Friday, February 25, 2011

Just how helpful do I want to be?

(Bear with me, this starts off speaking about games but it is really a psychology post.)  I do a lot of work supporting and designing games.  The reasons I do this are varied - sometimes I do it simply because I really want to maximize my own performance and I don't feel like other people do things well enough for me to rely on their tools, sometimes I just enjoy the process of creation, sometimes I want to assist a community by improving a game or tool and sometimes I can see a beautiful game shining through the drek that someone else has fashioned.  Regardless of why I build things I have gotten by far the most attention for my work on WOW where I support a substantial spreadsheet used for tweaking Retribution paladins.

Some attention is really good and makes me happy.  I am sometimes contacted by people who are designing other tools to get information or point out flaws in my own methodology, which is great.  Collaboration to improve understanding feels great and I very much enjoy technical discussions with people who understand the things I do.  However, one problem I have is that I get a lot of people randomly messaging me with dumb questions.  Now it is very common for experts in a field to deride any question that is easy for them as dumb.  This isn't really reasonable as you can't expect everyone in the world to have the same depth of knowledge as a noted expert - that is delusional.  However, I use a pretty straightforward definition of a dumb question, that being "If the question is clearly and completely answered by the publicly posted guide then questioning it based on a gut feeling is dumb".  More and more when I log on to play WOW I get people pestering me in game about the work I have done and unfortunately most of those questions are simply a waste of time.

"I know everyone says I should *do the right thing*, but it doesn't really feel to me like that is a good idea."

Well, I guess I should set aside the very complex and precise simulators the community has that all show clearly that we should *do the right thing* and all the math showing that *doing the right thing* is the best because you personally have a gut feeling otherwise.

In a lot of ways what I do is like what a scientist does.  I collaborate with other experts, do experiments, perform statistical analysis on my data to be sure it proves what I think it does, share my results, publish significant findings and build tools to simulate the reality I am working on.  I wonder if real scientists get a lot of regular people questioning their results and methodologies with ridiculous questions like the ones I get that basically assume that a uninformed hunch by a random bystander is just as useful as a rigorously tested and confirmed theory by an expert.  I also get a lot of:

"Can you look over my character and tell me what to do?"

Argh!  The information required to maximize your character is well organized, trivial to find and very easy to understand.  There is absolutely no reason to doubt it and no way for anyone who speaks english to misunderstand it.  There is *no* need whatsoever for me to step in and do all the work, unless you count 'the person asking is lazy' as sufficient need.  This stuff drives me crazy, particularly when I find myself doing it against my better judgement.  There is an implicit assumption that my time is much less valuable than other people's time, which is the part that is incredibly frustrating.  Me helping to improve my simulator helps thousands of other people.  This is something I am very happy to do, not least because most individuals simply can't do this themselves; it is up to me to do it or it can't be done.  People can easily read the public information themselves and don't need me - they just want handholding because it is less work for them.

It is quite the conflict because I do like helping people.  I am more than willing to do things that efficiently use my time to improve the lot of the group.  I have this little voice inside me that wants to assist people when they ask but I need to take a step back and think about what I hope to accomplish with my work in a game.  Specifically want I want to do is to provide the tools necessary for motivated people to maximize their performance.  I don't mind at all if some people with minimal motivation use my 'fast and dirty' summary to get better but if the truly lazy can't even be bothered to read what I have created then I am happy for them to crash and burn.  After all, the worst case is that they play badly in a video game and perhaps learn a little about the results of being lazy.  This might sound as if I am against people who play badly, and that is not at all the case:  Some people are fine with playing poorly, and I hope they have a grand time doing so.  I just object to people who figure that it is somebody else's duty to make sure they play well; entitlement isn't something I have a lot of respect for.

1 comment:

  1. I think knit-bloggers get a lot of repeat, simple, irritating questions too. They usually reference a link where the technique has been explained in extreme detail.