Resistance is Futile – You will be Assimilated
A fascinating topic was presented today on Larisa’s blog over at the Pink Pigtail Inn, regarding individualism, the norm, and standing out. It references a rather obscure idea presented in a piece of European literature from the 1930s, the Jante Law, that essentially states that one should not try to be different or stand out in any way shape or form, presumably for the good of the community.
The question of individuality and excellence in the human condition is a double-edged sword. Collectively, we, as a species, have proven that we get more done together than apart. We are a social animal and, for the most part, wither and die if we’re without other human beings to socialize with. Were it not for societies, we would probably not be the technologically advanced global species we aspire to be today – we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer each day.
The problem comes that there will always be ‘individuals’ within the collective – those people who aren’t content in one way, shape, or form to live the status quo. That includes both those that wish to excel, and those that wish to slack. As people become individualized, the thought that ‘compensation should differ by [insert your INDIVIDUAL criterion here]’ leads to discussion within the group, which upsets that status quo as decisions regarding the ‘individuals’ are made.
Should someone who ‘excels’ get more than the average person? Should someone who ‘slacks’ get less? It’s hard to say practically, easy to say logically, but any decision regarding that will upset the balance within the society in question, I believe.
Take, for example, Azryu’s story over at The Arcanery, dated September 8, 2009. In that story he runs a 10 man VoA, putting up 6100+ DPS and top damage, but loses the drop-roll to another mage in the group that barely did 28oo DPS. And, a similar scenario happens again, almost right away in the next run that the group does. And what happens? Azryu’s a bit upset about that, due to the difference between his perceived ‘contribution’ vs. ‘reward’.
And yet, I see this all the time in raid groups – those that are multi-guild or PuG that can’t have a really established lootpoint system for distributing the spoils other than by random. Someone who does a significantly higher contribution loses out on a piece of gear simply because the /roll doesn’t go their way.
This goes back to Larisa’s point, though, about the Jante Law and the perception that individuality can be destructive. Azryu felt that his contribution was indeed ‘excellent’ in comparison to the other mage from the story, and therefore, when he lost the roll, he was upset because the other mage received a reward, twice even, for less contribution. The roll system set-up, however, was in line with a communal based thought, where everyone is deemed equally qualified to receive a piece of loot (equally qualified once spec and class are taken into account, anyhow), and therefore has an equal chance to receive the piece based on random chance.
Which is right? Which is the better system?
I don’t know for sure. Each can skew the performance of the ‘individual’ away from what’s good for the ‘group’. For example, you’re Azryu, and you’re looking for gear. You know how the system works, and you know that how you perform doesn’t affect how much chance you’ve got to get a piece of gear off a drop. Assuming you did not get any satisfaction out of your numbers (‘cause that would be an individualistic thought process), would you continue to try to work for the success of the group giving, in this case by comparison, roughly 219% results, something that probably had some work and research put into it, for a similar chance at the rewards, or would you just sit back and cruise and to heck with individual numbers, as long as the group itself succeeds? On the flip side, if individual performance, as dictated quantitatively by something like Recount, was taken into account for your eligibility for loot, would you continue doing what’s best for the group (switching off-target to hunt down a loose mob, for example, or some other activity which could potentially affect one’s final output), even if doing so could affect the success of the entire group?
I think, fortunately for the communal system of random loot rolling, that people aren’t wired so bipolarly regarding performance/reward. Since people do have concerns regarding their own performance, and the desire to be individual for the sake of being individual, they’re not likely to lower their performance to match that of the status quo if they’re performing beyond that – I doubt anyone says “That other mage is only putting out 3K DPS, so I’m only going to put out 3K DPS, too, since our chances for loot are the same, regardless.”
In the quest for individualism, though, there are those who forget that this is a group-based game, as well. 6K DPS is great and all, but despite such stellar individual performances, that one individual cannot, generally, win the game by himself, if the average performance for the rest of the group is too low. Further, such stats may not take into account (and I’m not saying it is for the real Azryu, but just saying hypothetically) such raiding concerns as aggro control (did the mage get that 6K by going all out, not watching his aggro, and taxing the tank?), survivability (did the mage get that 6K in 30 seconds and then die?), non-DPS expectations (did the mage not spellsteal the boss’ buff in time in order to maintain higher DPS?), and other encounter-based issues (did the mage kill others in his raid due to ‘AoE fire’ or some other encounter-based threat in order to maintain the DPS?).
In WoW, people want to succeed. The belief is that if one succeeds individually, that the group should follow, as long as everyone is trying to succeed individually. However, this is not always the case – there are times when individual performance, at least from a quantitative standpoint, must be sacrificed for the good of the raid. Individual performance at the sacrifice of the group should not be rewarded – though as far as I can see, with the exception of a keen eye during an encounter, “Friendly Fire” is about the only means of seeing who’s not paying attention on Recount, and that does NOT tell the whole story. There are times when a group can fail based on the desire to excel of its individuals.
Again, which is better? I’m not sure, myself. Groups need ‘excelling’ players to help raise the bar, but groups need players to be ‘communal’ as well, as only by the group succeeding are rewards available for the giving. It’s a real Catch-22.
Though, if real world examples are to be examined, it’s hard to beat the group ideal, as insects that have a ‘hive mentality’ tend to do very well at survival and success over more individual types of creatures out there. (But that could also be due to the insane numbers that those insect types have, too, so…)
My suggestion – be individual, but don’t forget the group. You only get rewarded (tangibly) if the group succeeds. But do recognize the individuals who are ‘excelling’, since they SHOULD give people something to shoot for.
And keep in mind, this doesn’t even take into account the green-eyed monster that lurks when people start to be individuals. Competition, jealousy, and envy all start to rear their ugly heads as well, when people stop looking at those people ‘excelling’ as inspiration, and more like targets.
My 2 yen,
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Call me Akiosama. (And no, I’m no Melville.) I’m just another 30-something game player (or collector, as some would say), interested in this, that and the other thing. Right now, “this” is Star Wars – The Old Republic, “that” is World of Warcraft, and “the other thing” is miniature and card gaming. As I figure out what I’m here to say and do, I’ll probably add more information about myself, but for the moment…
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