Friday, June 28, 2013

The Perception of Time

Have you ever had a moment when playing where everything seems to move in slow motion?  I'd imagine PvP players get that feeling a lot.  Where things just feel like they slowed down to the point where you have so much time between making decisions that you make them easier, faster and more situationally accurate.  Where your perception of time just seems skewed.  Where you get that feeling that you are "in the zone".

I wonder if anyone else ever has that feeling when playing.  I have three distinctively different experiences with the perception of time while playing.  Each seems to be predominant when playing a particular role but that does not mean it is unique to it.

Slow Motion:

I get this feeling mostly when filling the role of a damage dealer.  It usually comes at the point where I have finally "got it".  When I found that perfect comfort zone where I know when to use my cooldowns to get the maximum out of it, have mastered all the movement and mechanic moments, and the game starts to come into complete focus.  That "in the zone" moment if you will.

That is when it seems the game starts to move in slow motion.  Where I have that extra second to hit the right ability or think about it, even if I am not thinking about it.  It just begins to feel as if I have the time to think about it, a lot of time, because everything is moving in slow motion.

I have had this slow motion moment while tanking or healing but not as often as I do when filling the role of a damage dealer.  It seems to be that this is a predominantly damage dealer feeling of the passage of time for me.  Perhaps that is because that is the role I am most used to playing or the role I am most comfortable filling and thus why it feels as if I have all the time in the world to do what it is I do, shot things with arrows in the back of their head.

Quick Passage:

Although I first started healing in wrath it wasn't until cataclysm that I first experienced the quick passage of time phenomenon.  I believe it was healing magmaw, my first healing of that expansion.  When the fight ended I felt like saying, "but it just started".  I honestly just did what I did and never even noticed the fight take place.  I was "in the zone" with my healing bars, my healing spells, and doing the dance.  I never even noticed that the fight was taking place.

I healed here and there throughout that tier only ever experiencing that once again, doing chim.  Only on those two bosses and I do not know why only them.  I thought it was just something about them that made me have that feeling.  That is until dragon soul came out and it seemed that on nearly every single fight in there I had that feeling as if I missed the entire fight.

The feeling of a quick passage of time is actually kind of nice as a healer because you are always in a fight against your mana pool and the faster you can end the fight the less likely you are to run out of mana.  I had thought, during dragon soul because I was at a nice point with my mana, that it was the reason everything felt like it was moving so fast.  No worries about mana just meant to heal, heal, heal.  But what about magmaw?  If you healed at the beginning of cataclysm you will remember it was a bit of a nightmare when it came to mana, even more so when you are a part time alt healer, so that can not be it.  It was just an "in the zone" feeling.

Slow Passage:

The slow passage of time, as in, will this fight ever end, is a feeling I get more often when I tank than with any of the other roles.  While I have had some moments like that while healing and dealing damage the times I usually get that feeling is when tanking.

When you hit that three minute cooldown and then have to wait what feels like 15 minutes for it to come back up.  It seems as if everything is taking forever to happen.  Waiting for that next big move you need to use a cooldown for and you wait, and wait, and wait, but it seems like it is never coming.  It is supposed to be cast every minute but it feels as if three minutes are passing between each one. 

This is not a slow motion feel, do not get it confused with that.  Everything feels as if it is moving at normal speed, well, except for the things you are waiting for.  Waiting for something that is normally a 6 second cooldown surely does not feel like six seconds, it feels like twenty six seconds.  Real time passage, except for the cooldowns.  That is the feeling I get when tanking most often.

In a way it does work to my advantage, it is an "in the zone" feeling even if it is quite awkward at times.  It is like you are monitoring the cooldowns on everything and being they take forever to come up you always know exactly when your cooldowns are up, when the next big hit will come, when you will be ready to do what you need to do because you are watching those timers like a hawk.  As the saying goes, it takes longer for a watched kettle to reach a boil.  Perhaps it is something like that.

The Roles We Play:

While I do not know if I am the only person that has these feelings with my perception of time I do believe I might have an idea why I perceive time as I do in these cases and it has to do more with how I view the roles.

Damage dealers feel like they are moving in slow motion because I view them as something that requires quick thinking to maximize the damage I can put out for each global.  So time slows in my mind when I am "in the zone" so I can better react and do my job.

When healing I always feel as if I am in a battle against my mana bar.  It is my job to keep health bars up while keeping my mana bar from falling too fast which would keep me from keeping the health bars up. The faster my mana goes down the more frantic my job becomes.  I am always watching bars.  Health bars, mana bars, cooldown bars, and having to make snap judgements on what is best to do and when.  It all happens at a bam, bam, bam, pace that it is like one constant fluid motion instead of a whole bunch of little ones.  Me against the mana bar and before you know it when I am "in the zone" it happens as if it were all happening at once, giving me the feeling as if there is a quick passage of time.

When I tank I think of it as my job is to do everything in my power to keep the mobs attention while I stay alive and hope the healers can do everything else that I can't in my endeavor to stay alive.  The most important things for me to know all relate to timers.  What time I need to taunt and to be sure I am available to do so.  What time the boss will do his abilities I need to watch out for.  What abilities I have to decrease that damage and when they will be back for me to use again.  How long it will it will take me to build rage, or runes, or holy power, or chi, so when I need my ability it is there.  Everything is an issue of what time it will happen and how long it will take.  So it seems as if everything time based slows down to the point were it feels like forever while waiting on it.  A watched kettle if you will.

Is This Unique:

I doubt it.  I am sure there are many people like myself who have something happen sometimes in the game that effects our perception of time.  It is just not something I hear people talk about often, if ever. 

In the end every class has the same amount of time to do a 5 minute fight.  They have 5 minutes.  For my damage dealer it seems like it is 5 minutes, but in a slow motion 5 minutes, so I can better maximize my damage.  For my healers it feels like it is two minutes, because I am frantic with keeping everyone up and that is all that matters.  With my tank I spend so much time watching timers for everything that it seems like it takes 8 minutes to do a 5 minute fight because when you are watching those seconds tick they seem to always tick a little slower.

I think it is human nature and it is not something tied to playing the game or the roles.  I just relate to them in that way because that is what I am talking about at the moment.  It is like hearing a baseball player that is on a hot streak talk about how he is "in the zone" right now and he is seeing the ball better.  He is doing well because it is like he is seeing the pitch in slow motion.

No matter what we do we are always looking to find our way "in the zone" because we always do better when we are there.  Who is to say what the good zone is however.  Is seeing things in slow motion better for everyone?  Is the feeling of fights taking forever or passing so fast a bad thing or a good thing?

I know I can not be the only person that has ever experienced some of these feelings in game.  Feelings where I know I have a skewed perception of time.  But I never think of them as a bad thing.  I always think of them as a good thing.  When I am in the middle of a fight and suddenly it seems like everything just started to move in slow motion I can't help but think... I got this.


  1. The only time I regularly notice slowing time during a fight is when I'm dpsing a fight and hit a comfort zone, same as you. Early Ultraxion it was about not pushing any button for 10s to make sure I didn't miss the cast period (and I'd occasionally flinch and hit it early... I'm still not an XAB fan but I HATED it back then). Eventually time slowed to the point that I'd be comfortable hitting Killing Spree just before the cast started since I knew I'd have half a second to push the button afterward. Obviously time doesn't actually slow but your brain becomes optimized for a particular fight and you can process more info in the same amount of time. Meg is another example, at first when I got cinders it was about GOGOGO just to get it out of melee... now, I have enough time to consider placing the puddle right beside another puddle so there's some overlap, or making sure not to run into anyone (our healers tend to dispel me before I even realize I have cinders on me, though, which could either mean they're in an even slower zone than me or they're in my old early Ultraxion mode of hovering over the button just waiting for something to happen and flinching early).

    The only time I feel like I'm in a healing zone is when things are looking bad and chances are against pulling it out. For some reason that tends to chill me right out, it doesn't always end in success but I've been in groups that have pulled out some nice saves by not panicking, I find dps usually panic before healers for some reason when things start to get ugly. Time does seem to slow during that period even though I probably slow down my button pushing a bit when that happens since every decision needs to be perfect, cast the wrong heal on the wrong person and that's enough to tip the balance.

    As a tank I rarely zone, I'm always worried about crap happening or watching stacks for a swap. I can't recall any examples of time shifting (faster or slower) when I was on a tank. That's probably one of the reasons I don't tank much anymore, I never feel "done" with a fight when I'm tanking so it's high-stress the entire run.

    1. The healer thing is exactly what gets me and make the fight seem to fast. When you enter that "must save everyone" mode and before you know it, it is done. It is like the last minute of the fight took 2 seconds. I don't even notice that time was passing.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I do have a varied selection of topics sometimes don't I? I just write about whatever pops into my mind for whatever reason.

      I also have roughly 100 posts I never even posted. Occasionally I post one of them when I do not have time to write.

      That could be sometimes why something I say is a post seems out of place time wise. Because I actually wrote it weeks or months or even years ago.

  3. Always when I die. I can see the hits taking chunks off my life. I tell the healers how I'm gonna die. How I'm out of cds. It seems like I have 10 seconds at least of moaning. I spam Loh or healthstone or something in hopes the last few seconds will come off and I'll be saved. I look over all of my cooldowns too see if maybe (hopefully) I missed one. And then I die. Look over logs, it was just one second.

    1. Exactly what I said I feel when playing my tank. It feels like things are taking forever but in reality they are not.

      I think it has to do with the cooldowns and all those timers. How often have you looked down knowing that you are going to die in three seconds and seeing that there are six seconds left on the cooldown that will save you and those last few seconds take what feels like an hour to pass. Yaeh, I've been there.

  4. You're not alone. I can't speak to it relating to role, but I've learned to slow down a fight and somehow mentally just give myself that extra time. It's pretty helpful as a tank and raid leader while learning a new fight.

    1. Sadly I rarely get that feeling when the fight is new. It is once I learn it and do it a couple of time that happens.

      As much as I complain about the LFR that is one good thing about it for me. I start to find that comfort zone easy because I have already adjusted to the surroundings even if not all the mechanics.

  5. I reverse the slow passage and slow motion. When I dps, it always seems like I'm waiting on a cd, a timer, a casting time, etc. And that things happen agonizingly slowly.

    When I tank, it's the slow motion. It's like every bad bit on the floor slowly happens and I have time to dance between the effects. I notice aggro on others in the group and taunt before the add even makes it to the dps person. I feel like I have plenty of time to do everything and I'm prepped and ready to hit the interrupt with my finger hovering over the key in plenty of time before every boss cast that needs an interrupt. Every moment of the battle it seems like I can carefully consider all of my possible next moves and weigh the advantages of each. It's such an awesome state of mind.

    It's like when you are in a car accident and the world slows to a crawl and you have what seems like minutes to mull over various choices about how to turn the wheel, brake, etc to minimize the impact effects.

    1. Seems like you might find your comfort zone in a different role than I. I do believe that has something to do with how we feel about the passage of time when we play a role.