This was loosely inspired by this post by Chas, which was in turn inspired by something else... so by now the thing I want to talk about is only very tangentially related to the original source, but that's how these things go sometimes. Isn't it great? Basically, the question that popped into my mind as I left a comment on Chas' post was: how offensive is it really to be called by your class or role instead of your name in a pug? You know what I mean... "healer, res me", "pala, buff might" etc.
I know from reading other people's posts and comments that a lot of bloggers dislike being addressed like that and I used to be one of them, but when I paused to actually think about it today I realised that while I still don't particularly like it, I've actually become a lot more tolerant of it. I kind of had to, as it's become very rare in my pugs these days that anyone will call me by my character's name, so rare in fact that it's likely to make me do a double-take, and if I were to quit every pug where someone referred to me exclusively by my class or role, I wouldn't get a whole lot done.
Maybe I've just been desensitised, but I've grown really accustomed to being called "tank", "priest" or whatever. I still address others by their name when I'm talking to them directly, but in third person I'm actually also more likely to just use their class or role. As in "let the tank get aggro first" or "the hunter has gone the wrong way". It just seems clearer, considering that everyone will immediately know who "the tank" is, as opposed to "Mooman".
I think that largely this is a side effect of the way pugs have become a lot more impersonal. I mean, character names in WoW are very different from our names in real life - after all we don't run around with name tags floating above our heads in everday life - but people still feel very strongly connected to them: they hate having a name change forced on them, having their name misspelled or mispronounced, seeing other people with stupid or offensive names - names are still something dear to our heart.
With that in mind I think it makes perfect sense to not use names when in pugs anymore - why be personal when we don't treat the other players like actual people? I mean, I like being sociable in pugs when I get the chance, but when you only spend about fifteen minutes with your party, they never talk and you never see them again it's really quite hard to get attached.
I struggle to think of a good real life analogy because it's hard to find anything comparable in real life. Maybe riding a bus with other people? That can take about as long as a pug these days and the amount of interactivity is quite similar as well. Now imagine that everyone on the bus was wearing name tags. Would that cause you to say, "Excuse me, Jane, is the seat next to you free?" Or would you still rather stick to an impersonal "Miss" or something of the like? I know that I'd prefer the latter, because being so close and personal with someone I don't know and have no particular intent of getting to know closer would be awkward.
There's also the matter of time. This might seem ridiculous, because how long does it take to look at someone's name and spell it out? A few seconds I suppose, but in today's heroic running culture where people calculate emblems or justice points per minute, that can already be enough for the rest of the group to zoom ahead of you and start the next pull. Also, you want to take your time and be careful not to misspell it, as that can cause offense in its own right. And shortening it to a nickname kind of implies a level of intimacy that's certainly not there with someone you only just met five minutes ago and with whom you haven't exchanged a single word so far. How much faster is it to just refer to the guy in the back with the bow as "hunter"?
As if to prove my point, I ended up in a Halls of Stone run only yesterday with a retribution paladin who had Righteous Fury on. I paused for a moment to politely point out that this wasn't a good idea and would just give her aggro. Her name had five syllables, consisting of ten letters, and I had to double-check that I spelled it correctly. By the time I hit enter, the rest of the party was already halfway to the next boss (and I'm not a slow typer), and I realised that I actually felt slightly awkward being so "overly friendly" to a complete stranger.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is, people have already agreed that the dungeon finder has changed the feel of the community and the way people act. Where once a server was a bit like a village where people knew each other, the dungeon finder now throws you out into a giant pool full of strange players. As far as names are concerned, it's okay to use a very personal form of address when dealing with a small group of people you're familiar with, but you wouldn't really call everyone in a big city by their first name, nor would you want them to speak like that to you. Maybe calling people by their class or role is simply starting to serve a similar purpose as a title or last name in real life. After all, many real life family names were originally descriptive terms as well. (Mr Smith, anyone?) Just like we don't perceive it as rude in real life to be addressed as Ms Doe instead of Jane, maybe we'll get used to our class or role being used as a neutral but more distanced form of address instead of feeling that the person calling us such is being annoying and offensive.