Good Game

1 Oct

I had always imagined that the first time that I cried around my boyfriend would be because of a particularly sad scene in a movie that we were watching or maybe because of a truly heartwarming gift that he would buy me for my birthday or for Christmas.

I never dreamt that the first time that I cried around my boyfriend would be because of World of Warcraft.

It happened last night, after I called to rant about how much I was frustrated with the leveling process, how I felt like my guild had backpedaled on their initial expectations on when they wanted us to be raid ready, how I hated the prospect of having to do a seemingly overwhelming amount of dailies to get ahead, how I felt like leveling had turned into a competition to see who could hit level 90 in the most unhealthy way possible, and how I felt like Blizzard was being hypocritical by saying that they wanted to make raiding more accessible to people, while still creating even more hoops for people to jump through in order to prove just that.

Once I got all of that out of my system, I grew quiet and stared up at the ceiling.  He waited patiently on the other end of the phone, thinking that I still had more to say.  My eyes began to dart around the room, making sure that I didn’t focus on one spot for too long, because I knew what would happen if I did.  I could feel my chin quivering and the emotional dam inside my head starting to break.  Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

“I don’t love raiding anymore,” I said through tears.

I know it sounds silly to cry over a computer game and I told the boyfriend as much.  But raiding is something that I have truly loved to do for a long time.  I have compared my relationship to World of Warcraft and more specifically raiding to being in a relationship with an actual person and having to say that I no longer loved the one thing that keeps me going and the one thing that keeps me playing hurt about as much as realizing that the person you have spent years of your life with you no longer love anymore. 

If I loved raiding, I would gladly take time off of work to be raid ready.  If I loved to raid, I wouldn’t mind using my last vacation day of the year to spend it leveling and doing dailies.  I wouldn’t mind losing sleep, or temporarily putting off plans, because I would be doing those things for something that I love to do.  But I don’t love the idea of it anymore, so those things are turning into an imposition and they are turning into things that I’m starting to resent having to do.

I think another reason that I broke down at the fact that I didn’t enjoy raiding anymore is because for a long time I have felt like raiding was the one thing that I was good at.  Especially now, since I came back to Magic.  I’m not that good at Magic yet.  When I don’t do well at a Magic tournament, I can at least walk away from it knowing that I’m a Savior of Azeroth or that my guild finished in the top 300 of the United States, or that I am a competent priest that people turn to for advice.  If I didn’t have my raiding anymore, then I would have nothing to console myself with.  I would be just another player who performed poorly at a Magic event.  I would have nothing that I could turn to and say “Well, I’m not very good at this, but at least I am good at this.”

At least that’s what I thought, anyway.  As I dried my tears, the Boyfriend began reminding me about all the things that I am good at and that I could be good at anything I put my mind to.  I could turn all of the passion that I had for World of Warcraft and for raiding and put it towards something else and most likely see the same results.  He told me how smart I am and how I don’t need raiding to feel good about myself or to feel competent and that if he thought that I was that type of person, he never would have started dating me to begin with. 

That made me feel a little bit better.  I know he’s right, too.  So with that said, I think I’m going to tell my guild that I’m not going to raid anymore and take the demotion down to the social rank in the guild, provided they let me stick around at all.  And if they don’t, I am sure I can find someone on Twitter or in the community with a guild that will take me in as a casual member.  I can see myself doing some PVP in the future or maybe a fun raid with friends who just need a warm body to fill a spot.  But I think it is safe to say that my time as a serious, progression minded raider is over. 

It’s funny.  I had a conversation with a couple of people on Twitter yesterday about a custom in Magic the Gathering where your opponent tries to shake your hand after the round is over and says “Good game.”  I had mentioned how I felt that the practice was sort of condescending, mostly because it always seems like the winner is the person who puts out their hand first and that of course they are going to think it was a good game because they won. 

Then a friend pointed out to me that “Good game” is not to be taken literally and that often times the person feels that you genuinely put up a good fight or played well and that it deserves to be said and complimented on.   I didn’t even think of it that way. 

So in the future, when I think back on my time spent raiding and that I walked away from it all, I won’t be afraid to pat myself on the back and say “Good game.”

And it was.

Time’s Up

22 Aug

I had originally intended to make what I’m about to say in this post a topic for conversation on the next episode of my new podcast, but I felt like it might feel better to get these words and thoughts out of my head and on to paper – or the closest thing to paper that I have, which is my blog.  I feel like getting things off your chest feels differently, depending on the method in which you choose to do it. 

Lately I have been feeling very overwhelmed.  It started right around the time that the release date for Mists of Pandaria was confirmed.  The officers of my guild had decided that they would like us, the raiders to be 90 ideally within a week, but for sure within two weeks of release.  This coincides with the pre-release weekend for Return to Ravnica, a highly anticipated expansion of Magic the Gathering that I and many others are very excited about.  Since I have come back to the game, I have made it to the last two pre-release weekends without fail.  I had every intention of making this one, too, but with the race to hit level 90, I realized I may not be able to make it.  This really bothered me.

Then my boyfriend and I decided to reconcile and start down the path of giving our relationship another shot.  He lives in Chicago.  One of the issues that came up during our initial break up was the fact that we weren’t spending enough time together.  Back then we were seeing each other every other weekend, sometimes every third weekend, mostly due to his work schedule.  When we agreed to give things another try, it came up in conversation that we may have to try stepping things up to every weekend or three weekends out of the month.  This was something I was fine with at the time, but when combined with everything else that I have going on started to make me feel like I was suffocating. 

So, let’s see.  Three days a week raiding, plus Fridays for Friday Night Magic, plus my blog, plus my podcast, plus being a guest host on other people’s podcasts, plus finding time to socialize with my friends and to see my family, plus work 40+ hours a week, and have weekends to spend traveling for the occasional Magic tournament or other type of event, and manage to maintain a healthy relationship with my boyfriend.  How am I supposed to juggle all of this?

Even the first two weeks of Mists seem incredibly daunting to me.  The expansion comes out on September 25th, which is a Tuesday.  I’m not going to burn a vacation day on launch day, for various reasons.  I decided to take the one vacation day that I had available and use it on that Friday, instead.  So starting on Tuesday, I will be coming home from work around 4:30, eating dinner, leveling from about 6pm to 11pm, going to bed, and then doing the same thing on Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday through Sunday would be spent primarily leveling, most likely missing the Return to Ravnica pre-release, and then doing the same 6pm to 11pm grind every day the week after until I’m level 90.  Then comes the grind for gear and rep, so that I can be raid ready.  I’m exhausted just typing this.

Let’s say that I eliminate World of Warcraft from the equation.  Admittedly, this clears up a lot of my week.  Let’s say that I play only Magic and podcast, while blogging occasionally.  I’m already only playing Magic one day a week right now and that’s on Fridays.  Every weekend that I spend with the boyfriend rules Friday Night Magic completely out.  Typically I take the Amtrak to Chicago on Friday afternoons after work and I get down there around 7:30pm.  Most Friday Night Magic events start well before then.  I could start playing Magic Online and play during the week, but I’m leery about having to build an online card collection, in addition to an actual one.  I also worry that playing Magic Online will simply become a substitute for World of Warcraft and I’ll find myself tethered to the computer again during the week.  It would be like substituting one addiction or vice for another. 

Then there is the issue of traveling.  One of the things that excited me the most about getting back into Magic again was the opportunity to play in more large scale events across the country.  I had originally intended to stick to states that were nearby, like Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, etc.  But I have been very fortunate to meet people in states that are a bit farther away from me that I could go visit and even crash with, too.  I could visit Seattle if I wanted to, or Los Angeles, or even New York.  The possibilities are endless.  I can’t do those things if I have a boyfriend, or a boyfriend that my weekends are pretty much devoted to.  Most of the Magic events I’m interested in take place on the weekends.  How would I manage that?

I’m pretty sure this would be an issue, even if my boyfriend didn’t live an hour or so away from me.  Even if I met a guy locally, what guy is going to be okay with a girlfriend who is essentially booked a minimum of three days out of the week (for a computer game, no less) and possibly an additional day or even a weekend (for a card game), and who spends most of her free time working on a blog and a podcast about said games, even when she isn’t playing them?  Having all of this going on doesn’t necessarily make me serious girlfriend material.  It all leads back to the inevitable feeling that I have that something has to go.

I talked about this a little bit with the boyfriend last night and he didn’t have too much to say about it.  He is someone who was a hardcore gamer for a long time and made the switch to being extremely casual, to the point where he now only plays a handful of X-Box games and board games with friends from time to time.  That was something he was glad to do.  He was happy to give up the schedules and the responsibilities and to make other things in his life a priority.  I’m not so sure that I’m at that point yet.  I like my life the way that it is.  I also like being able to do things to the level of satisfaction that I want to do them.  I don’t want to do eight different things, just to say that I’m doing them.  I want to do them and feel like I’m doing them well.  I don’t feel like I can do that right now.  Something is going to suffer.  Something would have to suffer.

I really don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how I can pull all of this off.  I like where I’m at and I feel like I worked hard to get here.  It would be one thing if I weren’t enjoying something anymore and I chose to walk away from it because I hated it.  It would be one thing if something was being taken from me against my will, like Blizzard was no longer making expansions or Wizards stopped making Magic cards.  I have so many things that I love to do and so many people that I love spending time with and seemingly not enough time to spend on everything.  That doesn’t sit right with me.  It feels like a cop out to say that’s why I would be giving up something.

It’s just like Moroes says, “Time… Never enough time.”

Moving On

18 Jun

One of the things I have learned in all of my years of being single is that it is much easier for me to get over someone or to move on from them when I can hate them.

I remember when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend and we were living in Reno, NV together.  He broke up with me because of issues that were rooted in my being transgender and also because we had moved in together way too soon, which had caused us to feel like we were roommates instead of boyfriend and girlfriend.  He made it seem like breaking up was the best thing to do, because if we didn’t do it we would only grow to hate each other and he didn’t want to see that happen to us. 

I didn’t understand.  I was angry.  I was confused.  I felt like I had failed, not only as a girlfriend, but as a woman.  For someone like me that is a very hard pill to swallow.  During the first few weeks after the breakup we each tried coping with things in our own way.  I would go to a restaurant or a coffee house immediately after work and not come home unless I absolutely had to.  He would go out drinking and partying and wouldn’t come home on the weekends.  I would sit on Ventrilo and cry on my GMs shoulder because I had no other friends in the area that I knew well enough to dump all of this on.  Needless to say it was a pretty trying time for both of us.

Then one day, as I felt like I was finally on that journey towards moving on he started being really nice to me.  I would come home from work and find a three course meal waiting on the dinner table and the episode of “Lost” from the night before playing on the television.  He would farm up my consumables for me so that I would have them for raids.  We slept in the same bed because he knew that I didn’t sleep very well on the couch.  It killed me.  I felt like all of the hard work and the progress that I had made to try and get over him was being thrown out the window.  I couldn’t hate him when he was doing all of these seemingly nice things to me and for me and not being able to hate him meant it would take me that much longer to get over him – if I would be able to at all.

Subconsciously I had started trying to find ways to create conflict between us because I knew that I would never be able to let go of what we had or let go of him if he continued to be nice to me.  I started going through his cell phone and reading his text messages.  I stopped healing him during raids.  I would flaunt it in his face whenever I received male attention from anyone other than him.  I needed him to hate me, so I could hate him back, and then I could move on.  Eventually he got tired of the shenanigans that I was pulling and I decided to move back home because I couldn’t bear to sleep in the bed that I had made for myself anymore – literally and figuratively. 

Once I got back home and we didn’t speak anymore I seemed to move on much faster.  I seemed to move on, period.  After about 8 months of this, we finally came together and started reaching out to each other again.  We may not have handled things the way that other people do, but it was what we needed to get on with our lives and and to get on with them without each other.  From that moment on we became really good friends and we have had many painfully honest discussions about how we were when we were together and how we were immediately afterwards.  I can honestly say that he is one of my closest friends and I couldn’t be happier that he is a part of my life.

The reason why I felt compelled to tell this story and why it even came to mind is because I feel like I’m surrounded by people walking away from things that they once enjoyed or by things that are suddenly ending.  A number of posts that I have read lately have to do with people being particularly upset or disappointed in “World of Warcraft” and quitting as a result.  I see more posts talking about how Blizzard did them wrong than I do posts from people simply saying “It’s time.” 

People don’t want to hear that you grew up, or that you’re married now, or that you have a new job that keeps you from playing.  They want to hear how much your experience has been ruined by the casuals, or how this company has the worst customer service, or how that game had the worst ending you have ever seen.  It’s just like being in a relationship.  They don’t want to hear that you grew apart, or that you wanted different things, or that you broke up to try and salvage some form of a friendship.  People want to hear about the drama, the messiness, and the fighting.  They want someone to blame, someone they can be mad at.  And I think we, the people who are going through this potentially life altering change, want someone to point the finger at, too.

There are a number of parallels between the way that we game and the way that we love and I think that how we cope with the potential loss is just one of them.  I can’t help but wonder if the people who quit a game in a blaze of glory are really feeling some amount of hurt or sadness at what they are doing and so they try to cover it up by making it seem as if this was something that they had to do or that the company behind the game made them do it.  I tend to not second guess people who quit games quietly, with little fuss or fanfare, rather than those who feel the need to create laundry lists of reasons why it’s over. 

Who are they trying to convince – us or themselves?

That’s A Wrap

16 Jun

This afternoon I had a conversation with Ophelie that led to her admitting that she no is longer interested in recording our show, the Double O Podcast together.  It has nothing to do with me as a person.  It’s not that we do not get along or anything on a personal level.  There is no drama to be had or anything like that.  She has just lost a lot of interest in World of Warcraft and hasn’t been participating in the community like she used to (e.g. her blog, Twitter), so I kind of had a feeling that this was something that was going to start affecting the show and it has.

This leaves me with three options:

1)  I can try to find a new co-host – an honorary “O,” if you will, since it’s highly unlikely that I would meet someone whose name happens to start with “O” and that I mesh well with.  Preferably this person would have some knowledge or desire to learn how to handle the editing or the behind the scenes aspects of the podcast, whereas I would continue handling the more social aspects of the show (e.g. promotion, finding guests, coming up with topics).

2)  I can move on from the Double O Podcast and perhaps join another existing podcast that is looking for a guest host.  I really do enjoy podcasting and I admit that there are so many sides to it that I still have yet to see or to understand.  I think podcasting is a great way to get people talking and to expand your audience in a way that blogging can’t.

3)  I can stop podcasting altogether and focus on my blog and other community efforts (e.g. spend more time posting on forums like Elitist Jerks, MMO-Champion, or the official boards).

Without sounding too dramatic, I feel like my walls are caving in.  I have already been dealing with uncertainties regarding what I want to do in Mists of Pandaria, then this comes along, and now this.  I keep wondering who is next.  It seems like everyday someone else I know, someone I admire, or that I respect, or someone that I have some genuine history with decides to call it a day and stops playing World of Warcraft.  It’s like a demented game of Guess Who and I’m the one in front of the board just flipping faces down, one by one.  There aren’t many faces still standing anymore and that’s mighty depressing to me.

Am I next?

Babe

9 Jun

Last year, I was at Milwaukee’s annual Pridefest celebration with some friends of mine and we happened to spot a very large bunker of sorts, provided by the good people at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company.  The bunker was large, metallic, and blue and had labels all over it that identified it as being “the Camel experience.”  There were two gentlemen outside that would ask you for your I.D before you went inside, so they could make sure that you were of age to buy cigarettes and then once inside you were immediately greeted by a bevy of scantily clad women and one smart dressed man.  I had seen several of these girls throughout Milwaukee in various places, so I knew this wasn’t their full time job.  This was just a temporary gig of sorts.  The women then proceeded to educate us on the various lines of Camel cigarettes that are out there and said that if we were willing to hear more and watch a brief interactive movie in the back that we would receive four free packs of cigarettes.

Needless to say the lesbians ate that shit up.

Whoever was behind the Camel experience knew their audience well.  They knew that if they strategically placed several scantily clad women in a tight, air conditioned space that people who are inclined to find these women attractive may just go along with whatever these women had to offer.  It didn’t matter if the lesbians knew they didn’t actually have a shot with these girls.  They were buying into the illusion.  They were taking the bait. And so streams of women were placing their I.D.s in this electronic reader, where they would answer several survey questions and would again verify their true age, and within minutes they were seated at a bar type area and choosing which packs of Camel cigarettes or tobacco they wanted to take home with them.

It all felt very wrong to me.  I wanted to walk up to them and shake them and say “Don’t you see what’s happening here?”  But I didn’t, mostly because I knew that they wouldn’t be able to see through this clever marketing tactic that was seemingly all around us and similar tactics that we see used everyday to get us to buy any number of products on the market.  The Camel Experience had went exactly as planned.

I was reminded of this story or this experience while reading an article over at the Border House Blog, in which the author talks about how it might be time for gaming conferences to give up the well known practice of hiring “booth babes” or scantily clad women to help them shill their products.  The author supports her case by including several comments or Tweets made by a female gaming industry veteran who admitted that she dreaded attending the recent E3 conference because she felt so intimidated or uncomfortable being around these types of women or this type of a marketing ploy.

Personally, I struggle with the idea of the “booth babe” for several reasons.

On the one hand, I think the practice of using sexuality or specifically women’s sexuality or their bodies to inspire men or women who enjoy other women to buy a product is really played out and almost too easy.  I think it’s almost insulting to those people that companies think  that’s all it will take for them to buy their product.  They know they don’t have to go out of their way to film a commercial in a really scenic location or that they won’t have to put too much thought into a billboard that you see on the street.  All a company has to do is throw a half dressed woman at them and call it a day.  I find it interesting when I see people who are so clearly taken in by this approach and they just can’t see it with their own eyes.  So just because this tactic works and just because it’s something that most people don’t catch on to doesn’t necessarily make it okay.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only route you need to take to get your point across.

On the other hand, it works.  It’s a proven fact that sex sells.  Where do we draw the line between corporate responsibility and personal responsibility?

Just as a multi-million dollar corporation has the right to throw attractive, oiled up bodies at you, you also have the right to say “No, thanks.”  You have the right to take your business elsewhere or to criticize them for how they do things.  But nobody is making you buy their product.  The pull of advertising can be strong and Lord knows I have fallen victim to that late night McDonald’s commercial that inspired me to swing through a drive through at two in the morning for a large order of fries and a Coke.  But McDonald’s didn’t *make* me do that.  Nobody crawled out of the television set, like the little girl from “The Ring” and forced me to go buy those items.  I did it myself.  I can shake my fist in the air and curse McDonald’s for making their fries look so tasty in that commercial or for airing that commercial just as I was about to go to bed.  But ultimately I did it.  It was my choice.

So you can’t blame a company for wanting to use a strategy that they know is going to work.  They know that nobody is going to recognize what’s really happening here.  They know it’s a sure fire way to get people’s attention and to bring in revenue.  If people continue to fall for, or to be engaged by what the companies put out there of course they are going to keep doing it.  It’s no different than considering leaving the job that you have been at for years, that you know you’re good at it, and that you know will earn you a decent living for a job in a field that you have little or no experience in and that *could* make you the same amount of money or more.  It’s a gamble and one that not everybody or every company is willing to take.  Again I ask, “Can you blame them?”

To steer things back to where Border House was coming from, there is also the issue of how the concept of the “booth babe” affects women.

It’s hard enough making yourself feel like you are truly welcome in the gaming world as a woman.  You have to deal with so many initial barriers right out of the gate.  If you do manage to overcome those things and convince yourself that you do belong, you then have to deal with seeing women who most likely do not represent you being thrust into your face as an ideal or as something that you need to aspire to be.  You see those same guys who crack jokes about women not playing video games or that women shouldn’t play video games fawning over these “booth babes” rather openly and unabashedly.  You seem them responding positively to this exaggerated image of what a woman should look like or how a woman should behave, all the while chastising other women for supposedly using their bodies or their wiles to get ahead in the same industry.  If you were to show up at a conference wearing the same outfit, ready to play your game of choice you would most likely be laughed or shamed out of the building.  But because they’re doing it it’s okay.  How does that work, exactly?

So the double standard bothers me.  Male gamers tend to want women to be good at the games they play.  They don’t want to see us flirting or being stereotypically feminine to get ahead.  They don’t want to see us lording our gender over them or having to constantly remind people that we are in fact women.  Isn’t that exactly what the “booth babes” do?  These are women who presumably have no interest in gaming and who I would bet have never even touched the products that they are trying to sell to you. They are using compliments, acting coy, and being overly flirtatious to get you in the mood to listen to what they have to say, so they can then launch into their product pitch and hopefully make a sale.  They are wearing clothing that they know will most certainly draw attention to their bodies or other feminine attributes so that they can not only get your attention, but keep it, too.  All of those things they shame their female peers for doing or for allegedly doing are suddenly okay when they are done by a “booth babe.”

Now here is where things get a little tangled for me.

I’m all about sexual expression and sexual freedom.  I think there is nothing wrong with a woman or a man being proud of their body and wanting to show it off.  I don’t have a problem with nudity or even pornography, for that matter.  Yet here I am, criticizing these women for what they are wearing and then using it against them.  How am I helping matters any?  If the shoe was on the other foot and the gaming companies who hired these women told them that they couldn’t wear anything remotely feminine and that they had to sort of stifle that I would probably be angry about that.  I would probably then be crusading for a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants to and that these companies should be ashamed of themselves for forcing women to hide their bodies or to cover them up.

I’m automatically assuming that these women don’t play the games they are advertising because of how they are dressed or how they are behaving.  But how *does* a female gamer look?  How is she *supposed* to behave?  Who is to say that you can’t be great at what you do and then party on the weekends?  Who says you can’t attend a Magic the Gathering event in a hoodie and jeans and then head to the club later in a short skirt and some stilettos?  Why does one necessarily have to lead to the other? Why do we assume that if a woman is flirtatious that she is doing it in a very empty fashion or that she is doing it solely to get something out of someone?  Maybe she just likes to flirt.  Maybe she truly enjoys wearing skimpy outfits.  Maybe that’s just *who she is.*

Who are we to tell her that it’s wrong, or that she has to dress or behave the way that *we* think she should?  There are a lot of assumptions that people tend to make when they see a “booth babe,” versus the assumptions that someone would make when they see your average female gamer on the street.  I’m not trying to say that the assumptions that one faces are necessarily worse than the other, but I would say that they are about equal.  They can be equally harmful.

I’m really glad that I stumbled upon that article at the Border House, because I really feel that it was well written and that it left the floor open for people to have a healthy discussion about this issue and the many angles that we could look at this from.  It really got me thinking and gave me that shot of inspiration that I have been lacking lately.  I’m fairly certain that not everybody is going to agree with the points and counterpoints that I have laid out here, but hopefully I have brought a new perspective to the table and maybe some great conversation can be had here about this topic.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday Thoughts

7 Jun

Over the last few weeks I have really struggled with coming up with cohesive, relevant blogs that I can publish.  For the first time ever I have more than one draft sitting in my Drafts folder and I regularly add more, only to delete them a short time later.  I haven’t encountered a feeling of writer’s block this strong in quite a while and it only makes me feel worse when I see how other bloggers are constantly posting and how they seem to have no such shortage of things to write about.

To be honest, it makes me feel jaded.  Washed up.  I see myself losing Followers because I’m not talking about things that people initially followed me to hear me talk about.  I see myself not being able to relate to conversations that other people are having, because I either don’t agree with them and can’t find a way to word it eloquently enough or because I do agree with them and they have already worded things better than I ever could.  I just feel like I’m watching people, like I’m watching the community pass me by.  I’m suddenly overcome with ennui and I don’t know what to do about it.

Instead of talking about what I haven’t been able to do or haven’t been doing lately, let’s talk about what I have been up to.

World of Warcraft

I haven’t raided in two weeks.  Last week I posted out because I had just broken up with my boyfriend and I was really in no mood to raid or do anything that felt competitive or like I would have to really push myself to do.  This week I had the chance to go out and do something to take my mind off said breakup and so I took the opportunity to do that and volunteered to sit on the bench for the night.

I don’t miss it.  Let me be more specific – I don’t miss Dragon Soul.  I’m excited about raid testing being made available in the Beta.  I’m excited at the thought of grinding the 5 man dungeons to gear up for new raid content in Mists of Pandaria and then doing said content.

The Beta, as it stands right now, doesn’t have much appeal to me, either.  I have no desire to level a toon from 85-90 and then have to do it all over again when the expansion hits.  I would much rather wait until the premade characters are made available and then go from there.  That’s really where things in the Beta will start getting interesting to me.

Diablo 3

I have an Annual Pass, so I didn’t actually have to “pay” for or go seriously out of my way to get my hands on a copy of Diablo 3.  It’s fun.  I haven’t played it as much as most people have.  My witch doctor hasn’t even cracked level 20 yet and I’m not in much of a hurry to change that.

I enjoy the slow pace.  I enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of the map and breaking every barrel, urn, and spider egg that I see.  I don’t feel like there is a clock ticking that tells me I have to be this level or I have to be this geared in order to do this instance within this timeframe.  It’s nice to just say to myself “I want to kill shit,” and then I log on and do it.  It’s very simple and very mindless, which I really appreciate at this point in time.

Magic the Gathering

I have been playing quite a bit of Magic the Gathering lately and it has brought me the most enjoyment these past few weeks.  I find Magic to be very refreshing and so different from World of Warcraft in many ways.  Here are just some of those reasons:

The community.  Since I started playing Magic again, I have been trying to get a feel for what websites are the best resources for me to go to and which forums seem to have the most decent people posting on them.  I have started to Follow certain writers that I enjoy reading the most on Twitter, striking up conversations with them when I can.  I’m slowly trying to get involved in a community that is unlike what I’m used to and it’s intimidating and yet strangely exciting, at the same time.

One thing that really stands out to me about the Magic community is the sense of meritocracy or the feeling that people who are seen as authorities or who are the most respected have genuinely done something to deserve that.  Something that has really frustrated me about the WoW community lately has been the recent surge in people who have obtained this bizarre form of celebrity for seemingly doing nothing at all.

They don’t play the game.  They don’t raid.  But yet they’re in a position where people look to them to tell them what to do or for advice.  They exist solely for entertainment value and while I can see the immediate benefits of such a thing, it still feels sort of wrong to me.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask that someone actually plays the game that they write or podcast about.  I don’t think it’s wrong to ask someone to share their level of experience with you when they try to give you advice on how to do something.

This doesn’t seem to be the case in the Magic community.  The people who are writing for these websites and that you see out and about can genuinely prove that they have been there, that they are successful, and that they have a reason to be doing what they are doing.  They are there to entertain you, but that comes second to the fact that they have some amount of credibility going for them and I really respect that and I miss that.

The social interactions.  I knew that I was starting to experience some burnout once we had downed Heroic Madness for the first time.  I knew that I wanted to take a break from WoW before Mists of Pandaria came out, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with all that free time.  The possibilities were endless.  I could go back to Rift.  I could try out Star Wars or TERA.  I could throw myself into Diablo 3.

But then I realized that I really missed social interaction with people and I mean face to face conversations.  I started to feel like everything I was doing involved hiding behind a computer screen and like I was becoming very isolated and possibly even socially awkward because of it.  It seemed really obvious to me, maybe even too obvious to choose another computer game to keep me occupied until the next expansion comes out.  That’s when I decided to start playing Magic more and to relish those moments when I’m not tied to a headset or to a keyboard and mouse.

To my surprise, I had become really awkward around groups of people.  I found that I had a hard time remembering the names of the people I had started to play with regularly at my local Friday Night Magic events.  I noticed that I had a hard time looking people in the eye when I was talking to them.  I had to remind myself that I don’t have a push to talk key in real life and that I have to keep some things to myself if I don’t want someone across the table from me to hear them.

I’m getting better at communicating and I’m still not perfect.  I do still rage when people stand over my shoulder and make comments about the game I’m playing or someone plays a card over and over again that I don’t like.  I have to get better at being a good sport, for both when I win and for win I lose.  I need to be able to say that I did a good job, even when I don’t feel like I did or when I feel like I could have done better.  Coming back to Magic has helped me identify all of these things (and more) about myself that I don’t think I would have done if I had just moved on to yet another computer game to pass the time.  I’m really grateful for that.

The freedom.  I don’t feel like I’m bound to a set schedule with Magic, the way that I am with WoW.  It’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it to Friday Night Magic, or if I have to leave early.  I can go to a tournament at this store on Tuesday, or that store on Thursday, or do both tournaments and even a third on Sunday.

I find being able to say what I want to do and what I don’t want to do, without any negative repercussions very exciting.  I don’t feel like I’m letting anyone down if I don’t make it to an event or like I am lagging behind, like I would if I missed a raid.  I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again, like when you farm the same instance for several months at a time.  It all feels fresh and new and dare I say it – like a game *should* feel.  It kind of makes me wonder why I have been settling for something else this whole time.

Reading

I got used to bringing a book with me when I used to ride the Amtrak to go visit my boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend).  One of the books that I had picked up was the first book in the “Pretty Little Liars” series.  Needless to say I was hooked.  I’m currently on the third book and I just started watching the television show that goes along with it.  It’s been much easier to avoid spoilers of the books than it has been the television show, but it seems like the show is radically different from the books, so it’s not really hurting anything.

Like I said, I’m hooked.  I squeal like a teenage girl when the cute boy takes his shirt off or he says something close to romantic.  I gasp when something sort of scary happens.  I panic when one episode ends and I have to get up to turn the next one on from my computer.   Completely hooked.

I know this post kind of went all over the place, but I’m okay with that.  Life is good – even if it’s not giving me a lot of things to write about.  I still felt like I should say *something,* so hopefully I’ve accomplished that today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Oestrus’ Top 4 Tips For The Newbie Blogger Initiative

17 May

I signed up to be a Sponsor as part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative earlier this month and I admit that I got sort of sidetracked between World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Magic the Gathering, and some pretty fun times in my personal life.  With that said, I did want to write some sort of post, in which I give some advice to either up and coming bloggers or bloggers who might be returning to the scene after a hiatus.  While I have covered this topic once before with Ophelie on an episode of the Double O Podcast, it still feels good to get all of this out in writing, for my own peace of mind and for those who didn’t get a chance to listen to the episode in question that we talked about most of these things on.

So without further ado, here are my top 4 tips or pieces of advice for bloggers of all stripes.

Find your niche

One of the first things I always tell people who are considering starting a new blog is to make sure that they carve out a niche for themselves or that there is something about them that sets their blog apart from the rest of the pack.  For example, let’s say you want to start a new blog and you’re a resto druid.  Well, she’s a resto druid.  So is he.  And so is she.  You have to bring something more to the table than just that, otherwise you are most likely going to get skimmed over in favor of others who have been doing this much longer than you have.  If you look a little closer at the three people I just mentioned, you can find very subtle differences in their writing style, their personalities, or other topics that they choose to write about which sets them apart.  While they are all resto druids, one of them likes to roleplay and writes stories in character, the other sometimes covers personal topics and tends to skew more towards the hardcore side of raiding, while the other is usually at the forefront regarding changes to druids and spends a lot of time interacting directly with the druid community in various ways.

Finding a niche or something that makes you unique will not only help define you in a sea of other bloggers, but it will also give you something else to write about when you can’t think of anything else regarding your primary topic or subject of expertise.  There will be times when there is nothing to report or when things are just sort of trucking along.  You want to make sure that you don’t spend too much time away from your blog, if this is the case, and having a secondary topic to write about can help you stay active and keep people interested in your blog during those slow periods.

Saturate the market

Do you ever notice that when an actor or actress is about to break out in Hollywood that you see them everywhere you go?  They are doing handfuls of movies a year.  They are on the covers of magazines all over newsstands.  They are doing interviews on any TV or radio show that will have them.  Then once they become a bit more famous or established they start to scale it back a bit.  They do one movie a year, maybe even one movie every two years.  I tend to look at blogging the same way.

When you’re just starting out in the business of blogging, like show business, nobody knows who you are.  You are but one blogger in a sea of other bloggers, all clamoring for Retweets and comments and space on other people’s blogrolls.  You have to make people see you, make them see what you are all about and exactly what you are up to.  Once you have established yourself as a presence in the community, you can start to scale it back a bit.  Post once a week.  Maybe once every two weeks.  People with established audiences can afford to take a break from time to time because they have such loyalty from their readers that they know people will wait for them to post something again.  When you are a new blogger, you don’t have that luxury.  You have to keep people’s attention on you and posting frequently is one way to do that.

Dare to be different

One of the things that attract me most to a fledgling blogger is when they take a stance on something that is different than what others feel about something.  It can be very tempting for you to want to fit in or to crave acceptance from others by falling in line with what they want you to feel or what they think you should write about.  At the end of the day, you are the one that has to be comfortable with what you choose to do with yourself and your blog.  Write about what you want to write about.  Make your blog look the way that you want it to look.  Put whomever you want to on your blogroll.  Moderate your comments as you see fit.  I think the blogosphere would be an incredibly boring place if everyone felt the same way and nobody dared to feel otherwise.  It’s important to give people some variety, in case they don’t agree with the status quo.  Who knows?  That opinion or that perspective that you feel puts you in the minority could suddenly turn into the new majority.  You never know unless you speak up or speak out.

Ignore the numbers

The hardest mental road block for any blogger, new or old to overcome is most often the one involving the numbers.  It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in the number of page views that you accumulate, the number of subscribers that you have, the number of Followers that you have on Twitter, etc.  Ignore all of it.

The number one reason that I see up and coming bloggers give up on their blogs and on themselves is because they buy into the numbers.  If you are getting into blogging simply because you want lots of Followers and readers then you are blogging for the wrong reason.  Let’s get that out of the way right here and now.  There are bloggers with 65 Followers whose posts I live and breathe for and then there are those with a thousand Followers that I find to be the tritest personalities in the entire world.  These numbers have no bearing on the work that you do, the quality of your writing, your worth as a human being – none of it.  They are the last thing you should be looking at, in terms of viewing yourself or your blog as a success or something that is worth doing.

Another reason why it doesn’t pay to worry about your numbers is because there is no sure fire way to keep track of them all.  If you use WordPress, the site counter is going to tell you that the number of page views or referrals that you have received is different than what something like Google Analytics would tell you.  Different feed readers will give you conflicting information, in terms of how many subscribers that you have and Twitter has been known to randomly Unfollow people, through no fault of your own.  You would spend more time trying to get all the numbers to line up than you would trying to focus on churning out new and exciting content and it’s just not worth it.  Do not fall into that trap.

To this day, I still don’t know how many subscribers that I have and I choose not to know.  I don’t obsess over how many Followers that I have on Twitter.  I don’t sweat my page views like I used to.  And to be honest, I think I’m better off for not knowing or not caring.  I write what I want to write and it is great if people choose to tag along and come along for the ride with me.  But I think taking away the emphasis on other people and their validation helps me focus on why I blog and what really matters to me.  It is a very liberating feeling.

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