What’s Wrong With This Looking For Dungeon Picture?

An added disclaimer: I came home from the office, tired, angry at the trains for always being late, stressed and all that usual stuff. In the entry below I might sound a bit harsh at times – if so, I’m sorry. I will not edit the entry in any way though, I shall leave it as is. But this is what can happen when you have a personal blog that is yours and yours alone. Be kind, and please, if you disagree with me, let me know in the comments.

Since the release of the Dungeon Finder tool in World of Warcraft, a lot has been said about it. It’s been praised, ridiculed and criticized – people can’t decide if they love it or hate it. Neither can I, after only having spent one evening with it (yes, I’m resubbed to WoW, will get back to that later). All that I can state is that World of Warcraft, with the introduction of said tool, is a completely different game compared to only a couple of weeks ago.

Copra, on Twitter, linked a blog entry that caught my attention more than the others though.

The Basic Premise

The post is called The Porn Star and the PUG, written by Elnia at The Pink Pigtail Inn. The basic premise of the entry is twofold. Number one, Elnia applies a quote from Sharon Mitchell, former porn-star turned doctor (who runs the AIM Institute, which tests actors/actresses in the porn industry for STDs), to her own life and later to PuGs through the LFD tool. Number two, she draws an analogy between porn in general and the LFD tool.

The Mitchell quote comes from an old interview, where Mitchell states that “I think I fell for attention. I was performing acts of intimacy without the intimacy and that kept me from love for a long time”. The interview in question, according to Elnia, is no longer available online, but there’s no real reason to doubt that it’s real considering it’s a sentiment shared by other porn stars (Jenna Jameson’s How To Make Love Like A Porn Star is recommended reading, from a psychological standpoint if nothing else).

About the analogy between LFD and Porn, Elnia writes

The critical question is why is there a tool that emphases the unshackling of sociability from grouping when, as I pointed out last summer, the teen age years are the most social times of one’s life. Do we really want our children to learn that the ideal group is a group without intimacy? For the precise real world analogue to the new grouping tool is the website Adult Friend Finder, where people go to create PUGs for sex. With strangers.

I’d recommend reading the whole entry if you haven’t yet, because I can’t keep myself from commenting on it more in-depth than a normal comment on a blog would allow me.

An Analogy Gone Astray

Early on in the entry, Elnia points out that she came across the quote from Mitchell years ago and found in it an analogy for her own life. She then goes on to apply it not only to porn in general, but to the LFD tool. Here’s the first trap that we have tendency to do when finding something profound that makes us rethink our life – without hesitation we apply that new revelation on more or less everything around us, despite that the source of the revelation and the subject we apply it to don’t have anything in common.

I’ve done it many times over the years myself. It is this phenomenon that can turn people who find a drastic new meaning in their life arrogant. While Elnia, when hearing this quote, saw a similarity between her own life and the lack of intimacy that Mitchell describes, it does not automatically apply to completely different context. The LFD tool and the lack of communication in most groups formed through that tool, is not the same as the lack of intimacy in a sexual love relationship. The two are so wildly different that they don’t even share any common ground.

If person A says “my boyfriend does not want to have sex every night”, person B can’t apply that to her/his own life and respond “same here, but in my case he doesn’t want to eat pasta every night”. It’s not even the same context. Intimacy, or the lack thereof, in one context is not the same in another – only because something is “lacking” in one case, doesn’t mean that what is lacking in another is remotely the same thing.

In Elnia’s life, that quote seems to have been discovered at just the right time. I do not question, or disparage, that at all. But it is hardly a quote that can be applied at all things, as soon as something is lacking.

It’s A Matter Of Perspective

The new LFG tool is the gaming instantiation of the pornography mindset. A quick easy thrill with no string attached. So it’s no surprise that it’s popular; pornography is popular. As Tobold correctly notes popularity normally means profits.

I will get back to the “pornography mindset” later, but here Elnia likens watching porn with the LFD, as both are “quick easy thrills with no strings attached”. Hey, pornography is popular, which means that LFD is popular for the same reasons. Again, the analogy stumbles over itself trying to prove its point.

There are just too many “quick easy thrills” in this world to make the comparison between porn and the LFD hold any water. Bungee jumping is like porn, because they are both popular quick thrills. There’s no intimacy or communication in bungee jumping either, which means that it’s like porn. For many, drinking alcohol is a quick thrill, so is sniffing glue or balancing near the edge of a cliff.

See where I am going with this?

The porn-analogy would mean anything if the subject was even remotely connected with pornography or sex, the LFD tool isn’t. We could, perhaps, liken the mindset of people who become sex-addicts from suffering the same “lack of intimacy” as a porn movie. But gaming, a group of people picked together at random from a queue and shoved into a dungeon together? That because they don’t communicate, because most people are so familiar with the dungeons themselves that they don’t have to communicate, they lack intimacy?

When I’m playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I am thrown into a group of strangers. We have one common goal – to win over the other team. If we win over the other team, we get bonus XP. Bonus XP leads to more unlocked weapons. I don’t talk to them, they hardly talk to me, most of us know more or less where to go and what to do. If someone is under-performing, they run the risk of getting downrated. Does this mean CoD:MW2 is like porn?

Of course not. The problem for LFD is a matter of perspective, it is because it’s not always been there. We look back at what WoW used to be like and judge this new tool through those eyes (even if we like it or hate it). Running dungeons with strangers has always been a fact of life for many in WoW, now most of the communication has been taken out of the equation. Is that a good or a bad thing? Do we want WoW instances to become more like “ordinary” multiplayer games? Those are questions I believe we should be asking, instead of drawing convoluted analogies to pornography.

Why Do You Bother, Petter? Get Real.

Yes, why do I even care? Here’s the thing – Elnia gives pornography an agenda and applies that agenda to the LFD tool.

Elnia states that pornography’s “purpose..it’s goal…it’s aim” is “unshackling sex from intimacy”. By then drawing a comparison between porn and LFD, the natural conclusion would be that the LFD shares the same purpose, goal and aim. It’s a rather bizarre conclusion.

First of all, there’s a problem with giving pornography a purpose. Pornography, in itself, doesn’t have much of a purpose except showing people in sexual situations on photo or film (or in art, some might point out). There is no unifying voice of pornography, it’s not a political party. Yes, it can have – and has had – political and cultural implications, but that’s from an observer’s point of view. Pornography, in itself, does not have a goal.

In the same way, the LFD does not have an aim in itself except for an easy way to get people together into random dungeons faster. We know that Blizzard is still looking out for social interaction, especially with the upcoming changes to guilds in Cataclysm and the fact that they still add raids to the game. We haven’t seen what kind of implications the LFD will have on the WoW community in the long term, since it’s only been out for a few weeks. What kind of emergent gameplay will come out of this whole experiment remains to be seen and we have yet to hear anything about how the system will come into play in Cataclysm.

A similar system has already been in place for PvP in WoW for a long time. Does that mean that the Battleground queue system has an agenda and an aim to make people communicate less? For the longest time, chatting in BGs have been reserved for the whiners and the would-be leaders, while everyone else have been acting on pure instinct, not bothering to chat or to pay much attention to the rest of the people in the battleground. While that does not have major implications for the LFD tool as such, if we are to apply an agenda to one system in the game that acts a certain way, shouldn’t we be doing the same to a system that works more or less the same way?

Another reason why I feel that Elnia’s post should be criticized is because it takes two cultural phenomenon – pornography from the “real” world and dungeon running in a “virtual” world – and mashes them together. That should never, ever go without watchful eyes (same goes for this post, by the way, feel free to rip me apart in the comments). Then it’s a matter of language, where Elnia calls Mitchell a “whore”. Not a big thing, probably not meant in a negative way, but that offended me more than any of the f-words in the entry.

Towards the end, Elnia writes

…every day [Mitchell] gets to look those young men and women in the eyes and subtly ask them what their AIM is. Do they really think the risk for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is worth it for a few thousand dollars and the chance to see oneself in a movie. Do you think fellow Warcraft players that having a silent run, without communication, without intimacy—your little noontime quickie—is really worth it for a shot at some loot? Is grinding out one superficial relationship after another—networking—really worth it for success in the business world? It’s not my place to tell you yes or no [...].

I’m sorry, but I think you just did.

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  1. Scopique says:

    Well, I agree with your stance that equating porn with LFD is a bit off the mark on one hand, especially in light of the last quotation there: Is it really worth it for a shot at some loot? I suspect, though, that in both cases (porn and WoW) the answer given would be YES, although you can’t get AIDS or other STDs from WoW (insert lonly nerd joke here).

    But from a higher perspective, the corrolation is the same, although the level of indignation that Elnia takes with the sitution is off-base. Originally, developers and players viewed MMOs as social first, gaming second. Over time (and thanks to WoW), it became loot first, social second as the game shifted to accomidate those who wanted better paths towards the achievements: loot, advancement, etc. Whereas at one point you had to talk to people to get into groups (“where are you?” “we’re at the bank” “OK, I need to do X, Y or Z and I’ll be right there.”) the new tool (from what I gather), simply allows you to get thrown into a pot without having to engage in this banter…what could be the last vestage of “required” conversation.

    However, the industry seems to be latching onto this. WAR’s and CO have “public quests”, as does STO, where non-grouped players are auto-grouped or are expected to work together to achieve a goal. No interaction needs to take place; it’s a “get it done however you can” situation which is enabled by these mechanics of proximity, and not by social interaction. I participated in three of these events last night (I shall not say where), and in NONE of them did any of the other players who joined me say a SINGLE WORD during the scenarios. Naturally, neither did I. Even at the time, I wondered if this was healthy: sure, we might be getting better rewards due to the scaling, which helps make this situation an attractive option to those who want loot, loot, loot, but as a social enabler? It’s worthless and impersonal.

    None of these systems, however, preclude anyone from actually socializing to form a group. These methods give a nod of acceptance to the idea that people want to get in, get the loot, and get out as quickly as possible without having to wait around for others. I suppose that it also helps that you don’t have to actually TALK to anyone, so long as everyone is contributing equally. In that respect, I can see the corrolation between impersonal sex for payout, and quick, impersonal grouping for loot.

    • Petter says:

      Yes, I can see what you are saying, but wouldn’t it be more fitting to liken the whole experience with say, swingers that go to a party only to have sex with a lot of different people without saying a word to them? Or even one night stands?

      See, the whole porn-thing is just over the top. There’s no correlation with pornography and WoW, certainly not with the LFD.

  2. Longasc says:

    I think the discussion would be better if she simply would have said what she thinks, without the flawed comparison to the porn star revelation. There is some truth to it, but it is also definitely misleading to some extent.

    I think you should rather link to more articles on Copra’s Blog, I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and experiences with the LFD system.

    This tool was the most significant change to the game in years, and it will change the way people perceive and play it fundamentally. Given the extreme bellwether position that WoW has among MMOs, it will also change for what players will be looking for in future MMOs.

    You mentioned Battlegrounds, and this is an excellent example for a horde of solo players or small groups getting thrown together. This would not work nearly as well if one/few persons had to gather 10-40 people for the BG. There is an addon out there that allows groups to simultaneously join the same battlegrounds. This tool is a plague, is it still possible/around? You know what happens to semi-organized soloers if they meet an organized force.

    Guild Wars has a huge player pool and no proper LFG system; but with huge player pool asocial language and attitudes become more common. I related this to the anonymous internet fuckwad theory.

    I think Elnia is a bit afraid of a lone, asocial experience. As if she would be playing with human robots, she does not like that. And I think in the long run it would bother me, too.

    It will be interesting to see how Blizzard will promote levelling in the “world” from zero to 85 in Cataclysm! Right now the game has a “beam me from Dalaran to a Dungeoncraft Dungeon” feeling to me. My friend Andre is levelling up a Mage in WoW and he is running low levels dungeons he did not see before to level up. This is a quite a cool experience. I still wonder if it will not alienate and disconnect players from the world and their home server and have not only positive consequences in the long run. Maybe it is more useful for the damn dude called Joe Casual than for MMO veterans that play a lot.

  3. Monkeyclaws says:

    After you logged out a thought popped up in my head. How are you supposed to meet new people in this game with a mechanic like this in action?

    Instancing and PuG’ing back in the days consisted out of numerous hours of among others BRD and the impossible mazes of Dire Maul. Between the mobs and bosses you chatted with the rest of the group. Got to know them, their guild and people they knew. Those are the foundations of the networks at least I have today. The people I have on my friendslist.

    With the new LFD system I fail to see myself ever adding random bloke nr.17 from this and this dungeon who actually managed to say two complete sentences which didn’t include “Hurry up, plx?” or “Need for offspec?”. I should however encourage him to keep this up and perhaps at least try to memorize his name waaay back in my head because random bloke nr.17 is a rarity. He should be treated as such.

    When Cataclysm arrives I have a desperate wish that the LFD system will just be a phase and hopefully just fade away in the patches that brings us up to 4.0. Not bloody likely though…

  4. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading both Elnia’s post and your response! Don’t worry about upsetting people with it – it’s a blogger’s prerogative to state their opinion and readers should respect that. I always enjoy reading your stuff. :)

  5. [...] mutant is a great writer and he’s knocked out a couple of  articles that caught my eye recently. What’s wrong with this looking for dungeon picture? is his response to Elnia’s provocative column comparing LFG to cheap porn. When I’m playing [...]

  6. Plastic Rat says:

    You guys are so intent on discussing the tiny details of the comparison that you’re missing the point.

    It’s simple, the LFG tool removes a large portion of the social aspect from the game. That’s it. That’s all she’s saying.

    For years, the social aspect was THE reason you played massively MULTIPLAYER online games.

    Over times, various things have washed away the social aspect and made it more about the loot and the stats than the fact that you’re playing with thousands of other living, thinking (mostly) people from all over the world.

    It would be very hard to deny that the LFD tool adds a lot of momentum to this trend.

    You can debate the validity of the porn comparison all you want, but you’re missing the point.

    • Petter says:

      No, I don’t think anyone is missing the point actually. :) The loss of the social aspect through the LDF has been discussed in many places before, I shall get back to it myself soon as I’ve now had the chance to try it out properly, but this entry was all about the validity of the comparison between LFD and porn. That’s all. :)

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