Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Sep 29, 2010

Personality Traits: Dominator vs. Perfecter

Wow, it's been a while since my last post. I hope it was worth the wait, assuming anyone stops by to read this at all. Anyway, this is a bit of a continuation of the post I made over *cough* a year ago *cough* about Questioners and Answerers and is somewhat in that same vein. If I keep this up I'm going to wind up developing my own personality "typology" along the lines of Myers-Briggs and I will officially have become a pseudo-psychological hack.

While the earlier post was more about psycho-epistemological habits, this one is about how people handle their ambition differently. As before, I started theorizing about this because of some things I encountered that started me thinking. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons Online in my spare time, a MMORPG. I'm going to apologize now for some of the video-game related arcana that follows--I'm hoping that knowing the jargon won't be necessary to following my point but it may make my examples a bit confusing. A lot of people in the game (particularly in the guild I joined) think of me as a "hardcore" player because I approach the game with a fair amount of ambition. There are a fair number of similarly "hardcore" players in the game so I've gotten to see a fair cross-section of, I suppose you could say, how people approach their ambitions when they have any.

Then, recently, one of the exclusively "hardcore" guilds (Legion, if it matters) issued a "challenge" to other guilds to be the first one to complete the new raid from the latest update on Epic difficulty instead of letting Legion do it first and learning how to do it off them. The reactions that I saw were generally along the lines of: Legion are jerks, and let's show them! My reaction: who cares? But I'm "hardcore" (meaning ambitious), and the Legion guild is "hardcore" (also meaning ambitious). So what's the difference?

The difference is between being a Dominator and a Perfecter. Now, I'd like to make a point here that a Dominator is not always or sometimes ever interested in dominating or defeating other people. There are plenty of Dominators out there who aren't interested in competing with people, which is a subjective standard anyway. And Perfecters can be extremely competitive if THEY have subjective standards. I am not one of these, which is why I'm making this point, because my examples are all going to come from my perspective and it may sound like this is what I'm stating. The difference I'm stating here isn't so much in *what* they do but in what they *care* about.

A Dominator is all about challenge. They want to tackle a hard problem and carry it off--not just carry it off, but pwn it, to use the internet vernacular. (I'm aware that my vernacular is out of date and marks me as a wannabe in the leet circles. I make no apologies because I don't friggin care.) They focus on the particulars of the problem and will often memorize some incredibly arcane stuff so that they can pwn it even more severely.

In games, Dominators are very often one-trick ponies (although in DDO at least, if you do your one trick well enough you can pretend to have a well-rounded character because you can often get away with not having to do anything else). They want to have The Biggest something. Anything. The most damage. The best AC. They don't necessarily care if it's bigger than somebody else's whatever-it-is as long as it's absolutely the most they can figure out how to get. In other areas than gaming these people are usually described as "greedy", in the sense that no amount is ever "enough" for them. If they can do more of something, they're going to pursue it, even if it means sharply limiting themselves in other areas. They are completely oriented on particular challenges and address each one as a separate and distinct unit.

To give a very specific example (because I've run across it several times and it drives me up the wall--that, and I think it's a very good example), because I play a rogue a lot in DDO, one of the things I do often is disarm traps. There's a very simple procedure involved in disarming a trap that relies on three different skills. One, you need Spot so you can notice that there's a trap in the general vicinity (you get a little pop-up warning), preferably *before* you walk into it. Two, you need Search so you can find the control box for the trap, and third, you need Disable Device so you can actually use the control box to disable the trap. Well, a lot of Dominators in the game REFUSE to put skill points into Spot, claiming that it's "useless". They just memorize the location of every trap box in the game. Or, excuse me, they don't actually do this, they claim that they do this, but much of the time (especially in the quests where the traps are semi-randomly placed) they don't manage to pull it off. There are many quests where I happen to know where the trap boxes are off the top of my head, but I'd never actually go out of my way to memorize this stuff because I'm much more interested in general solutions, not particular ones.

I'm a Perfecter. I don't care about going through these contortions to know The Solution to every single individual problem I ever run across. So, yeah, it may take me longer to solve particular problems than Dominators (after they have The Solution, that is). I'm interested in general solution algorithms. My focus is not on this challenge but on making sure I have the means to handle as many different challenges as I can come up with. When faced with a tradeoff between having The Biggest something-or-other and being absolutely pathetic somewhere else, I either find a way to do both of them (even if it's going to take a LOT of near-obsessive work), or just accept that I'm not going to have The Best something.

In my mind, Dominators have it easy--there's a reason being a perfectionist is not considered a positive trait. Our desire to do EVERYTHING WELL can make us so scattered that we don't do ANYTHING well ENOUGH. (Or, we get overloaded and burn ourselves out. It's not fun.) Our interest in a generalized algorithmic approach to problems means that some of us (me) aren't motivated to actually go FIX the PARTICULAR problem because we know it's going to involve some messy bits that our algorithm doesn't and can't account for. We may have a hard time settling because we often have unrealistic expectations for how much we ought to be able to accomplish. And we're not that interested in "challenges"--in fact, I at least PREFER things to be easy. It means my algorithm is working. Whereas a Dominator faced with a lack of challenge will quickly get bored and go look for something else to do.

Then again, Dominators have problems too. If their knowledge of particulars fails them, they may get utterly stuck on a problem--and their drive to surmount challenges can lead them to keep beating their head against a stone wall. From what I've seen, though, most Dominators don't have actual antipathy for the Perfecter approach the way many Perfecters have for the Dominator approach, so many are somewhat capable of taking a step back and attempting a general solution when their particular approach fails them--but not always.

So, to go back to the beginning here, I have zero interest in this Legion challenge, not even enough to say that they're jerks for issuing it. I find the entire business silly. My interest in the new raid would be to see whether MY algorithms work on it, so it doesn't matter WHEN I do it or even really whether I do it at all. I'll get to it when I get to it. But for Legion being First is a big deal because it means they're still pushing the envelope and getting every last bit of toothpaste out of that tube.

Edit: Ugh, that wasn't complete, because I didn't explain why I chose "perfecter" as the alternate to dominator. It's because since Dominator's charge out there and attack the problem until they get The Solution, perfecters (at least I do) are often willing to pick up a ready-made approach from a dominator and then fix it up--do the editing, as it were. So very often we're working with someone else's original ideas and efforts. Interesting, no?


Anonymous said...

Assuming this is a real dichotomy, the reward models I see in MMOs favor Dominators by giving higher rewards for efficiency on repeated runs of the same content.

Jennifer Snow said...

I don't think it's a dichotomy, just a difference in approach that I noticed. And Dominators are not *necessarily* more efficient than Perfecters. Many tend toward a brute force approach that can come back to bite them and actually be less efficient over time.

Like the Q vs. A article, they aren't mutually exclusive traits.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that the idea of multiple general case solutions isn't something commonly favored - especially in DDO. An easy example are arcane archers - they trade maximum damage dealing for overall survivability in a lot of circumstances. Player culture, and habit, prevent the playstyle from shining which makes the idea of trading damage for survivability an unpalatable one (since it's the clerics job to make sure people survive, according to a lot of players).

Part of the split happens in DDO specifically because some people - like yourself - come with pen and paper background as opposed to pure video game backgrounds. When you're wading into unknown realms as an explorer, rather than a problem solver, you have to be more general case rather than specific solution. The observation in this case is strongly slanted on the basis of culture and background in a lot of these cases as a result.

Other games tend to have this split as well, but it's not nearly as severe as even the most casual of player in other games tends to view a 'single right solution' as the 'only solution' given the trend of internet spoilers for quest designs. One a single methodology is found to be functional most of the time the average player will adopt and assume it's the only option. The split is less severe as a result because less people ever consider the benefits of a general case - they zip to a website and find the 'one right answer.'

The reward metrics in a lot of games rewards a time investment versus a reward calculation, this is no different in DDO. While there may be more elegant solutions, purpose built ones may be faster in the narrow case and are seen as more desirable regardless of more elegant or dare I say adventurous solutions.

That said? I'd much rather have you rogue'ing a new quest we haven't seen than someone who is willing to die a few dozen times 'detecting' the traps because they have no spot.

Jennifer Snow said...

Heh, funny you should mention Arcane Archers because I HATE PLAYING WITH THEM. HATE HATE HATE.

Why? Because it seems like 90-some percent of them have no sense whatsoever, and they're always doing dumb things like killing mobs too soon (e.g. in part 2 of the Shroud) because their slayer arrows procced at the wrong time or pulling aggro off the tank and then getting annihilated because they were doing TOO MUCH damage. I've reached the stage where hearing "Oh I can just Manyshot that" makes me want to boot them out of the group.

I'd rather play with people who can be trusted to do something constructive all the time rather than only do something useful when MOAR DAMAGE is what you need.

Anonymous said...

A lot of what you just described is the result of trying to play an AA with the same style as every other damage dealing build - it lacks elegance and skill. I'd much rather run with the AA that self buffs, has useful equipment, and knows when to put down the bow and pick up swords - varying their style to meet a challenge - rather than the barbarian optimized for 60 strength under a narrow band of usability while offloading every single component of their survivability on to the party. Those barbarians also usually run heedlessly into things and get ground up in minutes without the rest of the group conforming.

They seek to dominate content through brute force rather than perfect it through skill or elegant solutions - that split is a prefect example of the two sides here. A properly geared and played AA is an asset in nearly every quest (all ... what, four? of them on my home server - they aren't commonly done right). The player behind that character is likewise usually more of the well prepared sort.

The 60 strength barbarian is a good example of the dominator archtype though - through brute force, in a lot of circumstances, they accomplish some things quickly at the cost of being narrow and expensive to support in terms of other players resources. This isn't considered a problem by these players, because they got that 900 point critical hit and 'crushed that guy!' regardless of the resource burn rate of the party or even the success of the run.

Dominators seem to master tasks, while perfecters like to master skill sets from what I've observed. If you change the task, a perfector can adapt more quickly but a dominator usually has to start from scratch and build a method from the ground up if they can't brute force the task with existing resources or techniques. I think that's why your idea about perfecters taking a dominator strategy and polishing it up rings very true - a perfecter is always looking for new tools for the toolbox, where a dominator is only looking for a new problem to beat with a hammer until they either crack the problem or are forced to adapt by the failure feedback loop.

Jennifer Snow said...

That's an excellent way of putting it. My housemate complains about the Dominator tanks in World of Warcraft a lot because of something they do called "stam stacking"--that is, they focus almost exclusively on having MOAR HITPOINTS and don't bother with stuff like damage mitigation--which makes them a TERRIBLE drain on healers because they take a LOT of damage that they don't really need to be taking.

My housemate also tanks and he went for a lot of damage mitigation, which means his HP are only okay. But he survives better than the stam-stackers because the healers can keep up with his damage.

I see that a lot in DDO, too. Most of my characters have "low" hit points--they top out around 400--but they're much tougher than the 800 hp barbarians I see around because I pay attention to damage mitigation. And I don't just mean Damage Reduction, I mean stuff like paying attention to where you're standing and how you pull mobs and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer said, "Wow, it's been a while since my last post. I hope it was worth the wait, assuming anyone stops by to read this at all."

Keep posting Jen, you're on my blogroll. I read just about everything objectively oriented bloggers put up.

The reading, as well as the posting, is great therapy for our objective minds. Big "O" or little "o".