When I was younger, I heard about peer pressure all the time. Posters in my classrooms told me to stay above the influence, to think for myself, or to stand out in the crowd. School counselors came and told me to be bold and be a leader, while tons of TV shows (from Saved by the Bell to Boy Meets World) tried to demonstrate the consequences of caving to peer pressure.
Somewhere between then and now, peer pressure became much more subtle for me. No one even uses the term “peer pressure” to describe it in reference to adults, but it still very much exists. Feeling forced to bake an extra two dozen cupcakes for the bake sale because Jimmy’s mommy said she was going to? Peer pressure. Feeling bad about ignoring a coworker but doing it anyway because your office buddies think he’s stupid? Peer pressure. Or just ask any parent you know about the “advice” he or she has been given about parenting over the years. The things we buy and say and do in our lives as adults are influenced by peer pressure every day.
World of Warcraft, at least the social aspects of it, is mostly populated by teenagers and adults, and whether we realize it or not, there is ample peer pressure in the WoW community (if you really don’t believe me, go take a close look at the forums sometime).
I’ve experienced this before and admittedly, I have caved on more than one occasion. There are lots of situations this comes into play, but today I was reminded of a particular circumstance that I have seen happen a dozen times over: the pressure to be a jerk.
Maybe you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care if someone’s DPS is low, and as long as you get through the instance, it’s okay. You might talk about it with your guildies, but unless the person seems open to suggestions, you’re not going to confront him or talk down to him, and unless he’s keeping you from succeeding, you probably wouldn’t be the one to initiate a vote kick for low DPS. Maybe you put him on ignore at the end of the run so you don’t end up in a group with him again, but overall, you leave him alone.
But perhaps you’re running with a group of friends who do make it a habit to berate players they deem “bad” (and sometimes they are bad, that’s the catch). Perhaps they start making snide comments at Low-DPSer until they’re straight-up insulting this person. What do you do if they try to draw you into their bashing? Do you ignore it? Do you tell them to lay off? Do you join in because it’s what’s expected of you? It’s easy to say that you wouldn’t be affected by their opinions, but it just isn’t true–if these are people in your guild or people you know in real life, their opinion is going to stick around you for a long time, and you’re going to make decisions at least partly based on that.
I’ve been in this situation many, many times. I have run with a lot of people who are exceptional players (and some who only think they are), and sometimes they forget that not everyone plays the game for the same reasons we raiders do, and sometimes they’re just full of themselves (or are so self-conscious they need to bully to feel big, just like IRL). Whatever the cause, it’s pretty easy for one or two people in a group to start a downward spiral of insults against another player who doesn’t meet their personal qualifications (protip: if you are this person, please run with guild groups and save us all the hassle of watching you be a butthead).
At the end of the run, what have you accomplished by joining in an unfriendly roast? Maybe you’ve gotten some kind of WoW street cred with your guildies, but if they’re the type to start this in the first place, their friendship is most likely fickle and definitely not worth the maintenance cost. Most likely, you’ve just made another player log off in disgust, swear off of tanking forever, or spec away from healing. Even if you haven’t affected them in that way, at the very least you made it to their ignore list. Congratulations?
It’s cheesy, it’s preachy, it’s childish, but it’s true: stay above the influence. Think for yourself. Stand out in the crowd as a leader, not a follower. Your bully buddies aren’t the only ones watching your actions and judging you on them. Your officers are watching, your class lead is watching, future guildies (or not) are watching–and so are the rest of us.
Set the tone. Greet your fellow PuGgers when they join the group. Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong. Be humorous, be friendly, be forgiving. It goes further than you know.
Play well, friends.