Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

January 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

(Note: this post contains ‘spoilers’ (I put that in quotes because the episode aired almost 20 years ago, but they still are technically spoilers) about an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled Darmok wherein the Enterprise encounters a race of aliens known as The Children of Tama.  They try and communicate with each other but find themselves frustrated in their efforts because the Children of Tama use such a different method of communication.  After trying, and failing, to communicate, the Tamarians transport Captain Picard and Captain Dathon (the captain of the Tamarian vessel) to the surface of the planet they are orbiting (El-Adrel).  Additionally, they put up a dampening field around the planet, making it impossible for Picard (or Dathon for that matter) to be transported off the surface.

Captain Dathon tries to communicate with Picard, offering him a knife, saying “Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra. Temba, his arms wide!”  Picard thinks he is offering the blade so that they can combat each other, so he refuses to take it.  They continue talking back and forth to each other, but neither one has any understanding of what the other one is saying.

As the day goes on both Captains begin to grow tired and weary.  Without warning an alien monster appears out of nowhere and attacks them.  The monster is powerful and has an ability to become invisible.  Dathon again says, “Temba his arms wide!” and offers Picard the knife again.  It is then that Picard begins to understand how it is Dathon is communicating–through metaphor, citing example and so on.

They manage to fight off the monster and take cover for the night, but Dathon is badly wounded.  As they huddle around the fire, they reflect on their shared experience of the day and begin a very rudimentary communication.  Captain Dathon tells Captain Picard the story of Darmok and Jalad at an island called Tanagra.  I forget all the details, but essentially it’s about two men and their exploits on Tanagra, and their eventual sailing away together.

Picard begins to understand the way Dathon communicates and tries it out himself.  He shares the epic of Gilgamesh with him.  Picard tells him about Enkidu and Gilgamesh and how they were once enemies but became friends through a hard, but shared experience.  He then relates it to the current situation that he and Dathon are going through.  So Enkidu and Gilgamesh at Uruk became Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.

In the morning the monster attacks again.  They are able to defeat it but Dathon dies.  When Picard gets back up to his ship, the Tamarian First Officer enquires about Dathon (Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel?) and Picard is able to use the metaphors he learned to communicate that they had fought the monster and Dathon had died.  He then offers to give back the knife (“Temba, his arms open?”) but the First Officer tells him to keep it (“Temba, at rest”).  They then part in peace, with a little more mutual understanding.

So what does this have to do with anything?  Well, to be honest I wrote the first half of this post like 6 weeks ago, so I really had to think hard about what my point was.  But I finally remembered.

The first raid that I did on Fizz (Karazhan I believe), I had a really hard time figuring out what was going on.  There was just so much going on, and I hadn’t been tanking (even in 5 mans) for very long, so it was just overwhelming.  The raid leader might as well have been speaking a different language.

There are a lot of terms and abbreviations and slang that gets used in 5mans and raids.  For the uninitiated it can be really hard to figure out what’s going on.  To us, saying something like, “wait to start dps until I get aggro.  Build up DoTs slow, and gtfotf!” may be totally common place, but to a noob none of that makes sense.

It didn’t matter how much explanation they gave me, or how many guides I read, or even videos I looked at.  I just didn’t get it until I got in there and did it myself.  Until I created a shared experience that I could then reference, the words from the other players meant nothing.  I didn’t understand their context until I went in and did it.

Additionally, as the guild raid group did things together more often, we were able to establish a dialogue.  The more we did things together the more we were able to understand each other; we would learn each others play styles and how to meld together.  Just as Picard and Dathon were able to learn to understand each other through sharing an experience, we were able to do the same.

So if you are one of those people that want to run 5mans, or step up the the more challenging raids, but feel overwhelmed and nervous about the experience, just jump right in and do it.  There’s only so much you can read and discuss about it.  Until you actually go and do it for yourself, you won’t get over your fears about it.  Plus, you can’t expect to succeed if you never try.  So just get out there and go do it already.  Times a wastin.

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]”


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