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The Devil's Advocate: Lessons from The Raider's Companion

Column By Victor Barreiro Jr. on April 04, 2012

In my personal life, I've found that while experience can be the best teacher, reading a good book can help bridge the gap between knowing nothing and having a strong foundation to build upon. Thus, I found myself quite intrigued when Adam “Ferrel” Trzonkowski offered to send me a promotional copy of his second book called The Raider's Companion. I took it upon myself to read the book and see what important insights I could glean from it.

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For those wondering, The Raider's Companion is a book on MMORPG raiding. Trzonkowski takes his years of raiding experience in various games and incorporates the ideas into general concepts that can help newcomers to raiding or experienced raiders to learn more about the structure and aspects of raiding in today's game spaces. While the book doesn't really offer battle strategies for specific enemies in MMORPGs, it does provide a sensible look at group organization and the raiding process.

Now some might scoff at the idea of using a book to learn how to raid, but as I said earlier, I found that this book can help build a foundation to base a budding raiding career on. That said, here are the bits of wisdom that I gleaned from the tome.

Points on Raiding

The first point I learned from The Raider's Companion was the existence of what I'm calling the “Generation Gap” in raiding. Trzonkowski mentions in his book that the current state of raiding is quite different from raiding in the Everquest era. He discusses three different generations of raiding based on when a raider entered MMORPG play, as well as six different types of raiding, from pick-up to world-first raiding. This ultimately brings forth the idea that a raid is potentially comprised of subsets of people coming into raiding having different goals and mindsets.

What this means from a raiding standpoint is that raiders, whether well-versed or new, must learn to adapt their attitudes to be able to succeed with the group's victory in mind. This points to leaders needing to manage this generation gap among raiders to get them to fight at peak efficiency. This also means players ought to more mindful that each team member has a different background, as  understanding it and working with that knowledge instead of against it can help group cohesion and raiding success in the long-term.

The second interesting thing I picked up from Ferrel's book was a useful definition for each of the roles in a raid, whether you were a raid leader, a tank, a healer, or a member of the bench. While the individual player probably focuses on his particular role more than that of others, being aware of the value each member of the raid brings to your team, whether they're actually part of the raid itself or not brings forth the idea that the raid isn't about any individual's need to get loot (though getting loot can be one of the mindsets brought into a raid situation).

Related to the second point, the third point I got from the book was about respect, not simply as a matter of course during the actual raid, but also as a habit you think about when you're playing. A competent raider learns to appreciate the individual contributions of members, regardless of a raid encounter's outcome. The competent raider respects his comrades-in-arms by learning the strategies necessary for a fight, getting outfitted with gear and consumables accordingly, and being early to the raid venue and location of the raid leader in order to allow the raid leader to have an easier time managing people. Most importantly, the exceptional raider (regardless of role or function in the group) doesn't lord his capabilities over others, but instead offers suggestions at appropriate times to help others improve their game or to adapt the strategy that will help the team win.

On Real Life

Perhaps the best part of The Raider's Companion comes in midway through the book, as it made me start thinking of real-world parallels to the advice Trzonkowski imparts.

In a chapter on raiding and real life concerns, Trzonkowski sums up the conundrum of playing games versus focusing on real-life tasks quite succinctly: “You cannot succeed in raiding if you do not succeed in real life.” He prefaces this by saying that he understands the powerful psychological effect that can result from raiding or playing games, as if we might be Clark Kent when we aren't playing but are Superman when we log on.

Despite this lure of the game, he reckons that being a team player means doing so on and off the game. If someone is losing sleep and neglecting important duties (such as taking care of his children) for a shot at a dragon's head, it can be a teammate's duty, a responsible yet awful duty to be sure, to be the “bad guy” and remind everyone that they have work in the morning and bills to pay. As Trzonkowski writes, “It just takes one brave soul to say it is time to quit for the night. Real teammates look out for each other and are understanding of true obligations.”

Raiding and Real Life

Much like real life, Trzonkowski writes at the end that “Raiding is the type of activity that can be coached but not taught solely from a book.” He asks us to be better raiders by experiencing raiding itself while imparting general principles of conduct: an understanding of individual differences, respect for others, and a balance between work and life.

I could have talked about his discussion of a fictitious raid encounter, or of the different forms of loot distribution, but that wouldn't help us any. The essential triumph of The Raider's Companion can be seen not only when we defeat a powerful boss monster, but also when we think about bringing what can be learned from the book for use in improving our lives as a whole. That's a pretty worthwhile quest in and of itself, don't you think?

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains the the Landmark/Everquest Next and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can also find him on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.

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