The 5 Stages of Grief in MMO PUGs

Puggin' Ugly. Seriously, that's what it is.

I tried to run an 8 player instance today. “Tried” being the key word.

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Long story short: a DC Universe Online GM threw down a gauntlet after first back-handing me with it. So on my livestream, I ran 8-man raids to see if they were even able to be finished in PUG’s. The results? 75% completion rate. This is so unusual that even the viewers were asking “Did the GM’s throw a switch or something?” I’ve been playing the same raids off the stream, and those are currently at 0% completion rate. More testing is needed, and I’ll detail out my experiment at another time with a PUG explanation.

But in these off-stream raids, I see patterns emerging. I hold that “disband group” creates a “quit culture” within the game. Going into an instance there’s a feeling of dread, “Are we even gonna make it past the first boss?” Every wipe brings that uncertain feeling of “it’s all about to fall apart.” This is pressure to perform that makes these things un-fun.

The main pattern I see emerging is the “Kübler-Ross model,” better known as the “five stages of grief.” And it either runs at a blistering pace, or it can be long and drawn out. And here is how it breaks down. Basically.


This is usually the silent stage, where a group hits a boss and fails. People start looking at the scorecard and DPS meters, seeing who’s to blame. They inspect other players to see who’s got “bad gear.” It’s always someone else. Always. Even if it’s you, it’s someone else. When they start chatting about the other players gear, it graduates to the next stage.



This stage is punctuated with helpful advice. Advice like “L2P,” “UR gear SUX!” “bad heals,” “OMG U ALL ARE N00BS!” and my favorite “IF u don’t know the fight by now, uninstall and kill urself.” The above example is tame, and probably the only one I can post without warning people about content. Things usually end here as the player in question just leaves in what’s lovingly called “Rage-Quit.” But sometimes, they want to finish the mission. This is when we get to the next stage.



This is a little different than a normal stage of grief in that this is the part where people try to explain the fight and what you’re supposed to do. This, to me, is the funniest stage in that you’ll often see several people bickering on how the “right” way to do something is. I’ve been told, in the same instance, to both kill and not kill mobs, focus on and not focus on the main boss, and spread out but stick together. You also get “helpful” advice, usually from people stuck in the last phase.



This is where people start to give up hope, and they start to ask to be excused or they just leave silently. They also start openly saying “this will never happen.” It drags everyone down, and groups usually fold shortly after people start saying things like this. It makes the group question if they even can do it, and every failure reinforces the idea that they can’t.



And finally, this is when the group decides to just give up. Not everyone hits this at the same time, but for the most part, after the depression stage, it’s really easy to get a group to just throw in the towel. And because how the mechanic works, and since the game punishes you for wanting to finish the fight, if the majority wants out there’s no point in staying.

Suffice to say that this gets tiresome to watch time and time again. It’s gotten worse with the “Disband Group” mechanic in that they can pull everyone’s mood down with their own. So, what do you think? Seen this in your MMO’s? I’m curious to see.

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I'm a gamer. I'm a reality junkie. I'm a cynic. I'm a dinosaur. I'm a writer. I'm so much more than a paragraph can say. You want more? Ok. I started a video game show on the internet some time ago. See, I've played video games since Intellivision and Atari 2600 and PONG back in the day. Retro-gaming doesn't really fire me up as much as seeing how the community ticks. And after seeing way too many "I'm too young to have played this game when it first came out but it MAKES ME SO ANGRY" reviewers who would happily eviscerate my childhood for lulz... yeah I tossed my hat into the ring. the quickly scooped it back up, I'm told I have a bald spot that needs covering. Outside of gaming... yes I go outside shut up... I like to play paintball when I can. I snowboard a lot, when I can. I go mountain biking, when I can... seeing a trend yet? I prefer reality to video games, but at 4 AM it's hard to find a paintball game going on. Lately I livestream a lot, playing video games for an audience.