Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for July, 2010

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.

Summertime raiding

July 30, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Polls, raiding, raiding guild, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft

Now I realise this is a blatantly northern hemisphere topic, particularly for this time of year. But then again, those in the southern hemisphere can just readjust this notion to when summer takes place down south and see if it’s still true.

Anyway! Having said that, I’d like to comment a bit about the poll as I’m going to put a new one up. My very inadequate sampling here indicates that the majority of you (56%) are still around but are impacted by the away time that can often typify summer. You’ve got holidays, you’ve got cabin fever, you’ve got a serious case of disinterest in the game. Whatever the reason, you find yourself wavering.

I’m not particularly surprised by that finding.

What did surprise me is the fact that 32% of you indicated that summertime has no impact on your raiding activity levels. Perhaps you don’t raid much anyway so the summertime does not impact your activity levels, or perhaps you just don’t see the point of or have the opportunity to go on holidays. Or perhaps your raiding levels are consistent with what raiding content you are working on right now and summertime just doesn’t play into it.

I was surprised by this as I had expected a higher number to have voted for the “yes” option (yes meaning you find summertime to significantly impact your raiding), but only 11% of you did. I had expected the “yes” and “no” answers to be flipped.

And of course, it goes without saying that a person who is completely disinterested in raiding right now is unlikely to look at a site like this (about raiding) or vote in a poll. If they want to do other things during the summer, that often means that they’d be disinterested in being at their computers full stop. This fact could be another reason why the “yes” vote was quite low.

But, having written that, what this poll is telling me is that the majority of you (88%) sustain some level of raiding activity during the summer.

I suppose my next question would logically be “What kind of raiding activity do you do during the summer?” Some may indicate that they still raid but, if they have completed the raiding content (like our world top guilds), they may be doing less raids or alt-related raids. Some may find that they end up raiding still but have to pug a few players, as their regular cadre of raiders is a bit inconsistent (due to having time off all over the place). An interesting question, I suppose.

All I know is this feels very much like it has before new expansions come out. Blizzard always seems to let us drag out those long months before the late-year release of the new expansion. Doesn’t it feel like pre-WotLK in 2008? All over again? Maybe we’re the Groundhog Day of MMOs.

Anyway, I’m going to put a new poll up!

Thanks for participating and please feel free to comment below. Are you surprised by the results? Or is it what you expected?

Chatting with Adept

July 19, 2010 By: Ladan Category: raider, raiding guild

I had a rare opportunity to chat with members of the US Adept Guild–the Oceanic #1, US #2 and World #10–over the weekend. What a delight! These guys are not only talented and very competent raiders but they provided a very insightful reflection on the state of raiding and its future outlook.

While I have almost 2 hours of interview data to go over still (let’s hope I can do this with my laptop perched on my lap while I sit outside enjoying the summer!), one thing struck me while I spoke to Adept: the challenges they face during raids are generally the same as experienced by average raiding guilds. What makes them truly different is the way they solve these challenges. They seemed to share an almost like mind in their attitude toward raiding. I don’t mean to suggest all raiding guilds need to nurture a hive mind to function, but I think that shared vision and goal  paired with a commitment to consistency has really worked for this particular guild.

And this guild has done this in spite of the main nemesis we all complain about: GAME LAG. Evidently due to something called Packet Loss and other fancy IT tech terms (like the fact that their computers have to communicate with US servers all the way from Australia/New Zealand, for the most part) that Adept guildleader Westa was confusing/mesmerising me with, Adept has had to factor major lag problems into their raiding strategy. Talk about being agile–and they are still the World #10 and US #2! Makes me think twice before I whinge again about lag during a raid–or are we just making excuses for our poor performance?

I’ll try to share more as I go through my notes, but I just had to quickly share this wonderful opportunity that I had. I’m going to be speaking to a few more top guilds and will share tidbits from those interviews as well.

Defining aspects of the raiding culture: starting with language

July 18, 2010 By: Ladan Category: raider lingo, raiding culture, subculture, World of Warcraft

Let’s look at language, as it’s used and exists in the raiding culture.

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).

The lingo of raiders permeates the game environment. This is primarily due to the nature of our in-game communication and game mechanics. I don’t think I’ve had a day in my life as a WoW player where, even before I became a raider in late 2006, raiding-influenced lingo wasn’t cropping up around me. This most often cropped up on the general chat and (before the in-game group search mechanics exist) the LFM channel. There, our first piece of lingo, LFM: “Looking for more.” For the unfamiliar, as WoW (like most MMOs) is often group-activity based, it’s often the case that MMO gamers will group up to perform certain tasks or activities. It’s often that pre-set social groups like guilds will do group activities together, but other times, people are trying to PUG–pick up group. Yes, I’ve turned an acronym, which is a noun, into a verb. This happens a lot in games like WoW. We live in acronyms. Here are some good examples:

[This excerpt is picked up directly from the passive collecting program that I use, called Elephant. I have X'ed out the players' names.]

5/9 10:23:17.138  [2. Trade] Zxxxx: war dps lfg ICC10 / heroes 2773

5/9 10:23:28.372  [2. Trade] Exxxx: WTS Primordial Saronite 2k

5/9 10:23:56.985  [2. Trade] Fxxxx: any Jcers

5/9 10:24:00.525  [2. Trade] Dxxxx: LFM 2 healers and ranged dps icc fresh run

These are trade comments and took place over a 43 second period. To the initiated this means nothing because it is intuitively understood. To the uninitiated it means nothing because it’s a jumble of abbreviations and acronyms and game words (like “primordial saronite”), combining to leave the reader wondering if they’ve left a game and opened up the pages of an obscure technical manual. And we don’t just have lingo in this culture. We have lingo within lingo. But let’s deconstruct them a bit.

DPS: damage per second. This is so familiar to the WoW raider culture that we use it to describe damage dealers in the game. A mage is not a “wizard-like caster of spells” anymore but is now a “ranged dps”. And DPS is not just a noun. It’s a verb. “I’m DPSing.” “You need more DPS.”

WTS: want to sell. This one has a mirror acronym: WTB (want to buy). I often find it humorous that we rarely see any actual selling and buying call outs on the trade channel. People just use it for universal announcements because it’s our only universal channel. Logical, really.

JCers: jewelcrafters. A profession in the game.

I think what we see here in the examples above is a tendency, in the raider culture lingo/language, toward the efficient. We don’t want to waste time typing out “want to sell” every time we want to sell something. Our orientation is toward making the most of our time to move us more efficiently toward the more important reasons for being in the game: raiding. Language and therefore communication are often a means to an end.

Not to say that that’s the only reason we use this kind of abbreviated language; it’s also influenced by mobile texting (GTG, U, etc) and–on the EU servers at least–restricted language abilities.

While the language and its use has many functions in the raiding culture, I would say that there is enough distinctiveness that we can see it comprising an important role. A few commonly used terms and expressions are also distinctive and unique to the raiding culture (even unique to WoW, I’d dare say):

  • Grind. Ahh the grind. We have a concept of this is in English already (the daily grind, etc), but in WoW lingo terms it gets a broader meaning. We use it to refer to something we have to do repeatedly in order to get something. Maybe for reputation points, for gear, for money. Generally we do this unwillingly but we do it with purpose. The Grind is an important aspect in the life of a raider–particularly at key junctures in game development (like when we have a patch or new release).
  • Achievements. This is an interesting one. We–the raider culture–did not make this word, but it permeates us. The very word seems to suggest our identity and sense of meaning in the game. And even though quite a few achievements have nothing to do with raiding itself, many raiders (particularly those looking to form PUG raids) will demand certain raid-related “achievements” in order to let strangers join them in groups. We can be identified by this word and its placement in the culture. Often having a low achievement score–or the lack of particular achievements–can dictate how someone views us. This word is also an example of how the raiding culture changes. Before the introduction of achievements around the release of WotLK (yes, another acronym! :) ) we had no overt way of judging someone. How we formed groups and the language we used for it was somewhat different. So, again, we have adopted a more efficient way (thanks to the game designers at least!) of assessing each other and defining value in each other–achievements.

And then we have gamer-speak that’s been integrated into raider-speak: n00b, l33t, boss, etc.

So, this is an extremely brief and very limited discussion (much more to come on this one as I go back through my year’s worth of collected notes) that suggests that language and its unique features definitely play a role in the raiding culture.

What other words/phrases/acronyms stand out for you in the raiding culture?

Forums working again

July 14, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Uncategorized

Thanks to Alex the poor, neglected forums are  back up and running. I think I’ll start up some new discussions, just to breathe life back into them.

New poll!

July 13, 2010 By: Ladan Category: raiding

I’ve put up a new poll…

I have noticed that summertime can be the death of many raiding guilds–or at least put them into a deep sleep. Do you suffer from summeritis (apologies to our southern hemisphere friends–mayhaps you encounter the same thing in December-February?)?

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.

Ladan