The GearScore fallacy


Vacation time means catching up with one thing. Gaming, and sleeping. Two things. Vacation time means catching up with two things: Gaming, sleeping and blogging. Three. Three things…

Before this ventures too far into the surreal world of Monty Python, something completely different.

I read Gevlon’s blog. Most of the time I don’t agree with him, for the simple reason that I don’t think he ‘gets’ why people play games and his poor understanding of what ‘being social’ means. But that is not the point at hand. Occasionally, I come across a post that I do agree with. In this case, a rather old post, titled GearScore Failure.

He proposes that, in a casual environment (pugging, in his example), GearScore is actually inversely proportional to player skill. The reasoning – in my own words – is thus.

Acquiring gear is mostly a function of time spent. While time spent also equals experience (as a player) gained, this ratio varies wildly. A skilled player is someone with a high ratio of time spent to skill gained. An unskilled, carried player is someone whose ratio nears zero. Both type of player, though, acquire roughly the same amount of gear.

Now for context. In a casual environment, what type of player is more likely to apply for a pug? A skilled player that is himself more likely to be in an actual raiding guild? Or a player whose applications get turned down again and again because of a lack of actual playing skill? You can’t see the skill. But you can see the GearScore. And since time spent equals gear, skill equals time spent to skill gain and skill gain means higher probability of raiding guild membership – high GearScore in pugs means probably not much playing skill.

Probably. Of course there are a ton of exceptions. It also depends on how high you set the bar for being a skilled player. Or an okay player at the least. But factoring in other outside elements, such as character name and general demeanour in chat, you should be quickly able to discern into which category the player falls.

Why am I posting about this, anyway?

Enter the casual player.

Time spent means gear. Or rather, time spent raiding means gear. Time spent questing means less gear. But time spent no matter what means skill gained. Granted, the ratio is potentially higher when raiding, but still. Skill gained, in this case means nothing at all for guild membership. To get that gear, though, a casual has to spend more time questing and soloing instances. Whether soloing instances is still casual is open for debate, I say yes. More time spent means a higher potential skill gain. Soloing can be quite stressful, and a good training ground for improvisation and quickly adapting to new situations.

So, since a skilled raiding player won’t apply to pugs (he will, but for the sake of argument, he’ll be the exception), we have two players applying for the pug run: One with a high GearScore and dubious guild membership and one with a medium to low GearScore and no guild membership. Unless both have the same dismal outside factors in chat, the low-GearScore casual is not only much more pleasant to run with, but also probably more skilled. Go with the casual. You’re doing yourself and everybody else a big favour.


  1. I think at this point in the expansion a lot of the arguments don’t necessarily work (regarding high GS
    = carried player etc. or they’d be in a guild) since a lot of guilds have put raiding on hold until Cataclysm. I know some of them are still trudging along, but there’s also several who are not.

    So there’s a lot more players out there at the moment with fairly good gear who still may be interested in doing a PUG. And if not on their main (cause they don’t need more gear/aren’t bothered) possibly on an alt.

    I know for me personally I PUG on two alts, one of them by now is as geared as my main (sad, I know) while the other still could use quite a bit of gear.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to not bring the casuals. For me when I look for people for PUGs I usually just want to know that they know the bosses (preferably), don’t care if they did it on another character and don’t have achievements.. and for gear I don’t care as long as they have enough to manage the instance.. which for ICC10 – if we’re honest.. is T9 since that’s what everyone had when we first entered, and now we have a 30% buff on top of that. People asking for 5k or 5,5k GS for ICC10 are just silly.

    Of course if you want to do a full clear of ICC10 and not just 4-6 bosses you probably do need people with a bit more gear, but for the sake of argument I’m assuming we’re talking about the regular PUGs who only do 4-6 bosses 🙂

    • Yes, this will be more true again when Cataclysm hits. But this post has been on my drafting board for too long now. 😉

      But, “knowing the bosses” is player-skill based, and has nothing to do with gear or current achievements. “Enough to manage” is also a quantifier of quality – a good player can manage with less gear than a bad player.
      This post was just to illustrate that in many, many PUGs and discussions, GearScore is used wrong – as a final measurement instead of the supporting tool it really is. And I think we can agree on that.

      On another note, I’d trust Pawn more than GearScore, as Pawn actually has weighted scales according to class and spec.

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