To Parse or Not to Parse?

In MMOs, should you use a DPS parser?

Anyone who has ever played an MMO semi-seriously will have heard of parsing in some shape or form. Some games and communities encourage it, such as World of Warcraft where nearly everyone will use an add-on to monitor the damage per second (DPS) of their party during a particular fight; some will frown upon or even potentially threaten to ban for the use of them, for example Final Fantasy XIV where their use is strongly discouraged.

One question that often comes up, particularly in the latter group, is should people parse the damage of others? Technically speaking, it’s often not difficult to find an application or add-on that will take the contents of the combat log, translate it into a more readable list of numbers assigned to each person representing just how much damage they’re doing, on average, throughout the fight. With this in mind, most of those applications or add-ons will show everyone’s DPS, not just the player using it. Which raises the question as to whether or not it’s “morally” (using the word loosely) right to do.

Personally, I’ve used a DPS parser in many games I’ve played, be it through add-ons in WoW and Rift, or now in Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve always used it as a way to monitor my own performance, and I’ve found that it’s been a hugely positive influence on my raiding gameplay in FFXIV. Firstly, it’s helped me identify weak points in my rotation, as I noticed that I was doing slightly less DPS than the recorded “averages” I’d found online for my class. After reading and experimenting a lot, I’ve now pushed my DPS significantly higher, and know that I’d be able to do even better with more practice. It’s also helped to reassure me when I noticed that I was dropping down in the enmity list (think agro) — I was using an ability to reduce my enmity, but only at the beginning of the fight and still seemed to be consistently low. I was worried my DPS was lacking, so up popped the DPS parser and I saw that I was in fact pushing DPS that I was pretty proud of, and was fighting for top spot with one of our other DPS in the party. And finally, it’s helping me to understand the fights and how to optimise my singing (as a career Bard), as well as movement and downtime.

However, I often see people complaining about elitism in MMOs, and I worry that parsing is a tool that might contribute. Raiding guilds are one thing, where you’re expected to perform to your very best at all times without exception, and I can see parsers being used to identify who can make the cut. But I’d be uncomfortable if I knew that someone was parsing me without at least letting me know. Unless I’m putting myself in a situation where it’s warranted, it just feels like a pre-judgement on my performance which I might already be working on myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t suggest improvements if they see them, but I worry that someone judges just a number without knowing the context behind it.

Of course, there are good sides to parsing beyond my own personal experiences. Some people will use them as a way to educate and help improve the performance of those in their raid groups, which is great! Taking the numbers and translating them into something tangible is where I think parsers will really start to shine. If we take the numbers at face value, that’s when they start to become more dangerous.

What do you think? Are parsers good or bad?
Let me know in the comments below!