I have to get something off of my chest. It has to do with the dreaded PUG. For some people, it will be the Pick Up Group. For guildies that need a last body to fill a particular role it will be a Pick Up Guy. In either, case it will be a person in game who isn’t a member of a player’s inner circle of friends and is simply filling a given role, be it healer, tank, DPS, or random guy who is beneath me/us.Let me preface my rant with my own personal history with MMOs. I started in late 2001 with Ever Quest(watching over a friend’s shoulder), then moved to Final Fantasy XI for about seven years, then World of Warcraft until just after Burning Crusade, then Final Fantasy XIV 1.0, and now Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Final Fantasy XIV: ARR 2.0+. I have had max level characters in all of these games and spent far too many hours to count in each. In each game I was a member of a guild and experienced endgame content. While I have always been a member of a guild, I can honestly say that the majority of my time spent in MMOs was in a Pick Up Group. Most of my forward progress with exception to the most difficult end game content was in Pick Up Groups.
I have recently heard on podcasts, and read blog posts and articles within this community relating to the dreaded PUG – some by veteran MMO players, others by people who admit to SWTOR being their first MMO. I don’t understand where people get this mentality. In 13 years of playing MMOs, I have never experienced bad PUGs in the high percentages that some people insist they exist. Is it really people’s nature to think that the other person in their group is just an imbecile who is ‘Forrest Gumping’ their way through a given game? Do people really think that they are the only person who knows how to do a given boss fight? Do guilds really believe that the way they cleared content last night is the only way to do it, and that a better way doesn’t exist? Sure, bad PUGs exist. But in my 13 years of playing MMOs, I can say that the overwhelming majority of my PUGs have been a positive experience or a neutral one. I know that this crazy rant will go against the current philosophy that all PUGs are idiots but it has to be said.
I would like to point out this commonly overlooked fact: People that play MMOs are smart people. It takes a fair amount of intellectual capacity, and patience to learn the different systems presented within different MMOs. MMOs are not for the average person. Most of us troubleshoot our in-laws laptops, or maybe even custom build our own PCs. We create ridiculous spreadsheets, and figure out the fastest way to manipulate a given set of numbers. To the rest of the world, we MMO players are ‘above the curve.’ I’ll come back to this.
I think that disdain of PUGs is a behavior that is taught, not learned. Imagine a world in your MMO where you didn’t have your friends telling you what to think over your mumble channel. Imagine having no friends at all and having to actually type in the chat window constantly (with your keyboard). For some newer players this will be a new concept, but I promise you there are players whose typing prowess is entirely based on their time spent on a keyboard, playing MMOs. In this world you are forced to communicate with people, not judge them. For those people who would disagree with me, I would challenge them to start a new MMO and not join a mumble channel or a guild. Start this new MMO without knowing anything about it. Start it and play. Just play. Join groups. Tell people (with your keyboard) you are new to a specific objective and see what happens. My money is on this: A person in the group will gladly clue you in and give you tips to accomplish whatever goal you share. More often than not, that group will stick together for a couple wipes giving you tips after each time. Because people are good. People want to help one another more than they want to degrade one another. At least that is how life is supposed to be. And that is the MMO experience. Group trials, group failures, group communication and group success.
So the next time you are PUGing your last few spots in a guild run, or you are the PUG in a random group, remember this: the person on the other side of that internet connection is very likely someone who is considered ‘above the curve’ to those around them. And if and when things go south, remove your finger from your push to talk button and try communicating with the individual on the other side of that screen. You’ll likely find out that the person on the other side of that connection is a perfectly capable individual, and they just saw things a little differently than you did. And you may just make a friend, too.
***This article was published with full consent from Jay Connell, the original author.***