Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gaming couples

I read an interesting post over on World of Matticus the other day about couples in gaming groups. Matticus is especially negative on the idea of recruiting couples and think that mostly you should ditch them. He was specifically talking about couples in WOW raiding guilds but I think a lot of the information there applies just as well to other sorts of activities.  Having a couple involved in a competitive game or sport really is an invitation to drama and conflict as inevitably you end up with people who have issues with commitment.  Unlike normal commitment issues this type of issue is that people have multiple competing commitments and the conflict generated when trying to honour all of them is problematic.

When one person in a couple is failing to meet the performance benchmark for the group you end up with problems.  First off sometimes the other person swoops in to defend their love; they often do this even if they think the accusations are completely fair because they think they are supposed to.  You can also have the issue that the couple wants to play together and suddenly you have the requirement of fitting both or neither of them into your raid.  This generates problems with the other players because you are effectively giving the couple preferential treatment.  There is also the issue of granularity; if you kick one of them out or they quit the other usually goes too and this means that your roster is a little more vulnerable than it would be otherwise.

All that is entirely aside from the hilarious consequences of recruiting couples like having the couple split up while still in the guild, having one or both of the couple cheat on the other with other people in the guild or just plain old fights.  In some ways it is the same sort of thing you get just by introducing a female into the mostly male space of WOW raiding; pretty much no matter what the female does there are going to be some drama issues as people hit on her.  There is a reason that some guilds have a no women policy!  Obviously lacking women doesn't particularly mean there won't be relationships but I suspect that a gay male invited to a WOW raiding guild isn't going to get hit on quite as much as a female would...

I think this is particular to raiding because so many of our competitive pastimes are gender segregated.  Most sports have mixed teams up until the highest levels of competition whereupon everyone ends up on a team based on their gender.  In raiding though there simply isn't that segregation and so you end up with situations where a couple with different performance levels wants to play together and it causes issues.  Clearly this is a fair hetero centric viewpoint but I think it describes the reality of the situation pretty well just because there aren't so many gays as straights; they have most of the same issues but it doesn't come up as much.

I have had to deal with this sort of conflict personally and it was always tricky to navigate.  I have been able to raid with Wendy regularly for years and I was always the more hardcore player who played more and played better.  Often I was in a position of authority over her in the guild structure too which meant that I had conflicting responsibilities.  In theory I was supposed to protect and defend her from all ills as well as kick her ass if her performance was below par; a tricky balancing act.  Generally I was lucky in that she was able to perform in the top 10% without assistance though there were times when I had to nudge her in the right direction in terms of spec, play or interface to get her closer to top 1% territory.

The thing is that couples can actually bring tremendous benefits to a raid group.  They can act as an extra channel of communication, team up for particular responsibilities that rely on their ability to talk to each other, borrow each other's characters and other such things.  Generally my raiding experiences with couples have been really good.  I certainly was careful in recruiting couples to be extremely clear about expectations at the outset to try to avoid the inherent issues but I was definitely willing to take the risk; better people are worth it.

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