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.

A Letter to Blizzard Regarding Rape

Content warning: This letter is going to talk pretty openly and specifically about rape, sexual assault and coercive sexual acts. If this is triggering, please skip this post. 

The only thing I thought when people started “speculating” that Y’rel might be Garona’s mother somehow in Darkest Timeline Draenor was, “Jesus christ, not again.” Despite the fact that I don’t find that story plausible given what I saw in the Warlords demo (if anything, it’d be Y’rel’s sister), the content potentially provided would be all too familiar. It’s really been a huge bugbear of my Warcraft career that so much of the game and tie-in books have introduced a lot of dark, sexually violent content.  Given Warcraft’s announcements that AU!Draenor would be more dark and “savage”, I am terrified if that means we’re going to return to even more of the hints of grimdark, gritty “realism” we’ve seen pop up in WoW since around Wrath. Why do I believe that this is going to involve rape and sexual violence? Look at the setting and look at what things we’ve encountered before in the Warcraft universe. Most of it has never been explicitly shown or described (thank god) but it doesn’t take much thought to see what has been going on in-between the lines, or hidden behind the veil of euphemistic language.

So yes, if you’ve never thought about it at great length before, here is what I’m saying: Warcraft has a rape problem. It’s not immediate, it’s not usually happening to characters in the game but it’s there, implied, talked around and gestured at vaguely. Forced pregnancy or attempts at forced breeding happening to Alexstrasza and Kirygosa, other red dragons? That’s rape. Mind-controlled sex slaves in Black Temple? Rape. Keristrasza being forcefully taken as a consort for Malygos? That’s rape (And we kill her later too.) Half-orc and -draenei children being born out of prisoner camps? Probably rape (Inmate and guard relations are not consensual.)  Mogu quests where they tell their buddies to “have their way” with us as prisoners? It might not have been intended that way, but that is euphemistic language for rape as well.

I’m so mad about this, if you couldn’t tell.

It’s really hard as a rape and sexual assault survivor to look at a fantasy world I have spent almost 10 years inhabiting still have darkness like this lurking around the corners. More than anything else that’s problematic in the game (and there is quite a few things), I have a hard time dealing with yet another potential fantasy world that Blizzard has concocted where I might once again have to face a reality where Warcraft has rape victims in it. It’s a huge trope and motif in fantasy, particularly of the more “grimdark” or gritty variety. It is a conceit where authors say that it makes the world more “realistic” and therefore, by their logic, better. In a worse case scenario, some authors and writers (a lot of whom have never experienced this) even use it as a cheap “this is how we break a woman down before we build her back up to be strong” trope. Or they joke about it as a metaphor without concern that this is someone’s life they are talking about. Rape is not a fantasy concept. It is not some far-off happenstance because we live in a just world where it stopped existing. Rapists go free. Rapists do it without concern or even recognizing that they are responsible. Some of us have to live or see or be near people who have raped us. A lot of times, rapists are people who have a lot of power over others. The list goes on. It is very fully a reality that many, many people live with. As someone who lives in this reality perpetually, where I’m never ever going to be quite safe no matter where I go, I could do less of that and more with a fluffy, lighter fantasy world where maybe my character would be considered safe. Not even due to the fact that she has magic and anyone trying something like that would easily be burned alive, but just due to the fact that rape and coercion wouldn’t even exist.  (While we’re asking for impossible things, can I tack torture on there too?)

I get it, people are going to tell me that “This is a fantasy story about war! We murder people by the droves! Why aren’t you bothered by that?” As far as I know, I have not slaughtered people by the thousands. I am not cruel to wild animals. I have, with only one exception, never seen anyone being violently killed or die. But I have, on a regular basis, been fondled, flashed, groped, as well as lived through both rape and sexual assault. On top of that, I’ve been in many more situations where I just did things I didn’t want to just not deal with the person demanding them. This is a persistent thing for some people, in our world. A lot of us never feel safe, and coming to the gaming community, where “rape” is a term tossed around in PVP, to even our fantasy games dragging in sexual assault, violence and torture, you can’t even leave it behind for an hour or two in the evenings.

Granted, Warcraft has done a good job not having it immediately up in front of our face but as anyone who’s read my blog on a regular basis knows, it’s still there. I’m asking that maybe now, before we travel to a new Draenor, that maybe it’s an alternate universe where this kind of awful, emotionally destructive shit doesn’t happen. It’s tiring. It makes coming back to Warcraft unnerving and upsetting and feeling like my desires don’t matter. It perpetually taints a place that has been, over the years, fairly supportive of both my real life and my fantasy experiences. I’ve met great guildmates, had fun in raids and seen amazing places. But every time people start speculating or I read yet another tie-in novel that mentions forced pregnancy, I feel gross all over again.

It’s not fun, it’s not fair to a lot of us, and it shouldn’t be some injected part of a fantasy story, point blank. There’s ways and means of putting it into a story that don’t make it cheap or only for spice, that don’t add it to a list of a character’s attributes like you would with “enjoys long walks” or “fought in the Third War.” But most of all, if you can’t do it right, maybe not do it at all? So many other places have enough of it that Warcraft skipping it from now on would not bother me a single solitary bit.

 

 

 

 

 

On Funding and Revenue

A treasure goblin pet named Moneygrubber in Orgrimmar.

There seems to be a lot of talk recently in the community about money. Specifically, who needs it, who doesn’t have it and who really “deserves it.”  I quipped earlier last week that I held a pretty unpopular opinion about how content creators should rightfully get paid for their efforts. With the recent news about Wow Insider laying off a lot of their staff or Gamebreaker soliciting the community to help keep the site afloat, I don’t think there’s a better time to have this conversation.

Now, I am not specifically a business major, so take some of my opinions with a grain of salt on the money front. However, I am a content creator and so a lot of my feelings on payment and funding come from wanting to see people be able to provide content and be somewhat solvent. Now, I understand that not everyone cares about making money at all, much less on multiple projects. Some people have a full-time job that allows them to operate content as a hobby. Some people don’t mind providing information for free. These are all personal choices and I commend that. I operate this own blog at a loss and while some days I wish I could make money writing about World of Warcraft, I am just not at a place to turn this particular venture into revenue.

However, regardless of all that, it is my firm belief that people should be compensated for their time and efforts. It’s becoming more apparent to the culture at large that the Internet is not one large volunteer staff that gives them free stuff. It’s a dedicated labor force that (sometimes) controls the means to production and should be able to see the benefits of. We need to change the popular opinion on content and help people out.

Time is Money, Friend

One of the most misunderstood and important reasons why content creators need some sort of income (unless they are comfortable otherwise) is because people forget that time is a resource. The goblins have the right of it! When people approach any project or see someone asking for money, they do forget that time is a cost. The reason for that is we don’t think of it as something like that is because it’s always there even when we do things we like.  Think of the last time you had someone come to your house to fix something – technicians frequently charge for time, labor and materials. The reason for this is because you spend time doing things. (This is helpful language for reminding you!) Any time you spend doing stuff for free is time you didn’t spend doing stuff for money. (A concept adjacent to this is called opportunity cost and is the reason why people who say that they “make pure profit” off herbs they farmed themselves are wrong.)

It’s confusing to me, sometimes, as an artist who does commissions, why people forget time. Artists tend to negotiate pricing by how much effort is required, factored in by an hourly rate. Most of my pieces should be priced by how long it takes me and what my current hourly rate is but often times I skimp on that and pay myself much lower, almost to the point of being under the minimum wage in our country because that’s just how it goes. It is a sad fact.

Don’t Forget About Labor and Expertise

This is one of the reasons that Tzufit and myself decided to start a Patreon account for our podcast. There is just tons of work and expertise that often go into blogs, podcasts, videocasts and just about anything else you could think of. Whether it’s writing words, figuring out equations for theory-crafting, recording a video or even just learning over time to be a better artist, that’s all work. Same goes for research, editing, and gathering supplies. There’s a real effort put into some of the things we use on a regular basis and you should acknowledge that. I think so many people are wrapped up in getting exposure for their talents (not to mention that many unscrupulous people have profited off of this idea) that they forget that not everyone can do the things they do, or much less want to. This phenomenon goes up in value when you involve talents or skills many people do not possess. (See: theorycrafting, addons, class guides) But all in all, even “unskilled” (this is a misnomer) labor is still deserving and valuable because you are putting in the work for something.

Materials Are Also A Thing

Quite a few efforts, even for fan content, tend to operate at a loss just due to materials. This is because website hosting, editing programs, video games and art supplies are all things that cost money and are required for much of the content people want to produce. Time and labor are the most forgotten parts of overhead (also known as operating costs) but materials also part of that. There’s many different items that go into creating stuff that people pay out of pocket. This is means that you have to be comfortable paying for that with some other source of income or else maybe not continue running a blog or videocast. In that way, it is interesting to see so many people as content creators who are also low-income do it with very little revenue. (I am one of those people and I’m not overly fond of it because I would like to pay for things on a regular basis.)

Changing the Paradigm

I wanted to address some of these underlying issues with content creation and revenue/income because I feel that the culture of the Internet has made it all too easy for people to make things for free or for their love of something (which is totally, fine, by the way!) and have people profit off that or otherwise expect everything without recognizing the costs involved. There’s far too many outfits online that make money without involving creators or participators in an equal way and without paying them. There’s a lot of people online, even other creators, who believe that you should treat all your efforts as a hobby and that everything should be handed out with no recompense. It is this presumption that makes creators who do want to ask for money or generate income look like treasure goblins to the vast majority – running off with your money and such. The undercurrent to this is basically saying, “Whatever time, effort or skill you put into this doesn’t matter, and the content you made doesn’t have a monetary value.” Which, frankly, is really upsetting. Audiences getting a value out of something you create means it does have value. Valuing the things you create and other people create, only helps everyone out in the end. It means that the quality of the content goes up, the time the person spends on said content becomes more meaningful and overall, the fact that some people can start to live on their creations has a net benefit of raising the tide so that more people can do so as well.

Another way of changing up how we view monetizing is breaking down who “deserves” to make money off their work. I believe everyone deserves to make money for their work, barring something like being deceptive or outright stealing it from other people. If you don’t want to support someone’s work, then don’t use it. If you don’t like how they how they make their income, then don’t support them. Snubbing someone because they wish to make a living off their time and effort is a pretty mean thing to do. If people want to give money to someone, that’s their choice to do so. But know this – everyone deserves the fruits of their labor. It’s not greedy. It’s fair. It’s work. It should be treated as such.

I do want to reiterate one thing though: if you are comfortable to be able to operate personally at a loss and believe your content should be available to everyone for free? That’s totally cool and awesome! That’s how a lot of open source materials tend to work and there’s definitely a space and mindset for that. However, that doesn’t work for everyone, nor should it. Also, once you start involving other people, I believe the process becomes a lot more murky. If you start to draw revenue for a collaborative effort, I believe all collaborators should be beneficiaries of not just the money but also the direction of the project. This means that if you want to run a fansite with a lot of content, you should be setting up this with a business plan in mind in order to properly mitigate costs as well as pay people for helping your brand and site grow, not just paying them in exposure that looks good on a resume. If you can’t do something solely as your own entity, then you need to compensate people for helping you out.

Create Content, Acquire Currency

But how do people actually make money now?

It’s still a pretty new system, especially online. In the olden days, there used to only be a couple of ways of getting something for something else. You either bartered for equal goods, paid for something or relied on charity or patronage. The new methods online are fairly similar but they tend to take more forms given how technology has developed. However, due to a lot of these methods looking (if not working) slightly different from the old format of making money (“Going to a 9-to-5 job”), I feel that a lot of people scoff at them and combined with our feelings of devaluing content, they are seen as greedy or arrogant.

So let’s break down some of the ways that people have, in recent years, managed to eek out some form of payment for the work and content they provide.

Ads

This is easily the backbone of how websites are “supposed” to make money. The truth of the matter is very few sites actually reap enough revenue from eyeballs or click-throughs to make this work. Ads are the first things to get blocked on any page, even typically non-harmful sites, just due to how annoying they are perceived. The only time ad revenue really works is if you are a large company that can run your own sales department that gets high bids from other companies for specific ads on your network. So in short, if you’re a little guy using Google Adsense or Adbrite, it’s not going to be a sizable portion of your income unless you have a decent amount of traffic.

Merchandise

This has grown over the years as more and more places have sprung up to create products on-demand using other people’s designs, meaning the overhead for getting merchandise and a store attached to your content has dropped. Still, it is a cost that you can incur as a content creator so it might not be feasible for someone who is already low-income, but it is an option. Places like Storenvy and Etsy have also made it possible to operate as a storefront just as one person. There’s also places like Redbubble that allow you to sell your designs with a huge cut of the money coming out to cover production but with no start-up costs required. Gone are the days of solely relying on Cafepress, basically. People tend to like merchandise because it gives them “something” for their money and also shows off that they are a fan of your work.

Donations

This ranges from having a Paypal donation button on your website to donation drives (think NPR or Public Television) in order to support your efforts. Even Twitch streamers sometimes have tickers on their videos showing people donating sums of money. It is a subtle (sometimes) way for a person to allow the audience to chip in a little money towards their efforts (or perhaps purchasing stuff for them off an Amazon wishlist) in order to show gratitude. It’s never a secure method of paying for your work but it often works a bit better depending on how faithful your audience is. People like feeling philanthropic and also giving back to something they’ve gotten entertainment from or used on a regular basis. Some donations even come attached with rewards – a shout-out on that person’s videos or a special bonus piece of content. This, however, is not mandatory, as donations typically are based on the idea that the person gives the money freely to say “I enjoy what you do.”

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding takes the donations idea and basically relies on the MMORPG principle – everything is better with more people. While donations are not oriented around a single goal, crowdfunding relies on them, as well as rewards and groups of people in order to fund something in specific. Things like Kickstarter (which is crowdfunding based on a creative project that needs money to be produced) or IndieGogo let audiences put a tiny bit of money into seeing something they want in the future and basically becoming producers for said ventures. There are usually rewards attached to sweeten the pot, as well. Crowdfunding tends to work because aggregating a little bit of funding from a lot of different people takes the individual burden of a high cost off any one small group of people. It also allows an audience to directly engage and fund content they wish to use in the future, which re-negotiates some of the creator’s relationship with their fans.

Crowdfunding even works for things that aren’t specifically projects – raising money for someone’s medical bills, for instance. It’s a way of aggregating donations that lightens the financial load.

Patreon is new but operates on both the donations, crowdfunding and then patronage angle: it basically allows fans donate per content creation or on a monthly basis, with some reward levels to keep a project going regularly. I’ve seen a lot of criticism for this site in particular since it is a misunderstood, new-ish concept. In truth, it’s a pretty good way for people who create regularly and consistently to obtain funding and sponsorship on a regular basis versus towards a creative project.

Subscriptions

A lot of this are familiar with this as a lot of pay for a World of Warcraft account and the method here is similar: you pay for access on some level to the content being provided on a regular basis. Many things do this to supplement ad revenue and use subscriptions in order to entice users to get a premium version of the content (see Spotify offering a version of their application without ads to subscribers). Some content is stuck entirely behind a subscription (this is frequently called a “paywall” and also has been used heavily by the adult market for a very long time) with some “free” content given to hook people into paying. This seems to be more and more the way that larger content providers are securing income but often still operate at a loss.

Commercial Sponsorship

This is more and more a thing in high-end raiding and competitive e-sports but still applies here. A company chooses to invest money in a group of people or individual who has high notoriety in order to advertise for them. They pay for some of their operating costs, materials as well as advise on some level to keep the group in the forefront. It’s a way to supplement any income someone may be making from elsewhere but it tends to be contingent on performance (whether that be winning competitions or otherwise staying in the limelight.)

Corporate Backing (Also Known As “A Real Job”)

As internet content becomes more and more profitable as a media source, larger media corporations are starting to notice that websites for content are profitable. This means that more and more businesses are investing in content sites or starting content sites themselves. It might not be the early 2000s and the “dot com” boom, but as more and more manageable paths for revenue start to become available, it is possible to start a business online and do well. Whether it is an established company investing money to a start a site or run one that initially was for free, it can lead to people who produce content to actually make a wage or reliable freelance income off their content. This is considered one of the holy grails of being a creator, as it means that you can have that as your day job and not do something you hate. Downsides to this? If the company that was paying for everything suddenly decides that they need to tighten the belt, you are often the first people dumped on the street.

An alternate way that companies frequently “give back” to content producers, specifically in the arena of new media providers like YouTube or Twitch, is a partner program. This is a way for someone using their service in a lucrative way either because of ad revenue or attention to get a cut of the money that the company makes off their content. It’s a symbiotic relationship that doesn’t directly make the content creator their employee but also gives them more incentive to keep using their content delivery system.

While not exhaustive list, making money from your content is valuable and there isn’t one way of doing it that is more ideologically pure than others. Whatever route you choose or choose to support someone using, feel good that you are saying, “Hey, this Thing is great!” Treating people’s work as someone valuable is a good step towards a better Internet, one where many of us can make a subsistence doing stuff we actually love doing.

Be kind to a content creator today!

 

 

 

Blizzcon 2013: Impressions

Blizzcon entrance, as seen from the glowing fountain of doom.

Blizzcon 2013 was not for the faint of heart. Between the travel woes, heat and the general fatigue that kept hitting me like a child with a wiffle bat, there was a lot of things to see and to do and it felt like I needed a time turner or perhaps de-aging myself 10 years to properly enjoy it all. Not to mention a lot more money. It was all worth it, though at times I wished I could have been curled up on my couch with the Virtual Ticket instead of braving the crowds. A lot of my best moments happened not in panels but rather behind the scenes hanging out with friends and meeting Blizzard people. However, this is going to be a rundown of the content we all got to see. I’ll save the granular discussions on particular issues for later.

Note: This is all based on my personal experiences and in the attempt to get this out today, I haven’t watched the panels I missed via the Virtual Ticket yet, so there’s gaps in my memory and knowledge. Be a little patient with possible corrections.

All That Real Life Stuff

Most of what gets discussed after the con is long over is not necessarily the panels but all the great memories you have while being at the con and getting to hang out with friends. This year’s Blizzcon theme definitely centered around the idea of friends and community and I felt like the feeling on the floor was no exception. Some of the greatest moments I had at Blizzcon was getting to just spend time with people I had only seen on Twitter or heard on podcasts. I admit that some of my real mopey-ness was feeling more like a public persona than being around people who know the “real” me like my guild-mates, most of whom weren’t in attendance this year. I did see a few though, which made me feel a lot better.

Getting to meet some of my heroes (and new faves like CM Nevalistis!) too though was also a big highlight – I got to meet Dave Kosak (head of Narrative), Helen Cheng (Quest designer and story bad-ass), and Craig Amai (head of Quest) as well as Bashiok and Nethaera, who was a personal inspiration. I had great conversations with all of them, some of whom I’ll go into more detail in other posts! I got to talk with Craig about Ji Firepaw and the need for representation in WoW, Helen and I got to finally meet and talk about the new expansion, and I got to briefly talk to Kosak about story stuff. Nethaera in particular is someone I got to speak with at length and as someone who particularly enjoys community engagement and public relations, seeing such a talented, storied woman publicly fronting Blizzard makes me really happy.

Warlords of Draenor

Let’s be real, there’s a lot of stuff about this expansion that I’m cautiously nervous about but I can unpack that later. The new expansion, despite all the weird timey-wimey-ness still seems really enjoyable to me. The quality of life changes (HIT, GONE! EXPERTISE, GONE!) are what really caught my attention overall. I love the idea of a garrison as someone who is an avid Animal Crossing: New Leaf player. Buy upgrades for my own personal town? Sure! Have helpers and followers? Absolutely.

The fact that the raid sizes and flexibility changes are now across the board except for Mythic is interesting; it might give me a new lease on raiding again, at least enough to do Heroic (basically the new Normal difficulty) even with a casual social guild. Being able to raid cross-realm from the start of the expansion on new content is basically what I had been hoping for since the beginning as much of my love of raiding comes from doing it with friends but often we didn’t have enough people to field a full 10P raid on new content. Flex mitigated that somewhat but not being able to do it with my core raid team was sad a lot of days. This might give me the needed flexibility (ha!) to get back into raiding a tiny bit. We shall see.

The idea of going back in time to a revamped Draenor is pretty interesting to me, even if it is just that my fangirl dreams have always included seeing a restored Temple of Karabor. From a roleplay standpoint, I know that I will be dusting off my deadspeaker draenei priest for sure.

Also, hello? Did anyone see those new model previews? Is anyone overjoyed at that sassy gnome lady face? Yesssss.

The fact that they also hinted at sticking in new content for explorers like myself as well as a lot of stuff for those of us who are on the more casual end of things (Potential future transmog changes? What!?) means that I feel less alienated by this new expansion even moreso than when I hit Mists of Pandaria, which was pretty alt-unfriendly and killed a lot of my drive to do stuff at 90.

I unfortunately did not get to play the demos as often or as long as I would have liked. When I sat down the one time to play Warlords, it was mostly to poke around Shadowmoon Valley (which is gorgeous by the way) and to explore. I didn’t tackle any of the quest content, which I really should have. I got most of my information about that from my boyfriend Alex and Sally Pine from WoW Insider.

Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard jumping into the MOBA/DoTA-like genre is both ironic and also not surprising. What is surprising is that I’m hearing that it has more elements of a character brawler and some PVE-ish elements to make it slightly different from your other fare in this category. I’m not a MOBA player at heart and I’ve never really done well with PVP-based games, nor grasping the complexities of item building and such. If Blizzard can make something similar to League of Legends but with an ease of entry for those of us who have been too scared of the community or too confused by the mechanics, then I suspect they will have a runaway hit on their hands.

The cinematic for the game also featuring two women was also a big plus for me. We will just have to see if there’s tons of female champs and if they go to the route that Riot did and made them pretty skimpily dressed. I’m hoping this isn’t the case.

Unlike the case with Diablo 3, where I got to try it out at last Blizzcon, the line for this was so extensive both days that I didn’t have the heart (or the feet) to stand in line to poke at it.

Diablo III and Hearthstone

I must admit I don’t have many things to say about either game. I know there’s been sweeping changes with D3 and I’ve been in the Hearthstone beta for a while now. What might push me back into doing D3 is the the demolition of the Auction House as well as transmog changes. My biggest gripe with D3 wasn’t combat or gear but rather that I was doing the same content over and over multiple times. As someone who is not used to that type of game, it was very boring to me despite liking the story, aesthetics and gameplay. So I’ll probably pick D3 back up when the new expansion material gets added.

As for Hearthstone? I’m really glad to see a potential e-sport that mechanically requires no trash-talking. Card games have always been alien to me but the idea of one that I can play on tablets or phones while I’m doing nothing else and don’t have to worry about gross people is really cool to me. I’ll get good at this game eventually. Eventually.

Blizzcon was really great for a lot of reasons and even though the negatives were there, I felt that it all balanced out. The only real drawbacks was that it exhausted my poor body very thoroughly and I’m going to take some time to recuperate. I know this rundown wasn’t nearly as juicy or potentially inflammatory as it could have been but I’m looking to do some piecemeal analysis once I get back on my feet. Expect stuff in the next couple of hours or days!

As always, it was a lot of fun meeting fans, listeners of my podcast as well as friends. You’re all wonderful. Same goes for the Blizzard employees who had to spend long hours working and dealing with fans.

 

 

Blizzcon 2013: Intermission

Hey, if you’re reading this because you got linked here by the very generous Nethaera about Warlords of Draenor, welcome! I am very sorry that this is not actually a post about my discussion with Helen Cheng (quest designer from Blizzard) but rather a sincere apology that I literally haven’t had the resources to post anything up yet.

The reason for this is because I’ve not been on consistent Internet outside of my smartphone and it’s very hard to compose blog posts there. Once I get a couple hours on steady internet with my laptop or Thursday when I finally get back home, I promise I will brain dump over the next couple of days about my more critical experiences at Blizzcon.

Things you can expect:

  • Discussion about the women of Warlords of Draenor, including my  notes from speaking to Dave Kosak (briefly) as well as Helen Cheng.
  • Meeting Craig Amai, head of quest development about Ji Firepaw as well as his thoughts on Warlords and representation.
  • Presentation of Warlords in broad strokes of masculinity and “boys trip” from Metzen.
  • Summary of all the people I met.
  • Aggra and the #RiseofAggra hashtag.
  • The use of “savage” and other racial tropes via the orcs.
  • Assorted notes from the panels I attended.

Lots of things to look forward to, and I say hello to all my potential new readers. I was up to a lot this last week. If you’re interested in hearing Helen Cheng talk about quest design from Mists of Pandaria, feel free to listen to the interview we did with her over at Justice Points.

Blizzcon 2013: The Relaxining

At Medieval Times

The lengths I go through to get the absolutely important coverage to you, dear readers. Because the internet in our hotel is somewhere in the “not worth it” range in terms of prices, I am sitting in the Hilton lobby stealing data like the gung-ho press hound that I am pretending to be, drinking a comically oversized coffee.

California has been largely good to me and yesterday was no exception. If you may remember from my blogpost yesterday, Days 1 and 2 of my Blizzcon odyssey were traveling so Wednesday was the first day I really got to sit down and hang out.

The day started off very early again as I think my body still hasn’t adjusted to the time or daylight. I managed to get up, grab a shower and breakfast before anyone in my room even had woke up so it made me feel vaguely productive even though technically I am only here on vacation versus doing anything useful like report on the actual convention. More people had started to trickle in. The first person I got to see was Ilaniel (aka Sarah Pine from WoW Insider) and we spent a bit of time together.

We decided to walk over to the fountain and met some podcast people that I’ve only ever watched/listened to: Jules from Tauren Think Tank (and her husband Arcayne), Hasteur from Group Quest, and Robert from Blizzcon Countdown. It always feels so strange to meet internet personalities or content creators for the first time since you have this image of what people look like in your head, even if you watch them online and them being in three dimensions is still incredibly startling. Maybe I’m just a robot.

I also met up with my hotel room-mate Hestiah. So great meeting one of my fab feminist lady pals finally! She had a great idea that we should go to Medieval Times so after getting to meet Olivia from Wow Insider as well, we took Anne, Alex and myself in Hestiah’s car and drove to Buena Park.

Now, I went to Medieval Times when I was 12 or 13 and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as this. I think that a lot of it has to do with who you go with and your enthusiasm for really getting into the story. We all bought flags and settled into the green section to cheer on our knight and be a part of the story. Also something I had forgotten about Medieval Times: the sheer amount of food they give you. We got half a chicken, short ribs, bread, tomato soup, drinks and a pastry. It wasn’t the best food but it was definitely good. The story was basic but the atmosphere is what made it so enjoyable. It also didn’t hurt that our section was the rowdiest and loudest when cheering. The Green Knight was also by far the hottest hot dude out there and we suspect that he’s the guy who plays Varian when the arena puts on the Warcraft-themed story. After everything was said and done, our voices were shot, our bellies were full and we had giant grins. For a group of nerdy 20-and-3o-somethings, it was pure unabashed fun.

After that, we drove home and I moved my stuff from Alex’s hotel room to mine in the Marriott. It’s very weird being in a hotel that feels upscale and is so close to the convention center. It will definitely help when the Saturday muscle soreness sets in and it makes me feel more centrally located to all the socializing. This was pretty apparent after Hestiah and I decided to sit in the lobby and drink and we kept running into people we knew. I finally got to meet Anafielle (of Sacred Duty fame), Kelesti, Sha of Happiness and saw another lady pal of mine, Dysmorphia.

Eventually we decided to take the party to the Hilton lobby and the atmosphere was decidedly different. Hilton lobby effectively acts like a nexus or a bus station for a lot of con-goers. It is consistently packed, especially at night because there’s a bar right on the ground floor, dead center. There were already many drunk people there and while I got to be introduced to some Twitter names or faces that I had heard of, I mostly felt alienated. Drunk people en masse, particularly when I am not that drunk, tend to wig me out. It didn’t help that most of them were dudes and I have problems with drunk dudes for obvious reasons. I left early and spent some time sobering up watching late night TV by myself. I’m not a sad sack, really, I promise.

All in all, yesterday definitely felt like a nice way to get in some vacation time before the madness of Blizzcon truly descended on Anaheim.

Editor’s note: I’ll add content links when I’m not in a hosed data connection and not on a laptop with no mouse.

 

Blizzcon 2013: The Road to Blizzcon

The Anaheim Convention Center, home of Blizzcon and blue water fire.

My promise to fully document my trip to Blizzcon has fallen slightly short just do to the level of fatigue that accrues when you fling yourself into the meat grinder that is modern air travel these days, on top of the whole Daylight Savings Time, time-zone wibbly wobbly timey wimey nonsense. But I will endeavor to record as much of my progress thus far, despite being on a laptop in an awkward position due to how our hotel room has a very low desk chair and a very high table.

If you would like to read my boyfriend’s version of events, you can do so over here on Wow Insider.

Day 1 

We began our auspicious journey by staying up all night so we could leave to go to the airport at Dark O’Clock. While I feel that air travel is largely still the most expedient way to go, especially long distances, the convenience is hampered somewhat by how much airlines have mangled service due to flagging profit margins. In the past 10 years or so, it has turned from something exciting where you step on a plane and land in a new magical place into a hellish torture that maybe only sadists would enjoy inflicting on people. Our itinerary to get us to Colorado, where we’d meet Anne Stickney, our third, took us via Houston. Milwaukee to Houston is not a convenient route by any cartographers stretch of the imagination and going several thousand miles south out of our way to swing back up on another flight is bizarre. There’s also the problems with the fact that airplanes are now just expanded sardine cans. Barely any amenities are given out despite the ticket prices and you spend most of your time cramped, hungry and irritable. I suffered the least given that I am half the size of my poor boyfriend, who was folded literally in half to try and squeeze into the airplane and then his seat.

Despite us almost missing our connection, we did make it to Colorado and it was all as promised. We met up with Anne and quickly got onto the road since we had to be at least to our Utah midway-stop by nightfall. Driving through Colorado and Utah was everything I dreamed of and possibly a bit more. As someone who grew up on the East Coast and largely around very small mountains covered in trees, the alien landscape that we were presented with on our drive was breathtaking. Mountains that went beyond the clouds, striations of every hue imaginable and alien landscapes that I know I had seen in quite a few sci-fi movies were around every twisty-turny  mountain pass or long desolate straightaway.

Driving by car, preferably when you’re a passenger, is easily the best way to do trips. Getting to laugh at jokes, debate World of Warcraft expansion news and goggle in awe at the scenery made the flight torture worth it.

The beauty of Utah.

We ran into a sudden snowstorm on our way through some mountains and so we went from Fall to Winter in the span of an hour. It also gave us the chance to see vistas kissed with snow once the sun re-emerged and then fog that would put Silent Hill to shame rising off the scrub grass.

Stopping on roadside stuff wasn’t really a highlight of the first day but we did get to experience the creepiness of truck stops. Including one in Beaver, UT, which yes, did have “I Heart Beaver” merchandise. I felt like mentioning that because I’m actually 12.

We pulled into St. George, Utah by the time it was dark and stayed there for the night, enjoying a part of our first day that didn’t involve being cramped.

Day 2

I do not sleep well in hotels. Either the temperature isn’t right or the blankets are too heavy or I am really uncomfortable. Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep the day before and being so exhausted by travel and adrenaline, I still woke up at 4 AM with no ability to go back to sleep. I meandered around the hotel parking lot in the deep chill of the night and waited for the lobby’s complimentary breakfast to go up at 6:30 AM. Once the sun lightened up the sky some, I noticed that our town had a giant red cliff ridge directly above us. Talk about surprising.

We managed to get back on the road again by 8 AM for our second and slightly more exciting leg of the trip to Anaheim. The views were largely as expansive and inspirational as the first day but once we passed through the large mountain range nearing the Arizona and Nevada borders, we came across way more high desert flats. It was very Night Vale-esque for those of you who listen to that podcast, and suddenly the sights got a lot more weird. Tiny burned out shanty towns dotted the shrubby plains, odd roadside attractions and places that had only one stoplight or one church and nothing save for trailers seemed to be the norm.

We skirted around the outside of Las Vegas and it didn’t disappoint even if we didn’t stop. I got to see some of the glittering towers of gambling, the pomp of roller coasters and elaborate facades.  Alex commented on how most of the names we were seeing on signs also appeared in Fallout: New Vegas and I can see why. The idea of a post-apocalyptic game taking place in the desert of Nevada seemed all too apt. Given the number of ruins of old tourist attractions that we saw littered on our drive, it almost felt like we were  in the game already. (We made a plan to visit the grafitti-ed shell of a waterpark that we passed somewhere around Minneola, NV on the drive back)

Then we saw it: A giant road-side ad for Alien Fresh Jerky. Given both our propensity for good dried meat and the strange, we decided to follow that lead all the way into Baker, California where the jerky was to be found. Our questions were pretty routine – “Do the aliens make the jerky or are they what the jerky is made  out of?”

In a town that literally one road with a handful of greasy spoons, burned out trucks and bluffs, there was one shining beacon of tourist hysteria: Alien Fresh Jerky. It was a clean looking establishment with a made-up alien car, spaceship and promises of jerky on the inside. Once we stepped into place, we know why we went to all this trouble to get there. Sure, it was mostly overpriced food and tzotchkes of dubious provenance, but the excitement was being a participant of something this bizarre. We all love a good story to share and this is precisely why roadside ghost towns, giant balls of twine and houses filled with baby dolls continue to excite. We tried some invisible jerky, bought relics with alien faces for too much money and giggled at all the paraphernalia.

From there we sped on towards California proper. We stopped in Barstow, which was an official Route 66 stop and got to peer inside of a traincar shopping center and racist gas stations.  Finally we started to hit places that were familiar to me, as I had driven to Blizzcon from Arizona three years ago and it felt properly SoCal with the tiny oases of planned communities with palm trees dotting the crispy landscape.

Once we finally made it Anaheim, we promptly dropped our stuff off and went to peer at the convention center. Much to our surprise, there had been a lot of landscape work done. The entire front of the center that used to be a glorified taxi park and car-driven death trap for pedestrians in a hotel corridor was now this beautiful walkway with recessed lighting, statues and sculptures. There’s even a new fountain in front that lights up blue and white, with heavily graduated steps that take some climbing to get to. It feels like a much cooler place to meet up, hang out or take pictures now and while I know that it wasn’t really for that intent, it still makes this already magical voyage look the part. We took our pictures and went to finally relax.

I’m fully hyped for what the convention proper has in store now after that long, strange trip.

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.

Blizzcon 2013: Where in the World is Apple Cider Mage?

Having fun at Blizzcon! Featuring Deedle, Zable, Tadge and Boddi.

Having fun at Blizzcon! Featuring Deedle, Zable, Tadge and Boddi.

I think my excitement generator for Blizzcon is now permanently cranked to 11. I’m starting to move from “This is in the future” to “This is really happening! I better go get things ready!” Thusly, I thought that taking a moment to write up my grand plans for Blizzcon might be of interest to some of my readers, fans and friends who want to know where I might be and what I’ll be up to while I’m gone. This year’s Blizzcon trip is different from my last go-around in 2011 in that it is:

  • A full-fledged vacation. I will be on the road for 10 days.
  • The first time attending Blizzcon as both a community entity and content producer.

The first point is pretty fun – I do not really get to go on vacations save for Blizzcon (this will be my fifth) so the fact that I will be traveling with my boyfriend is exciting. We’re also combining Blizzcon with a fun road trip to the convention and back with one of his co-workers, hence why we will be gone for so long. It takes a day or so to drive from where we’re flying into to California. I always love road trips so I’m stoked. I’m sure we’ll (Anne and I) be driving Alex up the wall with our incessant talking. I also will be bringing along my laptop, Nintendo 3DS, Kindle and phone because I cannot properly disconnect from technology or Internet while I’m gone. This also means that I will try to document my trip, potentially for my own amusement and for the blog.

The fact that I have a blog and podcast now, heading into Blizzcon, is why the second point is a wee bit scary. When I went to Blizzcon 2011, my blog had been up for maybe a week or two. Handing out business cards may have gotten me new readers but most people had never heard of me. I also wasn’t as active in the WoW fan-community as I am now – in fact, I missed meeting a couple of people that I consider really good friends because I simply had no idea who they were. I’m nervous of running into people that potentially hate me or see me as a fire-breathing man-hating ogre. I’m decently sure at least a couple of Blizzard CMs have my face up on the wall like a Wanted poster. The only thing I have going for me is that most people have no idea what I look like, so I’ll just say I’m actually Ghostcrawler.

This year’s Blizzcon feels like a lot more pressure to perform as a community entity and to talk to fans or present myself in a more professional manner. The list of people I’d like to hang out with, chat with or generally just touch base with is miles long. The parties I have on my docket are numerous and “making an appearance” seems to be tantamount to most other things. I want to hang out and have fun but I also don’t want to go to a giant place with thousands of people only to have people wondering where the heck I was. This is definitely an added layer of my persona that I will be grappling with now – not just going to the con as a casual participant and fan, but as someone that other people look to and want to meet. Most of it is a type of peer-ship, obviously. I don’t feel like I’ve reached any sort of celebrity status and given my work, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

The upside to this being is that people can finally see who I really am behind the internet “mask” of my persona that I have to present via my blog, podcast or Twitter account. A lot of people always presume I’m a really mean or angry person in real life but the truth is that I laugh way too much and I’m just as awkward and nerdy as most of you. I’m a bit outgoing (especially when I’ve been drinking adult beverages) but for the most part I like to chat and crack jokes. I’m not the humorless, nasty feminist that most people think I am. It’s hard to be that way all the time, though I might tell people to knock off bad language if I hear it! I hope people don’t feel like they can’t come up to me and say hi or have a conversation with me, I don’t bite (much).

Anyways, enough navelgazing, on with the schedule (that is due to change)!

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Respect: Advice for my Fellow Cis People

ACM carries five bags of rice.

It’s not hard work to treat trans players with respect.

Note: “Cis” is short for “cisgendered” and is a gender identity where a person’s perception of their gender matches up with the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

You can imagine my facepalm when I read the Drama Mamas column yesterday and saw that they had answered a letter from a trans woman in the audience.  This column in particular tries its best to give good common sense advice to most WoW-related social problems but usually goes off the rails whenever a really serious subject is concerned. It’s terribly problematic to read advice that doesn’t treat the subject matter compassionately, but in the case of the trans woman, goes so far as to insinuate a lot of awful things.

I think one of the most critical things you can do with regards to a trans person in your guild is making the guild a comfortable place for them to play in, regardless of whether or not they want to disclose or “come out” about being trans with you. This means a lot of things like making it a place where you don’t use slurs or other disrespectful language, letting people talk as little or as much as they want about their identity and generally undoing a lot of problematic types of thinking.

First off, a trans person is allowed to represent themselves precisely how they wish. Point blank – whether this means disclosing to you or not. They are not “lying” or not being “non-transparent” if they don’t tell you they are trans.  It’s not your business. If they feel comfortable doing so, awesome, but it’s not required. There is this narrative that a trans person’s gender identity is some sort of “falseness” to the gender they express themselves as, when it’s not. If someone says they are a woman, then they are a woman. End of story. You don’t know a person’s situation and it’s unfair to make someone “validate” their identity in that way.

Secondly, don’t give a trans person shit if they presented as one gender and came out later as another. A trans person coming out can endanger them to a certain extent. Trans individuals are attacked, harassed, stalked and killed on a regular basis and many times will not disclose for their own well-being and safety. If someone decides to transition while in your guild and they wish to share this info to you, make the space more comfortable for them but don’t announce it for them or otherwise. This process is a personal one and should always be on that person’s terms. Simply listen, ask what you can personally do to make them feel more comfortable in the guild and stick with that.

Thirdly, this means respecting and being sensitive to your guildmate’s needs. You need to make the guild comfortable for them, not the other way around. Ask your guildies what pronouns they use if you are unsure or use gender-neutral ones like “they” when referring to someone if you don’t know. Misgendering, even unintentionally, can be hurtful and should be avoided. Apologize sincerely if you do!

Being sensitive also means that if they don’t wish to use a voice chat, respect that. In the case of the Drama Mamas column, the letter writer was worried because she wanted to tank for the guild’s raid but that meant speaking on Vent. If someone doesn’t want to speak, then let them be quiet. As someone who raided progression and still continues to raid with main tanks who do not talk on Mumble, it can be done. Conversely, if someone does want to speak, be respectful. Don’t expect someone to sound a certain way and don’t ridicule someone for sounding “different” than their name suggests. Everyone’s voice is their own.

Finally, remember that this is not about you. It is about their feelings and not yours. They are allowed to be angry, upset with how stuff plays out in your guild. Expecting them to take everything “with a smile” while you catch up to treating them how they ought to be treated is unfair. Listen to what people are saying and respect their wishes across the board.

I think Jasmine W, a trans woman and commenter on the Drama Mamas column, summed it up pretty well:

As a Trans* gamer (and wow player) myself, i hope i can provide some insight. there are several reasons why a person can seek to inform their guild that they are Trans*. As Meer said everyone ends up talking about their RL selves and it can help keep issues down, second and more importantly, member’s of the Trans* community seek support for one of the hardest times of their lives. there’s also the fact that people who have no issue with people based on sexual orientation, sex, or race, do have issues with gender identity which can go into another issue entirely 

it can be very jarring to hear a male voice over your (insert VOIP client here) and by ingrained habit you start to call them the gender you heard over the headset. for a trans* individual, though you may not mean it, that not only can be but IS very rude and offensive, so the OP would rather head the drama that could start because of not saying anything and then being hurt by being open about her and her partner it also helps to make sure it’s a guild they can lay down roots with and make a “home guild”

 the only choice about being Trans* is that you choose whether to LIVE and transition or DIE because of all of the stress, hatred, ignorance, lack of support, and other things, and once a person does start to transition, then they face much WORSE, when you find out all the things a Trans* individual has to go through, you’d be impressed with the strength of character we have, and also why there’s a 41% suicide rate among Trans* people because of everything that’s given up.

Everyone has a responsibility to make the gaming world as safe and supportive for our community’s trans gamers, if not everyone at large.