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Social Cohesion, colleagues, friends

Humanmoose wrote in http://antlergirl.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/time-for-some-spring-cleaning/ an entry about having a break from WoW – and mentioned a lack of connection with the current game and/or players.  I started to make a comment, but then it got a bit long.

I think the thing that makes tight communities is the shared experiences.  That are, more or less, pleasant socially, even if the circumstances may be somewhat trying?

When I was at university, there were some halls of residence that were, let’s say, rather basic in construction – some said that the architect won an award for them, some said that they were built in the 60s with a projected lifespan of 20 years.  These halls were far from the attractive Main Founders Hall of residence, which adorned (and still does) the university brochures and website.  These halls were made of grey breezeblock, unpainted – some levels were actually below ground, and there were occasional sightings of cockroaches.  Those who lived close to each other could share those experiences and felt richer for it – there is nothing like having to go down two flights of stairs, across a long corridor and up another two, just because you had a dull red thumb-length insect with enormous antennae waving at you ominously, to bind you together.  And the meetings in the carpark over the persistent fire alarms – and the laughter at the latecomers, the couples, the naked in blankets…  for the third time in that cold early morning.  Those things give a sense of cohesion.

If your guild is made up of people that you know IRL, then to a certain extent, you may start with a feeling that you have shared experiences – and this may bind you together – but this is not automatic – because people inhabit their avatars and play WoW for all sorts of different reasons and may not behave towards you in game as they might in life, whether there are subtle shades of difference or huge chasms of drama.

If you have all levelled together in Vanilla, back when mounts really were expensive, and you had to run the entire length of Duskwood/Elwynn/Darkshore just to deliver <foo> and then the guy turns round and says “now go back and get me a cherry to go on top of the cocktail that you just made me out of four different types of rarely found berries, and by the way, yes, you will have to fight your way back through bears and wolves that can sniff your approach from huge distances away” and off you trotted, then you each have a feeling of shared experience – that you too, trod this path, and you know *exactly* how much effort it took to achieve something.

Extrapolate that to the organisational nightmare of 40man raids, and the hopeless droprate of essential gear, then by those standards, no-one who started in BC  (let alone Wrath or Cata) knows how hard it could be.  And that shared knowledge binds you.

Come in more newcomers, who have it easier and easier, and who virtually *squander* all the resources at their disposal, and the tight knit feeling disappears, is diluted.  And, what is more, you actually have to make it clear what level gear is required in order to run a dungeon, because it cannot be assumed that all will use all their skills to make a group work well and efficiently – the gearscore/ilvl actually wins out against the RP -” just go with the flow – this is a dungeon adventure” feeling.  The numbers invade the playing of the game – the maths becomes overwhelming – who thought this was about dressing up as heroes and fighting the forces of darkness?  This is about counting, and cooldowns, and itemisation and optimisation…

One of the reasons I like raiding, or even running dungeons, with a guild group, is that you create that shared experience of temporary hardship, through which you must all together battle in order to achieve a solution – that creates a mini bond between you – that if repeated enough times, starts to mean that you are part of a team – and from which conversation might grow, and who knows, something more than being merely colleagues in the internet-dragon business.

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