Sanctum Sanctorum: Gaming Groups
This month, our roundtable topic is gaming groups. As you may know, we love our games here at Bibliosanctum, many of which we play in a group setting and sometimes even play together. Here we’re chatting about our experiences with group gaming.
Are you a gamer? Feel free to use the comments to answer the questions too!
What kind of group games do you play regularly?
Wendy: I usually play online massively multiplayer role playing games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2. I have recently branched out into the world of table top — or rather, I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons, which is essentially table top game, but I’m playing via various online formats due to the fact that I have no one near by to sit at a table with. I also received Munchkins for Christmas, so I’ve been playing that with my daughters.
Tiara: For group games, I tend to play Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Sometimes you can find me on Champions Online, but I don’t really play MMOs that much. It’s fun to run around, but sometimes, I like something more linear and story-based, not that SWTOR doesn’t do an excellent job of that. I also dabble in The Secret World, but I haven’t stuck to that one because I have no one to play with. D: I really prefer story-based co-op at this point such as Borderlands. Oh, and I’m playing D&D with Wendy and a few more people.
Mogsy: Well, as a gamer I’m all over the place, but my first love is online gaming and I am an MMO fiend (if you know the story, that’s how I actually got the handle “Mogsy”). I used to play everything, and I mean like everything — Age of Conan, Aion, Neverwinter Online, Champions Online, Rift, Defiance, Elder Scrolls Online, SWTOR, Star Trek Online, just to name some examples. By their nature though, MMOs are a huge time sink, so unfortunately my gaming activity has plummeted ever since my little ones were born. These days I only get a few hours to play each week, and the only MMOs I still hang out in are World of Warcraft and The Secret World (which is an AMAZING game, by the way. Tiara, if you’re looking for someone to play with, you’re always welcome to join my TSW group!) Every Sunday, my Pathfinder group also gets together for a couple hours to do some adventuring over Teamspeak and Fantasy Grounds.
How did you find your first gaming group? What did you learn from that experience? Are you still playing together?
Wendy: It was in Final Fantasy XI, which was my very first MMORPG. I had heard awful things about MMOs and the treatment of new players, but I was very fortunate to find the kind of players that proved those stereotypes wrong. I have fond memories of Jadefox taking me to get my ghoul skull, Lilfitz teaching me how to mage, Romero lending me gil to buy my next cure spell, and Heimdall rescuing me from a marauding orc and inviting me to my first linkshell: Heroes of Asgard. As I grew in the game, the reigns of the linkshell were eventually handed over to me and a few others, and I would go on to lead other groups, while participating in yet other groups on the side for high level stuff, but I’ll never forget my first, even long after I’ve stopped playing the game.
Tiara: My first MMO was the now defunct City of Heroes/Villains. I played a brute, which isn’t quite a tank. They soak up a ton of damage like most tanks, but instead of just being the meatshield like a tank, they also deal a ton of damage. For this reason their health wasn’t as great as a tanks because they were tasked with getting things on them and killing them fast. A vet named Shadow took me under his wing and really got me to play outside my comfort zone. He’d been casually trying to get me to team with him for a while. I was determined I was just going to solo my way to through the game, but he was always so polite. Finally, I said, “What the hell?” I am more comfortable being on the front lines than defense, but Shadow taught me the merits of all classes and being all that I can be no matter what I played. And when I DING’D the highest level I could with my first character, it was actually with an Ice Empath, which was a total shock because she’s a support character. I don’t play with Shadow anymore. Sadly, he passed away. He was in the military, but I met three other guys that I do still play with and chat with regularly. Sometimes, my IRL friends got into it, too.
Mogsy: My first gaming group was actually my first guild in World of Warcraft. That’s how I actually met my husband! We were both raid leaders, and planning strategies with him was how we eventually grew close and fell in love. I learned a lot in those Burning Crusade days, like how to organize and direct a group of 25 people to take down a boss, learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. We were a casual guild so there was never really any conflict or stress, just good old fun. Even though that guild is now dissolved and my husband and I have changed servers since, I still have great memories from those times. Nowadays, I game with a great group of people I mainly know through blogging and Twitter, fantastic folks I’ve been playing with for years. Some of these guys and gals I consider my closest friends, even though I’ve never met many of them face to face. It’s a fairly close knit community.
Do you game with your family or is gaming a friends only thing?
Wendy: Neither my husband nor I expected me to become as involved with FFXI as I did, but really, it was just an extension of my online presence. We couldn’t afford to play together then, which caused tension in our relationship, but now we make sure to buy two copies of every online game. We both have differing play styles though. He likes solo work like crafting and gathering, while I’m more of a social butterfly who likes to poke at things that will probably get myself and the party killed, which is why I’m glad I have friends who are okay with this bad habit of mine. My nephew is the one who convinced me to finally try D&D and helped me create my first character. He’s currently DMing a game that I’m playing via roll20.net with friends. As I mentioned, I play Munchkin with my daughters and they were a big part of my Extra Life campaign this past year.
Tiara: Preferring to game with family or friends was never a thing. This is really a non-question for me. I game. I play with other gamers. I don’t care if they’re my family or my friends. The family that plays together, stays together. I grew up in a family of gamers, married into a family of gamers. So, I spend time playing games with my family a pretty good deal whether it’s Lego Avengers with the kids or Dead Island with my cousin, AJ. (Yes, I still hate zombies.) You can see how bad we suck here. Also, we had 99 problems and at least 98 of them were doing quests like finding booze for people hiding in bungalows because they couldn’t deal with zombies:
Mogsy: My husband is my steadfast partner in life and in game. We often play with friends too, but the two of us are always a gaming unit. Often we level our characters together, and so our roles will also complement each other. I’m usually the tanky/melee one while he’s the heals/caster, so this dynamic also comes in handy when our friends need to do a dungeon or a group quest or something. The two of us would show up and have everything covered.
What are the dynamics like in your average gaming group? Do people tend to fall into particular roles? What role do you play?
Wendy: When I first started playing online games, I chose a Red Mage because I wanted someone who could survive on their own. I wasn’t expecting to participate in groups, so I wanted to be self-reliant. Even in previous RPGs like Final Fantasy, I always made sure that every character was capable of healing themselves. As I found myself fitting more into the group settings though, I settled into the healing role. My desire for self-sufficiency mutated into a lack of faith in other players’ ability to take care of the people I’d come to call my friends and family. Of course, there were other healers in the group that I learned to trust, but until I reach that point with people, I place the onus on myself to heal. As the dynamics of games have changed, I’ve allowed myself to try other classes that might not have a cure spell handy when I need it. Others would fall into the other necessary roles as needed. But over time, I came to understand that there were “rules” about what was needed and I became determined to defy those rules because far too often, they alienated other players. Yes, having a tank, a healer, a damage dealer, and a controller is ideal, but it’s not the only way, and the challenge and excitement and amusement of finding other options is what gaming is all about for me. It took me a while, but I’m pretty proud of the day I convinced my linkshell mates to try out a deadly mission as a party of entirely naked black mages.
Tiara: If it’s there, I will tank with it. No joke. LOL. I don’t really say that there are dynamics (other than personal dynamics) in groups I play with. Everyone usually does what they’re comfortable with and feel like they’re good at. From there, we synergize and make up for any perceived weaknesses. The thing about City of Heroes and it being my first MMO is that I was never trapped in a role. Yeah, I may have been the damage dealer, but there was more to what I could do than just hit things like provide buffs for teammates in melee range as a sort of “BE ENCOURAGED BUT STAY BEHIND ME.” A common saying in that game was, “There are no healers.” And theoretically, that was true. With my Ice Emp, she had healing powers thanks to her empathy, but that wasn’t her only role in the group. She was also a powerful ice controller. She could make it very difficult for anything at all to hit you or even approach (LOOK TO THE SKY FOR THE ICE RAIN! THINGS ARE NEVER GONNA BE THE SAME!). Sometimes, people would still try to box empaths into that healing role, but I always showed them WHY we get two classes and not one. I was a fantastic controller and groups often marveled at how well I could control bosses while they killed it. Sometimes, they’d barely need any healing at all because I’d done my job as an ice controller. But I do like to be on the front lines. However, it is sometimes fun to sit back and buff others, but I credit CoH for making me a versatile gamer in MMOs because it forced you to be versatile. And yes, I still tried to tank with my Ice Emp, but mostly with just my friends who knew I liked to hit things.
Mogsy: I’m comfortable in many roles, which is why I have an uber soft spot for hybrid classes. In general though, I also like to hit stuff with a big sword, so you’ll often find me playing the warrior archetype. That also means I’m usually the tank. Being the meatshield can be the greatest feeling in the world when things go right, but when the shit hits the fan, it can also be the most thankless role in the entire game. First of all, you spend 99% of an encounter with the boss’s ugly crotch in your face. And if the group happens to wipe (even when it’s through no fault of your own) the person who gets blamed is almost always the tank. On the one hand, I love being the protector and having the key role in a group (if you go down, everyone else does too, it’s as simple as that). On the other, the pressure that goes hand in hand with the responsibility can sometimes get to me. These days you couldn’t pay me to tank a PuG, because you know what, I could really do without the abuse every single time I don’t do something exactly the way some jackass expects.
How do you know when you’ve found the right group?
Wendy: When my character gets drunk and starts dancing on the table and my group is like “Oh it must be Tuesday.” Or when I’m being all Boss Lady and everyone falls in line because they know that I have put all sorts of effort into organizing these plans and will make sure that everyone benefits in some way–unless they piss me off. Or when I say “Guys, I need some nice boots to go with this outfit, but they are all the way in a high level area that will probably kill us,”and they say, “BRT!” Or it’s New Years and I’m not doing anything and you’re not doing anything and do you want to kill a dragon? That’s when I know I am among my people.
Tiara: When I’m not screaming out in the chat box, “I AM TAKING MY BALL AND GOING HOME,” while rage quitting, then we’ve found a winner. But these days I tend to stick to a select few friends and family as I’ve gotten older and less tolerant of bullshit. I don’t have time for squabbling. I want to smash things, and if you want to smash things, too, we are on the same page and you are welcomed here. Also, any group that lets me spend hours in the costume creator to do these things is a winner (click for better view):
Mogsy: The “right group” for me means I feel comfortable with those I’m playing with. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the greater MMO community at large, but really, the gaming world is made up of some of the best people you’ll ever meet. I’ve made friends for life because I found my perfect group and stayed with them. Whether we’re raiding, goofing off, or just having a dance party, I know I’ll always have a fun time.