"Mmhmm. Thank you. Now, what special skills can you bring to the team?"
"Please list all previous experience and describe your major accomplishments." A pause.
"Have you the required equipment to adequately perform your duties?"
The interviewer is quiet while sizing up the applicant.
"I'm sorry, but you just don't quite have what we are looking for. Next!"
Sound familiar? No, this isn't a job interview -- this is the rigmarole many players experience simply to get into a group in NCsoft's Aion. You might think that time of day or availability of people in the right level range would have the most affect on forming up a group, whether in a legion or a PUG. Instead, players often must contend with an entirely different beast before even stepping foot into an instance: group elitism.
Unless you have a regular group of friends with identical play times or a very supportive legion, you are apt to occasionally find yourself in the situation of seeking a group while traipsing about Atreia. Even with a regular group, there are going to be times you are left more-or-less on your own and just want to get something done. Thus begins the (oft times unpleasant) task of creating or finding a group. Like a microcosm of drama played out in short spurts, group formation showcases a variety of less-than-desirable attributes: greed; envy; lust; selfishness; and inflated egos. Just how exclusive can this process become? Your inclusion could ride solely on your class, equipment, or skill set, and have nothing to do with your ability and skill as a player. Heck, even your name may keep you out of groups.
Join me past the cut to explore elitism in group dynamics in Aion.
Me an' my homeys
First and foremost, this look into elitism isn't necessarily pointing fingers at the core groups out there who run together on a regular basis. No one disputes that running with familiar people has its benefits -- knowing each other's in and outs and having a natural rhythm just makes everything go smoother. However, what is unfortunate is when people become so locked into this mindset that they exclude everyone else out-of-hand. One member of the group is unavailable? Guess what... the whole group just sits on their duff, or logs out. What happens if a core group member has the audacity to join with another group of friends? I've known guilt trips to be laid on thick to the poor soul who dared to work with someone outside the clique.
Think this behavior affects only those involved in the core group? Think again. Not only are a variety of other people deprived from completing tasks due to lack of support from an "available" player who is tied to waiting for his colleagues, but this behavior is also especially detrimental to a legion, where (unless otherwise specified as simply core groups) people are supposed to work together for the mutual benefit of all -- not just the benefit of the select few. Sadly, all too often this can be seen, where a specific core of people are catered to, and others are just thrown table scraps; only when the core group is prevented from doing something due to an absence is another person allowed to accompany them. Even more insulting are the superficial reasons often given for this form of elitism: play times coincide (a number of others are also online at this time); play styles sync (read -- you have cooties and will infect our group); and we just work better together (read -- the rest of you all suck!). Come on folks, your legion-mates are not oblivious -- they can see through these. Using these transparent excuses damages your credibility, reputation, and your legion's moral.
Here is another facet of group elitism that frustrates me: unadulterated greed. I have watched as a group waited for hours to do some instance rather than -- perish the thought -- add a second player of one class in. Why? Because people did not want to "fight" for an all-too-rare loot drop. I consistently see groups pass up some incredible DPS (which they are begging for) because *gasp* there is already one of that class in the party. Aw, really? You would rather sit around, doing nothing, than risk that unlikely chance of losing a roll to someone of your same class, all while gathering other loot, kinah, and completing quest objectives?
Look at it this way folks -- how much more likely are you to get the gold weapon or armor drop, sitting outside while you wait for a certain class to join? Calculate the chance of getting the drop by actually going in with two of the same class versus not going at all. Anything is better than 0%!
LF GEARED only...
Elitism at a whole new level: Ever seen the advertisement for "geared only"? Nine times out of ten, the individual insisting on the highest-geared folks to complete his group is sporting mediocre gear at best. This really makes me chuckle. I have oft wondered if these guys actually ever get their groups, or do they sit around bewildered as to why they can't accomplish anything and bemoaning the lack of groups. It isn't like others don't see the irony in the request; often these group requests are the butt of many jokes.
Make it do or do without
This is a mantra that I have learned, and it can apply to life in Atreia as much as life out in the (dare I say it) real world. The whole notion that there is an "ideal" party for gaming discounts all the skill and ability of the actual people behind the keyboard. Personally, I think a true test of skill and ability is being able to make a successful group and experience with what you have available. I have played with, succeeded, and enjoyed a multitude of unorthodox, mismatched groups that are far from the ideal make-up. Conversely, I have seen where having the so-called perfect set-up means jack when the player isn't very capable.
OK, so here is where some people cry foul and insist that there are just some times that you do need a specific class or group build, especially in certain instances. I say -- nyet! No one can convince me there is a set class or make-up required for almost any situation in Aion. Templar? Nope. Can use a good gladiator or two. Cleric? Nope. Seen a chanter solo heal hard-mode bosses in fortress instances. Here, archetype is key. Yes, you usually want someone wearing plate (although I have had really fun and very successful groups where a sorcerer or a chanter has tanked Theobomos Labs) and someone who can toss more than just potions for heals. But other than that, skilled players can make a non cookie-cutter group successful.
In short, all elitism does is prevent people from experiencing and actually playing the game (with exception of those who pay to simply sit around in game). It has no benefit. Have a friend that plays the same class? Don't stress -- ignore those naysayers and go ahead and group up! Can't find a chanter to cast WoW (Word of Wind)? You can live without it, truly! Open yourself up to the new possibilities, and discover more of Atreia in the process. You may even expand your list of future group prospects.
So tell me, what have been some of your most interesting group combinations while in Atreia? And have you ever had a tough time getting into a group for petty reasons? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.