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Below is a picture of my build in Guild Wars 2.

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I’m running a Guardian right now who wades into battle almost exclusively with a mace and a shield. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve gotten this build optimized, but damn if it isn’t optimized for me.I promise, I did try to find the “best” build for a Guardian who maybe wants to tank things later in life. Truly, I did. I looked at guides, watched a few videos, and checked out some builds from a skill calculator. And every time I did, I felt my eyes glaze over and my brain turn into moosh.

It actually conflated a problem I have with Guild Wars 2 – indeed, with many MMOs – of believing that a hive mind would collectively know what’s good for my playstyle. While I certainly came away with a couple of good ideas from my research, I ultimately ended up feeling like I was wasting everyone’s time. Especially mine.

So, I elected to just play Guild Wars 2 “wrong”. And it’s brought me more enjoyment than any of the previous attempts I’ve made.

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They’re dead. I’m not. Success achieved, far as I’m concerned.

This attitude translated further into the way I approach the game’s content, too. When I first played the game at launch, I was driven by this insane desire to fill out every bar on every square inch of the game’s world map and came away hating myself and the game by the time I got to Orr. Now, I’m just focusing on doing Hearts and getting Hero Points and treating the rest of the map activities as if they’re invisible.

Granted, this also means I’m not going to be able to get a Legendary, apparently – a decision that could end up blowing up in my face if I wanna do endgame things like dungeons, Fractals, or raids – but that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it if I even want to. Right now, I’m just having a good time.

Of course, I’m not saying those who follow guides to the letter and smooth advancement and builds into airfoil-like efficiency are doing it “wrong”, either. I’m just saying that maybe their conventional wisdom isn’t terribly wise. Especially when it comes to personal style.

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Fluffy kittyman is my aesthetic.

I actually have much more intelligent and prolific human Ethan Macfie to thank for this line of thinking when he replied to my Twitter musings about mentally coming to grips with how Guild Wars 2 plays. His advice: don’t treat your skills like you would in typical MMOs, but think of them as abilities that are used in MOBAs; skills that are meant as a sort of “ohshit button” instead of things to be woven into an endless hotbar piano recital.

That really broke the mold for me, and when I found the weapon combination and abilities that I liked to feed my win through attrition playstyle, I started forgetting more and more of what guides told me and just…did what felt right.

That’s, ultimately, what has me excited for the Firebrand spec in Path of Fire. It appears to feed directly into how I like to play and also gives me a reason to actively think about using my Virtues instead of never hitting those buttons ever. And, really, I’m just going to remain ignorant of what guides say about the Firebrand once I get to that point because every ounce of enjoyment I’m getting from playing is proving my instincts right. Even if my build strategy is no deeper than “smash buttons until I find several that feel nice.”

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“What’s this button do?” *FWOOM* “Heee! Pretty fire!”

Is this going to cause headaches for people I end up doing group things with? Possibly. Should I care? I’m not so sure. Obviously, I want to do what I can to help and work with a team, but I have to consider myself and what I’m getting out of playing a game first. Because it’s play first.

Advancement and achievement is great. Working together with others to gain stuff is the reason I love MMOs. But I also have to continually remind myself and advocate to others that this is just friggin’ play time, guys, come on. Seriously. Lighten the hell up just a wee bit? There’s really nothing wrong with some honest mistakes or even sideways thinking. Especially if you get the clear.

I dunno, maybe I have games like City of Heroes to blame: MMOs that didn’t really spank you for not having The Perfect Team Makeup for the greater majority of its activities. Or maybe this feeds into the now beaten horse of whether people who write about games should also be amazing at them. But most of the enjoyment in playing a game is from the creativity, the exploration, and the puzzling through what feels right. That’s play. And that’s friggin’ beautiful.

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In this sea of others, nobody seemed to care about my numbers.

I know I’ve talked about this a lot before. About finding the things you enjoy in a game despite criticism. It just has to be repeated so often because I feel like the demands of others in MMOs are just too burdensome. I want to offer a voice saying that you’re allowed to pair a focus with a dagger in your build if you want to.

Guild Wars 2 is teaching me more and more that I am my best skill calculator and guide video. Even if I’m likely not going to do as well later in the game and could fail pretty handily in group stuff, that’s alright. Because I’ll learn from those mistakes and see about adjusting. I’ll have fun doing it.

I’ll just play.

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