A bit of a quickie today; I’ve a stack of papers to grade before Friday, and I want to get a nice head start on them. I wanted to discuss something I mentioned last week, the idea of in-game efficacy and its affect on our feelings about MMOs.
Efficacy is the belief that your actions matter; that they can make a difference. It’s also the #1 indicator of job satisfaction; if you feel like you’re important, listened to, and can cause change, you’re happier than if you feel like you’re just a cog. I was talking to my wife about various posts I’d written and how I was seeing some opportunity to weave psychological ideas (Myers-Briggs and WoW coming soon! Don’t steal this, please!) back into some of my WoW thoughts, and we started discussing what made us enjoy or not enjoy various parts of the game.
In discussing my distaste for the end game, I pointed out that in pre-Zul dungeons and older raids, if someone makes a mistake, it’s likely that the pulling together of the other players can prevent a wipe (this may be true of Zuls now that gear ilevels have exploded, but I was well fed up before that). However, in Zuls, you had to have a solid team of five that made no mistakes; dps had to all stay alive; healers had to manage mana and triage well, and tanks had to hold threat (what a laugh) and blow their defensive CDs. One mistake and everyone else is screwed. Your personal ability had little effect unless everyone played nigh-perfectly.
She pointed out that this was an efficacy issue, one of her areas of expertise in relation to voting behaviors. The more I thought about it, the more true it seems. I feel less and less like I have anything to do that can benefit the endgame, so I feel less and less inclined to participate. I’m not well geared by this patch’s standards, I’m not well informed any more, my tanking and healing are as good as they’re going to get from a play perspective (or rather, they would be if I had any practice), so I just don’t feel like I can contribute like I used to when (warning: glory days ahead!) I raid led the first downing of Naxx bosses for my guild.
On the other hand, leveling is a game of pure efficacy. Whatever you decide to do, your personal choices matter greatly. If you do low level dungeons (which can nearly be duo’d and definitely trio’d), your personal play really matters. If you do low level PvP, your play is very important. If you just quest, you’re the only factor in your success or failure. You’re more effective there than anywhere else, and that’s what I’m doing: being effective at leveling.
So to retain fun (or regain, in my case), I think that players need to feel important to the endgame. If you’re sitting happily with a guild in which you are an important part, where you’re listened to, where your opinions and play really matter, then it’s no wonder you’re happy (and kudos to you, as well!). Most people in the world would be happy with that situation. On the other hand, being guildless or in a guild that doesn’t take you very seriously can be very frustrating due to feeling so ineffective towards the endgame.
Luckily, I’ve found an activity that keeps me happy and feeling my efficacy (does that sound dirty?), as have most of the happy players out there. I’m hoping that I can regain some of my endgame efficacy, too, as I meld more into my alliance guild (I hit 85 with the Draenei shammy last night – 7 down, 3 to go). I may put the leveling game on the backburner a bit to test out this toon with this guild, but we’ll see. Some stars really need to align for it to happen seriously.
But I’ll be watching the skies, at least. And if not, then I’ll have my DK’s boots on the ground, grinding away an 8th 85.
Stubborn (and dreamy (and tired, today, with a lot of papers ahead of me))