This post is part of the Bloggy Christmas MMO & gaming and blogosphere event.
In this world, there are some things you do every day and never think twice about. For example, drive a car to the grocery store and chat a little to the cashier as you check out. Those things are simple, right?
To you, maybe. But to others, these small things may be mountains to overcome. Folks who are anxious may find driving or shopping intimidating journeys to surmount. Folks who are shy or socially awkward may find a challenge in dealing with strangers, or trying to sound somewhat normal when talking to that cashier behind the counter.
Why do I start this otherwise positive-meaning post with these thoughts?
Because in the fantasy worlds of our MMOs, there are people who find aspects of the game really intimidating, while other people breeze right through them without a thought. I’m one of those people who find some things difficult. My crippling issues are a combination of shyness and perfectionism. I’m aware of my issues, but they still prevent me from taking part in MMO content, specifically group content.
I’m afraid to group with people I don’t know well. This is because I’m afraid that my performance in a group will somehow fail their expectations, or cause the group to fail in their objective. I’m scared of the ridicule and the min-maxers who might /kick me and belittle my gaming skill. And this keeps me from attempting group content in all MMOs that I play.
Except for FFXIV.
I love the trend of MMOs that are moving towards providing solo-specific content. I like the freedom of being able to pick up a game and put it down on my own schedule. I don’t feel pressured to play to a certain level, or be geared to a certain point – if I fail a quest, I’m the only one who is effected. I can read the quest text slowly, watch the cut scenes and progress at my own speed.
What’s not to like?
And games like GW2 with solo-grouping public events? Those are wonderful for me. The whole idea of being an anonymous part of a group – working together with people to achieve something, but no one really knowing I’m there – is so perfect for me. That’s why I loved the GW2 zerg events, even if other people didn’t. I could still do things with people, but I didn’t have to worry about the pressure of performance.
That all changed when I started playing FFXIV over a year ago.
One of the reasons I decided to play FFXIV was because of my rough experiences in FFXI… which I had to quit due to the whole game being forced group content at the time. I just couldn’t handle it. I even rolled Red Mage and spent hours grinding at-level creatures to try to make my solo dreams work. I never achieved a chocobo. I think I may have reached level 20 at the most. When I unsubbed from FFXI, I put down MMOs for a long time, frustrated with forced grouping.
So when FFXIV came out, with the possibility to redeem myself and earn the things I never could in FFXI, I rose to the “challenge.” I was such a happy camper to discover so much of it could be soloed. There were FATES, too, those dynamic events where I could rampage across the land in a group of people, but never needing to group. And of course, there was the Final Fantasy nostalgia which the game does so well.
There was just one little snag to it all. To complete the main storyline (which I wanted to do, because I enjoy the story), I had to overcome my fear of PUGs to group in dungeons at certain points in the story.
Gently Nudged Out of My Comfort Zone
“Enter the Duty Finder and complete -Dungeon Name Here-” became the bane of my FFXIV experience. Remember how I talked about how something easy to you (using Duty Finder to complete a dungeon) could be difficult for others? This was my big challenge.
I spent at least 5 minutes working up the courage to click the Find Duty button every time. And when I did, I watched the Duty Finder window, almost paralyzed with anxiety. My hands literally shook through the first few dungeons. Of course, it didn’t help that I was playing the healer in the beginning. Dumb choice for a first timer.
But you know, despite that, we always made it through the dungeon just fine. I always spoke up and let people know that I was new at this, though I did take time to read about the encounters in the dungeon, and sometimes watch videos, before I went in. I tried my hardest to fill whatever role I was there to play, and people were usually very nice about it. These were days before the commendation system, so a nice “Thanks” was all you got to let you know you did a good enough job.
Still, though I was making it through the dungeons one by one, it was a terrifying experience. I remember putting off running Brayflox story mode for months (yes, months), which stopped my progression cold. I even pondered quitting the game at that point, realizing that I’d have nothing but a series of dungeons and primals ahead of me before I could reach level cap.
Instead, I made a job switch from White Mage to Bard. I discovered the Bard’s play style, while usually not what I’d pick, was forgiving and an excellent choice for someone like me, who needed to learn dungeon mechanics. Somehow, I began to progress again, counting each victory in a dungeon as a personal success.
This game was pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I wasn’t giving up. I was succeeding!
I was also learning things about the community and other players. I discovered that there were other people who were new to the dungeons, who seemed relieved to hear me announce “Hey, this is my first time.” Many times I heard “Yeah, mine too.” Or “My first try on a tank. Please be gentle.”
These people weren’t those raging leetists that I feared. In fact, I saw very little of that at all… well up until you hit things like Brayflox HM where people wanted speed runs and got nasty if you were new or held them up.
I started to realize the people I was afraid of grouping with are just people, too. And though it took a long time, I found it easier and easier to click the Join Duty button when I needed to do a dungeon.
Self Discovery and Character Growth
When changes came to the dungeon roulette earlier this year that allowed you to work on getting more Myth Tomes per run, that ended up being the best way (at the time) for me to earn my ilvl 90 armor. I bit the bullet, and started running the daily roulette dungeons.
Now this… again, is something small for others… but something huge for me. To willingly opt into running a dungeon, with a PUG, even a lower-leveled one… that’s just not something I’d have done a year ago. And yet, I began doing it every day (sometimes twice, as I was trying to gear up an alt).
And I discovered something about myself. I discovered I was a pretty good teammate. In fact, I was able to use my knowledge to teach other new players the dungeon mechanics. I was the voice that said “We can do this” during someone’s first Titan fight when the other DPS started moaning that we wiped the first attempt (we did it the second try). I was the one who patiently explained boss mechanics to new tanks and cheered for them when we beat the encounter. I was the one who challenged myself to fight Garuda again to help out frustrated guild mates who had failed it over and over before. And we won.
There were times where I realized I was having fun, too. Running dungeons that I knew well due to repetition, with a good solid group, was now a breeze. And it felt good because everyone performed well, got the job done, and earned the Myth reward.
Earning my ilvl 90 armor for my bard, Zuri, was more than just the armor. It was a confirmation that I could do this. That I could overcome shyness that cripples interacting with other people and my enjoyment of the game. That I can not only be part of a group, but I can teach and encourage to other new people, who may be just as nervous as I once was.
I eventually went on to earn my relic weapon for Zuri, and I’m now working on that content with Tai. These are things I couldn’t have done a year ago.
Now, does that mean I’ve completely overcome my fears? Hahaha… not a chance! I may not be scared to click the Duty button anymore, but I also don’t run dungeons unless I have to. I still read up ahead of time and admit if I’m new. I’ve never attempted Coil or Extreme Modes of anything, and I really don’t want to. I balk at the idea of rolling an alt (despite my normal altaholic ways) because I know I have to work through all those dungeons again. I can do it, but I’d rather not. I’ve also not worked up the courage to play a tank, even though I like tanking. 😄
But, I think I’ve come a long way. And I’ve seen it trickle over to other games that I play. For example, in ArcheAge, I was quick to send a group invite to other people who were all waiting to fight the same boss mob as I was. We’d join up, get the job done, and be much happier than if we had sat there and waited forever, competing to strike the first blow when the mob respawned.
Simple, right? I would have been too shy to do that before now.
I’m still a very shy person. I’m still an introvert and a bit of a hermit IRL.
But I’m starting to learn, with the help of MMO gaming, that my fears are the real enemy here. Not the community, who I always thought would be these nasty leet “LOL NOOB” gamers… and turned out to be pretty okay. I still view new group content as a challenge to overcome – more internally than a test of my gaming skill.
It’s giving me the courage to face my group-fear. And it’s given me the courage to write about it here, where everyone can read these personal experiences.
So in closing, this holiday season and beyond, be kind to your PUG mates, especially the new ones who are putting forth effort to learn. You never know how your patience and encouragement can empower someone else.