Tag Archives: relationships

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?

Why Women Are Seen Differently In Magic the Gathering Compared To World of Warcraft

5 Apr

Typically when I write a blog post it usually consists me of telling you how it is and then you comment to either expand on what I have just put out there or to say that you respectfully disagree and why.  In this case, I wanted to write a blog post because I don’t know why something is the way that it is and I am hoping to start some discussion to find out for myself.

About two months ago I started playing Magic the Gathering again.  I felt like I had the time and the interest in playing another game, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play another computer game.  I really missed social interactions with people that didn’t involve sitting behind a computer screen and having to wear a headset.  I started to remember all the good times that I had playing the Magic the Gathering and I was curious to see if I could recreate that magic (no pun intended) all over again.

Back when I quit playing, which was around 1998, Magic was a very different game – especially for women.  I remember being the only girl at the card shop.  I remember reading Duelist magazine and seeing that all of the writers, all of the authorities on how to play the game were men.  I remember seeing special edition decks that would be released with the names of tournament winners and all of them were named after men, too.  There was nobody for me to look up to.  There was nobody around that I could relate to.  It was very frustrating for me, especially as I was starting to enter my early teenage years, I was extremely conflicted about my sexuality and my gender identity, and I already couldn’t relate to my peers for various reasons.

I was quite surprised with how much things had changed in the course of 14 years.  Women were reaching the top 10 rankings in various high end tournaments and sometimes even winning them outright.  The Friday Night Magic event that I attend regularly is comprised of about 50% women – some of whom may happen to show up with their boyfriends or other male companions, but who are still extremely skilled and knowledgeable in their own right.  Women were contributing articles to various blogs and magazines at the same rate and at the same skill set as their male counterparts.  It was incredible to see and it made me even more motivated to come back to the game and to see what I could accomplish for myself.

Unfortunately, the examples listed above are still very much exceptions to the rule.  Magic the Gathering is still very much a men’s game.  This is something that most people in the community will freely admit to.  For as much as people might say that World of Warcraft still has a long way to go, with regards to how women are seen or are how they are treated, it is still leaps and bounds ahead of where Magic the Gathering is today.

What I want to know is why.

Here are my thoughts on this.

Internet anonymity.

It is no secret that people tend to feel more uninhibited or more comfortable with themselves when they are sitting behind a computer screen and not actually having to converse with someone in a face to face manner.  Some people choose to channel this in really positive ways, as in they feel like they can truly be themselves, while others choose to go in the opposite direction with this (e.g. The Internet Dickward Theory).  Regardless, there is something to be said for not having a total stranger sitting in front of you who you do not know and who you are expected to engage in conversation with.

Throw in an extremely competitive tournament setting, where you know well ahead of time that you are going to be one of the only women present, where you are seated very closely to people on either side of you who you do not know, where casual observers might approach you with unsolicited advice in the middle of a round, and where time restrictions are strictly  enforced, and you have all the makings for a potentially stressful situation that would deter most women from even making the effort to participate in such things.

Compared to a Magic the Gathering tournament, participating in a World of Warcraft raid or battleground may seem like a much safer option.  You can sit in your own chair and group up with people that you know and who you are comfortable with.  You can wear more comfortable attire, like your pajamas or your sweats, and bring a snack (or even a drink).  You are most likely playing in your home, your bedroom, your office – your sanctuary, of sorts.  There is a lot of comfort to be had from those trappings that being out in the open in a Magic the Gathering tournament can’t provide you with.

Tangible rewards.

Some would say that the reason why Magic the Gathering seems so much more competitive than World of Warcraft is because the stakes are higher.  People who become very good at Magic can win trips, money, endorsements, trophies, and other sorts of prizes.  These people actually have something tangible that they can gain (or lose) by taking part in these tournaments.  In World of Warcraft, the best guilds typically end up with bragging rights, achievements, special mounts or gear, but the rewards aren’t tangible.  You can’t actually touch these things or show most people what you have won for completing such feats.  On the other hand, cash prizes and actual physical trophies or plaques are things that everyone can understand the significance behind.

With that said, the World of Warcraft trading card game (which bears a lot in common with Magic the Gathering) also offers some tangible rewards, as well.  Yet that game is still considered to be rather casual and inviting towards all different kinds of players in a way that Magic the Gathering still is not.  So maybe it is something else.

The community.

World of Warcraft has one of the most vocal communities out there.  There are hundreds of blogs devoted to the game, from people who raid casually, to those who don’t raid at all, and everything in between.  Sites like Blog Azeroth and WoWInsider act as hubs, or ways to bring the community closer together, and as ways to spotlight voices in the community that may be worth paying attention to.  Podcasts also pop up from people with different takes on all things World of Warcraft, again some from people more experienced with such things and some from others who may not be.  At the end of the day, there is something for everybody.  You really can find something that represents you and that speaks to you.  We have just about every niche filled and if we don’t, there is always room for someone to come along and fill that niche themselves.

From the brief time that I have spent delving into the Magic the Gathering community the opposite seems to be true.  The only people blogging or doing so with any sort of visibility appear to be those at the upper echelons of the game.  The same decks are covered over and over, along with deck ideas that exist solely to beat said deck in a competitive setting.  You don’t see anyone at a more approachable level talking about their experiences and what they may have learned.  The barrier to entry is quite high for these activities.

The game isn’t sold in these formats in such a way where it makes you feel like you too could take part in the action.  It does contribute to the feeling that you need this many DCI points, or this win under your belt, or this deck in your box to be worthy of having a blog or a podcast worth listening to.  And that’s not to say that the authors or podcasters themselves are solely responsible for this.  The audience determines what makes it and what doesn’t.  And if the audience decides that they only want to see people who are successfully taking part in these endeavors, then those are the blogs that you are going to see more prominently.

So what do you think?  Why do you feel like Magic the Gathering is still behind, when it comes to how women are seen, compared to a game like World of Warcraft?  Maybe you feel the opposite.  Let’s talk about it!

Pressure

19 Mar

I feel like if I were a boy I would be less worried about my performance in a game than if I were a girl.

Let me explain.

I feel like when a woman puts herself out there, wherever it may be in the gaming world, she is automatically expected to either be completely bad at what she does, or is viewed with hesitation or apprehension.  So when I do poorly at something, whether I didn’t show as high on the meters as I would have liked, or I didn’t win as many rounds in a tourney that I should have, I feel like I am living up to that expectation of me.  I feel that I am proving that person right.  I am just another terrible female gamer.

I feel like you not only have more wiggle room, in terms of your performance, but you are also given more leeway to try new things, or to be innovative.  If I were to show up to Friday Night Magic and tell someone that I was playing a self mill Vampire deck, people would immediately look at me and think I had lost my mind.  Nobody would give me the benefit of the doubt, or the chance to show them that maybe this deck idea might not be so bad, and maybe it would turn out to be something great.

But if I were a man and I showed up with that same deck idea, I think people would still be a little apprehensive of my idea, but they would at least let me see the idea through, and then poke fun at me if the whole thing crashed and burned.  And if the deck did end up being a glorious failure, I think the focus would be more on how terrible the deck was, versus how terrible I was.  More often than not, when a woman does perform poorly at something, more of an effort is made to establish that she is in fact a woman.  The focus isn’t placed on how badly the strategy was, or the idea behind it, but the fact that a woman implemented it.

At the same time, you can’t just be a woman and be good at what you do.  Someone let you win.  You cheated.  You got lucky.  A man can take a defeat from another man much more easily.  It involves swallowing so much more pride to say that you won, and that you did so without gaming the system, or using your feminine wiles, or anything of the sort.  Even if they don’t make any initial snide comments, they will still wrap things up by saying “I lost to a girl.”  You would never hear someone say “I lost to a guy.”  It would be “I lost to this comp,” or “I lost to this type of deck.”  Again, the focus is immediately placed on losing to someone who happened to be better than you, and who happened to be a woman.  It isn’t enough to say that you were a better player, or that you had more skill.  It has to be reiterated that you are a woman.  Everything else will come a distant second to that.

At the end of the day, it’s not my perfectionist nature that makes me stay up an hour after the raid is over with to pore over the logs, and to see how I did, or what I can do better.  It’s not the competitive side of me that gets angry when I lose badly in a Friday Night Magic tourney.  These things tap directly into the side of me that feels like I have to do my gender proud, like I have to represent for all women, and that if I don’t that I have let any number of women like me down.  It taps into the feeling that I have proven every short sighted, misogynistic asshole right by being bad at what I do.  They must think women are bad because I was bad.  I’m not helping.  That’s how my mind interprets it.

I’m not really sure what can be done about this, or even where I’m going with this.  These are things that I feel, and I can’t necessarily say that someone has directly made me feel this way.  This is how I choose to interpret things that are said or things that I have experienced in the time that I have spent gaming.  I feel like we have come a long way, but the pressure is still there.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so maybe I felt like it would be a good idea to get this all off my chest, and to see if I’m not the only one who feels like I owe it to my gender to be good at what I do.

If you have felt this way, let me know how you cope with it, or how you deal with those feelings of inadequacy when you are feeling not good enough.  If you haven’t, feel free to leave a comment about that, too.

Thanks for reading.

A Lifetime Of O’s – Then And Now

13 Mar

Have you ever had one of those moments where you take a second to look around and you think to yourself  “How did I get here?”  I have those moments more often than most people do, but I felt compelled to answer the question a bit more seriously after some other bloggers started a trend of writing posts detailing where their characters came from compared to where they are now. 

I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to tackle this one.  The character that I play now is not the one I started out with, so I wasn’t sure if I should talk about the history that I have with my current main, or my previous one, or even the one before that.  This post could be as long or as short as I wanted to make it.  In the end, I decided that I wanted to go all the way back – back to the beginning.  How did I get here?  Let me show you.

It all started on a little realm called Thunderhorn, which is actually still around, and is considered to be one of the oldest realms in the game.  I was an Alliance healing priest named “Kemintiri,” in a guild called “Chosen of Valhalla,” which was run by Shoryl.  I was so green.  I didn’t know how guild politics worked.  I didn’t know anything about what it meant to be a raider and how to handle yourself as such.  I knew nothing. 

Thunderhorn was grossly overpopulated – so much so that before Burning Crusade was released Blizzard was thinking of either splitting the realm in two (so there would be a Thunderhorn 1 and a Thunderhorn 2), or they were going to offer free realm transfers to lower population realms.  The guild that I was in was part of an alliance of guilds and they all agreed that the free realm transfer was the better option, rather than staying on Thunderhorn and leaving fate to decide which half of the server we ended up on.  As it turns out, the split never took place, so we really had nothing to worry about.

Shortly after we arrived on Zangarmarsh, I was kicked out of the guild.  I was pretty distraught over what happened and what I perceived to be a betrayal from people that I thought I could trust or who I thought were my friends.  I really wanted nothing to do with the Alliance anymore at that point.  I decided to create a Horde character, but I couldn’t come up with a really good name for my character.  Codi was my roommate at the time and she had an encyclopedia of gods and goddesses that I used to borrow from her frequently. 

I remember browsing through the pages and the name “Ouranos” jumped out at me.  It was unlike anything I had ever heard of before.  Since I was thinking of making a Tauren druid anyway, the name seemed kind of appropriate.  Codi loved the idea and told me I should name my character that, so I did.  I had an issue with how the Tauren females looked, so I opted to make a Tauren male instead.  I thought it would be kind of neat to have such a masculine looking character and be someone seemingly so girly behind the screen.  I really got a kick out of that dichotomy. 

So I leveled Ouranos as a balance druid with some friends of mine and we even created our own little guild to call our own.  Once we hit level 70, the urge to raid came back strong.  We took the guild apart and joined a guild called “Resilience,” which was run by a rogue named Ricen.  Little did I know that the real person running the show was a warlock named “Raaziel,” who paid for the website, the Vent server, managed the DKP, ran the raids, etc.  I also didn’t know that Raaziel and I would eventually end up dating and that I would be part of the reason the guild fell apart.

Raaziel really didn’t want to be running the show.  I grew tired of hearing him complain about things that he really didn’t want to do and so I politely suggested that maybe he should do something that does make him happy for a change or maybe even take a break.  He went one step further – he quit the game completely.  Without having him on board to run the show, the guild slowly descended into chaos.  Raaziel and I broke up a short time later and the guild eventually split into two – half the guild chose to stay with “Resilience” to try and make the best of it and the other half formed a guild called “Ens Entium.”

One night, while partying in Halaa with some friends, I ran into a boisterious warlock named Joecmel, who was the de facto raid leader for a guild called “Big Tymers.”  Joe and I hit it off right away and he was amazed that I was guildless and not doing more with myself and my character.  Within days I had joined the ranks of “Big Tymers” as a raiding moonkin and he and I started to get to know one another.  Before we knew it we were dating and even making plans to move in together.  This of course didn’t sit too well with the guild.

I was constantly fighting off accusations that I was being carried or that I was using  Joe for status, or gold, or a raid spot.  He was coming off winning the Gladiator title during the first ever Arena season, so everyone on the realm and even some people outside of our realm knew who he was.  He was this sort of celebrity and I was a total nobody.  We became affectionately known as “O and Joe,” and before we knew it everybody seemed to be involved in our business.  It got worse when I actually did move out of state to be with him.

We decided to leave “Big Tymers” together and threw our lot in with a guild called “Scurvy Dogs,” a pirate themed raiding guild, where you would literally get greeted with a “Yarr” every time you logged in.  This is where I got my first real taste of serious raiding and I loved every minute of it, with the exception of one little thing.  It was a labor of love to be a moonkin back then and you either played one because you truly loved to do it or because you were a masochist.  

I felt like I had taken being a moonkin as far as I could go, or like I was starting to plateau in that role.  We had just started to break into Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep when a couple of resto druids on our roster had decided to take an indefinite break from the game.  This left a huge gap in our healing line up that was going to need to be filled.  I felt like I needed a challenge, so I offered to respec and try out resto, to see if I could potentially fill that void.  My guild master, who was also named Void, took me on a Karazhan run to sort of test my mettle.  I two healed it with a holy paladin and I had never been more scared in my entire life.  Did I forget to mention that Void was wearing a wedding dress the entire time?  Petrified.

From that point on I was a raiding resto druid and things continued to progress nicely until Joe and I fell apart.  I used to say that we were the Ben and J-Lo of our realm and everyone wanted to know what happened and had started to choose sides.  I was miserable – crying on Void’s shoulder on Vent because I had nobody else to talk to and it all got to be too much.  I decided that Joe could have custody of the guild, while I went looking for more elsewhere.  Shortly before Wrath of the Lich King came out, I joined a guild called “Invalid Target” back on Thunderhorn.

Things with “Invalid Target” started out well enough.  I was able to finally clear Zul’aman (which was a very difficult 10m back then) and get an Amani War Bear.  I was able to see progression fights at a steady pace.  I was happy.  At least until Ulduar came out and the controversy over who was going to be awarded the legendary healing mace began.  There had been a lot of talk on our forums about who was going to get Val’anyr and the officers still hadn’t made a decision by the time we pulled Flame Leviathan for the first time.  I guess they thought that the odds of getting a fragment our first night on the first boss on Normal mode were rather slim.  They were wrong.

The officers were frantically trying to figure out what to do, and so they just decided to have all of the healers roll on it.  I rolled a 98 and was to become the first recipient of Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings.  Needless to say the other healers were not pleased at this and things only got worse from there.  One healer, in particular, felt very slighted and it didn’t help that she was friends in real life with most of the guild.  Things got ugly fast.  People were making comics about me on the boards.  I was being goaded into fights in guild chat.  It was not pleasant.

I decided to leave and joined the top guild on our server (Horde side, at least), a guild called “Lobster Brood.”  This guild had a great reputation and they really believed in me as a healer and as a person and I was very excited to be a part of their ranks.  It wasn’t until after I joined that I got to see the inner workings of the guild and I didn’t really like what I saw. 

The guild had an unusually high turnover rate and I felt like we were in this endless cycle of gearing up people, losing them, and then having to recruit more people that we would have to gear and train.  We could have gone a lot further, progression wise if we weren’t constantly losing people and then replacing them.  I started to resent having to repeatedly sit for new people again and again, just because we either couldn’t keep people on board, or because of a string of bad luck with recruitment. 

After that, I moved the now female “Oestrus” (who had her name and gender changed shortly after Naxxramas was released) to Khaz Modan, and joined a guild called “Retribution.”  The guild was serious about progression, but still home to a likeable cast of characters, including an openly gay GM, and a fantastic resto shaman named Natoro.  Seeing as how Natoro was also our healing lead, he was the one that I had the most contact with during my trial period, and he and I hit it off right away.  He began to court me and the feelings became mutual.  Before I knew it we were dating and he was flying in to see me over Labor Day weekend of that year.

Natoro and I didn’t make it much past that weekend, and so I left “Retribution” for a brief stint on the Hydraxis realm, only to return to Zangarmarsh.  Joecmel and I had long since made amends after our relationship ended and he was now running a guild called “Cause for Concern.”  Although the 25m raids weren’t very successful, he had his own 10m group and asked if I wouldn’t mind being a part of it.  I got most of my Heroic experience in Icecrown Citadel with these folks and it was a very enjoyable experience for me.  I had started to take on some recruitment duties for the main raid and I was happy.  Or at least I thought I was.

The truth is that I missed a certain standard of raiding that just doesn’t exist on Zangarmarsh.  It never has and it probably never will.  Zangarmarsh tends to exist in a bubble and what they consider raiding is very different from what I consider it to be.  I had tried to take more of a hands on approach to replace the bad players by handling the recruitment myself and it just wasn’t working.  I started to really resent the people I was raiding with who weren’t trying as hard to do well and I also started to resent the officers and Joe, who seemed to stand by and let it all happen.  The guild had literally become a cause for concern. 

I left “Cause for Concern” for a guild called “Scientific Method” on Maelstrom.  With their help, I was able to finally complete my Val’anyr and clear up to Heroic LK 25.  I didn’t really have much in common with them on a personal level, but I certainly enjoyed them on a professional level.  They got shit done.  That’s all I really wanted at the time.  Around this time I had gotten my hands on a Beta key for Cataclysm and I was very unhappy with the direction that Blizzard seemed to be taking resto druids.  I was pretty sure that I wanted to re-roll for the next expansion, but I wasn’t sure if “Scientific Method” would have room for me as the class that I wanted to play next.

I had begun to get to know Kurnmogh through my early adventures in the blogosphere and she was attempting to breathe new life into her former guild, called “Apotheosis.”  This guild sounded like a dream come true to me.  I really wanted to be in a guild that would allow me to see progression, but with people that I could genuinely like, and not just have to stomach in order to get what I want.  I moved my former alt priest (now my new main, Obscene) to Eldre’thalas, turned her into a Dwarf female, and spent the rest of Wrath and my time in the Cataclysm Beta trying to master my new class. 

I enjoyed being in “Apotheosis” immensely – from the leveling process, to the process of gearing up through Heroics, and then our first raids together.  Where I started to take issue with certain things was on a social or administrative level.  I felt like there were certain situations that I was bringing to people’s attention or that others were creating for themselves that could have been handled proactively and wouldn’t have turned into the firestorms that they had become.  They were molehills that were allowed to become mountains, so to speak.  There were situations that I felt I had to handle myself, because Kurn or the other officers weren’t doing anything about them.  This ended up being my downfall.

Eventually I had gone too far and I had received word that the officers basically didn’t know what to do with me, that they didn’t know if I really wanted to even be in the guild anymore (based on my behavior), and that they would need to sort of deliberate on what to do next.  I felt like I had been backed into a corner and I didn’t like the prospect of waiting for other people to decide my fate.  I felt like I needed to take the power back and that if I was going to be made to leave a guild that I was going to do it on my terms.  Before the officers could make their decision, I told Kurn that I was going to leave. 

I definitely could have handled that situation better.  I don’t know what the officers would have decided, had I stuck around to see the final outcome.  What I do know is that I still consider “Apotheosis” to be the guild equivalent of “the one that got away.”  I was never happier than when I was raiding with my two best friends, Dahrla and Hestiah.  I enjoyed Kurn’s long winded and yet necessary explanations and posts on the forums.  Those things became a distant second to the burnout that I was starting to feel, which would lead to my most dramatic outburst ever.

I had been in “Occasional Excellence” on Quel’dorei (now the home of both Dahrla and Ophelie) for about two months when we came up against the wall known as Heroic Nefarian.  I was tired of caring more about the fight than other people did.  I was tired of wiping due to human error – not even due to Nefarian himself.  I felt like there was a lot of fuckery going on in the raid and like that focus should have been put into our performance, not on Heavy Leather Balls and the like.  A couple people thought they were being funny and amusing and I wasn’t having it.  So I left the raid. 

I was given the opportunity to stay in the guild, if I would offer up some form of apology, and I refused to do such a thing.  I felt like I was owed an apology for the poor performances of others and that this was again a situation where people saw something like this coming and they did nothing to prevent it.  I made it clear that I was annoyed, that I didn’t enjoy the Leather Balls, and people still kept throwing them.  I told them they would be sorry and I wanted to make very sure that I stuck to my guns on that.  Was it the right thing to do?  Of course not.  Would I do it again?  No.  At the time I wasn’t thinking about all of that.

Somehow my priest (now known as “Oenomel”) made her way into “Serious Casual” on Mal’ganis, which marked my return to the Horde side of things.  Firelands had just been released and things were not looking good for holy priests.  I was very clear during the application process about the fact that I was predominantly holy and I assumed that the raid knew what they were in for.  I remember being told my first night there to “Go disc or go home.”  Eventually I was given an ultimatum by the healing lead at the time that if I didn’t go discipline when asked that I could be benched – possibly even permanently.  To me this was the final straw.

It was never being discipline, in and of itself that I had an issue with.  I took issue with the fact that I wasn’t given a say in when I got to go discipline.  I was never trusted to make that call for myself.  It was basically “You’re going to do this and you’re going to like it,” and I wanted no part of it.  After certain people in the raid found out that I had blogged about this there was a heap of drama and it all became too much to bear.  I was pretty sure that I was done with World of Warcraft for good and threw my lot in with some friends who were playing Rift.  This lasted for about four months, or until shortly after BlizzCon.

BlizzCon made me realize how much I missed the community and how much I missed having people with a similar interest to discuss said interest with.  I met a few folks from “Big Crits” there and was encouraged to apply for their more casual run, known as the “Da Crew” run.  I was told that they already had 2 10m runs under the “Da Crew” banner and that they were looking to recruit for a third one.  This sounded like a good fit to me.  I had been gone long enough where I didn’t have the history or experience to get back in with a more serious group and I wasn’t even sure I wanted something that serious to begin with.  I figured this would give me an opportunity to sort of get my feet wet again and to figure out where I wanted to go from here.

“Big Crits” ended up being nothing like I imagined.  If I had to describe my time in “Big Crits,” I would probably compare it to sitting at the dinner table with a really dysfunctional family.  You know – one of those families where everything looks perfect, but dad’s really an alcoholic, and mom’s having an affair with the tennis instructor, the daughter is secretly a lesbian, and the son is a pyromaniac.  But nobody talks about it – and as long as you don’t talk about certain things, and you don’t acknowledge that they’re actually happening you will get along just fine.  So there were a lot of issues that kept coming up that nobody wanted to deal with and because I did (although maybe not in the best way possible) I got a lot of flak for it. 

There were other issues, with regards to personality conflicts and such, but it all led to the same conclusion.  It just didn’t work out.  I took about two weeks off from raiding after I left “Big Crits” and had a one week stint in a guild that a friend recommended, which then led me to my current guild.  I enjoy the people I raid with now.  I enjoy the progression that I’m seeing.  I like that they trust me to make my own decisions, with regards to my character and my class.  I feel good.  I can’t say that I’ll be here forever, but I also can’t say that I’m looking to leave them anytime soon.  I’m just taking it one day at a time.

I have certainly come a long way and I have learned a lot in the five years or so that I have been playing this game.  There are things that I would do differently, if I could, and there are things that I would probably have never done – if I knew then what I know now.  It’s been a wild ride and I am proud to say that I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. 

I really do believe that you can’t know where you are going until you have known where you have been, and so I encourage anyone reading this to really take a good look at what brought you to where you are now.  Relive the highs and the lows.  Remember the friends (and the enemies) that you have made along the way.  They helped make everything you are today possible.  Don’t ever forget that.  I know I sure won’t.

Shameless

27 Feb

Somewhere down the line I developed a reputation as being someone who will say and do nearly anything.  While this is true, there is one thing that I won’t do.

I don’t kiss and tell.

No, I don’t mean when you immediately run to your girlfriends and dish about that fantastic date that you just came back from, or when you write on your Facebook wall about just how much fun the conception of your first child was.  I mean the practice of bragging about or being fairly candid about the number of page views that your blog attracts or the number of Followers that you have acquired on Twitter.

Recently, a couple of posts sprang up in the blogosphere, which admittedly were very gracious and not immediately harmless.  I just want to stress that I have no personal issue with the people who decided to write these posts and so I’m not going to name names or anything.  What I do take issue with is the principle behind it, which whether they meant it or not, does reinforce the idea that on some level your page views matter.

I have met a number of people who have a very strong interest in starting a blog, but won’t, because they are afraid that nobody will be interested in what they have to say, or that nobody will read what they write.  I have also seen a number of bloggers who made a solid attempt at blogging, but gave up when they didn’t get the traffic that they were hoping for, or when they felt like nobody was listening.

Now you could argue that these people were blogging for all of the wrong reasons and so they were doomed to fail anyway.  I have gone on record a number of times to say that if you are looking for a reason to blog and you are doing it for the page views that you are doing it wrong.  That is not the reason to start a blog.  It is not worth getting wrapped up over and it really can turn into an endless spiral of shame and self-loathing if you let it.  But one could also say that you can’t blame people for being concerned about their numbers when they see posts celebrating these near impossible landmarks and the amount of admiration and praise that is showered upon people who do reach these heights.  You can’t blame someone for wanting to be a part of that and for wanting to feel that way, too.

I compare advertising your page views or how many Followers you have to boasting about the number of people that you slept with.  You may have slept with 25 people, but that doesn’t make you better in bed than the person who only slept with 2 people.  We should be judging ourselves and each other on the quality of our work rather than the number of people that it attracts.  I know quite a few up and coming bloggers that I have seen mentioned on Blog Azeroth that have written some truly riveting posts within weeks of starting their blog, which I can’t always say for people who may be more well established and who have been going at this for a while.  That blogger may have only gotten 100 page views or so, but I would much rather read what they have to say than that powerhouse blogger who gets thousands of views a day.

It really is not about that.  I have been blogging for a long time and I can honestly say that I was never happier than when I was blogging away on Livejournal, when nobody knew who I was, and when I was talking about how excited I was that the first season of “The Golden Girls” was coming out on DVD.  I wasn’t writing for anyone but me and it showed.  I didn’t obsess over who was going to take something the wrong way, or whether or not my facts were straight.  I wrote because I loved to do it and because it helped me clear my head and get a lot of things out of in the open that I didn’t think I could say to anyone else directly.

Somewhere down the line it gets muddled and you do feel obligated to keep going.  It’s hard not to feel that way when you realize that people are looking forward to your next post or when they do get emotionally invested in the things that you write about.  Blogging starts to feel less carefree, less effortless once you develop some semblance of a following.  I can take a look at the posts that I wrote when I had no Followers and nobody subscribed to my blog and see a huge difference in the tone or the quality of the posts from where I am now.  It really does change everything.

On a similar note, we say that we like Looking For Raid because it gets people interested in raiding, but then we criticize other players when they don’t perform to the standards that we are used to in our everyday raiding guilds.  We wonder how people could be so incompetent or how they could have gotten this far without asking for help.  I see elements of this in the blogosphere, too.  We make comments on Twitter that we have nothing new to read and that there are no blogs out there that pertain to a certain topic, but then we hesitate to click on a Retweet from a friend that just may have an article from a new and interesting voice that has yet to be heard.  Or we don’t think to write back to someone who sends us a Tweet or leaves us a comment to tell us that we did a good job on our most recent post, simply because we have never heard of them, or because they may have less of a following than we do.

Whether you mean it or not, that new blogger is going to read a post like the one mentioned above and it may deter from them even getting started, or it may convince them that they aren’t cut out to maintain a blog because they can never pull in numbers like that.  I think we should be doing everything we can to remove any sort of “Why bother?” element from people interested in getting involved in the community and be more inclusive, overall.  We all remember what it was like when we were first starting out and I think it’s important that we never forget that, no matter how successful we might become.  There really is enough room for everyone at the table, regardless of the amount of page views that you generate.  Let’s do a better job of communicating that, shall we?