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!

 

 

 

Warlords of Draenor: Building Female Models

Orc female showing off new model and expressions.

Orc models and screenshot courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

One of the features in the upcoming expansion I’ve been looking forward to the most is the long-awaited model revamps. While we have no confirmation that these models will be ready by the start or even middle of the expansion, what we’ve been shown so far has been promising. Through their new Artcraft series on World of Warcraft’s front page blog, we’ve been able to see a continuation of the promises they made about updating models at Blizzcon last year. Today’s offering of an orc female is no different and comes hot on the heels of the recent debut of the human female model.

It’s no secret that I take female model designs seriously – gaming culture is plagued with representations of women’s bodies that are problematic and World of Warcraft has long had a problem with a lack of customization. While I’ve enjoyed that at least WoW makes a decent effort to vary its’ silhouettes, it is still a game running on a graphics engine that’s severely outdated. These model revamps have been fun to watch as they happen; it is clear that they want to keep the overall visual fidelity to the old models but at the same time fix a lot of the problems that come with having them be a far lower resolution. Also nice to see is the time and care taken with some of the musculature and anatomy. Seeing game models that finally sit the breasts on the chest wall in a realistic manner is heartening, as well as egregious postures being smoothed out and relaxed.

I have to admit I’m a bit blown away with how much personality and life they’ve injected into the models. The postures looking more natural, as well as improved muscles and facial expressions makes me feel I’m playing a “real” person. The new orc female models are no exception – there’s life there now beyond just a blank, doe-eyed expression.

“We want a strong female counterpart to the male, equally battle-ready in appearance, yet still feminine.” — Character Artist, Dusty Nolting

I think the most heartening part of this process, seeing the models unveiled, is that it feels like the design ethic with the female models is steered in a direction that I feel comfortable with. What designers sometimes seem to lack understanding is that women’s bodies are so fraught with politics but they are ultimately our own and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and ability. Designing characters that show a little of this variety, particularly if there’s no sliders to customize, is what is going to keep many of your customers enjoying the characters they play is in your game. Dusty’s quote from the Artcraft about the orc models also reveals another part of the ethic that was very frustrating in the past: dimorphism and the tug and pull between feminine and masculine.

Design often requires visual shorthand to convey a lot of information in a very short amount of time. This often means exaggerating many different things – gendered traits are one of those things. What determines “male” and “female” visually falls on pretty essentialist tropes like muscle groups, facial hair and secondary sex characteristics like bust. Women are often designed to be sexy or sexual and men are power fantasies. This is due to who gaming still believes it the core audience – straight men. Men are given huge muscular bodies and women have very similar hourglass figures with giant racks. This is how the nuance between feminine and masculine gets hammered out as well. With the orc women, I was really troubled by the idea that they would not be able to strike a core balance between the more battle-ready nature of the orcs and the fact that orc women are still women in their own right. How do women in orc culture look and how does this compare to women of other races? Creating identity and unique versions of femininity among all the races of Azeroth is key here. It’s no secret that some race’s women are coded much more traditionally feminine than others: see draenei, night elves and blood elves. It’s necessary to allow every race to have elements of both hardness and softness in their visual identity. With the orcs, I was worried that she would swing too hard in either direction and it’d feel like a joke or cheap. The fact that the screenshots we got convey both that hardened nature as well as mirth and beauty makes me feel more at ease. Now, if I could only get some of the orc women’s hairstyles on my female humans or even my draenei would make me feel able to feel slightly more butch even on a heavily feminized body.

Between the orc woman’s kissy face and the gnome lady’s legendary side-eye, I do feel that one of the things about Warlords of Draenor I won’t have to worry about is how all the models look visually. Blizzard has done a great job so far giving us a peek behind the curtain about how we are going to look in the not-so-distant (alternate) future (in the past) and I look forward to seeing all the models.

Update: Blizzard quietly dropped a full render of the dwarven female model on their Warlords of Draenor site just an hour. Go look!

Some my quick thoughts are mostly that while I love her body, I wish she had a bit more meat on her thighs. Some of the screenshots of her face look a bit wonky but I would bet they look better when actually in game. Yay!

 

Fans Extend the Universe Farther than Warcraft Could Dream

I was going to post up a fluffy item creation post today but I got to thinking about other things because I spent a lot of my weekend on other WoW projects as well as hanging out with some fandom friends on Tumblr.

I’m still horrified by the state of lore discussions in the WoW community whenever a good percentage of men want to involve themselves. I went to sign up for Scrolls of Lore this weekend and immediately was greeted by the default avatars being giant pics of WoW races’ asses, most of them being female. Then there’s this thread, made by a friend of one of my Tumblr pals. It is a great OP and I love seeing lore discussion that pokes at how sexist or problematic the writing in WoW is. But it doesn’t take long for people to hop into the thread to make snipey comments about how we’re all wrong and women aren’t treated badly and we must have some agenda.

The rest of the story forum seems to read very heavily in that direction and this is why I really do not like involving myself in lore discussions where it’s inevitably dominated by men. The analysis is thoroughly limited and usually amounts to whinging that a certain character is not written well but nothing about the reasons why that might happen. Women characters are derided along typical lines like being crazy, emotional or unimportant.

But I digress. I came here to be positive.

What gave me utmost hope this weekend was the number of cool people discussing their problems with WoW lore, their awesome headcanons that expanded on the pretty basic writing we find in the game and extended universe. It gave me hope. It gave me ideas. It made me realize that there’s still so many people not getting credit or recognition for writing a World of Warcraft that I’d want to spend years playing in or writing about. A Sylvanas that beckons the Forsaken from their graves due to unfinished business. Gilneans that address class struggles, crusaders that aren’t afraid to hold their girlfriend’s hand. Women leaders that lead and don’t attach themselves limpet-like to their boring spouses, or die because of it. Tumblr gets a lot of shit from the nerd community in general for daring to foment some form of social justice that they find overblown and irrational, but I find the fandom that is outside of the control of pretty heavily purist, male-dominated ideologies to be extremely powerful and a lot more entertaining. Nerds have an unhealthy obsession with prescriptivism despite the fact that treating lore as a pure text when it’s penned by people who are ignorant to larger concerns of representation and tropes is terrible. The older I grow, the more I want to reject lore and canon utterly because it doesn’t represent a world I’d be welcome in, as either a character or my actual self.

What keeps me going is just the fact that no matter where I turn, there’s always some rock I didn’t turn over with people that want to discuss these things. People who are okay with listening to zany-ass ideas, have thoroughly negative conversations about fan-favorites (slaying all your male character faves for LIFE) and generally just not being stuck up about what gets handed to us on a regular basis and doing better. The fact that a lot of these people tend to be way younger than me is also heartening too. It makes me glad that there are people, particularly teen girls who are already into this stuff because when I was 16, I was pretty much in the dark and watching Sailor Moon without a real grasp of what it all meant.

The fact that all of us can come together as a community and have these great discussions across all ages and lifestyles is amazing. Let the haters get mad at Tumblr, or Twitter, or social justice warriors all they want (I’m a social justice mage, by the by.) I’m going to stay here and keep supporting all these rad people coming forward who want to turn this lore shit on its head, who want to share their experiences and be a part of the community.

 

“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.

Year That Was: 2013

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

- Beyoncé, Grown Woman

It was a decent year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Solo Heart

A death knight stands over rocky precipice in Stonecore.

You’d never be able to tell now but in high school I was a cross-country runner and skier. Most of the long-distance game was actually mental, not physical. Training gave me the endurance and muscles, speed but nothing ever prepared me for spending long chunks of time inside of  my head keeping myself motivated. I had to do whatever it took mentally to keep one foot in front of the other, especially when all my body was doing was telling me, “Stop. Just rest a second. Just slow down.”

When the rain was running into my eyes or when my lungs were burning, the little voice got louder and I had to focus on some meaningless phrase on repeat or the rhythm of my footsteps. There were no shortcuts here, just myself and the road and I wasn’t going to let the road beat me.

While I don’t think that playing World of Warcraft is even in the realm of marathons, I’ve always thought of myself as a decent solo player. I do things alone a lot as a way of focusing on a task or giving myself space and time to clear my head out. I’ve always had the tether of a guild or other people if I wanted to go do something else, so it’s been really interesting to have very little of either. For the past week or so I’ve been soloing dungeons on a death knight, on a server I have no guildmates on, just to see if I could.

The project started out very pragmatically last Christmas, where I rolled up a death knight one night because my friend told me that a guild had just transferred to Mal’ganis and were letting anyone in for free to get to exalted with the guild and buy the guild raid meta achievement mount. I created a death knight, not because I knew how to play one but because the mount required being level 85 and I figured that the shorter distance for leveling would be fine. I got exalted pretty quickly with the guild and bailed, and the death knight got left to rot with a nice mount sitting in her bags.

It’s hard to force myself to play something I don’t innately understand and I had better things to do, especially when most of early Outlands consisted of level 90s from Kel’thuzad smearing my already twice-dead corpse from the Dark Portal and back.

Now that we are a whole year later and I’ve run out of stuff to do with this expansion, my vigor for leveling alts has returned once again, especially with the recent change to Bind on Account items. The mount sitting in my death knight’s bags started calling to me, as leveling to 85 would be superbly easy now that I could load that toon up with awesome gear.

I started looking up leveling guides, clearing off my bars (a must-do whenever I come back to a particularly old set of action bars) and started asking questions. The goal was to get from Point A and Point B (level 62 to level 85) in the shortest, easy way possible – a spec built for murder (Blood), the best gear available (heirlooms) and all the content I knew like the back of my hand.

After spending two levels getting the gist of the spec from quests, I found myself getting bored. Remembering how blood death knights are the reigning queens of solo content, I wondered aloud if perhaps I could solo a dungeon. I was slightly above level but I picked something easy like Hellfire Ramparts.

Huh, that was easy.

It really surprised me that I managed to clear an entire dungeon, solo, at level 64 with no deaths. It was just Hellfire Ramparts, surely this would fall apart once I did a real dungeon.

So I did Blood Furnace.

Then Slave Pens.

Then Underbog.

Here, someone who was still relatively new to a class was not only soloing at-level dungeons but not even dying that much. I got some tweaks from my friends to my rotation and cooldowns and I was streaming all of my progress. I tackled all of Auchindoun, and even dying a bit, it still felt like I had accomplished something.

Here’s the funny thing about success, especially when you find yourself having an audience – the voices that were only you wrestling with yourself suddenly become you wrestling with how you feel everyone else thinks about you. The time I started hitting Wrath dungeons, more or less roughly at level as well, a new ticker-tape of self-criticism came in. I was only soloing because I had heirlooms. It isn’t because I was good, or capable. I had help. I had the best gear I could get my hands on. Every mistake I made, like when I wiped on trash or didn’t use my cooldowns properly, I felt like I was proving everyone along the way that had made some shitty comment about how women were terrible at video games.

The onslaught of internalized feelings that I was somehow letting ALL WOMEN GAMERS down because I failed on a trash pack in Ankahet was somewhat surprising. I’ve been pretty good at un-training my brain to stop with that kind of garbage, but the addition of an audience with Twitch streaming brought up some of those old, painful feelings. I don’t think anyone really chastises people who do solo content for their inability to get past one boss a couple times, but the idea that they could if that person was a woman seems plausible. It also doesn’t help that I keep undercutting my own ambition by how much help I have from things that are pretty good tools: guides, heirloom gear, advice from other people. Using these things versus not seems like common sense and I wonder if other solo-er type people have this internal debate with themselves. Using every trick and advantage seems like something we see players at the top of the game utilizing, why not me?

One of the things I’ve been trying to work hard on in general is the idea that making mistakes is valuable and I don’t think WoW is immune from that. I think myself, or even other women gamers, constantly pressure ourselves to come out of the gate perfect lest we invite the criticism of our skill reflect badly versus letting ourselves making necessary mistakes. When it comes to soloing, I feel like the idea that you have to constantly be able to perform flawlessly with no learning or training prior to feels antithetical to what soloing actually is. Soloing feels like an incredibly small portion of the player base, only really known for one or two faces and is comprised on the surface of highlight reels and gossip about “so-and-so totally did this” versus the countless hours, wipes, and trial and error it really requires. It’s an activity that is purely it’s own reward, to some degree. There’s no achievements for it. It also requires an entirely different set of skills, talents and utility that I think things like Brawler’s Guild and Proving Grounds have only begun to scratch at. Those things are suited for and designed entirely for one person to “win”. That’s what they are scaled for. The prescribed course of action is both a pure test of skill but I feel has a lower barrier to problem-solving than soloing content that was not made for one person. I say this, not as someone who has beaten Proving Grounds or Brawler’s Guild (though I’ve done both) but just coming from the perspective that there’s definitely places where you can tell that one was designed for a group and one wasn’t. There’s outright bosses I’ve encountered so far that are fairly impossible to solo due to mechanics (Svala in Utgarde Pinnacle) or that are fairly hard  just due to not having another person to kite (Obsidius in Blackrock Depths).

All of this stuff is what I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of days in my attempts to quell the little voice in my head that tells me to stop, to slow down. I think past the unique community that soloing represents (which feels very absent of other women), the need to overcome my desire to be perfect and my own fears as a woman gamer, soloing presents less the pragmatic goal that it once was and more of a way of proving so many things to myself. It is also really fun. Soloing, in my mind, feels like trying to answer a question that no one really asked of me.

As I creep closer to level 85, and consider about going straight 90 with only soloing dungeons, I realize that this yet another long distance to travel with its own mental game. And I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no going from Point A to Point B without doing so.

 

 

Warlords of Draenor: The Dark Portal is the New Glass Ceiling

Happy gnome shouting Ladies! In Warcraft!

Drawing by Paululum, aka @Doodlegnome.

Let’s go back, way back to an alternate timeline. It’s Blizzcon 2013 and we’re in a world that seems similar to our own. It’s moments before Chris Metzen announces the next expansion. Suddenly the screen changes and the now-familiar logo goes up. Relatively little is changed. It is called Wars of Draenor.  Metzen strides across the stage, the heady determination evident in his face. He unveils a piece of concept art that has him nearly squeeing with excitement – a large digital fresco in shades of brown and red. Present is our antagonist Garrosh, his right hand Zaela and the assembled orc lords. It looks as much of a motley crew as any metal band. 

But then he regales us with a second mural – the combined might of Azeroth as we know it rushing to meet on the battlefield. There’s a righteous female draenei champion leading the charge for the Alliance and for the Horde, there’s Aggra and Thrall, Draka and Durotan. We see Varian, Jaina, Moira, Tyrande, Malfurion, Vol’jin, Sylvanas, Gelbin Mekkatorque, Velen and Maraad, Lor’themar, Genn Greymane, Gallywix and Baine Bloodhoof. All of our races’ leaders are present and accounted for along with many of our valiant champions. We are going to stand tall against Garrosh and his Iron Horde.

We see ourselves reflected in this art and we get jazzed at the mysterious hints of characters we’ve met briefly before or new ones that look exciting and powerful. 

When the the lore panel takes place, a fan asks Metzen about what Aggra’s role in the expansion will be as she was seen in the opening announcement. Metzen laughs and wryly remarks, “Who do you think is going to help lead the Horde in this familiar world? Thrall? He’s never lived here!” 

As much as I would love it, we don’t live in that timeline. Let’s talk about what actually occurred and why it is so important.

If you don’t read World of Warcraft blogs or Twitter, maybe you missed the heated discussion that’s been going on about how the marketing and potential story choices were being handled regarding Warlords of Draenor from its debut at Blizzcon this year. Chris Metzen as well as another influential member of the Dad Crimes crew Dave Kosak, seemed to paint a pretty male-centric vision of Warlords that left many people with a bad taste in their mouth. If this was the opening salvo of the newest Blizzard product, why weren’t there more women involved in the offerings?

What further drove the wedge in between the developers and fans was Chris Metzen during the lore panel answering to a fan’s question about what Aggra would be doing and he alluded to the fact that she wouldn’t be there because it was a “boys trip.” While I think this was a moment of sheer Metzen-level exuberance that didn’t properly filter itself, it definitely left a profound impact on people already confused or bewildered by the expansion reveal. Here was someone at the top of the creative development for our beloved game joking around that going to Draenor was akin to a bunch of dudes packing their axes like rods and heading back into the Dark Portal for a beer-fueled fishing trip. It rang as a poor attempt at a joke but it, unbeknownst to Chris, created a rallying point for fans, women in particular, that was on a level with “Hush, Tyrande.” It’s much easier to start picking apart sexism and character representation in World of Warcraft when you are given such moments that are so overt and show such a lack of understanding and consideration for your audience’s makeup.

While I believe Metzen (or even Kosak by extension with all of his “savage” talk) to be a fairly well-meaning guy, the fact of the matter is the comment underscores a lot of what usually inserts problematic content or creates a problematic vacuum of certain key building blocks of a fantasy world you want to make. It’s a small group of people (in this case, the men on stage) being excited by things and forgetting that we’re not all jazzed up about seeing metalhead orcs go back in time to cleave things in twain with other orc dudes. It’s fun and cool to Metzen, who ultimately gets to revisit a potent and fun time in his writing career, but it doesn’t seem to take some of us along for the ride in quite the same way. This is where I feel the real disconnect is occurring: not that I truly believe Warlords of Draenor will be entirely absent of cool women characters (I’ll talk more about this later) but that main figures of creative development presenting the story to us didn’t feel it necessary to talk about most of them except only briefly.

It’s confusing for two reasons, one, because we literally just came from a world that is as close to an idyllic meritocracy as World of Warcraft will ever have (Pandaren) and two, because there doesn’t even seem to be very solid logic for why Aggra in particular wouldn’t be there. It’s this moment of non-consideration for the idea that a Draenor native mama wouldn’t be present to show her son the planet she grew up on that gives us pause because it isn’t particularly just about her but shoots an arrow straight into the larger problem of being overlooked or under-considered by some of the top dogs in creative development. World of Warcraft has, up until this point, been moving forward in both its’ lore and story with regards to representation and so it feels like whiplash to see this being the initial offering we’re given.

Though, if I think hard enough, we can look back again how even Mists of Pandaria was presented to viewers initially and extrapolate that when it comes to selling people on their expansions, Blizzard really doesn’t give a hoot about ladies. No matter how much progress you make in making a world that has tons of really enjoyable, memorable and complex women characters in it, when the wrapping paper on the whole she-bang (heh) still looks dominated by men, you find yourself more and more unwilling to open it. So in this aspect, you could say that this just a marketing problem and not a story problem. I think that’s fairly close to the truth, but despite this being an issue with how they want to sell an expansion, it does have an effect on the story after all.

This is is why, going back to the “boys trip” quote, Aggra’s seeming non-inclusion in the story is such a big deal. When women are not considered for being played up as a cool fixture of your story to your audience from the outset, you might find yourself overlooking them in other places. The idea of Thrall going ahead to lead the Horde with his parents without his wife or his kid says a lot more about how creative development wants to talk about fathers and families versus motherhood and the like. And it’s weird, as someone who is not a mom, but knows plenty of them who play. (I am going to address more of this in a later post, so just hang onto your pants.)

Does this ultimately mean that I believe that the expansion is going to feature no women at all? Absolutely not. Like I said, Mists of Pandaria, once we got into the meat of the story, featured many moments where I felt women had their role to play in both the overhanging story arc (see Isle of Thunder patch with Jaina and Vereesa) as well as the day-to-day stories that we see in the Pandaren people or even something like the Klaxxi. I felt that both narrative and quest development teams did a really good job creating a world that was seamlessly egalitarian, even if we crash-landed on their shores with war in our hearts and sometimes less nuanced character development. Pandaren gave us a world where all of the women were equal participants in everything, whether it was protecting the land, working it or being diplomatic entities. It wasn’t just strong women like Suna Silentstrike, but women that were humble, quiet or nuanced in some other way. And I felt that it rubbed off on even some of our regular Azerothian  sisters. Because of that, I have a cautious optimism that Warlords is going to have just as many orc and draenei women filling in the gaps that we didn’t get to see in the opening cinematic, not just as brave champions of the Light (like the hotly speculated Yrel) but as complex personalities all over the place.

It’s because of this faith that I feel fully ready to rebut criticisms of those criticisms by saying that it is “too early” to know what is going to be happening in the story with regards to the women. Sure, it absolutely is too early and there’s definitely going to be cool powerful women present in the story of Draenor. (Again, Yrel seems to be held up for this a lot, and I can see why.) The problem is that because of the disconnect in marketing, because we are at this very initial point in the on-going reveal of the expansion, there absolutely needs to be unpacking and discussion and critical awareness. By getting ahead of more permanent story decisions now with our feedback, we stand a greater chance of having a profound impact on seeing ourselves in the story we love so much. This is really the beating heart of the problem, of why this omission felt so glaring. People love Warcraft, a lot of us women love Warcraft. We want to love Warcraft not just as the characters we build up in our heads as complex or nuanced, but to see our stories reflected in the ones that the company creates. Representation matters and the sooner we can have this discussion and make sure that we have a stake in that representation, so much the better. Blizzard has made very large strides in both its’ creative development teams and community management teams to ask for and receive feedback from us, the players. Not just on things like balance issues, obviously, but how we feel about where the story is going, what kinds of things are expressed and are we excited about them.

Feedback is crucial. Blizzard has let us know that it listens to the community and is willing to make changes should they feel that criticism is both substantive and will improve the game. Representation is also crucial. Our media affects and informs our lives and leaving a lot of different groups out of the story (not just women, but queer people, people of different genders, races, etc.) has a subtle but penetrating effect on the people who consume this media, namely us.

In her post about the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and QPOC representation on PolicyMic, Zainab Akande succinctly delivers why this is such a big deal:

“Why does this matter? Because media representation matters. Why does media representation matter? Because the media is a pretty central force and plays a vital role in society at large. Mass media in particular has the power to change or reinforce the habits of its consumers. It also aids in constructing worldviews of its consumers by reproducing reality— to an extent. Perception is the name of the game and it’s difficult to perceive what is non-existent — or in the case of POC and LGBTQ characters, severely lacking compared to the real world the diversity scale.”

If your game doesn’t gesture even a tiny bit at the important stories of 50% of the population that is both playing your game as well as participants in your story in the first offerings you serve to your public, you’re not doing a very good job. Not only in selling a product to as wide of an audience as possible, but in selling a product that has more of a dramatic influence than the work that has come before.

This is one of the reasons why I’m so cautiously hopeful that the chefs stirring the pot that is narrative and quest design in Warlords know what they are doing. Going back in time, not just figuratively for the purposes of the story, but literally, to an earlier time in Blizzard’s game development is precarious. While I understand that Warcraft is where many of the great women leaders of World of Warcraft spawned (Tyrande, Jaina, Sylvanas), going back to a place that feels less unconcerned with what we’ve learned in the past 10 years of gaming with regards to diversity feels tricky at best. So while the excitement is here because we’re getting to finally see a world that was merely hinted at in both Warcraft and World of Warcraft’s lore, a lot of us are feeling somewhat hesitant that it will do due diligence in being a past we want to visit for the first time. The story feels very male-dominated for multiple reasons, as I said, and by going back to it, we might lose ourselves in a timeline that feels unconcerned with the rest of us. However, much like Warcraft then and Warcraft now, we cannot ignore that all of these things are choices. Choices made by the writers, by the developers, and by people like Metzen and Kosak themselves. Fantasy not including women isn’t historically accurate, it’s just repeating sexist storytelling whole-cloth, most of the time due to the lack of perspective that some of their very male authors seem to have. We need to not only look forward to the work of the women who undoubtedly comprise the story development team, but let Blizzard know that everyone working on the game’s look, feel and narrative that they should make a world that all of us here in the present, would want to go back and save. Not only just as characters in WoW’s story, but as video game players in general.

Other posts on this topic:

*in case it wasn’t very evident, the title was written in jest.

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.