Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture

Archive for the ‘raiding research’

Dipping the toe back in…

September 22, 2012 By: Ladan Category: raiding, raiding research


I just looked at the last date on my blog and cringed. I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since I last posted! So let me update you (in case you were wondering if I’d been abducted by aliens or something):

1. I submitted my PhD thesis about 6 weeks ago.

2. I collapsed.

3. I spent wayyyy too much time watching the Olympics, including actually getting to attend an event! I love the Olympics and particularly loved it being in London this year. Wow.

3. I went on a bit of a holiday. I’d just like to point out that not having been on a holiday in a few years had led me to forget what holidays were like.. now I realise that going on a holiday is a good idea and I’m eagerly anticipating the next time I get to go. I hope it won’t take so long a wait before the next one.

4. I started trying to tidy up my life post-PhD submission. I’m months behind on many things. The world did not wait for me to catch up, it seems. Oh and I did get to go to some Paralympics events too in London. That gets a wow x 10–I love love loved it!

5. I am now getting very nervous about the viva that will take place at the end of October. A viva is the oral defense of your PhD with a panel of examiners. Going to a course to prepare me for the viva made me even more nervous. But others who have been through this keep reminding me to look at it as an opportunity to discuss your work in detail with two respected academics, an opportunity that doesn’t often come in academia. I realise that’s a big part of it, but I can’t help but focus on the ‘oh my goodness, two people who are far smarter, more capable, and accomplished than me will be spending a lot of time reading my thesis and are bound to wish they had those hours of their life back…’ Yes, that inner demon speaks to all of us! I’m sure I’ll have more to say once that process is done.

Some people have asked me when they can see my thesis. I wanted to just note that while my plan is to make this available as soon as is feasible, sharing the thesis on a largescale requires a more robust process to secure permission and that the thesis will have passed this examination process. So at this point it may be some months before it’s out there.

What I will probably do in the meantime is post things like my introduction, table of contents and my acknowledgements. The acknowledgements include a lot of the raiders and guilds who contributed to the research, so it’s particularly important that this be shared at the very least. I can, for those students out there, also share my bibliography as it’s a helpful reading list of some of the good games research that’s going on out there.

Help with this research project!

January 18, 2012 By: Ladan Category: raiding research

From time to time, I hear from other students who are hoping to do some research relating to WoW as part of their master’s or undergraduate degrees. It’s always great to hear about what’s going on out there and I’m always glad to see that gaming continues to grow in relevance as a research area.

Well, one of them recently contacted me to ask if I can help him promote a research project that he’s doing for his master’s degree. And since he needs input from raiders, this is your big chance to get involved in an academic research project! He needs us to complete a questionnaire about teams and raiding:

Here’s what Daniël has to say about his project:

Hello, I am Daniël Meijer, a Master student in Organizational Psychology. I am conducting research about World of Warcraft for my masterthesis.

I have been playing World of Warcraft myself for a couple of years now. My belief is that if you ever took part in a raid team, you really know what teamwork is:

·     Working together with 10 or 25 people to defeat the most evil and challenging bosses

·     Situations where, if one of the team members fails, the whole team wipes

·     Teams that work together towards a common goal!

Games like WoW require skills, coordination, and teamwork-just like any other task in the real world. Fortunately, social scientists are becoming more and more interested in WoW, particularly because it is (in some way) so similar to many real world endeavors. Personally, for example, I believe that many business teams in organizations can learn a thing or two from Raid Teams. With my research I want to add something positive and constructive to the image of WoW and the image of gamers in general, showing the world that games can be inspiring and something you can learn from. My research focuses on team processes and differences in performance of teams.

In Organizational Psychology there is much interest in team processes. With this research I want to add something to this literature. This research is part of a bigger project which is under supervision of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. This project is being led by Dr. E.F. Rietzschel, who is also my supervisor.

Taking the questionnaire will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes of your time. Your answers will be anonymous. Your participation is highly appreciated, but of course it is entirely voluntary. I will keep the questionnaire open until the 17th of February 2012. If you haven’t got the chance until then to enter the questionnaire, please don’t be hesitant to contact me.

Link to the questionnaire:

As soon as my Master thesis is submitted, I will provide the results to this website so that you can find it here again.

Please inform your fellow raid members as well. This research is about teams, so it would be nice if we can analyze teams that are complete.

If you have any questions, you can reach me by e-mail:

Daniël Meijer


An update of sorts: What’s going on with Ladan’s research these days?

September 08, 2011 By: Ladan Category: raiding research

Sorry about the long delay in posts. I’ve been very busy with my PhD,  was away doing an (exciting!) internship, and gave a paper at an academic conference. So getting time to complete and put this post up just seemed to be impossible. But I’m back in lovely Durham now and am stealing some moments to finish this and put it up.

So I write a lot about a lot of things, mostly dictated by my own whims (isn’t that the bloggers prerogative?) but also guided by specific events in the raiding community. I realised recently when I was trying to figure out a new blog post topic that it’s been ages since I wrote an actual update on what I’ve been up to and where my research is going. In fact, the other day on IRC I was even asked what has been surprising me in my research so far (great question, fen :) )! So let me try and capture a few details on how things are going.

First of all, let me give a bit of background on what is involved in getting a PhD. For those of you who are sane enough to have avoided the perils of advanced research and education, you may have remained blissfully unaware of what the completion process to get a doctorate is like. You may only know that we cheekily expect to be called ‘Doctor’ at the end (but don’t ask me to operate on you or prescribe drugs) and, if we opt to go the academic route, we aspire to being called Lecturer or Professor or some such lofty title. Like many elements of many educational systems across the globe, the process to complete and be awarded a PhD do differ from country to country. I’d say the UK is not particularly different from the rest of the world, but some aspects may seem different as compared to, say, the United States. For one, our PhD is almost entirely ‘by research’. The expectation in the British system of doctoral education is essentially that the individual should be capable (with input and mentoring from a number of academic supervisors–these are lecturers or professors in your given department with expert input into your area of research) of designing an original research project, completing fieldwork (or labwork), and writing a lengthy thesis to present the findings and conclusions from the research. This work will comprise the bulk of the PhD and the merit of the work (including the contribution to the ‘field of research’) is often based around the published PhD thesis. These aren’t short pieces of work. My PhD will be 100,000 words, or about 300 pages long.

So, as you can imagine, I’m writing. A lot. I’ve got about 9 chapters in total and 4 are done so far.

And what am I writing about? Well, lots of things, but there is a general, overall theme that I’m looking at and I’m using certain techniques to help me do this. I’ve been doing what’s called an ethnography–which is a kind of sociological study of a group of people who are linked together for social, cultural, or other reasons–of the raiding community, looking at how raiders function and how they use the game space and environment. I am also looking at how raiders enact specific issues that seem to be particularly important to them: performance, coordination, and competition.

Why these particular issues? Well, I would say that certain qualities distinguish raiders from other types of gamers. For example, it’s possible that some things are shared in common across the entire spectrum of gaming–like curiosity, imagination, problem-solving, immersion–but other qualities might set certain types of gamers apart. In the case of raiders, I have observed certain recurring concepts that stand out in our community such as our orientation toward how we perform, how we compete, and how we work in teams. While many other factors do play into the raiding experience, I’d say this particular combination is compelling in its consistent importance to the raider experience and to the success of the raid itself. We are also defined largely by our outcomes and by our process.

My current focus is on competition. I’ve been following how this is experienced by raiders at all levels of play–from the most casual raider to the most competitive. Despite how much time or skill we have for raiding, I would say one consistent idea keeps popping up when we raid and compete: we want to do as well as we can and we like the feeling of a “win”, whether that’s among the group we’re raiding with (topping dps meters, causing the least wipes, healing the most, etc) or whether that’s against the other top guilds vying for world first. Competition permeates how we’ve even structured the peripheral elements of our community: our focus on tracking sites to check our guild’s ranking, our love of theorycrafting, our tendency to jovially use ranking on the damage meters as a way to gauge “superiority” within the group.

Of course this is most obviously noticeable when we look at the top raiding guilds and their “race” for world first. All serious guilds want to do well and the guilds that have put achieving a world first as their top priority will be hyperaware of their own progress in relation to the other top guilds. Their competition is also followed closely by other interested raiders.

Does this competition translate to other types of raiding guilds? I’d say so. Maybe they aren’t as concerned about their global rankings (though I’d suggest that most serious guilds probably do check their global rankings at least somewhat regularly) but they might look at their server rankings, their own personal bests, or they might look at their individual performance within the group. We have, based on Blizzard’s raiding achievements and community-created tracking sites, a clear way that we tap into the competitive aspect of our raiding community. And I think the basic idea of “besting” the boss before it bests us relates to a kind of competitive vibe that permeates everything we do. It’s hard coded into what being a raider is.

So that’s an update on where I’m at right now. The writing is going quite well so far and I’ll post more about what I’ve produced once the chapter is done.

Getting Inside Inner Sanctum and Raiding Rankings

June 24, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, raiding guild, raiding research, rankings

I had originally planned to start off this blog post with a bit of a rant about my brain hurting from trying to muddle through the variation in raiding guild rankings on the different sites… but I’d much rather talk about something nice and then (if you make it that far) you can read my musings about what I find are challenges with our ranking systems! So let’s start with dessert…. my discussion with Inner Sanctum.

Talking with Inner Sanctum

I have to say that it was really nice to talk to Inner Sanctum and I’m grateful they allowed me access. They’re a very relaxed guild that seems to really enjoy having fun together while competing. They are also not afraid to ‘think’ about what they are doing. I would also describe them as quite private. I sensed a strong desire for a drama-free, socially positive environment that is focused on the needs of the guild and not so worried about what other guilds or the raiding community thinks about them. I think, on some level, they may have found my interest in their guild and their thoughts on raiding somewhat bemusing. Well, I for one am really glad they were willing to talk to me! Here are a few highlights:

Inner Sanctum (IS) is an elite raiding guild with a history that reaches back to ‘vanilla’ WoW. It has long been ranked amongst the top guilds and is still active on the scene, holding the current rank of 22 (according to wowprogress’ 25-man raiding guilds ranking). They’ve been as highly ranked as 6th during Ulduar and have enjoyed a number of world firsts over the years. Considering the thousands of guilds out there, accomplishing such high rankings and for such a long duration makes one pause and ask how and why. And when I interview top guilds, I usually ask them what their secret is. And the answer is often quite similar and not (I’m afraid) particularly revolutionary or dramatic, nor is it a quick or easy fix. It’s really just like our parents used to tell us when we were kids: most good results come from hard work and perseverance.

And in the case of Inner Sanctum they do have a few noticeable features that have allowed them to enjoy solid success. I should note that these methods are not completely unique to IS, but they did stand out for me in relation to how IS has been successful.

  • They make their social, positive atmosphere a priority for the guild. As Phailia, the GM of IS, says, “I think we have something that’s quite rare in top level guilds, which is a very good social atmosphere. You don’t want to be raiding with people you don’t like or like spending time with. We have a balance between having fun and being laid back and then putting your head down when it suits the guild to do so.” From my direct observation and interaction with other top level guilds, I’ve actually found that a good social atmosphere often exists in most of those guilds, but to acknowledge what Phailia says, I did notice that in the case of IS they really do make this a priority. It’s not just that they enjoy the nice social atmosphere that just ‘happens’ to be a side effect of playing together, they actually concentrate on making sure it’s there and won’t recruit members who aren’t also committed to this mindset.
  • They use a “groupthink” approach to problem solving and planning. Enk, one of IS’ officers and the raid leader, speaks about the way that IS  works through the challenge of progress raiding: “Being the raid leader is more like being a tactical leader and mostly listening to what people think and mixing and matching that to our strategy,” he explains. “When we brainstorm we make sure everyone can speak and no one speaks over each other. No one butts in and everyone gets time to talk. If they say something right then we try to incorporate it into our tactic.” This kind of collaborative group approach to raid planning and strategizing is not entirely unique to IS, but again speaks to the distinctive way in which most of the elite guilds try to problem solve while progress raiding.
  • They do things their way, including the use of some internally designed add-ons for boss fights. IS has its own boss mod that it uses during boss fights–this allows them more flexibility to adjust and respond to a boss fight while they are learning it, they explained to me. In addition, IS members spoke about how the guild does things their own way, not generally relying on any other tactics they have heard about but just figuring out what works for themselves. Daewyn, a newer member of the guild, talked about the learning curve he underwent while getting used to the ‘different’ way that IS liked to do things: “When I started raiding with the guild, I saw that IS did every boss fight differently,” he said. “The first week was quite hectic. Even with the fights I knew well, the tactics were quite different so it took me a while to be able to bring my performance up to the level I was used to.” This kind of unique approach is always going to be an adjustment for a new member of the guild but IS seemed quite protective of its desire to raid for themselves and not to be concerned so much about how every other guild does it.

IS noted that they felt that their ranking has been negatively impacted in part because they are determined not to work around a game mechanic in order to progress faster. This is an admittedly touchy subject amongst the elite raiding guilds. The question comes down to… if you use some element of the game (“a clever game mechanic” as Smasher from the EU-German guild For the Horde described it to me) to give you an advantage in a boss fight, is that manipulating or abusing game mechanics or just a creative response to a competitive situation? The question is hard for us to answer and often comes down what is seen as an ethical choice. Again, Smasher from For the Horde really put it succinctly to me in a recent interview saying that his guild (ranked #4) has the philosophy of wanting a ‘clean kill’ even if that means they have to sacrifice a world first to ensure they stay ‘clean’. This point of view is shared by IS. Of course this raises issues that can’t be addressed in this interview, but I think it hints at the complexity of this issue for the elite raiding guilds.

IS’ approach to recruiting raiders for their roster is quite strategic and restrained. As Phailia, the guild’s GM puts it, “We run with a small roster compared to other guilds; we don’t like to over recruit as a guild,” he explains. “We don’t see the point of having too many or sitting people out during a raid.” And like other competitive guilds, off specs are widely used to balance out their tight roster: “We do expect people to play off specs which hasn’t really been a problem for us so far.”

Their mature approach to scheduling and planning was particularly noteworthy in my discussions with IS. More so than in some of the other elite raiding guilds I’ve spoken to, I noted a more noticeable number of raiders who manage fulltime jobs/studies and personal lives while still maintaining the demanding (but not impossible, from their perspective) progress raiding schedule. ‘To me it comes down to planning your time well,’ explained Hentrenson, one member who indicated that he had a ‘regular 9-5 job’. And Kibu, another member, added, “I have a girlfriend and a normal job. You just find the balance.” Their schedule is somewhat unrelenting (7 pm-after midnight most nights), but still allowed members to maintain a degree of normalcy in their lives at least according to those I spoke with.

One area that I wanted to ask the guild about was the notion of being a ‘stepping stone’ for an ambitious competitive raider, meaning had any raiders joined IS as a way to improve their chances to jump up to one of the top 5 or 10 ranked guilds. The guild could not find any clear cut examples of raiders who had used IS in this manner. The main reason raiders had not lasted with IS, Enk explained, was that the player had not been prepared for the way that elite raiding works. And another area, as explained by IS member Kibu, was in relation to the learning curve that being in a guild like IS presents. “We had players that came to IS as maybe average at best,” he explains. “But when you spend time in the guild you automatically get to be a better player. We are not really a stepping stone in that people use us to go to a better guild but it’s a stepping stone to improve as a player.”

So what else makes Inner Sanctum special? The linguistic diversity stood out for me, too. It may surprise you to learn that currently we only have 8 EU English-language raiding guilds in the top forty ranked raiding guilds. Linguistic cohesiveness is becoming a more common feature among the top raiding guilds–even on the EU-English language raiding guilds–with guilds like Paragon (Finnish), For the Horde (German), Wraith (French), and Accidentally (Polish) becoming more prevalent. But like Method or Ensidia, Inner Sanctum boasts a nice diversity of members from all over the EU, a fact I’m finding to be less common amongst our top ranked guilds. I will say that it can be a challenge and a strength to have to overcome the linguistic and cultural differences that players from all over the EU might face when trying to raid together, especially if they are aiming for world best.

At the end of the day, IS comes across as a polished, positive and realistically oriented raiding guild. They love to compete but they are determined to do it on their own terms and in their own way without sacrificing their particular ideals along the way. And the fact that they’ve maintained such a high level of success over such a long period of time says something about the positive impact that their unique culture and point of view has had on the guild’s members and on their achievements. As far as Firelands go, IS is geared up and ready to go–I can only wish them the best of luck and will enjoy monitoring their progress (along with everyone else’s progress) in the coming weeks! Oh and Paltos, don’t think I forgot you–I hope your world record plans are going well. ;)

And by the way–if I had to cast a vote for prettiest/coolest looking logo, Inner Sanctum gets mine. I love it!

Some music, you say? No time for a raid-themed musical medley, but here’s something nice I heard this week. :)

And this song reminds me of the summer… and having a good day!

The Trouble with Raiding Guild Ranking

Quick update: I am arranging some time to speak to one of the designers of these ranking sites, so perhaps they’ll be able to shed some light on this issue for me. I’ll update later but the notes below still apply! :)

So I need to get something off my chest. I realise that it’s a little unreasonable to complain since most of these sites are player run and based off of varying data sources and tracking definitions, but I really do wish we could have a more uniform approach to determining guild rankings. Every tracking site I visit–guildox, wowtrack, wowprogress, etc–has slightly different information on guilds based on the tracking and ranking criteria that that site’s designers have opted to factor in. And not being a whiz at crunching numbers like this (or whatever those smartypants at the raiding progress sites do), I am left stumbling over why a guild might have 3 or 4 different positions in the ranking tables. Apparently it is based around the ways in which something is weighted–a Sinestra kill vs. a HC Nefarian kill, for example. I won’t get into the minute details of the differences between the systems, but suffice to say there are differences and sometimes, depending on where you look, one guild may be ranked 28th on one site, while they appear as 43rd on another, and 23rd on yet another. How can that be so? Obviously without a uniformly agreed-upon scoring system for ranking guilds, this kind of variation is inevitable. But it certainly makes it difficult to really know what rank you really have.

In other contexts, ranking tables exist for different reasons. Consider these examples: tennis and university rankings. There is a single ranking table for professional tennis. But when it comes to universities, there appear to be multiple guides/ranking tables. In the case of tennis, apparently there was an attempt to have two rankings systems for a while, but, according to the ATP they discontinued the use of both because “having two, simultaneously running systems – the rankings and the Race – was confusing and difficult for fans to follow.” [ATP, 2011] Sounds familiar. And then we get to the university ranking tables. Off the top of my head, in the UK we have several ranking systems that people turn to (and universities will often highlight the guide that gives them the most favourable ranking): the Guardian’s university guide, the Complete University Guide, the Times’ World University Rankings, and so on.  And when I checked my own university’s rankings, we varied. Sure, we’re in the top ten (or top five) most of the time, but it’s not consistent. This, I know, is based on the priority the ranking table designers place on certain aspects of the higher education institution. Does impact of the research matter more than the quality of education? Is it about the number of citations of academics in the university versus the successful placement of university graduates into jobs? Does student satisfaction matter more than entrance exam scores?

So which is better for raiding? One system that tells you who is getting results or a system that indicates the quality of work produced? I’d have to say, based on the way that I view raiding, the former seems more applicable. If, for example, we were going to rank the quality of raiding guilds or the quality of the performance during boss fights, a system similar to the university ranking tables would make more sense since there are more factors that go into making for a ‘good’ guild: results produced, social atmosphere, schedule, stability, etc. But when it comes to progression raiding, we’re quite limited in what we want to know: who gets there first. This would seem more in line with a single ranking system–but one that we can all agree on.

But this doesn’t really solve my dilemma in the meantime. Which site can I rely on for the most valid depiction of raiding progress results? The most popular? The most cleanly divided (separating 10-man and 25-man results)? The most well designed points system? I have no idea. I suspect that we may never completely agree on this as there are differing opinions on what counts most with progress raiding and what results are seen as more ‘important’. But you can’t always reward fairly or realistically for the most ‘difficult’ fights. After all, if we go back to a sport like tennis, it may not be the final of a tennis tournament that’s the most compelling or ‘difficult’ for the tennis players involved. It may have been a quarter final or semi final. (And yes I know this is not perfectly in alignment with raiding as each boss fight is different, whereas tennis matches in the same tournament will be identical as far as rules and scope are concerned.)

Maybe it’s time we formed a kind of ‘World Raiding Committee’ (like the Olympics Committee?) consisting of ranking site designers, raiders, and more to help us come up with a fairly designed system we can all turn to? Is that even possible in our community? It sure would make life easier on me! :)

What makes a raiding guild ‘elite’ and this week’s raid-themed musical medley

June 10, 2011 By: Ladan Category: elite, progress raiding, raid-themed musical medley, raiding guild, raiding research

This week’s topics will cover some thoughts I’ve been having about what makes for an elite raiding guild and will wrap up with this week’s raid-themed musical medley.

What is an elite raiding guild?

If I’ve spoken to you about my research, you know that I’ve been speaking with raiders from all sorts of backgrounds and rankings. This is helping me document the most complete picture of what we are doing in the raiding community and how we like to pursue our love of raiding. In addition to casual, social, hard core, and high-level raiding guilds, I’ve also had a chance to speak to quite a few of what I call the ‘elite raiding guilds’ about their experiences. These experiences have been extremely rewarding and the next few blog posts will be about my time speaking to guilds like Inner Sanctum, For the Horde, and Ensidia. I also have a very long overdue post about the amazing interviews I did with Blood Legion and Premonition many moons ago.

So what makes an ‘elite raiding guild’ elite? Well this brings me to some interesting ideas about what and how we describe guilds in raiding. For example, a guild might be called social or casual while another could be called hard core or elite. These descriptive terms are often based on two factors: level of success and raiding schedule. One might also add in skill level, but that’s somewhat problematic as I’m finding variation in skill at different levels. But in the case of what we often refer to as elite raiding guilds, I’d say they generally fall within the top 50 or 100 of the world rankings (though these numbers seem arbitrary and are even contested by those who fall in the top rankings). But more than that I’d say that the designation of elite could relate to the pace of progression. If a raiding guild has successfully cleared all of the latest tier or heroic raiding content and has been comfortably farming the content for a significant period of time (like the past few months), I’d say that puts them in the area of elite, moreso than hard core. Another criteria for an elite raiding guild would be competitiveness. On some level these guilds are looking for top rankings in the world or their region. They gear up for this strategically and are often found on the public test realm (PTR) before new content comes out to give themselves an added advantage once the content goes live. If we look at the current pace of progression, for example, and consider the two least killed bosses–heroic Al’Akir and Ascendant Council–we’re only in the hundreds as far as guilds who have cleared all of the content. And I’d say that the number of those who are actually comfortably farming raid content is even smaller.

I think I’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d argue with me about the fact that guilds like Paragon, Method, Adept, Ensidia, vodka, and For the Horde are clear examples of elite raiding guilds. I think I could even safely say that every guild that cleared the content within, say, 2.5-3 months of release are elite raiding guilds. But does it have to stop there? Is it about the activities of these guilds? Their skill? Their mind set? Is it a title of distinction that we (or Blizzard’s achievements) bestow on the select few? I recall back in November/December when I did the raider personality test with Paragon that when I asked the raiders responding to identify what type of guild they were in, some members of known elite raiding guilds (Paragon, in particular) were a bit concerned about being able to verify if the raiders who reported they were in elite guilds were in fact in those guilds. Why do we need to verify it? Is there a kind of status or identity that we have associated with the term ‘elite’ that needs protecting or preserving for the deserving few?

And what about the elite raider him or herself? Do they only exist in elite raiding guilds? Haven’t we all got raiders in our guilds–even at the most casual levels–that just seem to significantly exceed the skill and mindset level of the rest of the team? Those guys who just seem to get the fights without even having to think about them very much or who never ever seem to make mistakes? I can say that from speaking with and observing raiders in casual/social guilds and even more so in the hard core or high-level guilds we definitely have ‘elite’ raiders in those guilds too. They just seem to have an innate ability to raid well. Their decision to remain with a lower ranked guild may have more to do with the social side of raiding than the performance side. They want to play with their friends or don’t want to let their raiding guild down.

So what makes an elite raider elite? Or an elite raiding guild elite? I’m not exactly sure but they are definitely questions that are on my mind! And you can imagine that this leads to a whole other level of questions about what it means to call a guild social? Casual? Focused? Hard core? High-level? Hybrid? We may never have a perfect definition, at least not one that will ever satisfy all raiders out there.

Raid-Themed Musical Medley: Grunge!

I am taking a slightly different approach to this week’s medley, but hey this is my idea so I get to make the rules, right? Anyway, it’s a grunge music themed medley! This medley was created for someone dear to me who is going through an extremely difficult time right now–you know who you are and I hope you enjoy these selections; I even got Pearl Jam in there! ;)

First up we have the lords of grunge, Nirvana, covering a Meat Puppets’ song ‘Lake of Fire’. I believe the concept is quite self explanatory, particularly with Firelands coming! Just remember: lake of fire = bad.

Next up this song reminds me of those days and days of wipes during progress raiding: Soundgarden’s ‘Fell on Black Days’. We keep falling and falling, failing and failing… until something finally clicks and we get that pesky boss. What’s next?

And finally, to round us up, we have Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’. This song immediately reminded me of that classic fight scenario where everyone is dead except for a single tank and healer. The boss is at less than 1% and manages to die from the remaining dots and whatever damage the tank and healer can do. Yes, mr. tank and ms. healer–’you’re still alive…’ Now go raise the dead.

Being on the other side of the desk…

April 16, 2011 By: Ladan Category: media, raiding research, World of Warcraft

I had an invaluable opportunity a few days ago to be interviewed by the guys at manaflask about my research–actually “RonBurgundy” interviewed me. It was really exciting; he’s dreamy. And while it may take me a long time to stop cringing at seeing my name in a media piece or hearing the sound of my own voice in an interview, I can only thank them for the chance to spread the word about the research I’m doing into raiding. Thanks, “Ron” and the lovely folks of manaflask!

In fact this experience has helped me in an unexpected way. This was the first time I’ve had a chance to really explain (without a time limit, even!) why I’m doing my research, how I’ve done it, what I’m finding out, and the impact I hope to make.  I think, as a researcher, I sometimes forget to really pause and elucidate–in terms that most can understand–what I am doing. The PhD process is challenging at best, soul-sapping at worst, but it’s so important to stop and reflect. And considering the multifaceted lives we lead with technology seeping out of our very pores, it can be easy to forget to stop and think about what we do and why. Of course, that’s something I’ve often felt is distinctive about raiders. Raiders are constantly reflecting. “Why did we wipe?” “What failed?” “What should we do differently this time?”

But anyway, this is a link to the interview. I hope you enjoy! And if anyone (or any raiding guild) wants to talk to me about their thoughts on raiding and the raiding culture, please do let me know. I’d be happy to speak with you. :) Contact me via the email address I provide on my “About” page.

Happy new year and personality test, part 2 posted!

January 01, 2011 By: Ladan Category: personality tests, raiding research

Happy new year, everyone! I hope you had a nice holiday season and had a great new year. I also trust you got some rest and relaxation in the midst of Cataclysm action!

Well I’m finally getting caught up on some important WoW related work after being blown out by some deadlines and Christmas-related activity. I’ve posted part 2 of our personality test results, my analysis and discussion. It’s a long post and I ended up cutting it down because it could go on forever at that rate! Anyways, feel free to go check it out on the Paragon site:

More posts and a new poll are coming up soon too!



Back from Venice

November 23, 2010 By: Ladan Category: computer, play space, raiding research

I have waited all my life to be able to say “I have just returned from Venice…” And here I am, just back from Venice. Of course I didn’t expect my first time* in Venice to be at an academic conference, but hey at least I got to do it in Venice! Venice is truly like no place on earth and it was a really nice conference.

* Technically it was my second time; I was there when I was 1 and apparently the waiters cooed over me and fed me pasta. I can’t say I remember this, though…. but my mother loves to tell that story.

Some of you know I was going there to participate in a conference and present some of my findings about WoW and raiding. I think it went pretty well. I wanted to just highlight how some of it went while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Most of the participants at the conferences I’ve spoken at seem to have generally have little understanding of gaming, especially online games. This is partly because I don’t generally go to “games research” conferences. That’s not really a conscious thing on my part. I tend to go to conferences that are more about concepts than ones that have similar types of researchers. Like in July I went to a sports and leisure studies conference as a lot of sports theory actually relates to raiding; and in September I was in London at the Royal Geographical Society because I’m doing my PhD research in geography and a lot of my work relates to space and how populations (our gaming culture) interact and work together–big geographical concepts so no huge shock there–but as usual, I’m one of maybe 2 people out of 500 doing something with games. Not that I don’t get a little tired sometimes of having to spend the majority of my speaking time explaining what an MMO is or what the difference is between a videogame and a computer game.

Anyway, this conference was all about the constructed environment. And, as you can imagine, it attracted architects, designers, artists, civil engineers, urban planners, and a few oddballs like me and others who are looking at the social impacts of constructed environments and virtual environments. I actually found myself talking about the PHYSICAL constructed environment and the VIRTUAL environment for gamers, as I strongly believe they both have a big impact on how raiders manage their spaces of play. Our interest in sharing and analysing our UIs and our desktop gaming set up is evidence of that, I believe.

As with most academic conferences, I had a 30-minute time slot where I was supposed to present some findings and then entertain questions (I’m going to actually record my comments over my powerpoint and post it soon) but actually ended up speaking for over an hour due to questions, comments, and the interest from participants. I showed examples of how our desktop spaces of play are often very functional and laid out to play communally. I also showed how we modify our game portal (UI) for function, performance, and aesthetics. I think the idea of altering the environment we have for our own purposes is something quite unique in gaming. You can’t do too much user modification in a videogame, for example.

I did get to share one important factor that I think designers and architects need to consider when thinking about future design work: we need better spaces for play.  We need communal spaces, we need consideration of the technological requirements, we want to play together, we want to play effectively, and studies are now showing that even as we ‘grow up’ we are not going to stop playing. I think this was both surprising and eye-opening for a lot of them. I think the assumptions formed from what the media says has informed their perceptions of how we game and what our playing needs are. If I can get this message across among the disciplines that are responsible for designing our homes and public spaces then perhaps we can look forward to more innovative and interesting spaces to play in.

Do we have a raider personality?

November 08, 2010 By: Ladan Category: personality tests, raider, raiding research

Paragon and I have launched a new experiment–asking raiders to take a short personality test and then post their results. You can either visit Paragon’s site to complete the test (and post your results!) or do the test here (and post the result in the comments below). We’re getting an excellent response so far on the Paragon site and I’m already seeing some interesting trends. Is this telling us anything? I don’t know yet, but it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure to ‘check’ each other out and see who out there has our personality in common. It’s important to note that there is no wrong personality type, incidentally. Some may seem more prevalent amongst those who like to raid, however.

These are the details as we’ve posted on the Paragon forum:

We here at Paragon have been planning to do this research with Ladan for some time already. It’s about all of us; World of Warcraft players and raiders. We are happy to launch this mini-research here on our site. We hope people will take the time, do the test and tell their friends about the idea. What’s this all about then? Read on if you want to find out, I’m posting this in behalf of Ladan:


Greetings! My name is Ladan and I’m a PhD research student based in the UK (at Durham University) and I’m researching World of Warcraft and WoW raiders in particular. My research site is Some of you may already be aware of the research I’ve been doing on the raiding culture and what distinguishes us from other gamers. So far I have some basic ideas about who we are and what is important to us, like the following:

* We have values–we often have a specific idea of what we expect in a good raider and what makes a good member of the raiding culture

* We are competitive–for many of us we want to excel and exceed expectations

* We like to work hard and play hard–many of us put in a lot of time to achieve success in raiding and to fine tune our characters

* We are willing to learn–we are ok with failure as long as we are learning and progressing

* We are outcomes focused–we live in a world that’s got a lot of goals and outcomes to aim for and we like that (we’ve even made our own ranking system, discussion forums, and theory crafting sites to support this!)

So what now? Well, my work continues apace (please check my site, vote in my polls, and add comments!) and I’m currently writing up my findings. But now I’ve got something new to share.

Paragon has been a huge help and support to my ongoing research and I’m excited to announce a new mini-research project that we’re launching together!

Some time ago, members of Paragon (in their previous guild) did an informal personality test (the Myers-Briggs test) to ascertain what kinds of personalities their new raiders had and how they would fit into the pre-existing raiding team. This wasn’t meant to exclude members, but more to understand their approach to gameplay and how they would work on the team. Anecdotally, these members noticed a trend of more common ‘types’ of personalities who raided, most especially those who were the most successful at raiding.

We’d like to revive that test and see if we’ve got a trend of personality types among successful raider.

For some more information on personality types (if you want to know how accurate it is and if you see yourself in the description), see: and … _Indicator. If you want to see how rare or prevalent your personality type is, this is interesting: … evelopment.

What should you do:

1. First off, please complete the test:

Note: There are slightly different tests and I’m sure some may be better than this one, but to make this as accurate as possible, we want everyone to take the same test–also it only takes about 5 minutes at the most, so that’s not too painful.

2. Respond to this post with your resulting personality type. You can PM Xenophics or myself (at Ladan here) if you prefer privacy. The personality test result should look something like this:

Your Type is


Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging

Strength of the preferences %

11 62 50 33

(FYI, that’s my personality type… scary, I know.)

3. Then include the following info:

** Gender (M/F, pretty sure I didn’t need to explain this… :P )

** Type of server (eg: PVP/PVE/RP, etc)

** Horde or alliance and race (e.g. Horde/Blood Elf)

** Main class and spec played during raids (e.g. Priest: Shadow)

** Language and location of server (eg: EU-English, EU-Russian, etc.)

** A brief description of your type of raiding guild (e.g.: hard core, social/casual, elite, etc.)

NOTE on this: I’ve given some examples below of types of raiding guilds but feel free to come up with a different description or a hybrid of what I’ve suggested below–these definitions are troublesome, as I know you’d agree.

NOTE: What do I mean by hard core, elite and social/casual guilds?

HARD CORE: A guild that is primarily focused on raiding, is competitive and generally reaches high rankings on its server or their region (top 100, for example). This guild expects full or majority attendance (majority is something like 80% of the time) on its progress raiding nights. Hard core guilds are often extremely sociable in nature and do other things beyond raiding but raiding is its primary reason for existence.

ELITE: This is a guild that has achieved world or regional firsts in major raiding achievements (such as world first in the LK kill or US first on the Algalon kill). They are basically hard core in nature but they’ve reached an even higher level of achievement.

SOCIAL/CASUAL: A guild that is focused on raiding but also has social elements (social members, other activities beyond raiding) and generally a more forgiving schedule for guild members’ personal lives (families, work, school, etc.). It aims to achieve success in raiding but may not be as focused on high rankings or a strict attendance requirement. Like its hard core counterpart, social/casual guilds are often very competitive in nature and have skilled raiders but may have to accept a slightly lower success rate to accommodate its members and schedule.

Thanks! Now go test your personality. :) And BE HONEST! There is no wrong personality type.

Taking time to look at…

July 13, 2010 By: Ladan Category: raiding culture, raiding research, subculture

I’ve been so busy lately that my poor site has been neglected. A sad thing considering all the work that Alex and I put into setting it up in the first place….

I believe we’re encountering a problem with the forums right now too, which I’m endeavouring to sort out. But things will pick up again shortly! I’m going to begin posting a series of reflections–drawn largely from my preliminary research findings–on aspects of our raiding subculture over the next few weeks. Basically, this is my feeble attempt to delineate what the distinguishing features are that make us our own sort of gaming culture–what I like to call the raiding subculture. I’ve been looking at a few key areas:

1. Aims and objectives. This–you might say–is what our subculture is all about. I realise that’s a pretty obvious one, but it’s still important to delineate it. What is our subculture trying to do? What is the objective of being a raider? Believe it or not, this question may have a few different answers. What focus do we place on achieving our culture’s objectives?

2. Values and norms. Again, an important one because it often dictates how we behave and relate in our social grouping. What do we value the most in our subculture? What do we believe is the most important value or norm of our subculture? What will we tolerate; what do we expect; what will we reject?

3. Language. Many subculture researchers (studying things like biker culture or the goth movement) often point out that subcultures have their own language–their own ‘lingo’. I’d say that we have one. We’ve partly created it for ease and efficiency (our love of acronyms [WoW, MMO, FTW, BRB, AFK....] for one!)  and we’ve partly created it from other influences (people using English as a second language, for example, or FPS videogamers bringing their lingo with them into an MMO).

4. Clothing and kit. Here I’m not talking about the player behind the computer. I’m talking about our in-game accumulation and attachment to what we’re wearing. How well we’re ‘geared’ is a crucial aspect of being part of this culture. In fact, I’d say it’s got an almost unique place in this culture–unlike a person who dresses a certain way to identify him or herself with a culture (heavy metal fan wearing t-shirts from his favourite bands, for example), we use clothing and kit as a way to improve performance. The closest thing I can find is an elite competitive swimmer wearing streamlined swimming suits and caps to improve their performance.

5. Attitudes. This is probably a closely linked one with #2 above, but I think the general attitude and perception of a raider is important to consider in this subculture. What do we think about what we do? Why do we do it? What do we think of other raiders?

6. Group structure and organisation. Since raiding is so heavily dependent on group structure and dynamics, I think this deserves its own category. How do we like to organise ourselves? What influences those decisions? What group structure and organisation is the most successful? What values do we place in leadership? And what about group values?

I’ll take time to focus on each of these and hopefully, you will join in the discussion as well! :)

I hope you’re having a beautiful summer.