Guest Post: How Real Life has made me a Better Raider

Yngwe here. For those of you that don’t know me, I am one of the few raiders in Eff the Ineffable who does not blog. I am in EtI because I have been raiding with Alas and At for the better part of three years. My real life schedule keeps me from playing much or from making every raid. Because of this, I am never the best geared player in the raid, nor do I have the most experience with a particular boss. Fairly often, I am the worst geared. Despite my limited play time, I usually play very well. The boss that usually crits me the hardest is inebriation.

So yeah, everyone knows that, when weighing skill versus gear, skill usually trumps gear. Nothing new there, and that would not yield a very interesting guest post. So, what’s my point? Skill in anything can be practiced, developed, and honed. If I want to be a better raider, I should just raid more, right?

Well, if raiding was the only way to improve your skill at raiding, I should not be a very good raider. With my limited playtime, why should I have any more skill at raiding than anyone else? Not too long ago, I realized that I had developed the skills to be a successful raider long before WoW had its first subscription.

If this post proves nothing else, it should at least prove that I have a bit of an ego. I was thinking about naming this post “Why I am so Great,” but that would only get Alas about 40 hits, all from me, reading about how great I am.

Well it's TRUE!

Back on topic. I come prepared to raids. I read up on fights. I know my rotation. I have the right spec. Every raider, however, should be able to say the same. I believe that whatever edge I may have comes from my ability to recognize, process, and react to many different stimuli at the same time.

Whatever your role is in a raid, whatever the boss, raiding boils down to two things – perception and execution. Being a successful raider is not about have the best gear, the cookie-cutter spec, or the right buffs. It’s about perceiving and processing what is going on around you. Knowing your teammates’ play styles, strengths, and weaknesses is also important. While all of this is going on, however, you are also expected to execute your role properly, whether it is your dps or threat rotation, cooldown management, or healing assignment. You need to be able to perceive and react to many events while executing your role to the best of your ability. To do this successfully, you need to be able to recognize everything that is happening around you without concentrating too strongly on any one thing.

There is a finite limit to what any person’s brain can process. I believe that the key to being a great raider is being able to do what you need to do and recognize what is happening around you using the least amount of concentration and brainpower possible. That frees up your ability to focus on the unexpected and react quickly. You are free from worrying about your rotation, worrying about the predictable or easily telegraphed boss ability. Although I have my bouts of fail, in general, I think I am very good at getting immersed in a fight, feeling the flow, and relying on reactions to free up my higher-level concentration. So, how do I think I became good at this?

I realized the other day that there are two things in my real life that induce this same state of mind: basketball and driving.

I was a good basketball player in high school. I was never particularly athletic, but I am tall, pretty smart, and I have always loved playing. All told, I started and got significant playing time in close to a hundred games in my four years of high school, not counting limitless practices, pick-up games, intramurals, and adult leagues. Good basketball players develop what is referred to as “court sense,” the basketball equivalent of raid awareness. That is, knowing what is going on around you, where players should be, what someone is going to do, without concentrating too hard on any one thing.

See, I'm not an elf IRL.

On offense, the point guard is your quarterback, or raid leader. His ability to perceive everything and exploit weaknesses in the defense is critical. On the defensive side of things, however, I tend to believe that the center is the floor general. As the team’s big man, I was almost always closest to the basket, observing nine other players, four friendly, five hostile. Good team defense meant knowing that Jimmy never put enough effort into guard his man and would need help when he got caught flat-footed, knowing that the other team’s star player loved to drive right or would never miss if you gave him an inch of daylight, knowing that their guard was a good enough passer that he would hit your man if you sagged off a little. While processing all of this, I was also responsible for staying in decent position to rebound and for guarding my man or attending to my zone if we were in a zone defense. If the action was moving away from us, the only attention I might give him is a swat of the fingertips or an elbow in the ribs. Just enough to acknowledge that he was still there. My concentration was always divided between many aspects of the game. If you focus too much on any one thing, a good team will beat you in one of the twelve ways on which you are not focused.

The same thing goes for raiding. I am sure that everyone has had the experience where, for example, the team is having a really hard time with defiles. The next attempt, the raid leader tells everyone to focus their concentration on defiles. What inevitably happens? The first val’kyr drags a healer off the ledge, and it’s a wipe.

I could probably bore you to tears (or more tears for those of you already crying) with more examples from my Glory Days (just like the Springsteen song). Ultimately, my experience playing basketball trained my mind to observe many things, with little concentration on any one thing, and to react quickly to those observations.

You can see me PWNING that guitar-mob in the picture.

My other source of real life raid training has come from living in New England for the past 15 years. I am an aggressive driver and I drive on busy, fast-moving, multi-lane highways. At the same time, I have never been in a serious accident, and my only recent fender-bender was the result of someone rear ending me as everyone slammed on their brakes to avoid an accident. How do I manage to drive like a maniac and still live? Like playing basketball, while I drive, I am constantly observing everything around me. I look at the speed of every car that I can see in front of me, I judge what moves they are going to make based on the speed they are travelling, I think ahead to how I am going to react to these moves and ultimately pass them. While I drive fairly aggressively, I do not drive unusually fast (75 mph in 65 zones, with other traffic typically between 65 and 80). That means that, while I am passing some cars, others are passing me. I constantly glance at my mirrors to see who is coming up behind me, whether it is safe to change lanes, and whether I should move aside for faster traffic.

This time, I promise to stay away from the cliff.

While driving like I do forces you to observe, react, and respond, it lacks the teamwork element of raiding and sports. When I am driving aggressively, however, I still feel like I am in the same state of mind that I am in when I raid, although without any alcohol.

Team sports may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and people may value their lives too much to drive like I do. I hope that what you take away from this post (other than that I think the world of myself) is that there are many ways to improve your raid awareness and performance other than playing WoW or reading up on WoW. Every day you can work on your ability to observe and process information. For example, walk down a busy sidewalk, through the woods, or through a mall. Don’t concentrate on any one detail too much and try to take in as much as you can of the sights, smell, sounds, etc. Later on, if you have time, try to reconstruct a mental picture of what you experience. If perception is one of the keys to success in raids, anything you can do to better your perceptive abilities should make you a better raider.

I have said a lot about how my real life activities have impacted my playing. What about you? Is there anything that you do in your real life that has made you better at some aspect of WoW?


Guest Post: How Real Life has made me a Better Raider — 9 Comments

  1. Yngwe, you are the definition of awesome. I miss ya bud. And surprisingly, I enjoyed this post. It actually made me feel better about my lack of raiding experience because you make some valid points here. Thank you.

    • Thanks Elfi. I miss you too, but your awesome blog makes me feel connected.

  2. “It’s about perceiving and processing what is going on around you. Knowing your teammates’ play styles, strengths, and weaknesses is also important.”

    This is key stuff. I talked about something similar in a post awhile back… I think it was about user interfaces or something… the key concept is that you prioritize. You can focus all your brains on several key things because you know how to shut out that which does not matter. If the pretty girl watching the game distracts your focus there is no way you can do what you need to do. And you can focus on several things at once because you have trained your mind through practice to be able to switch your attention rapidly between several things in sequence. It is like an ‘attention rotation’. You check if you are standing in the bad then you check if the target is moving, then you check your health, then you check your cooldowns then you check for standing in the bad again, now it is time to interrupt something so you do that and then you are back checking your rotation. Your attention constantly hops around in a sequence of priority, without ignoring anything for long and without focus on any one thing to excess. You step into raids easily because you have already been training your brain to operate in that way. Someone who has spent all their time doing activities that require lots of focus on one thing with… or a tiny bit of focus on many many many things… those people have a harder time because they have to burn new pathways into their brains; new ways of thinking. Everyone is capable of thinking like a raider. Some just have spent more time thinking in similar ways already.

    • I like your concept of the “attention rotation.” That is definitely something that we do and a good way to describe it.

      I envy you if you actually have pretty girls watching you play. :)

    • Attention rotation sounds exactly like a focus that does NOT take it all in at the same time like the article describes. Every time I pay attention to my spec rotation, I lose attention from everything else.

      I guess the only clue the article gives as to how you would gain this skill is in vague comments like “Don’t concentrate on any one detail too much” and “try to take in as much as you can”.
      In fact, you could probably just TL;DR is to that one line without really losing anything of any detail.

      Of course, it’s combined with a lot of studying about your class/spec, at least many key abilities of every other class/spec, and probably many of the bosses as well. That’s just the basic requirements, and no small task.
      You’d think they’d make a guide for that sort of thing so that you don’t have to personally play and learn each class and spec, or go off of possibly incomplete piece-meal information or other teammates who might not be efficient teachers to give you a comprehensive view.
      Then again, they keep changing things every patch.

      • I gotta disagree there. The point of the article was to promote situational awareness abilities as they can be developed in other ways out of the game and applied to the game in raiding situations. The idea of an “attention rotation” is a good starting step to broader situational awareness habits. If you find yourself focusing on one thing in particular, pick a few other things and rotate thru those things on a regular basis, soon you’ll be watching all those things out of hand without really thinking about it. It becomes a trained reflex.

        As for learning a class, that’s the fun part of the game :p

      • I don’t know if I necessarily practice an attention “rotation” in normal sense of the word. I still think that it is a helpful concept.

        What I was trying to say in the post is that there are a lot of functions you can perform without consciously thinking about them. I rarely think about my dps rotation. Most people don’t jump through the mental hurdle of “there is fire under my feet, I must move,” they just move. I’m getting better at being reactionary with my interrupts. My point is, the more actions you can move from conscious thought to observe and react, the better you will perform and the more thought you will be able to devote to things like positioning, strategy, and the big “oh shit” moments.

        I think dps cooldowns are a perfect example of the attention rotation concept (which isn’t mine, btw :) ). My main dps cooldown is three minutes. After I blow it, I forget it. As time goes by, I might start eying the timer a little more to know that it is one minute or 30 seconds away. I might then give some thought to the phase of the encounter and when the perfect time would be to fire it again. Yes, this is higher-level concentration. My point was not that you should never think about what you are doing. My point was, if you are worried about your rotation, worried about the next boss ability, worried about staying out of the bad, you won’t have much concentration left to think about the things that make the difference between a good raider and a great raider.

        Maybe I did not express that clearly, but there is certainly room for thought and strategy in raiding. It is more a question of what you are thinking about.

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