(Part one of “teams, friends, guilds, other players and stuff”)
I had one of those fun quests, “Kill 10 wombats, 10 badgers and 10 hatstands”, where there’s packs of roaming wombats and badgers everywhere, but only two hatstands in the entire zone (probably because wombats and badgers have little use for hats, and thus by extension hatstands, although for some strange reason each hatstand is totally surrounded by numerous wombats and badgers). So I’d racked up the 10 wombats and badgers in a couple of minutes, and was on 3/10 hatstands when I saw someone else, of the other faction. Someone else hunting hatstands. Oh dear. On a PvP server, it’s nice and simple, you’d just kill them and get on with it. Or try and kill them, be ganked by the stealthy rogue hiding next to them, and get corpse camped for the next half hour, prompting you to send out a call for help, bringing a posse of guildmates to sort out the nasty old enemy and camp their corpses, just for a little while to teach them the error of their ways, prompting *them* to summon forth further guildmates and allies, and so on and so forth until the entire population of the server is locked in deadly conflict, digging series of trenches and fortifications opposite each other and contemplating amphibious operations in the Dardanelles in an attempt to break the deadlock, while the native badgers and wombats sit around their hatstands watching the whole affair with detached interest while eating popcorn. Like I said, nice and simple.
On a PvE server, though, it’s a dilemma. Specifically, the prisoner’s dilemma. If you both co-operate, clear out surrounding badgers and wombats and take it in turns tagging hatstands, it’ll take a while but you’ll both get through it in the end. If you both go all out to try and tag hatstands as soon as possible, you’ll wind up covered in too many wombats and badgers to handle, and die a lot. So why don’t you co-operate? ‘Cos obviously the optimal strategy for a single player is to let the other poor bozo engage the wombats and badgers, then you jump in and grab the hatstand at the end of it, and run off laughing. And you know that, they know that, you know that they know that, they know that you know that they know (etc.), so it ends up with the pair of you standing *just* outside aggro range of the wombats, hands poised over your weapons, while Alessandro Alessandroni whistles away in the background. Nine times out of ten, you’re both perfectly reasonable people, but the possibility that the other person might be a bozo forces you to pre-emptively behave in an indistinguishable-from-bozo-like fashion yourself.
 OK, obviously it doesn’t *force* you to behave like that, it’s only a silly computer game, what does it matter if they go around grabbing all the hatstands and it takes you a bit longer to finish the quest yourself? There’s far worse things going on in the world, get some perspective!
 Yeah, right. Like there’s anything more important than getting even with that kill-stealing jerk over there…
If the other hatstand hunter is in your faction, of course the optimal strategy of grouping up to hunt hatstands is far more attractive, but there’s any number of further counter-reasons for not wanting to team up (‘cos you get into loot issues, or maybe there’s three of you, four of the other team so you can’t form a single group, or the other player doesn’t respond to tells or team invites, or you just don’t feel like grouping ‘cos you can’t face the strained small talk and social awkwardness of extricating yourself afterwards…)
Anyway, that original stand-off was resolved as I was pretty bored of badgers and wombats by that point anyway, so I wandered off and did something else, returning for the hatstands later with some backup to make wombat-clearing easier. But the question is, how to avoid bozos, and the propagation of bozo-ism? Well that’s where guilds can come in…
(Ooh, a cliffhanger, it’s just like Doctor Who)
(Except for being exciting in any way, but never mind)