Thursday, September 4, 2014

[Rant] Human organization, discipline, and trust

Let's talk about something that annoys me: careless human HvZ players who mess up other players' game.

Recently, at Waterloo's first invitational, I went on missions with several different groups of humans, with varying levels of organization, varying levels of human reliability, and, as a result, dramatically varying levels of success. Case in point: when the Windsor group secured and completed a puzzle in a small atrium, they did so with no losses and in good time - the zombies pestered us heavily, but that's all they could do as there were people watching all of the entrances at all times - versus a ragtag group milling about and failing to find a bottle in a different atrium, with several people being lost to a few opportunistic zombies.

There are a few specific people whose carelessness has inspired this rant. I'm not going to name names but, if by any chance any of you are reading this, you know who you are.

Let's clarify one thing right now: I'm not saying that there isn't a place for goofing off in HvZ, or that the serious/"milsim" approach to play is the only right approach. In fact, the opposite is true - HvZ is a game. We play it because it is fun. Approaches to the game cover the full spectrum from the immersive and serious to the goofy and careless. There is most certainly a place for goofing off and for being reckless in HvZ.

What I am saying is that group operations are not that place.

In group operations, whether you need to move though unsafe territory, clear an area, defend an area, or do some activity in an area while also defending it - anything, really - trust is paramount, and trust requires at least some degree of organization and discipline.

Go and watch any documentary on SWAT team training, and I guarantee you that they'll mention that, when sweeping a room, each member of the entry team is responsible for a a certain part of each room - and each member of the team needs to be able to trust the rest of the team to kill or disable the baddies in every other part so that they can focus on their own. This simply *works* better than having everyone try to clear the entire room. If you can't trust your teammates, you need to split your attention, and that results in people getting sloppy, and that results in people getting killed.

Group organization follows naturally if everyone in the group is disciplined enough to be reliable and sensitive to the abilities and weaknesses of other players - on other words, if everyone is a trustworthy player. Granted, if you put a bunch of people who are individually disciplined and reliable together, they won't work as well together as people who have trained together and know each other's strengths and weaknesses well - there is a reason why SWAT teams train together, after all. However, in my experience, it does not take long for people to learn to work together well enough so long as each person in the group is reliable.

By group organization, I don't mean rigid hierarchies or a command structure or anything like that - I mean everyone finding a role, no important role being left unfilled, and everyone being able to perform well in their role. A rigid command structure can produce this effect, but it isn't necessary. Individual reliability, on the other hand, is vital.

Here's an analogy: The ability to trust your fellow humans is a roof which keeps the rain (of zombies!) off of your head. Group organization is the walls that support that roof. Sturdy walls take a while to build, but good-enough walls can be built quickly. Individual reliability is the foundation. Without it, no walls can be built and nobody will have a roof. (That's bad.)

In other words, if someone cannot be trusted not to goof off during group operations, this both impairs the effectiveness of the entire group and exposes everyone to increased danger of zombification. This is very frustrating for all of the players who do take the game seriously.

When I say "this is very frustrating", I'm erring on the side of politeness. "You are an asshole, you careless nitwit" might be a more apt way to put it.

Yes, there are players who take the game seriously - I'm one of them. You might call me a milsim player (though I wouldn't call myself that - I prefer a more loose-knit and flexible sort of leadership to the rigid command structure than the word milsim implies). I am aware that some people use the word "milsim" as if it means something bad - as if milsim players are blowhard tryhards who don't know how to have fun and who need to relax and get a life. I don't. Militaries do things in certain ways because those ways *work*, and many of those lessons are applicable to HvZ, and for so long as I am a human I will do what works to ensure a human victory - because that's what I find the most fun.

For those of us who fall on the more serious end of the spectrum, our status as a human is both something that we have worked to defend, and something that we will not get again until the next game (so, probably next year, or next semester at best). So, if you get us killed, we will not be happy.

Once again, I'm erring on the side of politeness when I say "we will not be happy".

There are plenty of ways that HvZ players can goof off or be reckless without endangering other humans or impairing group effectiveness. If you want to troll the horde just for the sake of trolling, go ahead - I might even join you if it's a slow game. If you want to recklessly charge by yourself into an unsecured area, go ahead - just don't draw the whole horde to a group which is trying to hide when things don't go as planned. If you want to fight a sockwhip-using special zombie when you only have sockwhips yourself, go ahead - just don't do it when other humans are counting on you to emerge victorious. If you want to wander away from the main group, for no good reason, go ahead - just don't do it while people expect you to watch a possible attack route, and try not to come running back with the horde on your tail.

There is a broader point to be made here, too. If a person either can't focus in a game as simple as HvZ or can't respect the fact that other people take the game seriously, then they are probably an unreliable and/or inconsiderate person in general. That isn't the impression that you want to leave, and that isn't the sort of person that you would want to have as a friend.

Be reliable. Be trustworthy. Go ahead and goof off, so long as you don't do it in a way that endangers other players. If the other players are counting on you to watch an entrance, then you'd darn well better watch that entrance.

And don't chit-chat while we're trying to move quietly.


  1. I love players who make noise all the time! So much so I feel compelled to move rapidly away from them as a human and to stalk them mercilessly as a Zombie.

  2. Man, I can't agree with this enough, even thought I don't play HvZ.

    Think about it, this applies to almost any game you can play, whether it be just a plain old nerf war, HvZ, or even non-nerf stuff.

    Yeah, people talking when I'm trying to be stealthy makes me a tad annoyed (putting it lightly).

    Nice post!

    ~Elusive (Google+ isn't working, so I'm using anonymous!)