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I’m a pretty damned shy person, even with the comforting, fractal-causing veil of Holy Blanket Internet.  Grouping in MMOs is anathema to me in most cases and a source of intense nervousness and stress at the worst of times.  It all stems from this perception that dungeons are meant to be beaten in a fluid, fast and flawless manner.  We’re expected to Bruce Lee the hell through every dungeon, and those left behind are doomed to be locked from content and reward tiers entirely. It’s one of the biggest failings of the themepark MMO model.

“Move like water through these trash mobs. Dinner’s in 15.”

So consider, then, my delight when my guild decided to run a dungeon in WildStar.  Specifically, Sanctuary of the Swordmaiden.  I had a pretty good feeling that my healing build was reasonable, but I hadn’t actually tested it in a group setting, let alone a level 50 dungeon.  I was convinced by the fact that nobody else had done the thing either, so everyone was on level footing.  I conceded and tagged along.

Our guild was almost immediately in trouble, barely skirting the first group of trash mobs as a second arrived to try to wipe us out.  By the skin of our teeth, and with at least one casualty, we made it through.  Then, as we pressed forward to a set of stairs, a pair of Torine Sisters absolutely laid into us, almost immediately taking our tank out and causing us to run screaming to our deaths.

We tried again.  We failed again.  Then we tried to draw one and drew them both and failed AGAIN.

Finally we had the bright idea to just skirt the damn Sisters and press forward.  We stumbled around, ran into another patrol, beat it, accidentally drew the Sisters back in, got beat…it was a ping pong of failure.

Every time we died, there was a digital fart noise.

Two things happened that I had not experienced in any MMO group action here.  Not failure.  Not trying again or attempting to adjust strategy.  But laughter.  Laughter and joking.  And also we all decided unanimously that this shit was too hard and elected instead to do another dungeon.

Un-freaking-heard of.

The one we elected to do instead was Skullcano, as a pair of our group were familiar with the dungeon and knew the fights.  This one started off a LOT smoother, with mobs going by bit by bit and groups falling to us.  It felt good, but never rushed.  Even one of our members was joking about the constantly ticking timer to remind us of how we weren’t going to get anything but a Bronze medal.

The first boss proved a problem…repeatedly…but we kept at it.  We kept throwing ourselves at the problem and getting closer and closer until it finally fell.  We went through the gauntlet of flames, screaming and laughing and freaking the hell out.  After that, it was another bit of mob-fail ping pong as we drew in patrols or accidentally opened fire on previously friendly targets.

Bosun Octog provided another round of tries and fails, with victory coming just barely as a couple of deaths forced everyone else to burn the bastard down.

As viewed from a screencap from a video cap in a video player. Because I'm a terrible photojournalist.

As viewed from a screencap from a video cap in a video player. Because I’m a terrible photojournalist.

The final boss was the killing blow for us on repeated occasions.  We either would be burned all to hell by the lasers of the Terraformer, get destroyed by his standard attacks or he would freeze up and cause us to have to reset the fight.  After several attempts we decided to call it a wash and we walked away, quitting the dungeon.

Again, un-freaking-heard of.

The fact that I was with some folks I felt pretty comfortable with helped, but I don’t feel like that was the deciding factor here.  I still had never healed with my character before, and I had never entered any of these dungeons before.  What mattered here is that we ignored the whole point.  WildStar prides itself on being a chest-thumping playground for the super elite and self-described “hardcore”.  I was with a group of people who could give five craps about any of that and were just having fun.

There was failure.  There was poor skills on my part and zealousness on the parts of one of our DPS’ers and our tank.  We took at least 10 or 15 minutes to down a single boss when a timer dictated we do it all in about 20.  But we were laughing.  We were joking.  We rolled our eyes at the systems before us and we just had fun, even in moments of spectacular failure and repeated death.

I think we’re losing sight of that in MMOs.  I think more MMO devs and especially more MMO players need to recognize that these things are meant to be experiences.  People are so fixated on the win, the clear, the gear treadmill, the loot, the praying to RNGesus that we’re losing sight of the idea that these things are supposed to just…be FUN.  Fun despite failure.  Laughing at the silly mistakes and facepalming good-naturedly at the dumb decisions.

I should bookend that I’m not trying to infer that those who want to clear dungeons are “doing it wrong”–I would never absolutely demand that one’s playstyle is more accurate than another’s.  What I’m trying to say is that we can’t ignore the dungeon as a setpiece for fun and camaraderie as well as a place to get shinies as fast as possible.

Failure is an option that should ALWAYS be factored, and should be fun, not a defeat.