(Don't) Boost Me

I've been thinking about boosting lately. As far back as Vanilla, I remember scowling at one of my friends when he offered to boost an alt through the Deadmines on a higher-level character. After all, I wanted to do the dungeon for the experience of doing a dungeon, including all the at-level group play that entails. Having someone too high-level for the content just AoE everything down with ease for faster XP and loot kind of seemed to be missing the point.

There's a certain type of MMO player whose every response to someone not liking a thing is to say something like: "Well, don't do it then. You can let other people have their fun. It doesn't even affect you!" But in a social space I've always felt that misses the point. When you're looking for group mates, anything that diminishes the pool of players available to you can be a problem - and people opting to be boosted instead of playing the dungeons the "intended" way with other players of their level is definitely one of those things. I liked how this meme from reddit illustrates the issue:

Fortunately for me, this isn't much of a problem on Hydraxian Waterlords. Boosting happens, sure - but from what I can tell it's rarely transactional. Or at least the occasional person trying to buy or sell boosts in LFG seems to either get ignored or gently scoffed at. Hydraxians tend to see boosts as something you do among friends, to make friends, or just because you're bored and/or feeling charitable towards other players. I often see people advertise that they are about to carry someone through the Deadmines or Stockades and have room for more lowbies to tag along. After all, it would be a bit of a waste if a good melee weapon dropped and you only had a little mage in your group, right?

The first time a guildie offered to boost one of my alts, I felt kind of conflicted. It was definitely going against my usual modus operandi, but at the same time it would've felt rude to refuse, and I wasn't that strongly opposed to the idea of some extra XP and loot on that particular character. And then... I kind of ended up enjoying it for what it was, not a real dungeon run but rather a relaxed way to hang out and keep busy while exchanging banter.

Also, as I think I mentioned before, my alt levelling feels very different now that I've refreshed my memories of the whole process on both Horde and Alliance side. It's not as engaging, and there are definitely times when I get stuck in a bit of a funk, for example because I have some elite or dungeon quests in my log that I want to get done but am struggling to find a group for. A helping hand can be a great way to get you "over the hump" there so to speak.

I've even accepted boosts from strangers a couple of times. These can be hit or miss. One time I joined one for the Deadmines where the booster had advertised open slots for randoms but in practice didn't give a damn about anyone but the friend for whom he had originally set up the run, so that us latecomers - who were obviously under-levelled for the whole thing, which was part of why we were there - struggled to even make it into the instance unassisted.

Another time on the other hand I joined a Scarlet Monastery boost group helmed by a bored level sixty warrior and with three of us little ones having healing spells, we ended up forming a little entourage encouraging him to make bigger and bigger pulls while we all spammed our low-level heals on him. That was good fun and didn't feel that different from a regular dungeon run in look and feel, even if the warrior being vastly over-levelled obviously made it easy mode.

I still prefer normal runs and it's quite disappointing when you join what you think is a normal pug but after struggling to fill the last slot someone brings in a vastly over-levelled friend that just turns the whole thing into a boost instead. But my opinion on the practice has certainly become a lot more nuanced than it used to be.


  1. The thing about social spaces is they don't belong to any one group that uses them. I like to think of mmos as parks or recreation grounds. They provide a common space for anyone who cares to use them, there are some facilities provided and some areas marked out for certain activities but in the other areas it's up to the people who turn up to decide how the space is used.

    And even in the areas reserved for specific purposes it's still up to the groups who use those at any given time. If you've booked the tennis court and you don't want to play a competetive game, just bat the ball back and forth and not keep score, that's your choice. Other people watching and waiting don't get to tell you how to use your time there.

    As for the idea that non-standard uses deplete the available pool of potential participants in standard use activities, I think that's stretching social responsibility too far. At that point it ceases to become social and becomes collective, where every individual isn't just expected to respect other people's choices but to comply with the choices of the majority. That might seem fine if you're part of the majority but not so much if you're an outlier.

    Outside and above all of that come the rules of the park owners and operators. Those have to be adhered to, even if they seem arbitrary, because access to the space relies on following those specific rules. These are social spaces but they aren't truly "public" spaces, after all. They're private spaces to which access has been granted, conditionally.

    It's a complex situation and, yes, I probably have thought about it rather too much over the years!

    1. I didn't really go into it much in this post (though it's alluded to in the meme) but in WoW Classic there is the additional issue of money. If someone wants their friend to boost them through a dungeon rather than find a pug for it - fine. Like you say, that's their choice. But from what I can tell from places like reddit and YouTube, on Classic there is also a strong push towards making everything into a monetary transaction, with a lot of people buying or selling boosts for money. (Though again, my server is apparently just different.) This then has other cascading consequences on the economy and so on.

  2. I have to think that the boosters on Myzrael-US have dropped off a bit because the Myz population itself has dropped off a bit. The people most inclined to boost have already boosted, and those who left WoW have already left for Retail or other games.

    I must admit, however, that I expect boosting to get back on the bandwagon once BC Classic drops. The sweaty raiders aren't going to wait for a Draenei Shaman to level up to 70 before raiding: they want to raid NOW!

    That's when I expect boosting to pop back into the forefront.

    1. Yeah, Hydraxian Waterlords has got noticeably more quiet recently as well, probably due to the sweaty guilds finishing Naxx and feeling "done" now.

      And I can definitely see your prediction about BC being right!

  3. I tend to float back and forth about boosting. Generally, if I want to run the dungeon and work on learning a class I hate having a booster in the group. It defeats why I want to run the instance. Now, if I'm just trying to finish some quests, then I don't care so much. It's still a bit annoying because I don't feel like I earned that dungeon run (however silly that sounds).

    Now, if a friend offers to run me through something and I just want it over, I'll accept. Most of the time, though, I do want to enjoy the journey and have the experience. I'll thank them for the consideration and just queue up or look for a group.

  4. Interesting, I've never heard any such purist's take on the subject ;)

    I don't remember ever joining or starting a boost for any random, it's strictly a thing between friends and spouses for me.

    Mains are exempt anyway, unless one would level a lot faster or slower than the others, and I'm more like "will do dungeon at level if possible" but for alt #3 I am more than happy to get a quick run through Ragefire or Wailing Caverns instead of trying to get a group together. This is one thing where I actually hugely prefer retail WoW. Level alone in peace to max-level and then do your dungeon quests while getting meaningful gear.

    That is not to say I didn't enjoy lowbie dungeons in WoW Classic at launch, but I stopped for a reason, I was never a fan of having to hunt for a group (wasn't in a real guild, just <10 friends, so meh).