“She Cybered for Purpz”: Badge Gear, Loot Collusion and Misogyny

As part of our discussion on Justice Points about women and progression raiding, I made a quip about how Blizzard instituting badge gear and things like LFR and Timeless Isle over the years has eased the vectors of gear acquisition. In doing so, the collateral “damage” was potentially destroying the myth that women gained their hard-won epics through some nefarious means. When I was playing in Burning Crusade, one of the frequent charges for a woman who had a decent set of gear was that she “cybered” for epics. When I later joined a community for women who played WoW (wow_ladies), women both leveling that charge at other women as well as women in the community worried about being accused of it posted regularly. At the time, well before I really got into feminism, it felt like a sensible charge and not like they misogyny-driven urban myth that it really was.

Why was it easy to believe though? First, turn the clock back to Vanilla and Burning Crusade. When people first hit end-game in Vanilla, the only way one could acquire epic gear was slowly as part of a 40-person raid or prohibitively expensive world BOEs. The gist is that even into Burning Crusade, until badge gear was introduced, the only way into epics was via raiding or expensive methods like professions. There was no real alternate way of obtaining gear on par with raid gear. This put a considerable premium on getting into raid teams, especially when you added in things like attunements and several tiers of content. When you have a system that is significantly harder to enter, it allows criticism of those considered “unworthy” of being there. Combine this with the mentality at the time that women were extremely sparse in number and not especially proficient at playing and you can easily see how a known woman decked in purples from raiding could be seen as having gained them in an “illegitimate” way. Keep in mind that nothing about this mindset made any sense as even on my rinky-dink RP server, there were many decently progressed guilds, quite a few that were main-tanked, raid-lead or otherwise kept going by women. But since when has intolerance ever been logical?

A lot of this article is based on things I actually saw or heard from people during my time playing the game. It felt like, back in the day, there was way more emphasis on “drama” which always included women in some way and more often than not, sexually. Did this stuff actually happen? Oh, I’m pretty sure it did occasionally. But I don’t think it became a problem because of those occurrences but mostly that it’s not different than the misogyny that women regularly face outside of the game. When Men’s Right’s Activists talk about the “real power” that women have because they believe the world is oriented around heterosexual men and their desires, it’s not real power. Sexist culture dictates that a woman’s value is in her sexual availability to men. It’s not real power when a woman uses that sexual availability to gain herself a foothold, but it merely turns the system somewhat on its head and you can see the very real backlash when a woman rises above her “place.” This is the larger concept that informs something like women cybering for gear in World of Warcraft. So when certain women on a server get earmarked for having done this or when community sites start linking to high-profile guild drama around a woman and nude pics, this is really what is happening. Myths and rumors arise when people are frightened of something, and the hyper-focus on women “cheating” the system (versus everyone) is because men in were terrified of women somehow carving a path to obtaining gear and being part of high-end guilds that was outside accepted channels. Given that gear was at such a premium, you can see why this became something brought up regularly. It all plays still on the idea that most women could never play well enough to obtain them normally, and therefore didn’t deserve it. So that they would have to use something men couldn’t hope to access (sexuality) in order to get it. (Let’s not talk about how several men have admitted to me, with some chagrin, that they’ve posed as women to access this on occasion.)

Here’s the one gaping flaw in blaming women for using sexuality (or potentially stirring up drama) in order to get gear: why aren’t officers and guildmates accountable for this? Unless you’re using need/greed rolls only, there’s no way someone can get their hands on gear that isn’t turned over to them by someone in your roster. Whether it be a loot council, DKP or anything else that relies on a master looter, your loot still comes out of a raid leader’s or other officer’s hands. If someone is getting handed their gear because of cybering, promises to go on a date or because of their intimate relationship with the officer, that is still on the officer handing out the gear for abusing their position.  No one seems to ever mention that when these scares ever got talked about though. Men are infallible creatures who are just victims of their own sex drives and nothing they do is up for scrutinizing. However, if one of your raiders is turning over gear to someone for any reason, even valid ones, it’s because one of your officers decided on it. This was also the reason I often heard stated for why guilds would explicitly allow no women to join – women caused drama, versus discussing that their own ranks would lose their shit over them. If I had to be entirely honest, I used to think women were shitty for pulling these kinds of antics. Looking back, I can see why it was done though. If guys were such utter shitbags to me except for wanting sexy orc sex out of the deal or wanting to date me because I played WoW, I’d want to get some gear out of the equation too. Dealing with an unfair system requires doing some pretty unfair things, sometimes. Dealing with men who have no problem turning over nude pictures of you because they are mad at you would make me not give a shit about their feelings.

So what does this really have to do with the decline of said misogyny and gear? Is it really because of badge and later on, justice point gear? I don’t think correlation is necessarily causation, as I truly believe that a lot of issues of fairness and sexism have become more and more prominent. It’s slightly harder to be an out-and-out anti-woman person so I think some of the decline in these sorts of anecdotes and general skepticism towards women has been lost in time due to the fact that a lot of us are 9 years older and grew the fuck up. But I think anything that Blizzard has done to destroy some of the barriers to entry to parts of the game, whether it be high-level raiding, PVP or otherwise destroys people the ability to be gatekeepers to people they might already hate due to societal structures. There’s still ways of keeping women out of your raid team that don’t rely on thinking they cybered or automatically assuming they are terrible players. One of those ways is still being abjectly hostile to women, making your raid team a place where no women want to be on a regular basis. But overall, raising the curtain on epic gear acquisition and letting people climb onto the escalator easier has done mostly good things. It means no one looks askance at you if you are decked in any ilevel of purples and merit dictates that only really decent players obtain the highest level of them. Gear still is a method of devaluing people but it doesn’t seem as specifically gendered anymore.

Is misogyny really dead in World of Warcraft? Absolutely not. Has it gotten better? Yes, I believe it has. The fact that the stories I heard in Vanilla and Burning Crusade have all but died out gives me at least a little hope.

Where Is the Line: Brutality in Patch 5.4

Kor'kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.  Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

Kor’kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.
Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

A couple of days ago, I happened to be skimming Twitter (isn ‘t this how most of my blog posts start nowadays) and caught a tweet from Snack about something he saw in Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. It was the screenshot posted above, captioned with, “I’m probably gonna be thinking about this screenshot way too hard the next few days.” It struck me the same way, despite the fact that I had never even been to this part of SoO yet. I hate reporting on things I haven’t personally witnessed, just so I can get my own handle on context and whatnot but this is so far and away one of the worst things I could have possibly heard about in the new raid.

Until a guildmate linked me this: Theramore Citizen.

Some further investigation from Tzufit revealed not only Theramore Citizens (all women, apparently) hung up on poles, but Darkspear Defenders as well, all of them stabbed or stuck with arrows.

A Theramore woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar.

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.

 

A Darkspear troll woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.

All of these screenshots, despite being in a video game about war, are still really unsettling. Not only are all of them women (though the shackled fighters can randomly be men, too) but the level of violence and naked brutality here is way too much. Not only is there a scary level of historical real-world precedent for these things (making shackled slaves fight eachother, hello?!) but it openly feels too real to be immersive in a video game. It makes me wonder where Blizzard thinks the line is in “realistic violence” in order to make the point that, yes, Garrosh is a horrible person.

The game thus far has tried very hard to make us hate Garrosh but in ways that tend to make me feel bad about myself, as a woman. He’s never really been a mustache-twirling villain but just straight up an abusive tyrant. He slaughters his own people in the dead of night and hangs them from the walls on fire (this is also present in the SoO raid). He calls women “bitches” and orders hits on other Horde dignitaries. And now somehow, manages to retcon the plight of the Theramore survivors and leaves their corpses strewn around their holding cages, lashing some of their women to posts with weapons sticking out of their corpses and making them fight for sport. The fact that a Darkspear is included for extra “flavor” is particularly egregious but makes slightly more “sense” than all the refugees from Theramore, who were supposedly safely passed to Gadgetzan. Did some goblins double-cross the Alliance and send a fleet of them to Orgrimmar to be tortured and killed? What is going on here? Seeing these poor people being used for sport, maimed and killed is stomach-turning.

WoW has always had some level of atrocity. I get this. This is a war, but this has gone several shades too far (as it has in the past, even) into senseless, unsettling territory.  The game has done this in a couple places in the past, and it’s always rung really wrongly to me. We’re already storming the gates of Ogrimmar to take down Garrosh, but why did we need to see this? Why did we need to replicate some of the violence that actual real people have suffered in real life, as part of being prisoners of war or slavery?  Why is it only women hanging from the poles? This doesn’t make me feel like a hero, it just makes me feel sick to be playing the game.

 

 

Patch 5.4 Trailer – Burn in the Fires of My Hate

Garrosh stares hatefully.

 

Blizzard dropped the Patch 5.4 trailer for Siege of Orgrimmar on our heads early this morning and what a trailer it was. The overall quality and storytelling of each successive patch trailer has gone up significantly since their inception way back sometime in Vanilla but all of them have never failed to make me utterly hyped to play some more Warcraft. Blizzard’s got a real strength in their animatics/cinematics division and this was no exception – I am itching to log in and do anything in preparation for Patch 5.4.

Let’s review some of the things that were going on in this particular trailer, though, shall we?

Garrosh has gone completely corrupted/power-hungry at this point.

I can’t say for sure which one it is because it seems equally likely – he’s both influenced by the Sha but he’s also incredibly puffed up on his own ego, importance and hatred right now. He’s just as much a warmongering tyrant with something to prove who’s gotten way into his own ideology than just a pawn of the Sha-corruption. And honestly, a powerful male figurehead being lost in his own childish autonomy is far more fascinating than just him being taken over by the Old Gods. His dialogue in the video is similarly fiery, obstinate and hateful.

No one is going to get in his way and he’ll kill and hurt anyone who tries to. Which leads me to…

Taran Zhu got some snaps in before his supposed end, at least. (Edit: Dave Kosak cleared up that Taran Zhu’s is alive.)

I’ve not liked Taran Zhu in a lot of ways; he’s more of the same patronizing nonsense from other male leaders. But given his position as the only line of defense against whatever might ravage Pandaria (mogu, Sha), it’s probably justified in a lot of ways. While I feel that his initial presumption that the Alliance and Horde conflict was entirely to blame for the havoc within Pandaria’s own land, I feel like his assertion has finally come to bear. The fight between Taran Zhu and Garrosh was full of egos, certainly though. While Taran’s line about Grom was not only timely, correct and a sick fucking burn, both of them were taunting each other and it got the better of Taran.

Taran didn’t bring this on himself though, and for that I feel bad.

Vale is irreparably damaged now.

This is one of the biggest changes that really bothers me, even when Garrosh’s mining operation set up. Pandaria is such a beautiful, serene continent and we already saw parts of it that were completely given to destruction and corruption like the Dread Wastes. The idea of the Vale, the zone that the Celestials gave to us in order to help everyone is now being used by Garrosh’s plan to re-ignite an Old God makes a dramatically sad change to both the game and the story. I felt the same way when the Goblins were allowed to terraform and essentially destroy Azshara. There’s something about purposeful destruction of the most beautiful landscapes in WoW that really make me feel awful. Vale is where I spent a lot of time just hovering in the air, watching the sun go down.

There was a relative lack of anyone else that might have any involvement in bringing the fight to Garrosh.

I feel that the cinematic had a missed opportunity to do some strategic cutaways or montages over the dialogue (instead of the badass fight scene we got) to allude to anyone else that might be mad at Garrosh now. Taran Zhu mentioned the other members of the Horde, but absolutely nowhere were the Alliance mentioned or involved. A montage of people fighting while being referenced might have helped assuage my feelings that once again the Alliance get left out of a fight that’s rightfully ours to have. As I told Tzufit on Twitter: “(We’re) late to our own revenge, absent from our own war.”

While I can grasp that Taran Zhu is the ultimate symbol of the Pandarian people at this point, and so the fight was the struggle between the Azeroth factions and Pandaren-kind, the fact that the raid will involve all of  our fates, intertwined, left a bad taste in my mouth. Alliance are probably not going to get any payback for their grief at Theramore, nor any pro-active stance other than allegiances with the trolls. It still feels like we’re on the backburner for a fight that is igniting both factions right now and throwing power relations into the air. If not showing Varian, then at least Jaina?

Also why didn’t Taran Zhu have any sort of backup going on here? Where was Yalia? Where was Taoshi?

Overall, I’m excited. 

It can’t be helped, I’m always overwhelmed with purpose and emotions when I watch any of these trailers. The swell of music, the clang of weapons – it gets me right in the heart (same for Taran, I presume. Too soon?) and I want to just run and conscript myself back in with the Alliance army even though we’ve been relatively shafted in this conflict. The Barrens battles were relatively lukewarm as far as hyping me up for the growing war and subsequent raid instance. This was yet another sustaining breath of fresh air and I know that my guild is going to be lining up that first week, pumped to take down Garrosh and make him pay for his crimes.

 

 

 

Patch 5.4 – Flexible Raiding Feature Announced

Possible implementation of FLEX raiding with Crabby.

Last night, Blizzard dropped a big unannounced Patch 5.4 feature preview onto their blog – “flex” raiding. This raiding would be a new, fourth difficulty somewhere between LFR and normal-mode that would have it’s own ilvl. It is primarily to help those raiders that wish to do a level of content with pick-up groups as well as friends and family in a more casual, social environment. It would work with both friend groups and cross-realm lists, making it very inclusive for those of us who like to pull in people for raids from every corner of the globe. The premise of this works off the idea of scaling – similar to how rares and elites have been working since Patch 5.1. The minimum a group can have is 10 but will add health (and presumably damage) depending on how many people you have, up to 25 players. What also makes this convenient is that loot works exactly the same as LFR – it is awarded individually, based on loot specialization. This means, as promised, that there is no reason to not bring anyone you so choose, so long as you have a balanced role makeup. The devs seem adamant that they want this feature to be for everyone – no minimum ilvl requirement, and that every player should be able to come, rather than a specific class.

Blizzard making a move towards an inclusive social feature such as this is a big deal, especially to someone like me who only ever does raiding these days in a casual environment. My guild’s raid team is a very bare-bones 10-player raid that very frequently pulls in cross-realm players and cancels raids when we can’t scrape together 10 people for behind-the-curve content. The idea of being able to raid with anyone on current content and bringing a variable number of folks gives us way more freedom in terms of both difficulty of content (like raid meta achievements, which the blog said will be doable on Flex difficulty) and flexibility of raid filling. Giving the WoW audience even more reasons to pick and choose their raid experience as they see fit is always a move in the right direction.

Are there some drawbacks here? Absolutely. There’s the ilvl bloat we’re experiencing right now – we’re two content tiers in and we have many orders of ilvl gear that a potential casual player is looking at. Adding yet another swath of gear in between LFR and normal is only going to muddy this further. Will it give players more choices or is it going to just make attempting to figure out upgrade paths even more of a nightmare? There’s also the concern of this pulling even more skilled or socially-connected players away from the potential LFR pool. While random grouping methods have proliferated, I still feel that the subset of players that this is catering to might make them flee from the LFR queues. Lastly, the fact that all three have separate lockouts means there’s going to be some complaining of feeling like you “need” to do all three in order to obtain the best gear as fast as you can, especially if your guild is stuck behind a gear check.

Overall, though, I can’t help but seeing this as a future positive. My guild is even talking about this replacing LFR nights for us – we go in a big group of guildies and friends from other realms on a set night to help us get LFR gear for normal-mode raiding. If we get our own gear and perhaps tackle slightly harder content with only people we choose, this seems like an obvious choice. It cuts out the drawbacks from LFR and gives us more control over our raid experience, socially. We can invite cross-realm friends, do alt raids easier, and not have to cancel raid nights as much. I don’t think flex raiding is going to replace normal raid content for us, even though we only raid four hours a week. Are there guilds that could use this as a replacement for both LFR and normal modes? Absolutely. The idea that you can make that kind of choice now as a smaller, more casual or social guild is great!

I would even speculate that this tool might give rise to the pick-up raid group again on realms that might have lost out due to smaller, less experienced populations (so any place that wasn’t Mal’ganis, basically) – groups could form via Trade Chat again, and there’d be no loot disputes and would still only need a modicum of skill to participate, as well as the variable size making things a lot easier.  People that have long complained about how LFR/LFG destroyed server communities might see a breath of life to local raiding again. Basically, I’m tentatively optimistic about this as I feel that this is one of the few features that’ve announced in Mists of Pandaria that caters directly to the kinds of things I like to do in-game for precisely the people I want to do it with.

The question that remains in my mind is this – was this the big feature that Ghostcrawler had been teasing at for so long? Is it one of many things that Patch 5.4 promises? I’m excited if this is just the start of a laundry list of things that might improve our quality of (raiding) life in WoW in the future.

As for you guys, are you hyped about this possible addition? Does it affect you at all? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Patch 5.2 – The Problem with Twins, Part 2

Patch 5.2 finally drops next Tuesday and with it, there has been quite a few things of note, particularly regarding the Twin Consort bosses I discussed. The 5.2 trailer, which was posted yesterday, was actually exciting and got me pumped for the raid content. The poetry, the story, feels like some of the patch trailers we’ve gotten before but a lot more cinematic. And while we got a glimpse of a lot of the story behind the Thunder King and his lackeys in the raid, guess who were missing.

That’s right, our wonderful twin ladies, Lu’lin and Suen. Kinda curious, don’t you think? Unfortunately my cynicism that Blizzard left them out of the trailer due to overwhelming shame might have a slightly more logical explanation, courtesy of the developer interview regarding all of the Throne of Thunder bosses earlier this week. This interview, incidentally, is what spurred me to post yet another discussion about these two Mogu sex robots bodyguards.

My thoughts on why the Twin Consorts were left out of the trailer might have been a mid-stream design change to their lore, as per Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas:

An earlier version of the concept for the fight had them actually being spirits of the Sun and Moon, but that didn’t feel quite right (and we all know that the only true spirit of the Moon is Elune, and clearly she was not locked away by the Thunder King).

Now, this exceptionally generous on my part, but I suspect it is the only reason why they’d leave these female bosses out of the trailer video, given how long the machinima take to make. But like so many other things, I wonder if it because they like to leave developing female models for things out or to the last minute because everyone at Blizzard apparently is terrified about designing female models (worgen anyone?) Either way, it’s pretty odd that they are not in the trailer. I can distinctly remember most of them getting at least a second or two of screen time. (The only other female boss is Mar’li and the Council fight she’s a part of wasn’t in the trailer either.)

From people who have tested the bosses on PTR, and in even in just looking at the boss design, it’s pretty clear they kept the Sun/Moon aesthetic in the two of them.

It’s the rest of the interview that left me sputtering yesterday on Twitter:

  • Rumored to be the only known female mogu in existence, Lei Shen keeps his trophies close, and their combined arsenal against interlopers closer.
  • Players may have noticed the complete absence of any female mogu in their exploration of the continent of Pandaria.
  • Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole.

Are the developers reading my blog? It seems like they are taking the heavy early criticism of why the hell there’s two female Mogu as raid bosses but not anywhere in Mogu society to heart.  However, there’s so many more questions left open here now that it’s canonically known that they are the only two in existence and only created by Lei Shen. Such as, “Why would an essentially monogender culture have a leader that creates women” or maybe “Why are they sexualized?” Consorts are very specifically a sexualized term, and maybe the developers are mixing real world stuff with Mogu again, but there’s this lingering feeling that these two women weren’t shaped out of stone just to guard Lei Shen. All of this bothers me, little piece by little piece.

Maybe it’s the objectified language in the copy and interview – “treasures” “possessions” “trophies.” Lei Shen created the only two women in existence for their race and they aren’t even granted true humanity in any discussions surrounding them. It’s the fact that they were created to be submissive and servile to him, to protect him. It’s the fact that they are the sexualized equivalent of guard dogs. Giving life out of stone is a pretty terrifying concept as well when you wonder where Lei Shen got the souls (do they have souls) for this purpose.

The only high point in the discussion about these two was the fan-ramblings about what possibly inspired Lei Shen – why not create a bulky Mogu woman, particularly if they are bodyguards? Cynwise suggested that it might be possible fashioning after Burning Crusade eredari, which would explain the model choice. However, I suspect the model choice is less a reflection of Lei Shen’s ideals and more the developers still.

All in all, these two bosses are a serious dig in my excitement for this upcoming patch. We’ve had a lot of trouble with female NPCs in Pandaria thus far and the raid dungeons have not been exempt from this – the last three did not heavily feature any canonically indicated female bosses aside from Lei Shi (the elemental) and Grand Empress Shek’seer (whether or not any of the other Heart of Fear bosses were women is up in the air.) So the fact that the new raid only features three women, two of whom are prized constructs created by Lei Shen and were left out of the official trailer, makes me upset.

Throne has an abundance of bosses and only 3 of them (the Twins, and Mar’li) are actually women. This is in fact a step up from the last raids we have done, but it still feels like a step backwards in terms of Blizzard’s creative development choices.

Tuesday Questions

I admit, I haven’t been playing Warcraft lately. Most of my “gaming time” has been spent playing Diablo and while I have some legit extended criticisms as I dig deeper into it, those require a little more time to be poked and fussed over. So I decided to have my Twitter followers ask me some questions.

@Goosecomics: What do you think about the movement in eSports? Need more games? What other types of games? Pro Pokemon battles?

I think the movement to monetize and make gaming into a sport has some interesting implications. As much as I really dislike celebrity/sport culture paying way too much money to people because it is entertainment, I really like the idea of people people using what is arguably another set of talents to achieve some sort of greatness. Gaming is still tied really heavily into the privilege of being able to afford a console or PC and develop those types of skill, but you’re seeing people being able to make it without being dazzlingly handsome/beautiful or have physical prowess in the same way an athlete does. Gaming competitively is still a relatively “new” thing when it comes to the professional circuit even though it has been around for about a decade or two. My only concern is that where “competition” is involved with a mostly-male dominated audience and participation pool, it usually follows that there’s a ton of barriers to entry for anyone who isn’t a dude, basically. There’s an inherent misogyny to the competitive gaming culture in a lot of ways and that needs to stop before we can really take eSports seriously.

Pro-Pokemon leagues have been around, as I know at least one person who used to do it semi-pro.

I’d like to see more games in general though, yes. Sometimes I wish I was good enough to be a competitive professional gamer but then I realize that the game I’m best at is Monopoly.

@Goosecomics: Do you think Blizzard can make WoW into a spectator game and exciting to watch like Starcraft and LoL? Also in before arenas. It never really caught on as big as SC2 etc. Live raids? Like Vodka vs Method?

I thought about this long and hard because while I’ve watched a lot of MLG tournaments and arena matches live/telecast, I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t as popular as say League of Legends or Starcraft II (Barcraft and the like). I think it has to do with the fact that WoW is not a game designed for spectators (arenas basically require special camera rigs in order to show the “action”) as well as the fact that the PVP aspect is just but one small part of the overall game. MOBA genre games are all about quick, efficient PVP method gaming and are built as such. They are easier to “watch” and follow even if you do not know or play the games personally. In that respect, that’s probably why they are more popular. I can see live-raids failing at being a spectator sport even moreso than arenas. Only other WoW raiders care about watching 25 people take down a dragon, in my opinion.

@AlternativeChat:  Has your attitude to Warcraft changed as a result of the Ji Firepaw incident?

That’s a good question, actually. Part of me really dislikes what kind of worms crawled out of the woodwork with regards to what I felt was a legitimate criticism of an early-beta character design. Part of me really enjoyed how Blizzard reacted. Overall, that netted me about the same feeling I’ve always had about World of Warcraft – that some of the community is pure utter crap, some of it is really supportive and awesome, and Blizzard at least tries to make right when they are called out on their failures. It isn’t always that you see such a direct action from a company though to react to a critique and I’m very glad that I spoke up and said something.

@snack_road: How about your raiding: what brought you to it, whats your favorite parts, what do you miss now that you “retired” from it?

Oh boy, the ol’ raiding chestnut. I got into raiding a long, long time ago back in Vanilla. It wasn’t one of the things you just “did” at the endgame because at that point, you could do literally anything, despite there being almost nothing TO do. Battlegrounds had JUST been implemented when I hit 60, arenas were a dream still. AQ40 had been opened a little while back and everyone was gearing up for impending Naxxramas, I believe. I wanted so badly to be part of the “big kids” so I started hitting Blackrock Depths and getting craftables for Molten Core/Onyxia, as those were the “starter” raids. You needed a minimum of 150 FR to be considered and once I had that, I got brought along on the giant 40-person Molten Core farm raid. I got bitten by the bug then, tackling PVE content and wanted to do it whenever I could. I didn’t start seriously progression raiding until Burning Crusade, however. But I mostly got into it because it was something to do with my time and all of my guild friends were doing it.

My favorite parts of raiding were the typical – the joy of victory, sharing good memories with the relatively same group of people (a lot of people in the raid team I was in by Firelands had people I raided with in Molten Core even) and seeing things that not many other people got to see. Raiding was a lot more exclusive over most of my career, so I felt really special and cool, heh. I had mounts other people didn’t, titles others didn’t, and all that jazz. Moreover, it made me a better mage. Becoming a better player in both skill and theory made me feel really confident. Achievements and mounts were a nice side effect from that.

I actually don’t miss much, to be fair. I think the only thing I really miss is just working as a team of competent people to achieve something. I raid very casually once a week with my guild (as that is literally all I can stand now) but sometimes I do miss really rock-hard progression nights with some of my old raiding friends. It’s hard to describe why and the two experiences don’t make either one the “best” or the “worst” just …different. I miss the adrenaline rush of pulling off a really difficult first kill when everyone executes flawlessly or perhaps less so but still manages some weird 1% kill Hail-Mary sort of miracle.

@SkolnickWho: Looking back with a historical eye, do you think the golden age of MMOs will be measured from WoW ’04 through SWTOR release? Not because SWTOR replaced WoW, but showed over-saturation of similar clones & showing that a next gen is eventually needed.

It’s hard to really peg a “golden age” yet, you know? I think the MMORPG genre is still evolving, and while WoW is the undisputed juggernaut right now, much like EQ was before, there’s always something over the horizon. EQ was the biggest, then WoW was, then it went mainstream. Maybe something else will crush it or refine it. Who knows? I’m terrible at speculation like this. Golden age implies a certain hazy rose-colored glasses approach to game design. Not sure if we are there quite yet.

You Can Take the Gnome Out of the Raid

Tarecgosa roaring in front of Wyrmrest Temple.

But you can’t always take the raid out of the gnome.

While I’ve been meaning to write a keybinding guide/exploration, or perhaps a post on any number of topics, the holidays and wrapping up the last couple weeks of my job have been slaughtering my motivation to blog. However, one thought has really stuck in my craw enough to make me write a blog post.

Last night, my little social guild grouped up and did their weekly LFR run together. This is a lot of fun for us; we sit on Mumble and crack jokes on bad players, talk about other stuff and sometimes even alcohol is involved. It is a great way for us to see raid content together but the stress of people feeling terrible or unused to raid mechanics is gone. I consider it preparing people gear-wise and knowledge-wise for an eventual 10man. We cleared through both segments of Dragon Soul fairly handily. On Ultraxion, I won the chest tier piece. I was shocked! I have been running LFR for quite a number of weeks now and aside from my guildmate giving me the Insignia of the Corrupted Mind last night, this was the first piece of gear I had won fair and square. I was so excited!

Except then a druid piped up that I was wearing a 391 tier chest from Firelands. I was, wasn’t I? The tier pieces from LFR are 384. I immediately felt stupid. Did I forget that LFR gear isn’t necessarily* better than the 391s I was dripping in? Or the legendary staff I have strapped to my back? I probably looked like an overentitled jerkbag just then. As much as I’d love 2 or 4-set tier bonus for the delicious haste, is it really better mathematically than the 391 Tier 12 I’m currently wearing? What struck me immediately after that thought was this one:

Does it even matter?

I always made this argument when I saw people in various communities who only ran heroics complaining that they didn’t have access to raid gear. If you didn’t do raids, why would you need that level of gear. I find myself in this position now. While everyone has access to raid gear now via LFR (which is awesome), the fact of the matter is that I am no longer raiding but outgear the LFR in most ways, and find myself without even so much as a casual 10-man now. Do I really need to be doing LFR at all?  This is a question I wrestle with now. I’ve been part of the gear grind for so long, that long eternal lock-step of BETTER, BETTER, BETTER, BEST-IN-SLOT that now I have no idea what to do with myself. I’m not pushing content even on normal and theoretically I don’t need the gear out of LFR to do heroics. While running LFR is nice for capping valor points or updating certain slots, I sorta wonder (for the first time since 4.3) dropped what I really am going to do with myself. It’s been nice to have free time but I feel suddenly devoid of things to do on my main. I’ve been leveling a tank alt in my free time as well as my second mage, but this is the first time I feel like I’ve “finished” a character.

So for as much as I have “quit” raiding, some part of me still hasn’t. I think last night was a bit of a wake-up call.

 

Dealing With Intolerance

Trigger warnings: Homophobic/sexist language, anxiety

As much as I hate for one of my errant posts while the festivities of work and holidays keep me out of blogging to be relentlessly negative, I feel like this is something I should post. I feel that often the hardest part of being a woman in a sexist world, especially as a feminist, is putting your values ahead of you. It’s very hard to navigate what is still an openly hostile world and still stick your neck out for what you believe in. I had a situation last night that I dealt with, and while I don’t feel that I was the assertive, unabashed feminist I could have been, I feel like the appropriate people got taken to task and I got out of the situation as fast as my gnomish legs would carry me.

A recap:

Since 4.3 came out, I’ve pretty much quit progression raiding. I recently completed my legendary staff, killed Deathwing via LFR. I’m not left wanting for excitement or content at all right now. I’ve really relished the free time I have, that I’m no longer part of a 25man that actively dislikes the game and can focus on my friends, blogging, and having fun.

That being said, I happened to pick up a casual 10man group made mostly of alts/socials from a top 10man guild on my server. Interested by the prospect of low-stress normals raiding with a decent team of people, I started going along with them. First it was one night, one-shotting most of Siege and then adding a second day for working on Madness bosses. Most of the raid (if not all) is dudes, of the decently nice sort but a couple of them are a little “rough around the edges.” Not surprising, but not terrible. 

However, here and there sometimes they would slip up and say something a little rude or use a slur – mostly things like calling someone “fag” or n-words. Just every so once in a while, and I reported it to the raid leader who said he’d handle it.

Well, we got into the raid tonight and it was just one weird convo on Ventrilo after another; one talking about what cereal looked like vaginas, and how someone in the raid was a whore. I just felt really embarassed and weird. I kept making weird emoticons because despite all of my crowing about how amazingly strong and feminist I am, I’m still cowed by a large group of men online apparently. 

Then right before we pulled Zon’ozz, one of the louder guys said, “If you f*****s don’t all one-shot this boss tonight, I’m going to yell!” and started laughing. I had enough and told him not to call me that, and he shot back like, “See, I don’t understand why a woman would get offended by that.” I whispered the raid leader, told him I was sorry but I couldn’t handle it, apologized for leaving before a boss and peaced out of the raid.  I whispered the other mage later on since he’s always been super nice and said he could talk to me for magely wisdom That’s the only contact I think I’ll have from now on.

My hands were shaking and I got off Ventrilo in a hurry. I have legit anxiety/panic problems with confrontation and this was just piquing it all over the place. I feel not the slightest bit aggrieved that I won’t see normal content or loot, but that’s what LFR is for. I’m just sad that I forgot momentarily that the world outside of my awesome guild is still shitty in the World of Warcraft. I’m also sad that I’m still kinda a scaredy cat when it comes to socially dealing with people who are being offensive.

I feel that sometimes in our rush to uphold the ideals that we want to see in the world, that we forget that we’re all still human beings and things like anxiety, aggression and consequences still exist for those who speak up. While there’s no imminent threat of physical violence for telling some dudebros on Ventrilo to stop calling people fags, it can still be hard to stand up. But I’m glad I did. I still urge everyone who can to do it, and to feel proud about it. You’re definitely not alone. Even though I was scared, I still did it anyways. I feel like I might not always have the power to change the world overnight, but I still have the power to change the world in my immediate grasp. I do this by speaking up when I feel things are going wrong, and building a really amazing guild that’s full of people that respect eachother. It might be small, but I feel it’s a good first step.

Thoughts on 4.3 – Transmogging, Casual PVE, Darkmoon Faire and More

Apple Cider pew pews Mannaroth in Well of Eternity.

It’s been a week, WoW fans. A week and we’ve already gotten our teeth deep into 4.3. I have been enjoying myself, especially now that I can enjoy a patch that offers me gear, dungeons and not have to worry about raiding much on top of that. This is my first new content patch where I haven’t been raiding since Burning Crusade started. It is a weird feeling, to be honest. Thanks to the efforts of my social-but-very-enthusiastic guild, we’ve been working on retro raids for transmogging gear, achievements and even stepping foot in Firelands to get me siphoned essences to finish my legendary*.

Overall, I’ve been having fun and have a lot of thoughts to what 4.3 has offered us thus far.

My priest stands in T6 gear at the character screen.

Transmogrification

I have always relished the idea of transmogrification. Even though I never played any MMORPGs prior to WoW, where such things as vanity layers or costume layers existed, I have been deep in my  heart a fashion nerd and roleplayer. I like having appropriate clothes for the occasion, especially since my real life self is a little too self-conscious and destitute for such things. My earliest memories of gear on my mage was that they “all matched” and being chided gently by guildies that I needed gear that was better than what I had on, rather than just all was the same color. (You can’t take my Mistscape Wizard Hat of the Owl AWAY FROM ME!)

However, when given the world of armor to play with, I found myself falling a little short on ideas (No gnome jokes, please.) Everyone else had must-have sets and creative uses of color, style and theme. With the exception of my priest, even my RP character concepts didn’t lend themselves to “iconic” gear for their personality. I had reams of gear in the bank saved because of how it looked and memories it held, but I’m still not sold on most things to wear. It has been fun to play with and to disguise horrible gear in the case of my shaman, who had a lot of trollroic armor. So while transmogging is quite possibly the best thing to happen to WoW in a long time, I feel so disappointed that I’m not taking advantage of it as whole-heartedly as everyone, even if I am the perfect person to do so. I will endeavor a little harder to come up with pretty sets, but I am glad that Blizzard implemented the feature anyways.

5 Man Dungeons – End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight

In a word: exciting (and I get to be TALL!)

While I feel that some of the trio are less exciting than others, when taken all together, they are a very nice mixture of new boss mechanics, immersive storytelling and gameplay. The very obvious standout is Well of Eternity, which I have a feeling was supposed to be part of the rumoured War of the Ancients raid. It feels so complete and filled to the brim with interesting things that it feels almost a little out of place with the other two dungeons, which are still laid out around Wyrmrest on familiar ground. They also aren’t nearly as punishing as heroics have been immediately upon release, unlike in the past. Sure, I’ve seen a few PUG groups wipe on Tyrande, but nothing like the hours of frustration from trying to learn Ozruk.

Most of the dungeons feel fun and invigorating for a couple of reasons, I believe. First – less trash and it is more pragmatic and directed. In End Time, you basically make a big ring to clear out the boss area, or push forward to where the boss is, not long twisty hallways to get to a small room. It feels like a progression, not a crawl. Secondly, there’s a better mixture of mechanics designed to mess with ranged vs. melee, healers versus tanks, and some that just require smart use of mechanics that can be done by most group compositions. Not every fight requires heroism, not every fight requires 3 ranged. Most people have decent interrupts now and while some have been given longer cooldowns, most of the casts that need to be interrupted are on timers that don’t feel impossible to catch. There’s lots of stuff to not stand in, but it isn’t a 360-degree chain cleave, nor tons of puddles out at ranged while the melee gets to whack on the boss. Everyone feels responsible for their own mortality in some ways. Third, newness in both the fight mechanics and scenery. There’s things here we haven’t played with before – such as the hourglass feature on Murozond. It is commonly remarked as the most fun boss fight so far out of the three dungeons just because of it. I have even brought people back to life using it and I find that a little liberating, especially to people who are newer healers and feel pressured to keep everyone alive.

Additionally, there’s lots of nice new gear to be had in the dungeons and gotten with a minimum of fuss. You clear all three dungeons in roughly an hour and a half and due to less trash and less ridiculous bosses, it never feels like a slog. I’ve already managed to VP cap my mage and shaman for the week, which will make quick work of gearing up the other 85s I never play (due to heroics being boring as hell.) My only bone of contention is how limited the loot tables are for each item slot in your armor class. There’s not a lot of leeway for you if you only gear yourself via heroics, but I think that’s because of…

Looking For Raid

Now featuring Yor’sahj the Unpuggable!

Admittedly, my experiences so far with the Looking For Raid feature have been small. Last night, a small group of 8 or so guildies and I dropped ourselves into LFR (one of them as the main tank). We breezed through every boss (including said Yor’sahj) with nary a death or a wipe (until we lost a couple of people to the ice wall on Hagara) and finished in an hour and a half. This stands in stark contrast to some of my boyfriend’s exploits via the finder, which include every group wiping to Yor’sahj, but I digress. LFR seems like a reasonably good idea. It gives people the ability to legitimately see raid fights in a smaller, more forgiving environment, as well as collect gear and valor points. As my friend the main tank put it, “It is like pugging a heroic but with 24 other people.” I think that he had the right of it as well; while there may be more people, the atmosphere is roughly the same. Most people are quiet participants, there are occasionally boisterous and unhelpful ones and overall the experiences can vary. But it seemed to us last night that if you mix in a little bit of your own social group, that it can go quite smoothly and make it very fun to participate. One of us got two very good loot drops and I got to test my hand at raid healing without the stress of trying to learn Firelands fights or freak out that no one was directing assignments. Granted, I think our positive turn at the LFR was mostly due to a lucky bit of competency out of the raid (the other tank, most of the healers, DPS knowing how to target swap), but I think overall, this has the potential to ease people into raiding or give people end-game choices. I know some people who have long maintained that PUGging and casual raiding has ruined WoW, but I think my ability to have fun last night is more important than their opinions on the matter.

The Darkmoon Faire

Finally, after testing it extensively on the PTR, the faire is here. So far it is exactly what it promised to be – fun dailies, lots of vanity items like mounts and pets to acquire, as well as added mysteries and bonuses that you can gain while doing PVP and dungeons. Ticket generation seems a lot slower than I’d like for a week-per-month event, but as Rickiep00h from Something Awful posited:

If it were permanently open, it would be Molten Front 2. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately another annoying grind.

It’s a compelling point, and not just because of the fact that Molten Front fails in all the ways that DMF succeeds – the rewards are not meaningful to progression in quite the same way that MF put them at the time, especially to casual players. However, they are meaningful to people as much as they want to make them. People who enjoy vanity rewards or transmogging sets for gear make them purposeful and have value, those who do not enjoy them do not have to participate. It helps both alts and mains in different ways – one way is via trade skill points (imagine getting 5 points once a month to get you around a tricky spot between 285-300) and one is money and loot. This means you have different goals and reasons to bring more than one toon to the Faire, unlike doing the same dailies for the same thing in the Front. It also lays out the path of tasks very concretely and without much effort – the quests are short, fun, and require very little exertion in terms of killing mobs, even the Grisly Trophies quest. It doesn’t consistently open more and more dailies to keep you occupied, like in a hallway full of infinitely opening doors that lead to nowhere. DMF is a return to a lot of the old fun seen in earlier quest design and development before Titan was a thing – anyone remember Isle of Quel’danas? Sure, not quite the same carrot-on-a-stick there but I can feel a familiar tingle of the fun. The Faire seems to hold fast to the idea that it is a magical, mysterious and slightly sinister fair in the woods. Molten Front gave us an illusion of choice and individuality and left us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouth.

So in short, get out there and fish yourself up a Sea Pony. I got both it and my rare fish achievement in the same hour. Many more are reporting the same thing with the Steelscale Crushfish, so get yourself closer to Salty!

*Art courtesy of Aly Flock.

The End of an Era

Raid fights Taerar the world dragon.

I’ve been quiet the last few days, and for a lot of reasons. Well, not just because I had five days off from work, but also because as of last night, my 25-man raid decided to finally call it quits for good. My raid has ostensibly been together since UBRS, in one form or another – 10-mans, 40-mans, and then 25s. We’ve fielded 10-mans, done achievements together, even squeezed out a server first or two along the way. We were never the most progressed all the time, or the most well-known, but we had been around a very long time. I’ve only been in it to some degree for five years now, a lot of the older members have been in for 6 or 7 years. It almost felt like it was never going to die, that we’d just keep going on because that’s what we did. That was our notable aspect.

Not anymore, however. It saddens me greatly to see something of an institution that weathered raid leader change-ups, absentee DPS, raid attunements, guild perks and even people in our raid passing away, go the way of the buffalo. I felt like we were a raid team that still held onto some immutable shred of what life used to be like back before paladins had 30 minute blessings and you could summon your entire raid into the raid instance. Unfortunately, time and familiarity doesn’t hold things together, it pulls them apart. Even rocks get worn down into dust after long enough. I felt that a lot of our members were playing a game they hated solely out of respect and loyalty to a raid they cared about. So while I am sad that this has to break apart, it had to happen and it means that we can all go on to be happier (and dare I say more productive) people.

The question here to be asked is this though, “Do I dislike raiding now?”

Raiding has made me the mage I am today, and I’d never speak ill of it. Even when I wanted to quit, give up and start crying because I’ve historically done (in my mind) less DPS than I ought to be doing every step of the way, there’s not a single moment I can think of where my raid team didn’t force me to improve – whether it was using macros, looking at spell rotations and theorycrafting or BIS lists. There’s no way this blog would even exist if it wasn’t for these people that have supported me and definitely carried me through more content than your average raid. Even when I hated it, or them, or the content, or myself, I still did it.I raided late into the night, even as a backup, when I had to be up for work at 4:30 AM. I raided when I was sick, exhausted, or on medication. I’ve missed maybe 3 boss kills from Burning Crusade to Cataclysm. Because that’s just what you do. Raiding has a way of getting under your skin. As much as it has eaten up my time and stressed me out to no degree (especially as of late), I still love it. I hope to be doing it in one form or another for the rest of my WoW career, as long or short as that may be.

Is it time for a break though? Possibly. I have a few loose ends to tie up, however, namely a staff. I’m 75 siphoned essences short of a legendary and I’d also love a purple flame bird. How will I achieve those things? Not sure right now. A few 10-mans might shake out of this for the time being. I might go to someone’s alt runs. I might PUG it. Who knows. After that, 4.3 will come and I will make the decision to raid or not at all. I might take this well-earned vacation to focus on making myself a better mage and enjoying myself. I might hit up LFR. I might just go fire for the end of my days and force you all to read about it (mwahahah!) Maybe I’ll go onto bigger and better things myself.

As sad as I am now, I know that I won’t be sad forever. And the raid might be breaking up, my memories and connections to these people I’ve spent more time with than boyfriends or jobs will never go away. We’re going to still be friends in one way or another, I suspect, and I think that’s what truly matters in the end – not the bosses you’ve downed, but the people who were alongside you when you did it. Their names will never be forgotten, much less their intrinsic personalities – they have made me both who I am and everything I’ve grown to be.

My hats off to all of you, you know who you are.