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Drama Mamas: The etiquette of AFKing in a group or raid


Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

When is it OK to AFK during a boss fight? The answers range from "Never, unless you are about to call 911!" to "Any time you need to. Real life comes first!" This week, we address this common conundrum.
Not a specific instance of drama but it definitely causes it often enough. I really love instancing but have been a bit stressed recently about how to deal with interruptions.

How do you handle them? Knock on the door, kids waking up, anything really. We're not all college kids where the worst that could happen would be a power-outage or dorm fire alarm.

From what I read there is not much help or sympathy out there - although that may just be the minority. They mostly say to not even run instances, which I can sympathize with - they want to run it fast - but I cannot accept that as an answer. What do they do when they have to answer the door during a boss fight? Really.

Between fights is easy - a quick "brb" is universally accepted. But what do you do in the middle of a boss fight?

My guildies are always ok with a wipe (motto: "real life happens!") but I'm not always in a guild group.

I can't be the only one in this position.


Drama Mama RobinDrama Mama Robin: Stressed, it's great that you are in a guild that understands about intrusions from the physical world. If you weren't, that would have been my first recommendation. Stay with them.

I think your problem is scheduling. There are times when interruptions are more likely to happen and times when they are rare. You should run dungeons with your guild only (or do no instances at all) during the times when there may be knocks at the door or before your kids' bedtimes. Sure, kids wake up and important phone calls happen, but the timing of your PUGs can severely reduce the chances of being interrupted.

Also, if you have a partner in your home, you can take turns being the Prime Interrupt Handler. One night, you can be the one who doesn't run instances but does answer doors, phones, calls from the kids' room, etc. And then the next night, your partner can not do something engrossing (if he or she isn't a gamer) and handle those pesky, instance-unfriendly occurrences.

You have to remember that the four to 24 other people you are playing with either aren't likely to be interrupted at any time (as you said) or have arranged to be able to play uninterrupted ahead of time. It is not unreasonable for them to expect you to have done the same. In fact, it is very inconsiderate of you to be playing when you can possibly be AFK during a boss fight (except for an emergency). And they are right about not instancing if that is likely to happen. If you don't have a partner to share responsibilities with or are trying to PUG when that partner is unavailable, you shouldn't be inconveniencing strangers. Just hang with your understanding guildies or find something else to do when you are unreliable.

It is good that your responsibilities in the physical world have such a high priority, but you must remember that those are real people in the virtual world as well. Responsible players make sure their higher priorities are less likely to interfere with their leisure time, when that time involves other people -- even ones you have never met in person.

Drama Mama LisaDrama Mama Lisa: So true. The bottom line -- and I know you don't want to hear this, Stressed -- is that you shouldn't be committing yourself to a group activity at a time when you're likely to be interrupted. It's not OK to wipe a group because you've stepped away for some trivial reason. It's not.

I suspect the reason I find myself writing about internet and gaming with kids at home so much is that the temptation for parents to sneak one in seems well-nigh irresistible. Let's get real, though. Wiping a group because someone rang your doorbell? You're going to ruin a group activity you signed up to participate in for the unexpected arrival of an unknown stranger, or the neighborhood kid wants to play, or your son can't get the straw into the juice box, or the freakin' pizza dude just knocked? Weak.

It may be possible to play during these times if you can rely on someone who has agreed to run interference for you, but otherwise, avoid groups if you can't give them your attention. It's really that simple. Lest you come away from this realization too dejected, let me pass on a few more tips and tricks I've gleaned over the years:
  • You are the person responsible for dealing with interruptions. Wiping a group because you failed to think ahead is absolutely inexcusable. Your groupmates should not be foisted with the consequences of a knock at your door or a child who needs attention. Emergencies happen, of course -- but pizza and children aren't really emergencies now, are they? True, taking responsibility might mean you can't do everything you want to do right this very minute. Welcome to the club!
  • Don't queue up or start running group content before the pizza arrives. Let me assure you, it will arrive at the worst possible moment. Another thought: If you pride yourself in getting to the door and back and then scarfing your food so quickly that your group doesn't even miss you -- all while you play -- maybe it's time to take a look at what kind of performance you expect from yourself!
  • Turn on voicemail or turn off the phone. Your phone is a tool for your use, not a cattle prod that tells you how high to jump and when. Control your scene.
  • Stay physically and emotionally available to your children and family. Don't kid yourself that sitting at the keyboard makes you available to your kids. If you're not able to pay attention when they come to you while you're playing -- whether they need a Band-Aid, want to know where those yummy new crackers are, or have a story about how Nicole got Stephen in trouble today because he'd been passing notes to Pranab -- then you're not really available.
  • Make sure your partner knows the score. Sit down some weekend or other relaxed moment and explain to your significant other what goes on during a group or raid, how long each is likely to take, and why it's important that you not leave your fellow players hanging during the process. Enlist your partner's help in finding a balanced amount of uninterrupted play time when he or she can leave you alone or run interference for you.
  • Turn about's fair play. Whatever it is that your partner enjoys doing, make sure you help shepherd equally uninterrupted time for those pursuits, too.
  • Avoid temptation entirely. As I said above, if your kids wake up and need your attention with any regularity at all, simply accept that this isn't a good stage of your life for grouping in video games. Limit yourself to solo endeavors, or investigate a single-player game. Children grow so quickly. Be here now for your family; you won't regret it.

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at Read Robin's section of this post on how to get your letter answered and please remember that we cannot answer privately.

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