Choices and Futures
Several commenters took exception to my statement that "for a decision to be meaningful, there must be a right choice and a wrong choice."
I couldn't disagree more. You only have a real choice if all choices are valid.
It's like democracy. Just because you're allowed to vote doesn't mean you also have a choice. You only have a choice if there are multiple good and relevant parties.
I don't really think we're that far apart. Perhaps I'll rephrase and extend my thoughts.
For a choice to be real, it must lead to different futures. If you vote Conservative or NDP, it's a choice because the future with a Conservative government is different than the future with an NDP government. However, the desirability of each future matters.
When voting, neither future is obviously desirable. Some people would prefer the Conservative government, others the NDP. Thus neither choice is right or wrong.
However, this is not the case with optimizing. In one future, the boss dies. The other future, the boss doesn't die. The future where the boss dies is 100% more desirable. Thus, barring any side-effects, the choices that shift the probabilities towards first future are "right", and the other choices are "wrong".
For another example, take a Civ-like game. Both going for military victory or cultural victory are valid choices. But if you're pursuing a cultural victory, randomly producing tanks for no real reason when you could have made a cathedral instead is the "wrong" choice.
Now if it's a single player game, then no one else other than you pays the price for your wrong decision. But in a team game, wrong decisions hurt your team's chances of victory.
Shintar phrases this in a different manner:
Situations where there is a clearly right and a clearly wrong solution are calculations, not choices.
Sure, if that's the semantics you want to use. But it is incumbent on you to pick the best calculation in a team game. And the best calculation is determined by the optimizers.
Good Players and Sub-Optimal Choices
If you have the "optimal" setup, and I have a "sub-optimal" one, but I do more damage than you (with equal gear), then I am more valuable to the raid. But since my setup is considered to be "inferior", I may not even get an invite to the group in the first place.
In my view, this is a bit of a strawman. The truth is that this very rarely happens.
High-skill players almost always use the optimal spec or strategy. There are a few exceptions, but they are very rare. The vast majority of the time, someone with a non-optimal spec turns out to be a low-skill player.
Encouraging medium or low skill players to feel that they are a "special snowflake" and don't need to use more optimal builds dooms them and their group to mediocrity and failure. You have enough trouble with lack of skill, why further handicap yourself with a sub-optimal build?
And even the high-skill player with the sub-optimal spec does her group a disservice. If the high-skill player switched to the optimal spec, odds are she would play at an even higher level.
There's also a lot of antipathy for DPS meters among the non-optimizing crowd. This is probably uncharitable of me, but sometimes it seems like DPS just want the freedom to play badly and not get called out for it.
They'd rather no one be able to tell how terrible they really are. That might mean they have to take the "effort" to improve. Just let the tanks and healers carry the group and do the work, while they sit back and collect the loot.
After all, it's pretty obvious when the tanks and healers are failing. What's so wrong with having an element that makes it just as obvious that the DPS are failing?
Good players don't worry about DPS meters. You know why? Because they post respectable results. They're an asset to the group instead of dead weight.