Draenor Rock City: The Exclusionary Nature of Nerd Cool

Tzufit and Apple Cider look forlornly at the Dark Portal.

Written by Apple Cider Mage and Tzufit

If you had asked us last week what sorts of things Blizzard could do that might make us feel like World of Warcraft isn’t a game for us, we might have made some comment about treatment of female characters or perhaps the ongoing sexism that women face from other players. We probably wouldn’t have said, “They could make a show about middle-aged men designing motorcycles.” So when Blizzard dropped the announcement that they were partnering with American Choppers for a strange web-series that would document a competition to design a sick motorcycle as an in-game mount (what, another one?), we were glad that we weren’t the only ones going, “huh?”

The more we thought about it, this confused us because it was yet another tone-deaf offering that pushed us farther and farther away from World of Warcraft. Jokes about mid-life crises aside, it’s hard to be excited about the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion and WoW in general when you feel like you don’t belong there.

Because WoW is an MMORPG, feeling as if you belong in the world is exceptionally important, arguably more so than in any other genre of video game. In years past, we have drawn our excitement for new expansions by thinking about the things that our characters will do and see, the places they will explore, and the new challenges that we, as players, will experience. In recent weeks, people who used to see themselves as curious about the world we are about to inhabit now have a hard time picturing themselves there. We find ourselves traveling to an alien world, and yet the alienation we feel comes not from Draenor but instead from the people who have created it.

While we cannot know precisely who has their hands in every pie at Blizzard, it seems like the public faces and taste-makers of World of Warcraft often gravitate around fairly similar themes that they consider “cool.” Draenor, more so than any other expansion, feels saturated in these ideas, despite protests to the contrary. The particular rally point in this case has indubitably been Y’rel, a strong Alliance Joan of Arc-type. Yet, everything we’ve seen thus far, from new extra beefy mob models to some alpha dialogue is oriented around a hyper-masculine world that is brutal, savage (as we have been told ad nauseum) and inexplicably full of rock star pyrotechnics. When we saw the art piece of all of the warlords lined up like a gruesome metal band, there was an emotional distance between Chris Metzen eagerly throwing up the horns and us looking on in confusion. We’ve seen fun and goofy inclusion of these ideas before, but the tone now feels very serious; it’s a weaponized barrage of these concepts to the exclusion of everything else.

This nerdy (but still male) idea of “coolness” isn’t a unique problem to Blizzard. Big creator names in nerd culture are still predominantly male, which has been true since long before “nerd” and “geek” were a persistent cultural identity. You have Tolkien, Lucas, Martin, Whedon and, for our purposes, Metzen. Nerd-dom has been retconned into a male space, a refuge for the those who did not fit the traditional image of masculinity, but who enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons and got thrown into lockers because of it. The duality of this background is that for all of the underdog position that nerd men have had most of their lives, many of them still enjoy the benefits of a patriarchal culture that nurtures and comforts their tastes and desires, often to the tune of millions of dollars. For a group of outcasts, loners and misfits, they have, especially in the 2000s, enjoyed a renaissance period. When you combine that with a fairly critical ignorance (or even outright hostility) to other people who are not considered the marketable norm, your fantasy world, much less are suddenly devoid of people outside of that nerd paradigm.

The problem with nerd culture and the belief that only men are considered creators is that it reinforces that the only stories worth caring about are for men, by men, and in a way that is cool to other men. It’s a rigid set of interests that tends to not consider much else outside of it. The worlds themselves sometimes involve a realism and grittiness that is at best, voyeuristic – it’s easy to insert things into a fantasy world to make it more real when it’s not a reality you have to confront on a regular basis. All of this is nerd men and their creations revolving around power and cachet – the stoic, grizzly hero flanked by compatriots and female love interests. In the case of Blizzard, a lot of it looks like muscular brutes, heroes of light and rock guitars.

What seems apparent to us is that some of Blizzard’s content creators are still finding the same things cool at 40 that they did at 15, and though their customer base has matured, their interests are showing their age. No one faults content creators for having inspirations, but when you achieve a level of success that allows you to create content for literally millions of people all over the world, isn’t it reasonable to ask that your inspirations grow to reflect the diversity of your audience? It seems equally reasonable to expect that this is not only something Blizzard should consider but rather something they for which should actively strive.

How we’ve seen people typify this cultural problem within Blizzard and throughout Warlords of Draenor is one of marketing, and we don’t believe that that’s entirely the case. Marketing is a symptom of the problem. The primary issue is a concept and an atmosphere that people are struggling to see themselves in. Is it so terrible to ask for inclusion? Is it so terrible to be afforded even a fraction of the same consideration that a particular segment of nerds have enjoyed for years in WoW? Our standards are not unreasonable; in fact, we might go so far as to call them incredibly low. While active inclusion of diverse women in Warcraft’s story may be the ideal, in the past we have at least been able to say that WoW does not actively exclude us. Recently, that seems to be less and less true. It feels like WoW has been moving backwards (now quite literally) in some places with how women are characterized or talked about, those failures buoyed by the few small successes we’ve enjoyed since then. For every five minutes Jaina is allowed to be a competent leader, we have many more moments of women being killed, hurt, married off or otherwise left behind.

There’s such a spectrum of problems that surround both the women in the story and the audience that it’s hard to list them all. The problem now is how to deal with these revelations about Blizzard and the game we’ve been enjoying for so many years. Loud, vociferous criticism only works when we are able to make headway, and the road to Warlords has so far been littered with increasingly insurmountable obstacles.

Much is still unknown about the new expansion at this point. Alpha and beta often provide key contextual clues to the overall direction an expansion is headed and we acknowledge that there have been exceptionally long dry spells in between updates since Blizzcon. It’s easy to feel like small, select issues make up a larger percentage of future content than may prove to be the case. Historically, alpha and beta have been periods when we’ve seen that critical analysis can and does create change and improvement in Warcraft. Yet, for the moment, we don’t know how to align ourselves with Blizzard’s visionaries because their ideas don’t seem to include us.

Year That Was: 2013

They love the way I walk
‘Cause I walk with a vengeance
And they listen to me when I talk
‘Cause I ain’t pretending

- Beyoncé, Grown Woman

It was a decent year.

I talked about Blizzard’s choices in raid bosses, analyzed the Alliance’s rise in powerful women, started a podcast, asked why Blizzcon doesn’t have a harassment policy, talked to fellow cis people about how to respect trans WoW players, met fellow community people at Blizzcon, as well as looked at Warlords of Draenor‘s women problem.

I definitely made some enemies but I made more friends, perhaps. I definitely feel like I’m in the black on my ledger on that particular front, especially with mending old fences.

My content production on this blog in particular has slowed down a bit now that I also do the podcast but I don’t feel like the blog overall is suffering. It definitely has been weird moving into a slightly different position in the community, especially now that there’s been more discussions among people about matters of sexism, gender representation, and treating people in different groups with respect. It’s a thing that needed to happen and I’m glad I don’t feel so alone in expressing those thoughts. It’s moving glacially when it comes to Blizzard but overall I think the community has grown a bit.

Definitely started feeling more like a personality this year versus just a name and a blog attached. Not sure if this is overall positive or negative. I got ensconced into a more powerful position with my ideas and words reaching higher up ears and feeling the pressure that I had to say the right things versus the things I really feel all the time.

As far as WoW itself goes, it was a cooling off of my real drive to “succeed” at end-game. I have no real desires to raid a lot anymore. Flex made it possible to do more content in less time and at a pace I don’t feel stressed out about. I might have taken a couple of wrong turns as a guild leader but the rest fell into place otherwise. I’ve been working hard on finding a new thing to enjoy every day, otherwise I would have burned out long ago. Having to produce content and look critically at the content, lore has kept my interest active beyond the quotidian grind of  Mists of Pandaria.

Overall, I can’t really complain. I don’t have a solid course planned for 2014, but I think I’ll do alright. We have an expansion on the horizon and there’s no end to things I could say. If 2012 was getting your attention, 2013 was me having something to say.

In the immortal words of Beyoncé, I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want.

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mailbox

My mage and my long-lost friend.

My mage and my long-lost friend.

“Did you used to play on Cenarion Circle?”

I always fret when I ask complete strangers random whisper questions as I know that people doing the same to me piques my anxiety. But here I was, standing at the mailbox at Shrine in what can best be described as a head-on collision with fate. It’s hard for a skeptic like me to wholeheartedly accept the role of True Believer but sometimes you have to go along for the ride when life presents you with something too unbelievable to chalk up to mere mortal calculations of probability and chance.

As of maybe a couple of days ago, I’ve been using my boredom with the end of the expansion to start chipping away at some of my neglected alts, most notably my Horde characters on another server from my main, who is Alliance. This is my mage, Misandry, that I created for my first mage leveling guide (obviously titled “Levelling Through Misandry.”) She’s been bounced around a lot – first created on Mal’ganis, then moved to Drenden and then gently settled on Earthen Ring in my guildies’ alt guild for our Horde toons. Little by little I’ve been pecking away at XP, a handful of dungeons and poking at the Horde storylines I had yet to see via questing. I was stuck in Camp Nooka Nooka and needed to use a mailbox to do some auction housing. Instead of teleporting to Orgrimmar, I decided on a whim to fly to Shrine since I hadn’t really been there but I somehow magically had the flightpoint.

I was standing at the mailbox only half-paying attention and disenchanting items when I see a mage log in. I mouseover their frame as they had MyRoleplay installed and I have a habit of reading people’s backstories. The name looked familiar to me but given the usual cobwebs with my memory, I couldn’t place where. Slowly it dawned on me – was this one of my old friends from Cenarion Circle? That name was fairly unique and it wouldn’t hurt to ask. So I timidly whispered to the mage standing next to me.

What happened next can only be described as a sheer unbelievable luck. Yes, she had played on Cenarion Circle. I asked her if she remembered my gnome. She remembered me. We started shrieking. It was my friend that I had used to play with and roleplay with. The warlock who I had RP-fights with, her Horde, me Alliance. The person who dueled me on plateaus in Nagrand while we laughed ourselves stupid as we would fall off and die. Out of nowhere, we just happened to run into eachother. On a server that I barely play on, and her, a day after re-upping her WoW account and logging into a character (her 10th 90) that she barely plays with the same name as her Horde warlock. We just happened to randomly be standing next to eachother at the same time in Shrine when I had decided to go there completely by chance.

It was like a deluge of things being said, like if you had run into someone from your past on the street.

How are you?

What have you even been up to?

Wait, didn’t you used to have a stalker problem too? How did that work out?

The deluge of past and present came tumbling out. It was weird that both of us seemed to have similar trajectories regarding reasons for dropping off the radar; a combination of toxic people on our home server, life changes and dealing with harassment. She was one of the few people I had wished I had kept better contact with and here she was, right in front of me. We both were overjoyed at the idea that both of us were doing so much better now, that we had come so far and gotten to better places in our lives. The idea of meeting an old friend and knowing she was a survivor too was also emotional but I was mostly just unbelievably happy knowing that even if we lost touch, that stories went on relatively happily. The odds of us running into eachother, now, seemed impossibly low. But yet…

We quickly exchanged Twitter accounts and battle tags, something that wasn’t nearly as easy to do even 3 years ago. A lot of people prior to the introduction of RealID and Battle tags especially would move off-server and then just drop off the face of the planet unless you knew them outside of the game. Social media and particularly WoW’s move towards socialization has made things like this more possible, if you are so lucky to find yourself in this position. I know I am beyond lucky and I have to wonder if this wasn’t some higher force. Obviously, I can’t be certain but this has conceivably made my month.

With Blizzcon around the corner, plus now this, I can’t help but think that despite us all being nerds playing a video game, that the connections we form online can be just as impervious to time as any others. Much like remembering the face of someone you hung out with in kindergarten, coming across a person you once knew happens, expanded to a global scale. Obviously World of Warcraft is a far smaller place but I still can’t help but feel that this was almost too good to be true, and so I felt moved to write it down hastily, in case I woke up tomorrow and it wasn’t real.

I’ve struggled all my life with losing friends rapidly in short time spans due to some sort of drift and I always regret it. Even if not for every individual person but just that it happens so much and it haunts me. The idea of getting a second chance to see someone I enjoyed being around due to kismet, fate or whatever you want to call it makes me feel a little less alone. The Internet having an endless memory may be true in more ways than just preserving the shitty moments you’ve tossed out there into the ocean, but perhaps something you put out there finally washing back up on shore.

On the Other Side

anger

I apologize in advance if this post is slightly disjointed, but some of these feelings are tiny butterflies that I’m trying to catch in a net in order to classify them properly.

I think most of you remember a post that I wrote last year about my experiences with being stalked in and out of World of Warcraft. It was easily one of my most popular posts, largely due to the fact that it was a story that pretty much resonated with a great deal of my audience. I think a lot of people have felt at least a brush of that kind of problem, as scary and alienating as it is. Seeing someone talk about it brings us all together because we suddenly don’t feel alone.

May 26th (as far as I can reckon via my Twitter history) is when I had to call the cops the last time. I was so tired and anxious of this process of dealing with the endless harassment and had a panic attack and called the cops. What good I thought it would do me, I didn’t know. I just wanted to feel in control again. I went through the same dance – telling the cop my story, having him not really grasp Internet harassment. But he gave me hope when he said he could get me in touch with a department that dealt with cybercrime in my city. And that’s what I needed to hear (I ended up never getting ahold of them, mysteriously.) What I wanted was just a shot at potentially fixing this situation.

Then something strange happened.

Maybe it was me actually following through on a threat publicly of calling the cops (to the point where I had adrenaline fatigue later), but the harassment stopped. Flat out stopped; not a trickle and then tailing off, but like nothing at all. It’s like he never existed after that. Of course, he’d taken breaks before so the first week I was relieved for the “break” but was waiting for the shoe to drop again. Then another week. And another. Several more. Suddenly it had been a month and nothing. “Maybe he died.” I thought to myself. Maybe he did. I still don’t know. Maybe he got helped or was finally jailed or who knows.

After 3 or so months went by, I started to feel like I could let out the breath I had been hanging onto since four years prior. It felt like sunlight was suddenly creeping into the dark corners of my life. The looming shadow that had always been lurking in the back of my mind was dissipating. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. I had spent so many years at this point backed into a tiny ball of hiding my feelings and feeling scared from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed that I almost had no idea how to function as a human being. It felt like I was a rusty robot that had subsisted on anger and terror.

The problem on top of all this was that being stalked was that it had just already compounded a life spent being dominated by anxiety. Working through this, finally getting to the end of it meant that I had to dig a lot deeper under the daily survival mechanism and open up the Pandora’s Box that was the rest of my life. I had spent so long bailing out my little boat of all the water rushing in, that now I had to learn how to steer it. I will say the last year or so of therapy has been some of the weirdest, hardest work I’ve done. I had to unravel a lot of truths about myself in relationship to my anxiety, my sexual assault as a teen, as well as my complicated relationship with my family. The upside of this was that I felt like I was starting to build something on top of a foundation, rather than repairing everything continually being torn down.

One day I woke up and realized I wasn’t scared anymore. Well, sure, I still had to deal with anxiety, but the war was over. I could go home.

Today I woke up and felt awesome. But I have been feeling like that for a while. Even the days I don’t feel so great (and there are a lot of those), I still feel ten times better than I did then. My bad days now are better than of my best days back then. While I’ve been sluggish on writing a lot, the fact that I’m doing art, keeping my house clean and taking care of my new pet cat means that I’m less of a robot these days and more of a typical human being. I don’t get panic attacks when my Twitter mentions columns fills up with replies. I don’t feel scared about talking about where I live or what I like to do with new people. I cleared out most of my blog’s banlist and blocked terms. I only have a fleeting twinge of weirdness when I see certain words or think about certain things. It feels like the high tide of my own enjoyment is at acceptable levels for me to go out sailing again.

I think today is a good day to toggle “victim” over to “survivor” because I beat this, I survived this. Not just being stalked, but the second darkest period of my life, all things considered. I was in a bad place a couple of years ago and it only now it feels like I can go forward.

Thank you all for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day.

- Nico

aka Apple Cider Mage

 

Thankful

Cider looks up at the ox celestial god, NiuzaoIt occurs to me that I should probably not start off this blog post by admitting that maybe I’m enjoying an alcoholic root beer float at the moment. But given that this is a slightly more personal entry rather than a critical one, I don’t think it is entirely out of the spirit of things. Besides, the holidays are all about enjoying oneself with whimsy and mirth. My mirth just sometimes needs a nudge. Unbeknownst to me until maybe a couple of minutes ago when I decided to start writing this entry, my blog is a year old. Well, a year and a month old, if you want to be accurate about it. It’s been a wild year, hasn’t it? While I don’t write here nearly as much as I should, or want to, I feel like my “return” to blogging has been fairly ponderous and more successful than I could have ever imagined. I learned a lot of things not just about the game we all enjoy, but a little about you guys. And a lot about myself. This blog marks a huge change in me — it was an attempt to regain some control in my life as well as an expression of things in at least one part of my life. The fact that I’ve made it a year without grinding to a halt, made new friends and even enacted some measure of force on the game I enjoy is something I find myself profoundly grateful for. I’m thankful for this blog as the catalyst for all the things I’m about to list and quite a few more than that.

Solace

Without going into too much detail, the thing I’m most thankful for at the end of this year in particular is solace.  One of my major on-going stresses (being the target of persistent, pervasive harassment) has finally resolved itself. It’s been seven months and I feel so grateful that that chapter of my life is hopefully over. I’ve got that hazy sort of warmth that you feel when you wake up one day and realize you’re not in pain anymore. Instead of having my wounds ripped open every single day, I’m starting to mend and heal. A great burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel like I have the freedom to be more of myself.

A Klaxxi mantid

Art

Long before I was a blogger, I was an artist. But I gave it up and got tired of it for a long, long time. Mostly because I was depressed and didn’t feel motivated. This year I wrestled my way out of my funk and started again, realizing that I’m not that terrible and I can do this. I’ve even made a little bit of money off commissions, which has only bolstered my confidence. I love being able to express myself in a way that is visual and not just words. Seeing my progress slowly creep forward has also been a big deal for me. I feel like I’m starting to be a “good” artist.

Art was my first language and it is the one I am most thankful for being able to speak with again.

Therapy

I’m beyond lucky that I managed to find not only a therapy program that was affordable while not working but features an incredibly thoughtful and young therapist. Most of the reasons I’m a lot more mentally healthy and secure this year is because of therapy and the work I’ve been able to do while in it. It’s given me the strength to weather the bad stuff, work on the hard things, and appreciate the measure of stability I feel now.

My Friends and Guild

We’ve been through some ups and downs but overall I have the most amazing support network of amazing people in my life. They are all incredibly generous, caring, understanding, supportive, loving, hilarious, intelligent, trustworthy and special. I don’t think I would trade them in for anything and they mean so much to me. If I had nothing else in the world, I’d be thankful for having them beside me.

I hope that this year has been good to you readers as well, and I’m appreciative that you’ve been on this crazy blog ride with me as well. Here’s to another one, hopefully, and I hope that you have many things to be thankful about.

 

 

A Voice From A Warm Place: Dragonwrath Easter Egg in Mists of Pandaria

A blue dragon roars in Jade Forest.

I admit, I haven’t been using my beta access to its fullest since I got it a couple of months ago. The other night, however, a tweet came across my timeline regarding friending options and so I updated my game and hopped in to test it out. Afterwards, the person I was partied with and myself decided to fuss around with pet battles. I was flying around to look for critters to battle with my Spectral Kitten, listening to dance music very LOUDLY, when I heard it.

It was a woman’s voice saying something.

I blinked and looked around. Since I was still in Stormwind limits, I figured it must be an event with buggy zone sound. I asked in party chat if they had heard what I did and they said no. I wondered what it might be but I looked back in my chat log and saw this:

The warm embrace of Tarecgosa’s presence encircles you.

For anyone that doesn’t have a completed legendary staff, this is the text emote that the staff randomly pops up from time to time. I’ve always really loved that little touch; I saved Tarecgosa’s essence and now it is a part of me. It is there to comfort me when I need it. It’s like a little hug when I’m doing stuff in-game. My question then was, “Does this mean there are voice emotes as part of the staff now?”

Due to the addictiveness of pet battles I was in beta for another three hours. My emote popped up again and then I very distinctly heard her voice.

“Your deeds will live on forever in the memory of the blue dragonflight.”

I admit, I started freaking out (in a good way) at that point. I started doing a little digging and it turns out that according to the two MMO-Champion threads that I found (that only got a couple of responses, what gives?) that the staff has a random choice of 5-6 voice emotes when the staff says something to you. It seems like this little easter egg was added in a content patch at the end of July. I am really stoked about this, obviously, as a staff wielder and a dragon fanatic.

But what does it mean? My boyfriend pointed out that they’ve always done little Easter egg stuff with legendaries even after their relevance. (Remember what happened when you brought Atiesh into Shade of Aran’s room?) I want to think that it might be something significant; some additional lore might be down the road or us Dragonwrath holders might be allowed to keep our staves longer into the expansion. I know that this probably isn’t true and it breaks my heart to think that I will have to put down my wonderful staff in a couple weeks; I won’t hear Tarecgosa’s voice again unless I’m AFKing. This is just another regret along with having to weapon-swap just to turn into a blue dragon as well.

Getting a Dragonwrath was such a game-changing experience for me and not just because I had a piece of lore strapped to my back. My experience getting the staff and all the feelings that went along with was so important to me and validated a lot of things I felt about myself – that I was good enough, that I deserved this.  Add to this the fact that Blizzard finally decided to give a little more story to some of the female characters in their world (even if Tarecgosa’s time in this plane was limited) and I was a part of that? Mind-blowing.

So many times in game, hearing voices has meant that something evil was lurking around the corner, undermining our confidence in ourselves, our friends, our sanity. This is a distinct change from that and I am glad for it. I know this won’t mean much to most people, that it is just a collection of pixels, but it warms my heart. There is a wonderful lady dragon’s spirit watching over my gnome, protecting her. Cheering her on from another realm. I know that I will miss having this constant presence gone from my game after it being part of my everyday life for six months now. Still, I have a feeling she won’t be very far from my thoughts.

When I was flying up to the Skyfire to go to Pandaria this morning, I heard her whisper to me.

“Never give up.”

I won’t.

 

 

A Home Away From Home Of My Own

Saci rides her felsteed across the moors of Gilneas

I think one of the driving forces behind my out-of-control alt “issue” (I can quit any time I want, okay?) is that I use alts as solutions to problems I have. (“Problems” is kind of a mis-label, I think of them more as “ideas.” However, it is still true.) If there’s something I am thinking of doing or working on, it usually comes down to “roll another alt.” Do I have an obsession with a race/class combo? Roll an alt. Did I forget how to play a spec on an 85? Roll an alt. This little habit of mine probably started around the time I wanted to do Insane; needing alts for very specific tasks like being a scribe or being able to pick lockboxes was pretty crucial. However, all of these things are intensely practical as far as playing World of Warcraft goes.

What if the need for a new alt (in the face of a looming expansion a month away, no less) is less of a  functional one and more personal?

It is no secret that I feel very strongly about my guild. It has become, over the course of this expansion, not just a resting place for me post-progression raiding but a safe haven for folk of all stripes. We have come very close together and we’re getting new people every day. I’m a proud guild leader who sees the number of people online every night going up. I have guildmates pulling me aside to tell me how for the first time they feel “accepted” and “comfortable.” This is really important to me. I like being at the helm. However, sometimes, even a guild leader wants to slip off and be a peon for a while. There’s more friends out there than just within the borders of my guild. Having a place I can jet off to during the day when barely anyone is on to fill up guild chat, or when I’m feeling stressed out is pretty important. Plus, it is a way to extend my time to others without them needing to join my guild. Because mine isn’t the only one that is valuable or important.

That being said, it’s been hard. I’ve rolled alts on other servers before but they’ve never really “stuck.” I even have level 85s in other places now but I don’t play them that often. It’s hard to tear myself away from my “kids” enough to enjoy myself somewhere else. There’s also the larger concern: will other guilds uphold the same values I do? I’ve spoken about this before, that the driving force behind my guild is to treat people with respect. This means in word and deed. Treat people for the equals they are. Do right by them. A lot of guilds don’t quite live up to this in my eyes, in either large or subtle ways. So how am I supposed to pal around and hang out in some other person’s house that doesn’t treat me the way I wish to be treated? It’s harder when you’re not the one running things to speak up, to effect change. It’s someone else’s living room, don’t shit on the rug.

It had been something that had been percolating away in the back of my brain for a while when I asked Snack from <Waypoint> if I could join his guild on an alt to “hang out and talk.” Him and I share a lot of similar interests and opinions on things and I consider him a mentor when it comes to running a guild. He’s been wildly supportive of my efforts to be a good GM so far and always lets me bend his ear with whatever concerns I have. You might say we’re friends. I also have quite a few Twitter buddies that hang out in Waypoint that I enjoy being around, so it naturally seemed like a good place to stick yet another alt. I’d have my little place to noodle around when my own guild was dead or when I felt like getting away. I definitely was not expecting to find a guild that reminded me so much of my own, so full of warmth and laughter and respect.

I wasn’t also not expecting to roll a warlock.

Let me tell you, it feels like I’m in some sort of bizarre universe skin. I’m tall and gorgeous and I love spending money on outfits and and and and…

I’m a warlock.

Let those words sink in for a minute. I have a level 75 warlock but she’s never really been mine. She’s been rerolled 3 times and is a glorified scribe machine. This time around? I’m only 48 and I’ve sunk money into beautiful transmog outfits, made mage jokes and thrown myself off high places to resurrect myself from a soul stone. In short, I’m actually enjoying myself. The irony of this is that the class is going to change wildly in a few short weeks, but I don’t care. I’m around a fairly expansive “coven” of warlocks in Waypoint and feel pretty good about myself. Sure, most of this involves picking on Cynwise mercilessly when he’s playing his mage, but I ain’t complaining. It is fun learning another caster and despite the intrinsic loathing I feel for being all “YAY GREEN FIRE,” warlocks are actually quite cool.

The point of all this is that sometimes change can be good, even if just to inject a slightly different perspective of fun to the fun you were already having.

It’s so unbelievable to me to not only find another guild that could be a “sister” to the guild I belong to in both personality and spirit, but that I’m getting to know the warlock class intimately and not feeling bored. Stuff like this is not only valuable in and of itself but it makes me value what I have on my home server so much more. I feel like this is merely a new extension of myself in which to express not only my story vampires but my personality to a whole other group of people I care about. And it is really easy to care about people in Waypoint much like Northrend Commonwealth. They are a laid-back but friendly group of players that like to make terrible puns, have fun while raiding and while maybe slightly less enthusiastic about poop or radical feminism, they share the same core of love and respect I’m used to. I like staying up late sometimes and hashing out more serious feelings about leadership, celebrity or pride with some of my Waypoint friends (like Dee, Zable or Lizzy), or pootling around in the afternoon with Catulla and talking about lady business. All of these things adds to the already pleasurable social experience I have with my guild. I want to say things like RealID and Twitter made this happen but the undercurrent of that is that social media has to be populated with people you want to socialize with in order to be productive. So finding more of my “own kind” to talk to, raid with and generally explore Azeroth with has opened my eyes to the real possibilities.

My only concern (if you could even call it that) is that people might read this and feel that I’m handing out an advertisement for particular people or guilds. I’m not pulling back the curtain, so to speak, to shine a spotlight on Waypoint in particular. I think that while the folk in-guild are wonderful and amazing people, I think the real “magic” of this experience comes from this intrinsic and valuable idea that guilds, and by that point, social interactions in this game, should function based on treating people right. I’ve always believed this and this is why when I find another guild that believes in it as strongly as I do, it feels like “coming home again.” There’s no formula or steps you can follow to really replicate caring, concern and valuing people inside your guild other than believing it and acting on it. If you do this, the people that value this as well will find you. I know this is definitely how I found Waypoint as a space to stick a vacation alt.

All in all, there is yet another place that I feel comfortable being myself in (even if that “self” is a warlock right now) and that is a good feeling indeed.

 

 

Exhaustion

A bleak, red landscape in Blasted Lands with weeping burnt people.

No, I’m not talking about the debuff.

One of those things they never mention in the “How to Be a Good Guild Master” handbook is what to do when you suddenly find yourself all out of fucks to give. You don’t have to have a particularly problematic, conflict-intense guild to have this happen. Sometimes, some days, you  just can’t care. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you callous or horrible. It is something that happens to all of us, especially those of us guild leaders who lead with our sense of compassion and empathy.

Last Saturday, I was in a foul black mood. This kind of mood comes on really swiftly with me and it makes dealing with people really hard. I cannot tell if this is a function of some of the mental health problems I have or if it is something other people experience. It blankets how I feel about everyone and kinda sucks out all the concern and caring I have for them. Everyone is stupid, annoying and a pain to deal with. Everything is a hassle and a chore. No one is as smart or capable as me, and so I have to babysit/herd cats through anything. Above all, I just don’t have an ounce of empathy. Unfortunately this kind of cloud settled on me on the same night that we do one of our weekly guild events. A night that is supposed to be dedicated to fun and getting people neat mounts and vanity items is not a good night to be a grim, hateful person. However, unlike when we raid, I am the person who organizes this stuff and keeps the momentum going, so I had to be there. Because of this, I spent most of the night being stonily silent on Mumble unless I absolutely had to talk and I wasn’t my usual jokey, bubbly self. I often felt my directions bordering on being barked and the frustration I felt with even routine, normal questions or mistakes (on retro raid content no less!) was way off the charts. If this had been even 3 months ago, I don’t think I would have said anything to my officer squad, who were all present that night. But I took the advice I so often ignored in the past and told my officers as a heads up that I was a in terrible, awful mood. Suddenly the pressure of being an ugly monster was somewhat lessened. My officers urged me that I could leave if I wanted to, but I stuck to my guns. I’m glad that I did, regardless, as we saw one of our members get the second glaive from Illidan for her set and we got the guild achievement “The Ultimate Collection.” I had to be there, right?

Wrong.

I brought it up with my therapist several days later and he mentioned something called “compassion fatigue” as a possible source for my suddenly on-coming mood. “Compassion fatigue” is something that people who are exposed to trauma often feel, such as victims or caregivers. It increases the persons stress, cynicism and shortens their ability to feel concern towards others over time. While I don’t feel that neither my personal experiences with trauma or something like guild leading is quite on the same level as what my therapist was talking about, it definitely got the wheels turning for two reasons.

Firstly, I think that it is entirely believable that guild leading can max out your ability to care about others. On top of all the other relationships and responsibilities we might have in our lives (partners, spouses, and children are a big one), leading a guild with your whole heart can tax an already dwindling supply of caring for others. There are just some days when the problems of people in World of Warcraft might cease to be as important as other stuff going on and you feel like you have “no fucks to give” essentially. It can make you feel empty or even downright mean. This is not an ideal state of mind for leading anything, much less a guild. Having a group of officers or maybe even just one other person take the reins for a little while, whether for a couple of hours, or a couple days, can be good for not lashing out at people or to refill your compassion for others. Let your officers know how you feel and what is going on so no panic ensues. Delegation is something I think a lot of new guild leaders like myself forget about because we expect ourselves to run and do everything. There’s very little in-game that can’t be done by someone else at least once. Give yourself a time out and recharge the ol’ batteries.

Secondly, it’s a little scary to be in a position of power but feel out of control of your own feelings. I’ve had way less problems with this since some of the breakthroughs I’ve made lately with therapy, but it’s pretty apparent to me that I will sometimes slip into moods without any provocation whatsoever. It’s hard, as someone who’s struggled with mental illness all her adult life, to accept that you can be a good person and a decent guild leader when you feel so broken. Part of being the leader I think everyone deserves is convincing myself of the fact that I’m not subhuman or un-repairable. It is hard sometimes, what with the stories I’ve from neurotypical people talking rudely about guild leaders that suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and “going off the rails.” A lot of times these GMs in question have been women, I’ve noticed. I know there’s quite a lot of words I could squeeze in here about perceptions of people with mental illness and gender but I’ll save them for another time. The fact of the matter is that guild leading is a stressful, tiresome job even in the best guild (which my guild is, naturally) for even the best person, much less someone who feels deeply and sometimes in a volatile fashion. Having a mental illness or mental health problems doesn’t make me or anyone else unfit for a leadership role, provided that you communicate.

These are things that happen to everyone, I think, and I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t make me less of a person, or less of a leader. It makes me human. When your way of approaching the world is through how you feel and how you care about others, you’ll get tired. It is an exhaustion that comes regardless. The point of this is just accepting that this might happen and act accordingly.

Reclaiming the Shadows

A draenei shadow priest floats in front of the moon.

 ”I’m as fucked up as they say
I can’t fake the daytime
Found an entrance to escape into the dark”

– Metric, “Artificial Nocturne”

It struck me that I really do not talk a lot about the alts I have or played over the years. I have a habit of starting an alt, finishing it and promptly moving onto someone else. Some alts have rose in prominence while others have fallen quite by the wayside, often to my chagrin. The first alt that I rolled and stuck with was my shadow priest in Burning Crusade. As soon as I had leveled my gnome to 70, I felt a tug to work on someone else in a serious fashion. I was swayed by watching our GM play his shadow priest (a human female) at the time, and so I decided to ape him. But I didn’t felt particularly tied to being a human, so I chose one of the “new” races, a draenei. Little did I know how complex my backstory for her would be.

Draenei have a fairly extant commitment to being Lightsworn children of the Naaru, as well as being universe-wide diaspora. It was so intriguing to me to play a race that was effectively immortal; the piousness was as well. Considering I’ve lived my entire life as a secular human being, the idea of being a devout space goat kinda tickled me. But how was my priest’s inherent shadowyness (I refused to ever, ever heal on her) going to mesh with this? The Cult of Forgotten Shadow seemed like a likely avenue into this, but that was predominantly Forsaken. I admit, I was stumped. So I rolled her story around as I leveled, gathering bits and pieces here and there. It wasn’t until I did quests in Outlands (including the quest chain around Auchindoun and Nagrand where you gain the ability to see the dead) that her backstory really became concrete. She was a Deadspeaker, a death priest draenei of rare skill and innate ability to see and speak with the dead. Having this means of communicating with the dead and not being branded as “crazy” required a lot of attentive studying and reflection. The dead do not ask politely and seeing them is not something you can just shut out, but Neviim (as I called her) had mental discipline after hundreds of years. The shadows she clad herself in made her form more appealing to the spirits she frequently trafficked in and fortified her mind as well as the Light would. Sometimes it would shut out the near-constant humming of the Naaru she heard when near Shattrath, but that was an acceptable side-effect.

Neviim became my preferred alt, even when I rolled the toon that eventually became my main alt (my shaman, Sedo.) I did everything on Neviim that I did on my mage. My priest has the Hand of A’dal title that I earned when it was relevant, getting keyed for raids in case we needed alts as well as several rare mounts and pets (Captured Firefly, Zhevra). She has a Benediction/Anathema, one of my proudest accomplishments. The one thing that I got interested in on my priest but not my mage though, was PVP. From the moment I started playing her, I was pretty much hooked on doing world PVP. Shadow gave me tools that were slightly harder to use than a mage’s arsenal but I found myself loving them a whole lot more. I’d spend days, once at level cap, just watching World Defense. Back in Burning Crusade, that was a thing that people actually did. Some of the high-level zones had PVP objectives people worked on for zone buffs or fun. Otherwise, it was all part of PVP/RP storylines or just general trolling. It hearkened back to the vanilla days of sacking Tarren Mill from Southshore. I’d go around zones with guildies or people I met in Trade and kill some Horde. It felt good. Really good. World PVP is not the same as battleground PVP, honestly. It requires a lot more strategy with terrain and knowing where you can effectively bottleneck people or outsmart them with guards, roofs, and running around to hide. You could use anything really, including strange potions and nets (remember those?). But my friends cajoled me into doing battlegrounds and eventually arenas. Eye of the Storm became my favorite map, as well as Arathi Basin. I liked holding nodes and using Mind Vision to zoom around the map and call out defenders at each spot. I could hold Draenei Ruins and see across to Blood Elf Tower and freak out the offense. I could watch what was going on in mid with the flag. I could fear and mind control people off cliffs at Lumber Mill. All the skills that world PVP had taught me served me well in battlegrounds. They also helped when I moved onto doing 3v3.

My initial forays into arenas in S1 had been failures. I was going to do a pretty typical DoT/Drain 2 x Shadow Priest, 1 x Warlock comp with my GM and our mutual friend but due to personal friction of PVPing with someone I cared about and not handling bristle-y PVP arguments when I was still new to the class, I quit. S2/3 went much smoother and I had an established 3s team with a guildmate who was a fantastic ret paladin and one of our world PVP buddies who went holy. Two paladins and a shadow priest was not represented anywhere on Arena Junkies, but we liked it anyways. We weren’t perfect, but we had a lot of fun. We’d stop for the night any time anyone got upset or mad, and eventually we went onto having a Rival ranking. It might be small potatoes to some, but it was a pretty amazing title for someone who had never really grokked PVP prior to this. There were elements to PVP I didn’t really like, such as the relentless shit-talking, machismo and anti-teamwork spirit the Alliance seemed to have, but I got over it. At that time, I was mostly friendly with all guys and this was just part of the “culture.”

By the end of Burning Crusade and the start of Wrath, my shaman had started taking a lot more of my time. When it came to leveling characters in Wrath, it went my mage, then my shaman. Then a few other alts such as a druid and a paladin. I leveled my priest out of sheer habit once I realized that I had gotten her 3 levels from just fishing and cooking dailies. What happened? Where had the light in her gone? I made up part of her story to be that she had gone into hiding because Northrend was an endless screaming pit of despair for her – that the voices of the dead overwhelmed her. She remained in the protective bubble that Dalaran afforded her and recuperated.

Little did I know that my priest’s story was largely my own. End of the Burning Crusade and beginning of Wrath is when I had started getting harassed in earnest. Deciding to date my GM had earned me a lot of scorn and a lot of my dude friends suddenly had no time for me, not to mention having a growing stalker problem on my hands. Wrath is when I was being impersonated in Trade Chat and having people whisper behind my back about what a slut I was. So was it really my priest that was going into hiding, or was it me? PVP was off the table. I couldn’t handle the insults, I couldn’t handle the stress. Suddenly all the things I had loved about it – the rush of victory, the tallies at the end – frightened me. The language backed me into a corner. It felt too harsh, too abrasive. I suddenly saw it for what it was: hate speech designed to demoralize and intimidate. As someone who was being demoralized on a regular basis, it suddenly was not easy to ignore. I gave all of that up – my PVP friends, the culture and the atmosphere, for whatever little I had been involved. One or two stuck around, but most of them faded into the background. My priest was pretty much just a disenchanting mule at this point. All of her accomplishments felt tacky and outdated now. I had put her away for good, as well as my love of PVP.

And so it went. Wrath had come and gone, and so Cataclysm. Once again, I carried my priest along to the level cap out of some sort of guilt to not leave her behind. To extend the metaphor, I suppose this is a symbolic thing. That part of me that I had locked so tightly up in myself, the dark parts, would never be that far behind. Until this week. I’ve been going through a lot of changes lately – changes I can attribute to not being victimized every day of my life. I was reminiscing with Buglamp about PVP and wondering how the fuck I’d get over the anxiety that was now a huge part of PVP for me. It wasn’t until I talked to Cynwise (isn’t that always how this stuff goes) that made me realized that like all the other things I’ve worked on in therapy, anxiety has roots in larger things I’ve dealt with in my life. It doesn’t come out of nowhere; anxiety is the brain’s way of expecting a certain outcome, how ever illogical, from a set of actions. PVP, and by extension, my priest, was tied up in a lot of gross feelings of shame, guilt, and victimization. She represented all the dark parts of me from that time period.

Neviim in Auchindoun

But didn’t shadow priests embrace the darkness?

The key features of shadow priests are how they deal in using the Light, the dark side of it, to ensnare the minds of those they fight. They don’t seduce or mesmerize, they get into the deep places of your mind and tear them apart. They play on your fears and your insecurities. They peer into your secrets. Think about it: Mind Flay. Psychic Scream. Psychic Horror. Isn’t that what I felt sometimes? That I wanted to inflict my emotional pain on someone else? That I wanted to cut people down with how badly they had hurt me? To hold someone not in thrall, but in turmoil? My priest was Light-abiding, but she was the vengeance of the dead that wandered, whispered in her ear. She was revenge for every spirit that was tormented and tied to the soil she tread on. It is a soothing thought to someone who has been hurt so badly; to have control back over your emotions and use them as a weapon instead of a weakness. To be able to shut out the screaming.

It is with that thought in mind that I logged in the other day and dropped a bit of money crafting a tailored PVP set. I need to rebind some keys, add some spells I haven’t used in 4 years, but in a lot of ways, I feel like my real-life adventures back into the sunlight world has given me the strength and the courage to delve back into the shadowy trails of my priest. I want to go back into battlegrounds, I want to kick some ass and I want to be the person I was so many years. I want to be good in the ways that only she can be. I want the power I had with her.

 

Uneasy Lies The Head that Wears the Crown

It’s really easy to let my blog lapse sometimes but then other people’s words prick me.

Lodur’s assessment that hate language is a weed that needs to be uprooted wherever it grows started my thoughts on the track of how I try to shape the gaming environment around me, but it was Snack’s fairly moving, personal account of growing as a healer and a GM that possessed me with the motivation to get up and write today.

It is no secret that I am the guild master of my guild. I’ve mentioned it before but I don’t think I’ve ever outlined precisely how or why I came into this job. It is a recent occurrence, all things considered, in the long storied history of our little guild. We’ve been around since December 2004, which is ancient in terms of guilds. We’ve been through every expansion, had several membership shifts and have gotten in and out of a lot of reputation scrapes relatively unscathed. We went from being a well-known roleplay guild on our server to part of a well-known raid team to a social guild that only old server-mates remember.

The one constant throughout most of this was my boyfriend, the former GM. For most of my memory of World or Warcraft, he was always the person running the show (along with our-then-main-tank, Edagh). There had been one or two GMs prior to him but they only lasted a short while before moving and Alex (that’s his name) had arguably been the longest-running and most beloved out of anyone. Our guild has always prided itself on being a fairly loose dictatorship, with not much need for officer-ing. Even most of the formal positions were voted in for the sake of roleplay, they were never strictly necessary. Having a guild master was a  function forced by game mechanics but only meaningful in terms of having someone to look up to on the very rare occasions. Our guild was founded on fairly fun, sensible policies like “Don’t be a dick” and “Please be over 18+ years old” and “Have someone within the guild invite you” that everyone took pretty seriously. There’s only a handful of incidents (and by handful I mean 3-4) that I can ever remember someone getting booted out of the guild. I have a very warped view of what it means to have guild drama, for that reason. Our guild has always been pretty stable on the surface, and I owed a large part of that to how Alex ran things. He’s just one of those guys you can’t help but like and want to not tick off. But underpinning that was a sense of wanting to do right by everyone in the guild, regardless of who actually was in it.

So it is in that vein that I was promoted up to an officer position fairly early on in my WoW career. It was for my outspoken nature when it came to representing the “under-60″ crowd. I felt that many people in the guild who weren’t at max level were being silenced to some degree, so it was my spunk even as a pathetic level 40 that earned me a spot that I’ve held since late last year. I took the whole notion of being representative really seriously, being passionate for this group of people playing a video game. I got into raiding and graduated up to being not only a guild officer but an officer in the guild collective we were a part of. I liked being a “people person” and helped recruit for the raid as well. I was a morale booster and definitely someone who drummed up participation by knowing everyone on the server. The only real wrench in the works was that when Cataclysm started looming on the horizon and Blizzard basically forced our collective’s hand. The raid team decided they want to be a guild and proceeded to suck most, if not all of the officerships out of the four constituent guilds to form the officer crew for the raid guild. By that point, most of the officers for my guild had quit WoW or gone casual, so all that was left representing our guild on the raid team was the GM and myself. And we were not leaving our guild – we had seen what it was doing to the other guilds in terms of cohesion and membership. Alex was pretty firmly in the idea of “the captain goes down with the ship” and considering that a large majority of our guild was a social community and not related to our raid team, we stayed. It almost cost both of us our raid spots, truth be told, but in the end, we pushed to stay on even as officers. It caused a lot of underlying tension as we were part of a raid team that had benefits we couldn’t immediately access or use, that we were seen as being fairly traitorous to the cause, but I digress. It wasn’t until the raid officer squad was pared down to people who could access the guild’s officer chat that I felt the sting of abandonment. I was basically asked to step out of a position of several years just because I couldn’t see green chat. But I dealt with it. My guild was always going to be more important to me than the raid and I think everyone knew that.

Shortly after, Alex quit raiding to work full-time and play other games. I felt kinda alone but kept on with the raid team and as his involvement with WoW scaled back, I found myself running the guild more day-to-day, in whatever capacity was actually needed. Our guild never NEEDED a ton of babying, just the occasional guild invite for alts, managing the guild bank and handling crises. I always told myself that our GM would be back, I was just keeping the seat warm.

As Cataclysm wore on, it was pretty clear that my boyfriend wasn’t really coming back to WoW in any capacity for a while. There was a joke between myself and one of my friends that once Blizzard implemented the protocol for the “chain of succession” mechanic, that I’d take over the guild. We counted down the 30 days since Alex last logged on and on the fateful day, I kicked the guild master title to myself with very little fanfare. It was a foregone conclusion at that point and I had already done the job in all ways but having the name/power. I thought, “Well now I have the tools, I’ll keep on what I’m doing and the guild will be here intact until the real GM gets back.”

It’s a funny business, this whole “realness” thing. I had always, always looked up to our GM while he was here so I couldn’t even imagine anyone BUT him doing the job. Here I was though, the captain of a ship and I was steering it into uncharted territory with the promise that the actual captain would be back at the helm any day now. That is no way to sail and that is no way to run a guild. I needed to be not only the GM that the guild wanted, but the GM that the guild deserved. I needed to start doing things my own way and not the way that I thought Alex would want things. It was a bit of a weird internal conflict and definitely a hard one to think about especially considering that he is someone I live with and care about. But it had to be done. Deep in my heart though, I knew that I had been doing it without explicitly saying so for a while. There had been a lull in membership just due to our casual “know someone else in the guild” chain of dynamics, and it had started to perk up once I had started inviting more lady friends of mine from various places. It was a seed that had been planted deep inside my head somewhere along the line and I was finally acknowledging it growing back there. Questions still troubled me, however: what did I want that flower to be? What had I hoped would blossom? How would I leave my mark? What was really important to me and how could I transfer that to the guild?

The joke going around had been that we were becoming a space for “wayward women” and pulling people out of abusive guild or social situations. It wasn’t untrue though. One of the first waves of people to come into the fold were a small group of women whom I consider my closest friends. We all had banded together snarking a particularly rambunctious Livejournal community and they started trickling over once some of their guilds turned out to be not what they wanted socially or had to quit raiding, etc. But it started becoming a reality once more and more people started turning up. We’d mention off-hand how we were lady-friendly and suddenly someone would want to roll an alt. Then they’d transfer over. Then they’d transfer all their alts over, their SO or best friend would come with them. If Blizzard had some sort of referral plan for transfers, race/faction changes, I would be a very rich person right now. We had a magnetism for a certain crowd of dispossessed, affable outcasts. It was easy to see why – we were laid-back and didn’t tolerate a lot of nasty business that other guilds seemed to traffic in.

That was when I discovered where my true guild heart lay. It was in making sure people felt safe and happy in the guild. This coupled with my growing passion for feminist theory and social justice issues meant that we were not going to allow disrespectful/hate language or shitty jokes. The guild never had much stock in them to begin with but given that we were starting to become up to our ears in women, queer individuals and the like, I wanted to make it abundantly clear to everyone that this wasn’t going to be tolerated. No slurs, no sexist language, no rape jokes. Lodur’s post makes a lot of sense to me because if you want to grow a garden (to extend my plant metaphor), you have to weed out problems that strangle the growth. I believe with all my heart that -ist language across the board disallows people being able to be who they really are. Our guild is founded on respect and you cannot respect someone if you use language that puts them as a lesser being, an othered group. We’ve had some personal sloughing and education on what these concepts are (as far you as you can in guild chat) but overall, it’s been pretty stable and easily implemented. I didn’t want to tout this guild as a place where you could be comfortable and have abusive language sneaking in the cracks. The more nebulous and harder parts of “safe and happy” were where I feel I’m still failing, but doing better with. “Safe and happy” means a lot of different things to everyone, whether it is certain activities being done (like PVP, raiding, roleplay) or more abstract concepts like “open communication” or “emotional stability.” I’m still working on that – getting everyone to open and push for more transparency in our social interactions given that most of us are pretty socially awkward. It’s been going well but we still have our knots to undo.

The other big change I wanted to see other than a more socially aware personality was our own identity back. We had soldiered on so long as part of a now-defunct guild collective. With my final resignation from the raid team, as well as its eventual collapse, I felt we needed to stand out and have our own space with our own ideas and rules. We had come first, we were the ones still standing. With some help from Vitaemachina (for our own Mumble server) and my guildmate Bee (who donated webspace and set up our message board), we finally felt like a separate, real guild with our own little home and place to socialize. I also pulled up some of our veteran members into higher ranks and elected a couple more officers to handle invites when I wasn’t on as well as disputes. My sincere apprehension towards raiding seriously as well as some of our guild’s relative inexperience with raiding meant that I didn’t have the time or energy to attempt organizing raiding but LFR eventually kicked those gates back open and now we have a very successful (if late-blooming) 10man team run by our officers (with me giving some raiding tips here and there). We just downed Heroic Morchok the other night and I couldn’t be prouder. We also run Firelands so one of our mages, Probata, can get her dragon staff (so I’m not the only dragon in the guild). Guild members as well as myself have kept a nice Saturday night Fun Run tradition, got another priest a Vala’nyr and plenty of wicked cool raid drop mounts for people. (No phoenix yet though.) I’ve AHed enough crap out of our guild bank and gotten enough kickback from guild perks to help our second rogue purchase the first part of the dagger legendaries and we’re working with Bee to get her the first set. All in all, I feel we’ve grown bigger and better together, not just because I was at the top of the guild list.

Snack’s post really highlighted a lot of intense emotions for me, though. It doesn’t hurt that he’s had to hold my hand through some of the dark nights when I felt like I couldn’t be a guildmaster to my guild. The hardest part of power, if you are not the corruptible type, is worrying about if you’re abusing it. Worried if you’re doing the right thing. While I’ve not lost a lot of sleep over it (though I can sympathize with that sentiment in my heart), there’s been moments when I’ve been a shitty GM and have wanted to barf because of it. I’ve fucked up deciding who got a retro legendary, I’ve mishandled internal conflicts within the guild, I’ve slipped up in being impartial. In short, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I know that I’ve tried my best to be who the guild wants me to be, but I still sometimes slip into this mode of thinking that I wasn’t cut out for this. Leadership isn’t just doing the right thing but also being the right person. How could someone like me be a GM? I’m notoriously anxious, secretive and emotional. I’ve kept myself and my business closed off even from my officers and closest friends for well over 3 years now and it’s caused some friction. The hardest part is forgiving myself for all of these things. Being so close socially means that it’s hard to remove yourself emotionally when you do something stupid. It becomes less like mitigating a bad business decision and more like a personal failing. There’s not a day that goes by though that I don’t think about my guild and smile proudly to myself. I’ve been in the same guild for my entire career and this is why: it has accomplished something that I feel so many other guilds do not do, which is be a place for people to do what they want, be themselves, and feel cared about even while playing a video game. I couldn’t imagine gaming life without these goofy folk in my life, much less in Warcraft.

So this is not only a treatise to all of you other scared, new GMs out there. It is not just a mantra to myself to give myself more space to learn and grow as a leader. It is a love letter to my guild for not only teaching me how to be a better person, but letting me become on. It is for all the nights you guys put up with me accidentally removing myself from a raid, dodging shitty disagreements, forgetting to change the guild notes or being moody without saying why. It is my adoration for you that spurred me on to make the guild a place where you guys could be happy and I try my hardest to do that for you every day. You make me laugh, smile and even cry sometimes and I’m not too distant to admit that. Gaming is something that people always shit on because the people on the other sides of the screen aren’t “real” but you guys really are. I’ve lived with some of you, met some of you at Blizzcon, are going to meet in the future, or may never meet. But whether it’s hearing your laughter on Mumble, or seeing Pom’s dog pictures on Twitter, hearing Cass make really off-colour jokes, Lept’s eternal sighing over gear that won’t drop, or Met and Odacaer’s adorable puns to eachother, I enjoy it all and I’m glad I have them with me whenever I log on.

I might not play WoW forever, but I will enjoy it until that day comes, whether I’m guild leader or not.