This is a guest post from Lara at Root & Branch, the musings of an Azerothian healer. I saved it for last because it is poignant and lovely, but I’ll let you discover for yourself!
You may not realize this, but every single time you run a dungeon using the dungeon-finder tool, regardless of your level, there’s a chance you might win epic or even legendary quality loot. What’s more, such loot can potentially drop for every member of the party.
Now, some of you may shake your heads with disbelief when you read this; others may scramble to look up the loot tables on WoWHead to see what you’ve missed. Don’t bother looking! You won’t find it there. But believe me, it’s true. The kind of loot I’m talking about, however, isn’t something you’ll find on any boss’s loot table. It’s not a funky trinket, a glowing sword, or a powerful belt. The loot I’m talking about here is friendship, and it’s the very best loot you can possibly get.
Friends don’t drop in every single dungeon you run. In fact, the drop rate on friends can often be very low, sometimes! However, when a friendship does drop, it’s so much better than any other random item you could find. Friendships are bind-on-player, they are transferable across servers, they scale with your level, they’re not specific to any class or race, and in some cases they will even work outside the game.
It’s my feeling that friends are the best and most important kind of loot you can find, and they’re what really makes this game of ours worth playing. Without some friends around to share in the struggles, the victories, the defeats, and the puzzles, even the most epic drops can’t keep things fun; all the other rewards of the game can lose their meaning. World of Warcraft isn’t meant to be played alone: Compared to dedicated single-player games, it’s not all that engaging when you go it alone. However, once you toss some friends into the mix, it has the potential to blow those other games out of the water — even the ones that have much nicer graphics.
There’s no doubt that the dungeon-finder has been a mixed blessing for this kind of friend-loot. The ease of assembling a group of players has made it much easier to meet a diverse group of players from a variety of servers, and the time you save by teleporting straight to the dungeon helps you find more groups in the same amount of time. This is great! In the dark days before the dungeon-finder, you had to find people on your own server, and it could often be really hard to get a group together.
On the downside, however, the dungeon-finder has encouraged a kind of “dungeon tourism”, in which groups pop in, waltz through the place in a superficial way, and pop back out, sometimes without even speaking to each other! Maybe you see a cool suit of armour a shiny weapon, and a pet? I see a loud, red-faced, pushy American tourist in a loud floral-print shirt wearing a crappy instamatic camera on a lanyard around his neck, bellowing at a harried concessionaire over the price of a hot dog. It’s a lot easier to understand why some groups behave as they do when you look at it this way. The Hunter with Tourette’s Syndrome shouting “GO F*ING GO GODDAM GO” and pulling everything in sight? That’s him. And just like when you see this as you’re trying to peacefully experience the grandeur of some ancient wonder, it’s all right to be embarrassed for him.
Don’t lose hope, however. Not everyone is like that. I promise you, it’s true. If you keep your heart light, and your eyes open, you can still find those polite, helpful, friendly, patient players who want more from the game than to blunder through the sacred sites snapping blurry Polaroids and bleating about how they wish they were at home. It won’t happen every day, and sometimes it takes a little encouragement, but when you do meet them, it’s like a little moment of magic, something you may remember for years to come.
Right now, our friends-list doesn’t work across servers. I hope they’ll fix that soon. But even without that, and even if you don’t want to give people your RealID information, we can still keep in touch. How? One thing you could do is to use an IM account — something like AIM, Google Chat, or Jabber. Sure, it’s not as convenient as an in-game whisper, but it’s better than losing track! Are you worried about revealing your real identity for professional reasons? No problem — it’s easy to create yourself an e-mail address you can use just for gaming purposes.
Whatever you do, though, please don’t click “Pass” on potential friends. Before you leave your group, take a moment to look at the real loot window, otherwise known as your party interface: Even a little friendly banter can sometimes lead, in time, to a wonderful and fun friendship, in this big and interesting game we all play.
Don’t believe me? Well, dear Reader, if you’re reading this blog then you should know that what you’re reading is here because of how Vidyala and I met: Through pugging.