Going into the Ascalonian Catacombs, my very first dungeon in Guild Wars 2, with butterflies in my stomach and doubts crowding in my head, I made a very simple plan: Stay out of the way and don’t die. It wasn’t foolproof, but it was the best I had.
We started out smoothly, with a lovely cinematic and no trouble at all in the first couple rooms. Our group worked well together, communicating clearly, and nobody even spoke to me–which suited me just fine. I took a back-seat position, just doing what the others said to the best of my abilities. Now that I was being pressured to perform perfectly, I had no room for anxieties. I just needed to keep a cool head and survive the next hour or so, and then I would be home-free.
That all worked, until in the heat of battle I lost my cool head and something terrible happened: I fell off the platform.
I didn’t fall far, only to a ledge just below, but there was no way for me to climb back up to reach the others–I was stranded. My first reaction was shock. I hadn’t yet registered what had happened, but then, when I realized that there was no way back up, I started to panic. Oh no, I thought, terrified, Oh no, oh no, oh no–they’re going to hate me! My only choice at that point was to teleport to the start of the dungeon and run all the way back. The others would be forced to wait for me, bored and impatient to continue, and I would be an inconvenience to the entire dungeon. It was with great embarrassment that I admitted my mistake to my group in chat.
I teleported to the start and began making my way back to where the group was waiting. “What kind of moron falls off the platform?” I muttered to myself, urging my character to run as fast as she could. “They must think I’m stupid now!” I warily eyed the chat window, expecting them to complain, but I was dumbstruck to see that they were actually joking around. “Don’t touch the stairs of dooooooom!” one player was saying, and the others were laughing with him. It was like they didn’t even notice that they were waiting for me–they simply didn’t care.
Baffled by their tolerance and still expecting some sort of reprimand for my foolish error, I rejoined them and we continued on our way. The dungeon got harder and I started to break my rule–I started to die. As we faced more bosses, my deathcount skyrocketed, and I winced each time I hit the ground. I was conscious of each and every death, constantly comparing it to the other players, convinced that I was dying twice as much as any of them. But I managed to hang on till the end, and our group came out of the dungeon successful and well-rewarded.
As we stood around at the end, gathering our loot, one of my group mates–someone who had died just as many times as I had–said, “I learned today that I’m squishy.” I couldn’t help but laugh and agree, surprised but delighted. I had stressed over the number of times I’d died, but this player was laughing about it–and the others too. No one was angry. No one yelled, or told me how terrible I was, or blamed me for the group’s failure. They were friendly and supportive, just there to have fun doing the dungeon, and they proved it with their constant jokes and chatter. My favourite moment was when a player received an item called a “Sigil of Ghost Slaying”.
“I’m a Ghostbuster!” he said.
And another character replied, “Who ya gonna call?”
They weren’t there to have the best stats or the most powerful gear. They weren’t there to get through the instance as fast as possible. In fact, I wasn’t even sure they were there to do the dungeon. They just seemed to be there to have a good time with friends playing a game they enjoy. The great thing is: so was I.
They made me feel like a part of their group, a player who has value and isn’t criticized for her choices. I actually felt like I had done a good job, and not like I needed to reassess my entire gaming strategy.
And when the leader of the group said a very dramatic, “Goodbye my friends!” I actually felt a bit sad. I was sad that the people whom I’d spent the past hour of my adventure with, who had made me feel welcomed and worthy and a bit more like a hero, were going to be leaving me. But even amongst the sadness, I felt happiness. I’ve got more dungeons in my future.
Not every group in Guild Wars 2 will be so kind and supportive, just like not every group in Aion was cruel and judgemental. Sometimes it just depends on your luck that particular day. My luck was pretty good, though, and I’m now happily at a state where I’m sure of myself as a player. I’m proud to display my weapons and armour, even if I know it isn’t the best in the game. And I’m proud of my skill selection, because I’ve learned to play them to the best of my abilities. I’m not the greatest player out there, but I’m doing exactly what I think the game was designed for–having fun creating my own hero and her adventure. I have no reason to fear grouping anymore.
I thought then and there that things couldn’t get any better. But just like how I thought I would be soloing the rest of my gaming career, I was wrong…