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Couples and WoW, Part 4: The Finalé

February 13, 2012

Dear Reader,

Today, we resume and conclude our look at couples and WoW.  So far, we’ve discussed some tips on how to improve couple play in WoW and seen some various couple paradigms that exist in WoW.  Today, we’ll discuss how to deal with those couples as a guild or raid leader.

Cats and Dogs

This pattern is a very tricky and dangerous pattern to have to deal with, perhaps even more so than the more obvious Grizzlies.  In America, the most common cause of death for a police officer in the line of duty is investigating domestic disturbances.  In other words, more cops die on the job from trying to stop couples from fighting than from any other dangerous situation.

The rub is that any animosity the couple feels during the fight, real or playful, gets turned on any interloper into their domestic territory.  If you try to stop a couple fighting, they’ll often both turn on you as a common enemy, especially since their pattern is to fight and make up, and you stopping the fight allows the make up, but all the anger has to go somewhere.

As a result, my advice is not to interfere during a fight.  If the situation needs to be dealt with, you should speak to them – separately if possible – on a day before they’ve had an opportunity to get going.  Explain how the fights are distracting and destabilizing, and most importantly make clear what the consequences will be if they continue to publicly fight in a way that creates problems in the guild.  If they each can individually agree to work towards keeping their sparring private, then the next time a fight breaks out (and there most likely will be a next time), privately remind them individually of their  agreement in whispers, and if they stop, great!  Continue this until their fights disappear from the public view.  If they don’t stop, though, carry out your side of the job and dispense with discipline.  If you’re in a position to be dealing with this problem, then your loyalty is to the guild’s good health, not the couple.


Penguins are really easy to deal with.  Penguins by nature don’t mind being separated in their tasks, so the best way to approach penguins is honestly and directly.  If you’ve only got one spot, just tell them that; don’t come up with excuses or stories to alleviate your guilt; they don’t mind parting for a few hours.


Wolves, like cats and dogs, can be tricky.  In fact, to be frank, if there’s a wolves couple in your guild and you’re in a leadership position, it’s probably you.  Wolves require a caretaker and an invalid, you see, and for there to be spots in a raid for the invalid, I can only assume that someone in power is giving them that spot.  Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible you’re the raid leader and it’s the guild leader’s partner who’s expected to be taken.  Not to be repetitive, but honesty and directness are the best way to go.

I’d speak to the caretaker first to air your concerns about the partner’s performance.  I’d be numbers-based and as objective as possible, but also firm in my stance.  Appeal to the community responsibility of the guild leader; make it about all the people in the raid, not just one, and hope that good nature can shine through the guild leader’s eyes.  Lastly, make it about strengthening the collective guild, not about replacing the weak link.  Hopefully the guild leader can speak to their partner and help them improve (which should be the goal here, not replacement).  Patience is a virtue in dealing with this couple because you don’t want to alienate anyone in power via their partner.

If time passes and nothing changes, you may want to speak to the partner about their situation.  If you feel the need in your hierarchy to invite the caretaker into the conversation, fine, but I’d advise against it; two on one is never a good place to start.  If you must bring both of them, ask to bring another officer who you know feels the same way you do to even the odds.  Remember to focus on improvement, not replacement, and ask the invalid what kind of help he feels could benefit the situation.  Take time, listen, and work for compromise, because frankly you’re probably not going to win an all out battle.

Crocs and Plovers

Of the problem couples, this one is probably the easiest to deal with.  The crocs all want their plovers with them, but often the plovers are pretty reasonable people.  They’re aware their just a small bird compared to the big crocodile.  It won’t make you feel good to ask them to sit out, and it may upset the crocodile, but in my experience the plovers have been completely reasonable and understanding.

The trick is to play on the fan-like relationship with the crocodile.  If you make it seem that the croc is suffering as a result of the plover’s attendance, the plover will frequently volunteer to step out.  You don’t have to be insidious of mean about it; you can mention the difficulty of the group caused by players in need of practice.  I tend to believe that most plovers know what they are, and will, if they’re interested in the game, work to get better, and if they’re not, get out of the way.


This paradigm is, on its surface, the most difficult to deal with.  As Matticus described in his post that got this series started, Grizzlies charge in regardless of invitation when they feel their partner threatened.  To deal with situations like this, I’d suggest to simply play into it.  As mentioned above, the problem with addressing couples is frequently the 2 on 1 dynamic.  However, if you’re prepared for it, you can simply bring along support, as well.

However, before you set up a council hearing, you should gently find out if both of the partners want the other one there.  If not, then ask the “loner” of the two if they’d mind speaking in a private chat or vent channel.  This privacy can both ensure an uninterrupted conversation and send a clear signal to the grizzly that the conversation is not for them.

In true Grizzly couples, though, often the protection is mutual and wanted.  Simply schedule a meeting with both of them and let them know you’re bringing in another officer so they don’t feel blindsided or ambushed.  Have the conversation like a committee, then, once again being understanding but firm.  Always address whoever you’re actually talking to, and only respond to questions or comments from that partner, even if you have to overtly ask them for their opinion, as opposed to the Grizzly’s.  This can seem overly professional, cold even, but if the alternative is either getting ambushed by the grizzly or removing them both from the guild, then it’s clearly the most kind and fair of the options.


Angelfish are rarely a problem except under a very specific circumstance: you need one of them but don’t have a spot for both of them.  If this isn’t the case, frequently Angelfish will be happy to do their own things together elsewhere, giving up their spot(s) in the raid.  If you do find yourself in that circumstance, there’s pretty limited and unattractive options.  Grizzlies may seem the most dangerous and cats and dogs may be the most dangerous, but really, this one, unlikely situation is the most difficult.  In my experience (and I’d be happy to hear anyone who has a better solution), I’ve found that either someone else has to step out so the raid can go on or you have to beg, cajole, bribe, or guilt one of the two into coming and leaving the other one out.  Neither of these outcomes are desirable, but if the good of the raid is truly at stake, sometimes a raid leader has to get their hands – or dignity – a little dirty.

At any rate, dear reader, that concludes our series on couples and WoW.  I hope it’s been entertaining at least, and educational at best.  Coming up we’ll talk about juggling, a return to – of all things – level 85 pvp, and how bloggers -gasp- use words to mislead others or even themselves!

Sincerely, (or is it?)


22 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 2:50 pm

    Great series 🙂 I enjoyed reading it. Our guild might be one to study because we are full of penguins, we are about 8 couples playing together but only about 3 couples that raid in our 10 man.

    • February 13, 2012 3:47 pm

      I’m glad you liked it! It strikes me now, due to your comment, that I should have made some admission that “couples” don’t have to be romantic couples. An old guild of mine had 4 pairs of brothers as the core raid team, all of which fell into one of these categories. Thanks for the comment!

  2. February 14, 2012 2:41 am

    Absolutely loved reading this series, I’ve not played WoW in a while but the psychology of people / MMO’s is fascinating.

    • February 14, 2012 11:06 am

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked it! Yeah, I’ve made it a pseudo-goal of mine to try to explain why people do what they do in video games, and I’ve had a really good time exploring the overlap between psych and WoW. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, too. Thanks for the comment!

  3. sam permalink
    February 14, 2012 9:01 am

    “Always address whoever you’re actually talking to, and only respond to questions or comments from that partner, even if you have to overtly ask them for their opinion, as opposed to the Grizzly’s. ” Wow. it seems you assume the grizzly is going to answer for the spouse. If that’s the problem you have a bigger problem than archetypes just cut the cord and run.

    If you were having a conversation with me or my wife and you were rude enough to ignore my response, or question, (or hers for that matter) it would be game over. Just based on your lack of respect. You’d never even get another chance to respond or fix it.

    You’ve got some great stuff in these posts but i see that you need to refine several of them. And your posts doesn’t even take into account when one spouse is a grizzly and one is an angelfish or one of the other several options. Usually the two spouses aren’t the same archetype.

    Generally in a healthy relationship you have less problems with spouses because there is another person to pull them back down out of game when they overreact.

    • February 14, 2012 11:20 am

      I don’t assume anything when dealing with an angry, overprotective partner of a spouse. I doubt you consider yourself one of those, so I wonder why you’d use yourself as an example for your later comment. If you consider it rude to ignore someone speaking for someone else, what do you consider the act of speaking for someone else in a meeting that you probably weren’t invited to (since I’m using Matticus’s situation of the angry, overprotective partner butting in to conversations)?

      It may seem cold sometimes to handle things so “rudely” (though this precise technique is called for in professional couples therapy when one partner is constantly talking for the other), but if the situation has gotten bad enough to call a meeting like this in the first place, then the alternative may be tossing the couple out of the guild. Your threats to leave if you were treated that way aren’t actually threats at all; they’re a solution to the problem, and might be precisely what the guild leader needed to know before he did the same, that the hypothetical “you” cannot control yourself enough to let an officer speak to your partner alone.

      I’m glad you found some worthwhile material in the posts, and I would encourage you to take up your keyboard and build on them the same way I built off of Matticus’s post. I spent 4 days looking into couples and WoW, and I didn’t feel the desire to continue by looking at the 21 different couple combinations that could be made with these mostly-fanciful patterns. I’d argue, too, that each couple probably has a little of each in them, with dominant patterns and recessive patterns that occasionally emerge, which is why some people are usually penguins but can seem at times like Grizzlies or why you might end up with a wolf caring for a plover. I admitted at the start the metaphors were far from perfect and were mostly for fun and imagery.

      I also agree that often couples are strong pairs that work well in keeping the game in its place. Each of the paradigms here were built off the premise of a couple very interested and invested in WoW, so I’m sure that couples that are more casual or where only one person plays WoW wouldn’t work in these patterns, but they weren’t meant to.

      At any rate, I truly hope you take a crack at building on this topic on your own. It’s a very rewarding experience. Thanks for the comment!

    • sam permalink
      February 14, 2012 2:23 pm

      I didn’t threaten anyone. I just made a statement as to what I would do. If you think I’m upset or threatening that’s not the case. Unless you think I’m a guild member I don’t see how my statement could be a threat. It was just a statement of fact. I would cut the cord and move on. I don’t suffer rude people when it’s my choice.

      And you did conviently ignore the fact that I noted if one of the couple was answering for the other as a matter of habit then you have a bigger problem and to just cut the cord. The statement came after that so everything after that is assuming it’s not that cut and dried.

      But you can defend your refusal to respond politely to other people in anyway you want but the rules for how i’m going to respond to a professional counselor and a nameless guild officer attempting to pretend to be a proffessional counselor are different.

      I’ve been in many a situation with others over my 28 years of marriage and I’ve dealt with other couples and thier issues in real life and in guilds. You have a point that there is an issue that needs to be addressed but when you address an issue to a couple they are both involved and ignoring the other because you can’t handle them both, or because you don’t want too is almost never going to go well. Best case you’ll get what you want for a short term then they’ll move on without ever telling you what you did to alienate them. Worst case they’ll blow up attack you post on your forums and leave while you attempt to get your blood pressure back down to normal levels and deal with the stupidity.

    • February 14, 2012 3:22 pm

      No no, I think I must have been unclear. I only meant that you’d be “threatening” to leave a guild if you were in that situation. Since – if you were in that situation, you’d be having a conversation with the guild leader about your and your partner’s future in the guild – the guild leader might be thinking about removing you, I was simply pointing out that your leaving this hypothetical guild would simply solve the guild leader’s problem. I’m not really doing anything “in a guild” at the moment, so I certainly wasn’t suggesting we knew each other.

      Since you and I clearly had a bit of a miscommunication on the above point, I’m going to hope that a fair share of the bile in the rest of your comment was misspent. I think, in fact, that we’re more in agreement than you seem to think, since your point about “cutting the cord” with an unhealthy couple was the same point I was making. My point was simply that I would try to work it out first, icily if need be, or rudely to use your word. If it was simply a conversation with a normal couple, obviously I wouldn’t simply ignore one of them as you’ve implied. It was only in the very specific circumstances I noted that I’d use the tactic about which you’ve become incensed. I assume you don’t speak for your wife when she’s politely asked a question, and I assume that you are a big enough person to allow her to have meeting with officers on her own. Assuming those are both true, then there’d be no need for the questionable tactic, and thus no reason for you to have gotten upset in the first place.

      As for your last paragraph, I reiterate that if this is a situation where you’re considering removing a troublesome couple from your guild and they were to behave in the way you describe, then frankly, problem solved. Clean the forum, remove their access to it, and whistle while you think about how easy it was. I see no reason to get upset about it at all.

      Hopefully this clarifies my stance a little and works towards you seeing that we share a healthy amount of common ground. I’m sorry if we disagree on that one specific thing, but since we’re both clearly looking out for both the couples and our guilds, I see no reason to bicker over such a small point. I’m sure it would upset you if you were ignored, but I don’t think you’d ever be in a position like the one I described.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. February 14, 2012 9:33 am

    I’ve really enjoyed this series of posts. I’ve dealt with several of the types of couples in my experiences raid leading and such. And I’m half of a tanking couple who mostly falls under the “Angelfish” category myself

    • February 14, 2012 11:08 am

      I think you’re the first to admit they’re not Penguins; everyone seems to want to be penguins (myself included).

      I certainly have dealt with a lot of the couples too in my time, for better or worse. Still, I agree with what Fulg said on his blog (Killing ’em Slowly). He said it’s far better to have WoW couples than to ignore or ban them because the couples dynamic brings a lot to groups. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • February 14, 2012 5:12 pm

      Raiding has been one of our activities together. We’ve been up front with our guilds about what we’re looking for and what they can expect from us as placing a tank couple can be more than a little difficult. We’ve also been known to very occasionally fill in [one or the other of us] to make a raid happen so we don’t do absolutely everything together…

      I suppose the biggest thing for us when asked was that the person asking recognized they were asking us to do something unusual and/or recognized us as a unit. We had one GM who used one of those times that we helped out to make a raid happen as an excuse to attempt to force a “you will raid separately and like it” decree. Not surprisingly, we’re no longer there.

    • February 14, 2012 6:34 pm

      I think your up-frontness is probably one of the best things Angelfish can do when applying. It can certainly prevent guild leaders from having mistaken assumptions and, if they try something like your former GL did, it provides a basis for you to leave while clearly maintaining the higher ground. I think, too, guilds should be up front if they’re not going to respect Angelfish (or any other kind of couple paradigm). This is probably more an issue for harder-core guilds, but I know one of my old guilds changed its “friend recruitment” policy due to my buddy, my wife, and I. They no longer will bring in friends but will only view applications separately. Mores the pity for them, as they lost three good raiders to learn that lesson (or at least two good raiders and me).

    • February 14, 2012 5:18 pm

      And I agree that rostering couples can be well worth the effort. I actually did my own post on raiding as a couple back in November. It’s not near as analytical as yours and only focuses on our experiences… but it might add something to the discussion. shrug.

    • February 14, 2012 6:35 pm

      I’m actually considering a “follow-up” post on this topic since there’s been so many good comments, which I’ll probably do on Friday (since I’ll have a ton of tests to grade and not a ton of time to write a long, detailed post). If you don’t mind, I’ll link you then, and if you have any other posts on that topic or other bloggers who inspired you to write that, let me know and I’ll link them, too.

    • February 14, 2012 7:10 pm

      It’s not letting me reply to the last sub comments but eh I’ll reply to this one 🙂

      Yeah, we like to be up front about it. We’ve raided and raid led since Burning Crusade, so we’ve seen and dealt with staffing. Knowing what to expect is a large part of a necessity to rostering. It’s only fair. I’ve never minded us being judged on our own skills and if we ever fall short, we’d want to know so we can fix it and not hold a raid back. We’ve tried very hard to be the best we can be, because, well, people hear we’re a tanking couple and a lot of times automatically assume because I’m the woman that I’m a weak link.

      Our current guild is doing 10 man normal DS and we’re 7/8 with a 2% wipe our first night on madness. We raid 2 nights a week, three hours a night and have 3 couples in raid [2 dps/dps and 1 tank/tank]. It brings unique strengths and potential problems to the table but I think we’re using it to our advantage.

      You’re welcome to link me. I think the blogger who really inspired my post was Killing em Slowly. But I know MMO Melting Pot discussed my post and has done at least one other post on raiding couples since.

    • February 15, 2012 1:45 pm

      Yeah, it will only embed so much before it gets so skinny that it’s hard to read. No worries, though (:
      I’ve said for years that having my main healer across the desk vastly improves play. Any voice system has a delay, so often warnings come through too late. However, playing with others in the same room allows for instantaneous communication and adaptation. I truly believe we only survived some boss encounters due to our fast reaction, and you won’t get that without a couple, be it romantic, friendly, or otherwise.

      There are of course downsides, but I agree that they’re vastly outweighed by upsides. I look forward to reading your post and putting together a little linkfest on Friday with you, Fulg, Matti, and whoever else I can dig up. Thanks!

  5. Sarah permalink
    February 14, 2012 2:38 pm

    Great posts. I’ve been trying to figure out which couple my husband and I are. I’d like to say penguin as we’re both willing to play without the other, but we’ve had our angelfish and grizzly moments, too. Sometimes, you have to be a grizzly because the person in power isn’t always right or fair, and your partner needs to know that you have their back.
    I’d say that the really difficult thing about dealing with couples is that they’re rarely, in my experience, 100% any of those. In my experience, a couple’s (more than individuals) online personality can really be effected by what’s going on in private. Nothing like walking blindly into the middle a cat and dog fight between your penguin couple. 😛

    • February 14, 2012 3:24 pm

      A lot of other commentators have made the same suggestion, and I’m prone to agree. I think, like Bartle scores, we probably all have percentages of each of those paradigms within us, and various circumstances can elevate or recess particular patterns. Thanks for the comment!

    • sam permalink
      February 14, 2012 3:26 pm

      interesting point. I hadn’t considered it but as real life situations change couples probably change their archetype. That’s probably really confusing for those that have no idea about the real life issues changing thier style of interaction.

  6. February 15, 2012 12:00 pm

    I love this series and am going to write a post about it myself. Just the whole ‘raiding as a couple’, etc. Hm! Ideas!!

    • February 15, 2012 1:46 pm

      I’m glad I could provide some fodder for other bloggers; I so often beg, borrow, and steal from others that I’m sure I owe a great karmic debt to many of you out there. Getting to pay back a small amount means a lot. Thanks for the comment!


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