We have several commenters on the last post citing the problem as “overthinking”: optimization is sort of prisoners’ dilemma, in which optimization (defection) takes the fun out of the game, but if you don’t optimize (cooperate), you’ll be excluded from some significant portion of the game/community. By this logic, everyone would be happier playing with each other and not worrying about optimization, but once someone brings a gun to the knife fight, you have to too. There is a tension here.
On the one hand, I am very much on the record as being against games that use big numbers on monsters instead of an interesting challenge. You only need optimized characters if the encounter is tuned to need optimized characters, and this optimization usually involves lots of grinding and hey this kind of thing is why I am on MMO hiatus. One part of the tension is whether the game itself actually calls for optimization, or at least accessing some significant portion of the content does, at which point non-optimizers are self-excluding by that decision. They are not playing the same game as everyone else, and if they complain about not being invited to groups that would wipe because they are there, well, it’s a DPS check boss, bring the DPS or stay home.
On the other hand, I am very much with the view of playing with friends for fun. That’s kind of why we’re here, or should be, because “achievement” in the MMO sense is mostly a false sense of achievement. At that point, though, what game you’re playing is mostly irrelevant as long as it does not get in the way of fun, which most MMOs do with level differences and several other things, so you would be much happier playing something else with your friends. If the fun is playing with your friends, and you are bringing the friends, the game itself is not carrying much of the weight here. It’s just an excuse to be in a chat room together.
On the gripping hand, there is non-optimization and then there is just being lousy. You don’t need hardcore theorycraft to see that some people are just really bad at really easy games, going beyond “I don’t care about optimization” to “I don’t care.” The tank who won’t use a shield, the guy who is using gear from 20 levels ago, the folks who like to see big numbers and why are you whining about group mechanics: there are degrees of sub-optimal, and once you’re on that slope, internet arguments will typically deliver you into the hands of people who show up to raid without any potions. As a reasonable human, you can probably strike a balance, but get 5 or more random humans on the internet, and how likely are you to strike a reasonable mean between “you must have this gearscore to come” and “complaining about the naked tank is just rude.” (I’ve played with people who never trained the best abilities for their classes because it went against their “character concepts,” which is fine if you warn people at the start that you are intentionally sub-optimal.) You and your friends may have a reasonable mean within your group, but then we are back to your bringing your own friends and so why would it matter what anyone else thinks if you are not going to be grouping with them?
Ethic, I can still get annoyed remembering the */Radiation Controller who joined us on the Sewer Trial and mocked the notion that she should have taken any of the Radiation toggles. I was checking builds and ready to boot people for a month after that.