Spinks' latest post is about gaming and voice chat, with nicely coincides with a recent realisation I had on the same subject.
As a sort of introduction, let me say that I'm a fairly quiet person in real life and don't like talking and drawing attention to myself too much. Unsurprisingly, I'm not too fond of using voice chat either. This hasn't been helped by the fact that I'm not a native English speaker and have a pretty crappy microphone, so half the time people either don't hear me at all or respond with some variety of "What? Sorry, I didn't catch that" to any comments I try to make.
Still, I'm quite fond of listening, and I can absolutely see the benefit of using programmes like TeamSpeak or Vent for raiding. In fact I'm pretty sure that most raiding guilds use voice chat of some sort these days.
On Wednesday I came home from work and immediately jumped online to join one of my guild's raids. Having only just returned from hours of work in a busy and very noisy store, I wanted to enjoy some peace and quiet for just a little longer, so I decided that I could probably pass on logging onto TeamSpeak for Vault of Archavon; after all the bosses in there are all loot pinatas anyway. All went well and we continued to Onyxia. "Oh, it's just Ony," I told myself, "I know that fight too, no need to log on TS for that either". Afterwards we went to Ulduar. Can you guess what I thought? Yup, I decided that that didn't really require me to use voice chat either, and eventually ended up not using it all night. Once I missed the raid leader giving me an assignment, but since I knew that I was missing an assignment, I asked about it in raid chat and someone else clarified it for me. Otherwise my performance didn't suffer at all; I topped the healing metres, didn't stand in fires and so on.
The bit that surprised me however, was not so much that I could pull off a raid without listening in on TeamSpeak, but that this actually increased both my enjoyment of the raid and my focus.
As far as the enjoyment part goes... you know the saying that sometimes you don't miss something until it's gone? It works the opposite way too, sometimes you don't realise how much something bugged you until you suddenly find yourself free of it. In this case this something was simply "too much pointless chatter on TeamSpeak". Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people having a laugh now and then, but as of late we've had some members who really just can't seem to shut up and seem to feel the need to vocally share everything with the raid the very moment a thought pops into brain. It gets annoying. Imagine if everyone acted like that, we wouldn't get a thing done anymore! Not having all that idle chit-chat forced on me for a change was very pleasant.
And as far as focus goes, not being on voice chat made me realise just how overly dependent many people in our raid force have become on having everything called out loud. I'm not talking about unexpected things like a tank dying or a spontaneous change of strategy - that's what it's there for, to be able to quickly communicate those things on the fly. I'm talking about basic boss abilities - for example someone will always ask for people to call out the specials on the Twin Val'kyr in Trial of the Crusader. Why? Every raider is supposed to have Deadly Boss Mods or a similar addon installed anyway, which has warnings and timers for pretty much everything as it is - just how much redundancy do we need? On Yogg-Saron someone from the "brain team" went insane and then complained that there had been no call on TS to move out of the brain. Hello? Just look at his freaking cast bar - when he's almost done casting, run out. How hard is it?
Anyway, my point is that even I had got used to the constant calling out of abilities to an extent, and it had made me lazy. When you completely rely on someone else to tell you what to do all the time, you won't pay as much attention to things yourself. With voice chat gone however, there was suddenly no one to call out portal spawns or to remind me to check my sanity anymore. As a result I simply had to make sure to be highly focused myself, and to watch the DBM timers and my surroundings like a hawk in order not to mess up. I think it would do many of our less-focused raiders a lot of good to be forced to use their own brains more often again. I don't think that anyone who raids with us is dumb, but some people are really a bit too slack when it comes to paying attention during boss attempts.
I don't think I'll be able to convince the raid leaders to stop using voice chat altogether (they'd hate to have to type out all the instructions on a new boss for example I'm sure), but I'll definitely have to suggest cutting down on its useage.