DPS Meters – The Gateway Drug of Gaming?
DPS meters are often perceived as being controversial and divisive, especially in the MMO community. Like most tools the problem doesn't lie with its function but how it is used. A claw hammer is not inherently evil per se but it can be used to bludgeon your Grandma to death. Similarly DPS meters provide data which can be used either positively or negatively. They can inform and prompt change or they can be used as a means of segregation and discrimination.
After returning to Star Trek Online in April, I’ve currently hit the proverbial MMO sweet spot. My primary Federation character is at level cap and has full reputation with all factions. I’m currently experimenting with different Tier 6 ships builds and having great fun. That is to say I was, until I read an article last week about achieving 10K DPS within the game. Alas this set off a chain of events that lead me to installing a Combat Log Reader; a decision that very nearly derailed my enjoyment of STO.
Measuring ones DPS output in a game is similar to measuring the length one’s own penis *. Both start from a position of excessive optimism and over expectation and end in disappointment and hurt pride. Let it suffice to say I was expecting to have numbers of about 5K DPS on some of my ships in STO. After running the DPS meter across multiple vessels and alts, this turned out not to be the case. What happened next is a curious thing. Instead of trying to determine what the average figures where for a casual player; something that would've soothed my injured pride because they are quite low, I jumped straight into the deep end. I mean why have a measured response when knee-jerk reactions are far more fashionable?
So I started to peruse the back waters of Reddit, where people share intricate, esoteric starship builds and a love of anal retention. This lead me to conclude that there were equipment and console sets that I needed to procure, that were only available from the reputation crafting system. Such gear cannot be obtained quickly and requires a great deal of resources and grinding. I soon realised that such an undertaking would require a lot of logistical management. If only there was some way to keep track of it all; a spreadsheet perhaps?
I have stood on the edge of the abyss and I have looked in. As I did so the words of Merlin (Nicol Williamson) from the movie Excalibur rang in my ears. “Look into the eyes of the Dragon and despair”. Mercifully common sense prevailed and I managed to prevent myself from stepping into the void at the last moment. I passed the test. I will diminish, and go into a nursing home and remain moderately perilous.
Hyperbole and self-indulgent jokes aside, this entire episode did reveal some interesting aspects about gaming, my competitive nature and the culture associated with DPS meters. There is nothing wrong with min-maxing. Seeking personal satisfaction in achieving a high DPS output and being top of a league table are valid pursuits. They are not however the preserve of all players. I very quickly realised that chasing above average DPS required a lot of time and effort and that undertaking such a task would kill my enjoyment of the game. I fortunately recognised this before I embarked upon a very self-destructive course of action.
Now the title of this post is meant humorously. I’m not positing a serious academic question; merely pointing out that a simple chain of events did divert me from my somewhat placid and laid back approach to gaming. This story is based upon my experiences in Star Trek Online but it is easily applicable to many other MMOs. Usually I’m not a fan of “ignorance is bliss” policies but with regard to casual gaming, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’re happy with your character build in a game, can happily undertake PVE content and have no desire to enter into an arduous competition with yourself and others then don’t ever install a DPS meter (or measure intimate parts of your anatomy). You’ll be far happier.
*This is a very male-centric metaphor. I don’t believe there’s a female equivalent. It’s just some strange facet of biological specific psychology and social conditioning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bulk of gamers that use DPS meters and seek to be the “best” are male.