR exploit. Some suggest that even if the US can win the race, it will be meaningless since the “real competition” was excluded from the race.
  • The bans are lifted at the 2nd week of heroic runs and guilds appear stuck at 6/8, with Spine being described as a very unforgiving DPS-driven fight. Gear appears to be the deciding factor and many predict that the following week will result in improved gear to allow for a greater chance at moving ahead.
  • By this time the top EU guilds are all caught up with the US guilds at 6/8 and you can see a smattering of Korean and Taiwan server guilds in the mix as well. But the ongoing banter by onlookers remains focused on whether the US can beat the EU for the first time in many tiers. I guess they forgot to look in the rear view mirror….
  • Kin Raiders, a Korean server guild, gets the first Spine kill. All the comments about the “US having a chance to win this” and “will the EU catch up and take over the race again” seem moot at this point.
  • While some claim that the double resets that the Korean and Taiwan servers had each week from late October helped the guild improve their overall gear and deepen their viable roster, others claim that this is just the lamentation of “fanboys” disappointed that their own guilds did not down the boss before. While it’s true that Kin Raiders do have a very deep roster and may have access to more legendary weapons than other guilds, this is also being identified as good planning and preparation. Could it just be–many ask–that Kin Raiders just outplayed the other guilds?
  • Within a couple days Kin Raiders has also killed Madness, giving them the world first ranking and giving a Korean guild the world’s #1 spot among 25-man raiding guilds for the first time in WoW raiding. Frustration is expressed, not so much because Kin Raiders got the world first but because the final boss in the encounter may be far easier than the penultimate one.
  • By the end of Week 3, only 3 other guilds (Korean, Chinese, and French) have reached 7/8, with a 50/50 split between 10-man and 25-man. The previously top 5 ranked raiding guilds appear stuck at 6/8. Many claim that Spine is impassable without more gear, hoping that the next reset will give them that edge that they need to break down the wall.
  • The Week 4 reset on the EU servers takes place, which brings with it endless disconnects at earlier bosses while guilds attempt to quickly clear earlier heroic content so they resume work on Spine. But these server and instance DCs really slow down normal progress. Any plan to regain any lost ground appears even more challenging to guilds that are probably already struggling to maintain morale and focus in the wake of bans, negativity, and a loss of the top prize in the raiding race. At best the remaining guilds can hope for a 2nd place spot and honestly, considering how many competitive gamers/players feel about coming in second, that racing for World 2nd just may not sound quite as sweet.

Christmas is just a couple days away and for many raiders this means time away from the game. If they can’t get past Spine in the next day or so, it could be days before they can move ahead. The previous problems combined with server connection problems and the impending arrival of Christmas could make this the unluckiest tier of all for some guilds. How they navigate these difficulties could prove to be the trickiest Boss Fight they’ve ever faced.

Christmas Raid-Themed Musical Medley

So, in the spirit of Christmas, raiding, and Tier 13, here are some Christmassy songs for a musical medley. And I admit these are a bit of a stretch…!

First is a classic by Elvis Presley, dedicated to those raiders who’ve made their family/friends blue by raiding a wee bit too much this holiday season…. ;)

And here’s a song by The Killers. I wanted to include it because it’s about boots and other stuff, but also because it reminds me of the wish that some players have out there to get some special gear or item from that special boss this special time of year. And ok, the video made me cry.

And finally, for all those cuddly trolls out there, for which Tier 13 has been particularly enjoyable:

And because I just love this particular Christmas song….(sorry the sound quality is so poor, but I wanted to show some video from the original version). :)

Have a good one, everyone! xox

The “saddest world second ever” (Part 1)

November 16, 2011 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, competition, Firelands, progress raiding, raiding guild

This is a wall of text. Though I might break things up with some images of cats—everyone loves sending me images of cats doing silly things… I think that’s because there is this idea that we of the fairer sex like seeing images of cats doing funny things; I think it’s also because images of cats doing funny things represents about 83% of the Internet. But before I launch into my (epic) wall of text here, let me just offer a thank you to Method. They are a classy bunch of guys (I bet they never thought they’d be referred to as such!) to let me write up about them, particularly about a somewhat touchy subject.. the idea of coming in “second”. Of course if you consider the fact that we have thousands of groups completing the raiding content, coming in second in the world is actually pretty good. But when you’re so close to being first, second just feels like you missed the party entirely. Will Method come in second during the next content patch? That’s anyone’s guess, but I do know that they are as determined as ever and I look forward to following the race during the next tier of raiding content.. which should start very soon!

I’m also really grateful to all of the guilds like Method for being really active participants in my research. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to talk to raiders from lots of different backgrounds and they’ve really contributed a lot to my work. You may have read the earlier article I wrote back in May where I documented some highlights from my first group discussion with Method. One thing I appreciated about them, and about most of the guilds I’ve spoken to, is their openness. Sure some of us posture a bit, and there’s a fair amount of ego and grandstanding in some, but for the most part, we’re quite honest (I’d even say quite bluntly honest) about how we perform and what our challenges might be. I think as a community, raiders can be quite reflective and self-critical. I think this is due, in part, to the constant stream of data that we have available to help us see how we’ve done: fraps, DPS meters, logging sites. In a way, being open is thrust upon us by our own design. You can’t really pretend your DPS was great when DPS tracking software is telling you (and everyone else!) that it was subpar.

But whatever the reason for this openness and reflectiveness, raiders have been quite willing to be recorded and documented talking about their experiences. And sometimes it also means that the raiders themselves have collected data for me. This was Method. And I think what we did over the summer is historic in nature. During their few weeks of progress raiding in Firelands, the guys recorded hours of TeamSpeak audio for me. Now I did not get the actual recordings until long after the race was over (not until September) so there would never be a concern or any worries that I’d somehow compromise the race by getting access to information that is usually quite fiercely protected.

We are all drawn to raiding for similar reasons, though how important those reasons are will often depend on the raider and the guild to which they belong. I’d say some of the top reasons we get into raiding might be the raiding content itself, personal performance, competition, social interaction, and team play. But the way that we might rank these reasons as far as importance goes differs between raiders based on our own priorities for raiding. If, for example, we want to blow off some steam with a group of good friends, social interaction or team play might outrank competition. Well, in the case of the top ranked guilds that I’ve spoken with (and I’ve had a chance to talk to about a dozen of them), competition seems to be the primary driving factor. This piece explores how competition functions for a guild like Method and how they felt, in the end, about being the 2nd in the world. Again. And now, before we begin, here is the world’s most insulted cat:

Really? I mean… really?

Intermission over. Shall we continue? Let’s….

“The saddest world second ever”

Second place is just the first place loser. –Dale Earnhardt

I’m not jealous, I’m just tired of being in second place. –Unknown

These quotes may evoke that cynicism that sometimes accompanies a reaction from a competitor who’s come in second place. For the second place “loser”, there is no other aspiration than coming in first. This experience of the anti-climax of finishing second is well expressed through the progress race.

Like other competitive raiding guilds, Method was formed by WoW raiders that wanted to be the first to defeat the raiding content ahead of other guilds. This assertion is made clear on the guild’s promotional material, where they solicit new members, the goal being, “to be among the first to witness, participate in, and down new raid boss encounters.” Method’s success as a world-ranked progression guild began in 2007 when it had the world second kill of Lady Vashj in a level 70 ranked raiding area called Serpentshrine Cavern. Its success continued off and on until it reached a more consistent level of prominence in 2009. It has sustained a world #2 ranking since December 2010. In fact, its history of being second seems to be quite predominant for Method. On its self-written guild description posted on wowprogress.com, it lists 31 achievements of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place finishes on specific important game achievements over the past four years. Out of those 31 achievements, 22 (or 71%) are listed as second place finishes. This notion of seemingly perpetual runner-up-dom has not been lost on the guild or its members, best expressed through Rogerbrown’s (officer and raider in Method) statements in May and July, respectively:

On not achieving first place: “It’s the one thing Method hasn’t done yet.” (Rogerbrown, May 2011)

On losing the Majordomo (the penultimate boss in Firelands) kill to DREAM Paragon by 45 minutes: “The saddest world second ever.” (Rogerbrown, July 2011,)

Progression racing is seen as challenging, both by design and circumstance. It requires a lot of time, focus and speed. For example, over the 26 days in Firelands that Method was clearing the raiding content, Valiane, one of the raiding members of Method, estimated that the raiding group spent approximately 200 hours working on clearing the content, with about 180 of those hours spent on the final raid boss, Ragnaros. This works out as an average of 7.3 hours being spent per day. While this kind of speed and concentrated time spent in raiding can contribute toward success in the progress race, it can also often present a series of unexpected events for the groups involved. One example is the situation where most of the top raiding guilds—due to the speed at which they progress through the content—face the raiding content while Blizzard’s game designers are still fixing bugs in the gameplay.

In July, like everyone else, Method began its pursuit of the world first completion of the newest raiding content in Firelands. During the discussion of how the Firelands race had gone, Trekkie, a raiding member of Method, indicated that the primary area of concern was the perceived race between their guild and Paragon, “Yes, pretty much only cared about Paragon’s progress in the race.” This could piss off other guilds that are also hot in pursuit of a world #1, but I think I can understand the logic. Paragon was #1 going into the race and that makes them, by default, the team to “beat.” It’s very likely that most of the other guilds in the top 10 or 20 were just as oriented toward beating Paragon.

My research has led me to define the types and forms of competition that exist in raiding. I’ll outline them briefly here: Gamic competition (this is the competition we experience against the game and the game designed challenges); External competition (competition between raiding guilds); and Internal competition (this is represented by how we compete with or against each other in our own raiding guilds). An example of Gamic competition would be how a group competes against a raid boss’ tactics and mechanics to down the boss; an example of External would be how guilds race against each other to complete raiding content ahead of everyone else; and Internal could be represented by the friendly rivalry to see who tops the DPS meters during any given raid.

Time for another cat photo:

“Don’t you people have anything better to do?”

And onwards we must march….

Method is highly focused toward External competition. This is indicated by their desire to “win the race” and surpass their long-held 2nd place spot.  In fact, even during the 3 weeks of the contested Firelands race (until Paragon defeated Ragnaros on July 19, 2011), while Method’s interest was in their own raiding performance and tactics against the raiding challenges they were also oriented toward how they fared against Paragon. Shakaroz, another member of Method, made that clear in his statement:

You asked if what we knew about Paragon at that point [during the raiding progress] was affecting our raid? Yes, we knew their set up on Majordomo and I’m thinking it might have given us a feeling of security because we thought we knew what they were doing because at some point they swapped in like 7 to 9 rogues trying some weird strategy. So we were thinking they didn’t really know what to do with this boss and they were trying all sorts of weird things and they are not close and that gives us that sense of security so that personal mistakes and poor play isn’t really looked on as harshly because we think that we were further along than we were. With [Major]domo we could have taken the world first. We had some silly wipes and some time wasting.

So in effect here, while Shakaroz concedes that Method was externally oriented toward the progress and activity of Paragon, he felt it could have adversely affected their own guild’s performance. Perhaps this highlights the ways in which a network and series of events within it can conspire to negatively impact its attributes depending on how the network’s entities (in this case a raiding guild) react or respond to the dispersal of information. But this close focus on Paragon’s progress is understandable considering how easily accessible data and information was for raiding guilds. In the table below, you can see how close the race was and why it made sense that Method (and Paragon too) were so oriented toward the external competition.

DREAM Paragon (with dates and times of kills)
Method
H: Ragnaros–Jul 19, 2011 20:50

H: Majordomo–Jul 8, 2011 01:17

H: Baleroc–Jul 7, 2011 14:52

H: Alysrazor–Jul 6, 2011 15:54

H: Lord Rhyolith–Jul 6, 2011 13:51

H: Beth’tilac–Jul 6, 2011 12:15

H: Shannox–Jul 6, 2011 10:11

H: Ragnaros–Jul 26, 2011 21:52

H: Majordomo–Jul 8, 2011 02:06

H: Baleroc–Jul 7, 2011 04:42

H: Alysrazor–Jul 6, 2011 13:37

H: Lord Rhyolith–Jul 6, 2011 11:07

H: Beth’tilac–Jul 6, 2011 10:04

H: Shannox–Jul 6, 2011 08:52

Access to information like this, available to any raider or interested party, can help spur on the race and also motivate the teams involve to either pick up their pace or, possibly, relax with a false sense of security, such as what Shakaroz indicated above. While the significant part of the race did not come until the attempts on Ragnaros started, the momentum gained from speedily killing the earlier bosses did allow the teams to focus on that final boss. A careful review of the dates and times of the boss kills shows a very close race. Mere hours separate the successful kills of the earlier bosses, with Method ahead of Paragon’s progress until Majordomo. But the Majordomo fight was the first indicator of a change in the race between the two guilds. It’s worth pointing out here, however, that for guilds like Method and Paragon the race is not so much about the earlier six bosses but more about the final one. As North American servers get access to the game a day before European servers, for example, all of the first four heroic bosses had already been killed for the first time by the time Method and Paragon logged on. But Method and Paragon quickly succeeded those early kills and began to progress to the last bosses. It seemed too close to tell.

So what happened at Majordomo? Well, the race seemed to shift. Part 2 looks more closely at that experience and the impact it had, at the time, on Method. In some cases, it was more significant (at least from the standpoint of the “race”) than the Ragnaros race. Stay tuned!

Oh and here’s another cat image. Someone please send me nomz too….

Red and blue: Does that impact our raiding race?

October 11, 2011 By: Ladan Category: competition, rankings

I don’t think this will surprise anyone, but actual research has been done into whether the colour a team wears has an impact on success in competitions. And the winning colour is red! Yes, a whole slew of researchers have noted the ways in which red is an “indicator of dominance” (Feltman and Elliot, 2011) among many species, including humans. This perception of red appears to carry over into sport, where researchers have found that teams wearing red have a higher rate of success. (Hill and Barton, 2005; Atrill et al, 2008; Hackney, 2006, for example) Elliot and Feltman (2011) also noted that the wearing of red has a bidirectional affect on both sides of a competition. So… the team wearing red feels dominant and that dominance is perceived and, apparently, reacted to by the other team. Behold a good example of this, in football at least:

I believe Welbeck is showing off his jazz hands…

But back to WoW… Now I know there are many reasons to explain why Horde-side raiding teams appear to perform better at the top of the raiding race, but could colour be part of it too? In our top 40 world rankings (10 and 25-man combined) only 25% of the guilds are Alliance (blue), while the remaining 30 guilds are Horde (red).

Of course this may mean nothing in terms of the competition between raiding teams, but it’s interesting… particularly in light of what researchers have noted about the impact of the colour red in team sports competitions. I wonder…. if Alliance was the “red” side, would things be different?

References

  • Attrill, M.J., Gresty, K., Hill, R.A., & Barton, R.A. (2008) Red shirt colour is associated with long-term team success in English football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26, 577–582.
  • Feltman R. and Elliot A.J. (2011)  The influence of red on perceptions of relative dominance and threat in a competitive context.
    Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 33, 308-314.
  • Hackney, A.C. (2006). Testosterone and human performance: Influence of the color red. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 96, 330–333.
  • Hill R.A. and Barton R.A. (2005) Psychology: Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature, 435, 293.