A lot of raiders have what I like to call an automatic self-defense system. It’s called “the excuse”.
You may have seen it before. “Sorry, I must have lagged,” someone says, directly after they’ve been blown up by something. Or perhaps “wtf was that? I was nowhere near that!”, they’ll exclaim. Maybe it’s more along the lines of “I thought I was assigned to A, not B…”
Whatever the case, raiders almost invariably have an excuse at hand to try to pardon — not explain, but pardon — their poor choices or decisions or execution.
This happens in 5-mans, too, to be sure, but I wanted to talk a bit about excuses from the perspective of a raid leader in a progressive raiding guild. We’re not cutting edge, not by a long shot, but we hold our own in terms of server progression.
When a raid attempt goes south, one of the first things I ask myself is “What went wrong?”
I have the output going to /raid. I figure it’s an easy way for EVERYONE to see what happened. (Warning: this only shows the killing blow. Sometimes there are other factors apart from the killing blow. I like to double-check in World of Logs before I draw any permanent conclusions.)
So you see here, I have died to Al’Akir’s Lightning Clouds, which hit me for 17.5k with a 5.8k overkill.
A typical raid leader question here would be “Kurn, how (or why) did you die to Lightning Clouds?” which may or may not be asked. Allow me to let you in on a secret: raid leaders don’t always care about the reason why something has happened, particularly if it doesn’t happen again. I sit there and look at the various deaths and can usually pinpoint the reason for a wipe fairly quickly, confirming with World of Logs or Recount or Skada. If your death was the main reason for the wipe, I don’t care why you died. At all. I just care that the next time, it won’t happen again.
Let’s go back to my example. Say that the raid leader asked me how (or why) I died to Lightning Clouds.
The Bad Response: “Seriously, dude, I don’t know! I was flying away from the person with the lightning thing on them and the next thing I know, I’m not controlling my toon anymore and then it like, DEPOSITS me at the top of Al’Akir’s head, like it did when the phase started and there were clouds there and I couldn’t escape and… yeah, dead! Crazy, right?”
Yes. It is crazy. I guarantee you that even though that’s exactly what happened to me, the raid leader in a progression raiding guild who bothered to ask that now thinks I’m an idiot. That’s not the way to make yourself understood, not with a rambling explanation like that, even if it’s true! That is an excuse. It is not an explanation. That response is me deflecting blame and essentially blaming the game.
The Good Response: “Well, I think I must have flown too far to the side and the game reset me to the P3 start position. That’s my bad, I didn’t know that could happen. Won’t happen again.”
What’s the difference? First of all, this response is concise. One sentence and it explains what happened, or what I think happened. Secondly, and most importantly, the second sentence takes responsibility for the death. I freely admit that it’s my fault because I wasn’t aware that, during the Al’Akir encounter, it will reset your position under certain circumstances. Thirdly, and not quite as important, but still nice to see, is the third sentence. With three words, I have assured the raid leader that I won’t let it happen again. Of course, I might do it again, and we both know that, but I might not, and having put that out there, that it won’t happen again, I’ll be hyper-aware of the possibility and therefore will work hard to make sure I didn’t just lie to the raid leader. It also indicates that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, which is an important trait in any raider.
Excuses deflect blame and responsibility, while explanations accept blame and responsibility.
That’s a key difference for any raid leader. I swear to you, we 100% do not care if your cat stepped on your keyboard, causing you to eat environmental damage and die — as long as it doesn’t happen again. We don’t care if you accidentally pulled a boss because you were changing your mouse batteries and accidentally hit both buttons at the same time, while putting the battery panel back on, causing you to run up to the boss and facepull — as long as it doesn’t happen again. (And yes, I have had both of these used as a reason for people’s death!)
As I said before, explanations might not even be asked for. You should probably not offer an explanation unless asked for one. If you desperately feel the need to defend yourself but you’re not asked for an explanation, I would talk to the raid leader after the raid (or perhaps send a PM on the forums or in-game mail) explaining, not excusing, your behaviour.
I learned about the difference between an excuse and an explanation back on Proudmoore, when I was raiding with a raid leader who was, and let’s be fair to him, a complete douchecanoe. Imagine learning Trial of the Grand Crusader with a guild more progressed than any you’ve been in before, after seeing people being removed from the guild DURING RAIDS due to their poor performances in that particular raid and then being asked what happened to you, why you died?
“mad,” he once said to me, in /raid, “mad, fire is bad. why did you stand in it?”
My RL Friend the Resto Druid (and my healing lead) had coached me in preparation for questions like that. “Just apologize and say it won’t happen again. And then don’t let whatever it is happen again!”
“I’m sorry,” I responded to him, “that was my fault. Won’t happen again.”
“k,” he replied. And it was dropped. Just like that.
I remember once, on Heroic Anub’arak attempts, we used a strategy where we would cast Hand of Protection (BOP) on whoever the second target was in the burrow phase. The first person would run all the way back to the entrance, then the second target would stand right beside an ice patch and get a BOP and then step on to the ice patch just as it was wearing off. On this particular attempt, during the first burrow phase, I used my BOP on the target as normal and then I was the second target during the second burrow.
Unfortunately, the first target had run the wrong way, so I was forced to run back towards the entrance.
The raid leader said to me in chat, “mad, bop yourself when he gets close”
But my BOP was on cooldown. And I was waiting for the BOP from the other holy pally. Which never came. And so I died.
RL, in chat: “or you could just die. what the fuck?”
“Sorry,” I said, “I was assigned to the target in the first burrow, so my BOP was on cooldown.”
“ok so who was supposed to bop mad?”
“fix it,” he said, after a moment or two.
And that’s how it was, raiding with him. He didn’t care what happened as long as it didn’t happen again. Excuses did NOT fly with him. If I had said, regarding my standing in fire, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see the fire until it was too late and I couldn’t stop healing or you would die,” even odds were that he’d just throw me out of the guild.
I don’t think most people are as completely unreasonable as he was, but he did have one thing right: excuses are bad while explanations and accepting responsibility are good. Raiding is full of finger-pointing and accusations as it is. Don’t add to that. Step up, take responsibility for your actions and do what you need to do in order to prevent your mistakes from happening again.