When I first raided in WoW, I didn't even know that I am 'raiding'. I just stumbled along some friends and, every now and then, I casted some fireball. There were no dps meters or anything. We were worse than the worst of today's pugs. And we had fun. We didn't compare ourselves with anything or anybody. We were trying to achieve, but more than anything we were exploring.
Now, it didn't stay like that. Step for step we became more professional and serious. We discovered boss guides and simple dps meters. Then, this one thing that more than any other shapes our current age: statistics.
With TBC I started tanking and half-way through the expansion I started theory crafting. I didn't know that there were pages like Elitist-Jerks out there. To this day I don't know when EJ really started through.
I started to be more serious. I lead raids and was known as the best tank of the guild, generally one of the best players on the server, no matter what I did. I also played a hell of a lot. 10 hours a day minimum. I had been the first of my server to get to level 70 - without trying! I had stopped studying. Luckily, that didn't turn out to harm my later career, only scratch it a bit :).
Like older generations I had decided that what society asked of me was stupid, and I just wanted to have fun. And I certainly had a lot of fun. This is a major reason I still write about MMORPGs - even though I have a really hard time playing them nowadays. I spend way more time writing about them than playing them ...
Anyway, eventually I realized that I should try to have as much health as necessary and as little as possible as a tank. How much was necessary was (roughly) determined by the chance of not avoiding several hits of a boss in a row. So, one day, I started asking in the official WoW forums, what the formula for this is. The question I asked was: Given N total hits by a boss, how probable is it to not evade any n hits in a row, assuming the probability of avoiding one single hit is p? Seemed like an easy enough question, considering its importance. But nobody knew an answer, and so I started to read my stochastics books, that I had originally bought for my math degree program, but had ignored since then.
To this day I criticize that universities try to teach us solutions without telling us about the associated problems. They teleport us to the goal, before we even know about the journey, the reasons or any boundaries. That isn't fun at all. Anyway, if I'm reasonably good with statistics nowadays, then not because of my studies, but because of WoW and other games, and because there I was told about problems, I learned about the boundaries, I set out for journeys and often, not always, found the solution, the goal. That's not only fun, but it actually makes you remember what you've learned. Which is the biggest problem with university-learning: You forget it at lightning speed.
If anything, that is what 'gamification' should be about!
Some half a day later I thought that I had gotten the answer to my question. But how to be sure? I started to model the whole thing in Mathematica. Then I ran a simulation of the formula. Here's the outcome.
Where N is the number of total hits by the boss, n is the number of hits in a row and p is the probability to avoid one single hit. This is the chance to not once suffer n hits in a row in a fight that consists of N total hits.
The formula seemed to be pretty good. Did it help me with raiding? No. When I went all out for avoid my healers told me that I was really easy to heal. And if I suddenly died they thought it was their mistake. When I went all out for stamina they told me that I have impressive amounts of health and when I died, they told me that it must have been their mistake, considering the amount of health I had. Blizzard had made sure that you couldn't change your health/avoid so much that you could gimp yourself.
But the formula demonstrated what many years later became common knowledge: Given enough healer mana, effective health rules. Realistically, by stacking avoid, you can't drop the chance to be hit by a series of two or three hits sufficiently low. Even looking at six hits in a row, that's still difficult. And are six hits in a row still 'burst damage'?
Anyway, figuring out that formula had been fun. And I was reminded of it when Stabs wrote about optimizing the fun into games yesterday.
It may not be a coincidence that I stopped playing WoW seriously soon after RAWR had been released for feral tanks. Suddenly, there was nothing left to do. All problems had been solved.
But it would be wrong to accuse us of optimizing the fun away. Optimizing is what is fun. Different people prefer different ways of optimizing and different investments, but still: Optimization is the Journey. There is no other. If anything, I can, and do, blame EJ for optimizing my fun away - and Blizzard for helping them. This was unnecessary.
So, the lesson is: Games are fun, anything is fun, as long as you are on a non-frustrating, interesting journey towards a worthwhile goal. If you doubt the goal - and unless you are a religious person you have to, because you don't believe to know your 'final purpose' - you stop having fun. And if you think you shouldn't have to do your journey you become frustrated. It's important to realize the arbitrariness hidden in 'non-frustrating' which you cannot escape.
Hence, one of my favorite quotes, uttered by myself during an alcohol-laden night among drunken physics students many years ago:
Pursue of happiness is a distraction from doing nothing.Have a nice Sunday :)