Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Horizons

This is an update to let you all know that I am no longer updating this site.  I am now teamed up with Yelling on the Internet for my services.  You can find me at http://theanxiousgamer.com.  I have a whole new professional looking layout and everything.  You should check it out.  I hope you continue to follow this blog, at its new location.  In a few weeks I will be making the transition more official.  Thanks for your following.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A word on... words.

The other day I was talking with the delightfully insightful Zaralynda, about what I don’t remember, when I said something that I had said a dozen, hundred, maybe a thousand times before.  I said something was “lame”.  Zara was blunt with me when I said that, replying “That’s ableism and gross.”  I wasn’t quite sure what I did, but I inferred by the speediness and tact of the reply that I had said something hurtful.  I felt an immense amount of pressure and my stomach started knotting.  I apologized first.  Then I did some research, and, frankly, I am glad I did.

Go Google ableism.  Go ahead.  Or if you like, I can give you the link to the Wikipedia page.  Read that page.  I had no clue what ableism was.  But if you read that whole page and some of the other Google links, maybe you will realize the immense amount of shame I felt after I said that.  I thought I was the biggest jerk ever.  And what’s worse, I was completely ignorant of that.  For years.  So I deleted my tweet, apologized to everyone, and hid in a corner for a while.  I could not deal with that in that moment, knowing that I could say something so innocent, and yet, simultaneously, so hurtful.

I was quickly forgiven, which I appreciate.  But it’s been nagging me, that I could be so insensitive to people less fortunate than myself, like it was no big deal.  The sad part is that I am not alone.  And while it’s not the most popular topic, it’s something that needs to be addressed, so here we go.

If you did not click on the Wikipedia link, then let me tell you what ableism is.  It’s discrimination against people with disabilities.  Any disability.  It’s against the law.  But more than that, it’s mean.  After last week’s outpouring against mean people and bullies, I thought this would kind of go a bit synonymously with that theme.  We have an opportunity to make positive change in our ever shifting war against bigotry and hate.  Why stop now?

The hardest part for me, in all of this, is its prevalent everywhere.  Guild chat.  Trade chat.  Chat chat.  Skype.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Television.  Internet.  Newsprint media.  Get it?  Literally, it’s practically everywhere.  And if you think that’s bad, try explaining to someone why saying something is retarded is bad.  I did.  At work.  Today.  Some guy said our fees were retarded.  I replied “that’s ableism, and not really cool.”  He asked what ableism was, and I was saddened when I explained it.  “Are you gay or something?” Then he drove off.

When did it become ok to talk like this?  What time and age did saying ableist terms become acceptable?  I wish I had the answer.  The bad part is, people would be more offended by using the word “gay” as a slur.  “Retarded” is just as hurtful.  No hurtful word is any less hurtful than another.  It’s like using the word “rape” like a joke.  Except it’s not funny.  These words are triggers for some people, triggers that could turn someone’s perfectly fine day into a spiraling nightmare.  That’s the last thing I would wish on anyone. 

And yet it’s prevalent in today’s culture.  It’s funny to some people.  Go play League of Legends.  Sorry LoL players, but I’ve seen this in more than one game.  If you know LoL, or know anyone that knows LoL, you will understand my analogy.  You may get it anyways, so if not just bear with me. 

You’re top lane; let’s say you go Udyr because you have Skarner jungling.  It’s just an example; this would not happen in reality.  So your enemy player has Kennen against you.  He makes a mistake and burns all of his cooldowns.  You think you have an advantage; minions are pushing him to his tower, so you don’t have to worry about tower agro.  You get aggressive, go bear form for the stun, shift to turtle in case Kennen tries to burst, then Tiger for the damage.  Except you forgot one thing.  You have no jungle vision because you forgot to ward.  The enemy Lee Sin comes in, Kennen gets all his cooldowns up, and you proceed to die.  Had you not forgotten to ward, maybe you would have lived.  If not, you could then at least argue that the enemy played that exchange well, and you and your team could discuss strategy going forward.

That almost never happens.  What usually happens in the above scenario is the enemy team would taunt you in chat, maybe saying that you got “gangbanged”, while your teammates say you must have “down’s syndrome”.   Why would anyone want to play a game with this kind of language, this kind of bullying?  Why would anyone saturate themselves in this kind of culture?

Why?  Because it’s popular.  It’s considered cool to put people down after they make a bad play.  It’s completely acceptable to act like for a lack of a better word, an idiot, and spew garbage out of your mouth at anyone who crosses you.  It’s considered ok to taunt your enemies with sexual innuendo.  In some circles, it’s considered part of the culture, viewed as normal, to harass your opponents/allies (as witnessed in the recent twitch.tv reality show fiasco, Google it if you're curious).  And when there’s money involved, I believe that anyone will do anything they can to get any advantage possible, as large or small as it may be.

But I also feel its further stretching than that.  I grew up in a small country type town, up in the woods.  I hate to stereotype, but I feel like I have to here.  It could have happened anywhere, but I believe my upbringing had a lot to do with what I thought was and wasn’t acceptable behavior.  Up there, in those hills, if something was bad, it was “lame” or “gay”.  If you did something questionable, you were “a retard”.  If you were a boy and acted at all with any empathy, you were “queer” or a “fag”.  It’s upsetting even typing these words out.  I can’t imagine having to read them, let alone hear them, more so if they were directed at you. And they were directed at me.  And I directed some of them to other people.  I was young.  I was unaware, ignorant of my own insensitivity to people who were less fortunate than I was.  And so were many other people.  Some of us were just jackass kids.  Some of us, like me, honestly didn’t know any better.  I never directed “rape” or “fag” at anyone, but I used to call unfortunate situations “lame” or “gay”.  Even in my older age.  When I was 18 I stopped using “gay” after I had hurt a friend’s feelings.  He was, in fact, homosexual.  I felt like such an ass, I profusely apologized and swore I would not use that word in a derogatory way again.  Unfortunately, we didn’t speak much after that.  To this day I feel terrible about it, absolutely terrible.

“Lame”, though, I never once had that word cross my mind until last week, when I really took a good look at it.  In 30 years time I never one had anyone tell me why it might be even remotely bad to use that word in such a negative context.  I never even had the foresight to think of it on my own.  To think that I was so oblivious only makes me feel worse, but I have been trying to take it a day at a time since.

The thing I worry about is the lack of acknowledgement ableism receives, especially in our gaming world.  When confronted about negative behavior, I find that if a person does not agree with the sentiment, and has no desire to see anyone else’s viewpoint, then they will most often be unwilling to consider how their words have an effect on others.  And because of the prevalent use of these terms in these specific ways for such an extended period of time, it’s easy for others to assume that someone complaining about such a “silly or insignificant” thing is unjustified.  But the truth of the matter is that it’s hurtful, and illegal, and shouldn’t be tolerated.  The more this brand of hate speech goes unacknowledged and unnoticed, the worse it will be for generations to come.  If you’re not worried about that, think about all the times you may have heard these terms directed at you or someone you cared about, and how it made them feel.  No one deserves that.

We can stop this oppression, together.  It will take some effort, some patience, and probably some banging of the head on the desk, but I believe the effort to take a stand, as we all seem to have been doing more lately, will pay off for those yet to tread these murky waters of life.  First, we have to recognize the issue.  If that means someone flat out telling you that using “lame” in a negative context is wrong, please do what I did: consider that you may ACTUALLY be wrong.  Don’t get defensive; don’t jump to conclusions.  Be calm, and if you’re confused just say so.  It may be embarrassing, yes, but if you are being told by someone you trust, then TRUST them.   They probably care about you as a human being and want nothing but the best for you.  I understand how hard trust is; in this case it was well worth it and I don’t regret it, and was glad to be more the wiser.

Second, expect resistance.  Most people, in my experience, don’t like being told they’re doing something wrong.  This will go true IRL and in game.  Neither will be easier than the other, in my opinion.  I could argue that if you see someone regularly there’s a chance that daily reminders would be helpful.  You could counter by saying said person may end up getting annoyed by the daily reminders and want nothing to do with you anymore, while ignoring the ableism altogether.  You could argue that it’s easier to deal with confrontation online.  I could counter by saying how personal these online connections can be, and how tone and inflection is not always accurately or easily translated via text.  Both ways are hard and both are equally unpleasant.  But it’s for the best so don’t be afraid.

Third, don’t be afraid.  People may judge you differently or hold you in a different light after you bring ableism up.  They may want to make more unsavory assumptions about you.  But don’t back down for a minute; this is as important as any other hate speech and should be warranted as such.  If your peers are unwilling, then don’t be afraid to go above them.  If the managers or guild officers aren’t willing to comply, go above again.  In real life, I would suggest HR.  Remember, ableism is illegal, insofar as it is hate speech and can be construed as a form of discriminatory language.  In guild, this may be trickier.  The GL may be unaware of ableism or how discriminatory it can be.  Even after education, the GL may be unwilling to budge on the issue for whatever reason.  Realistically, at this point you can either ignore the offender as best you can, or leave the guild.  Note: it's important that you ignore the OFFENDER, not the OFFENSE.  Do not let your opinion be silenced, regardless of whether others feel it is valid or not.  I realized this more so this evening in guild chat; and just how important it is to know how your GL tolerates this kind of language BEFORE you join a guild.  Now I am possibly considering jumping ship, which will leave me feeling like I wasted $55 in what I thought was a good guild to start over with.  This isn’t realistic for everyone, though, which makes the thought of even playing your favorite game, or leaving it, so discouraging.

Fourth, and important for the third, is to know that you are not alone.  There are a few of us on twitter that are advocates against ableism, although I would consider myself more a junior advocate in training at this point.  There are other resources, though; websites, blogs, support groups/forums, etc; aiming at advancing the idea that calling someone “lame” is hurtful, discriminatory, illegal, and not necessary at all.  Remember, if we are going to end hate speech of all kind, we will have more success working together.

It will take some time, but I hope someday we can live in a world where derogatory language towards others subsides.  I’d like to log into WoW or LoL or whatever next gen game comes and not be flooded with tells about how some quest or play or item is “lame”.  Believe me, there are better ways to get the point across.

"Trust Me" w/super-late update

Inspired by @Applecidermage's blog post regarding issues she has had in the past, I wanted to reveal some of my own.  This is to let you know that this is more of a personal thing for myself.  There are some intense scenarios and may trigger anxiety or anger towards people, hopefully not myself.

I am not my father.

I have to remind myself of this daily.  When I wake up, before I go to bed.  Before I go to work, before I log in to WoW or League.  Before I go out in public, before I go driving.  Before I see my therapist.

I have been getting to know some of you recently, some in game, some out of game, and I mostly just ramble on twitter about random stuff late at night.  You've all shown me great support and I am so grateful to be getting to know some of you.  That said, I don't know much about you all, just bits and pieces.  And you probably don't know much about me, other than I try to be very complimentary and encouraging, while also relevant and witty.  Some times I feel like I am trying to hard, and I often wonder what kind of an impression am I leaving on people.  Do they think I'm nice, sweet, caring, honest?  Do they think I'm just trying to seek attention?  Do they respect my opinion?  Do they even know I have an opinion?

I question myself a lot.  I have no reason to question anything.  I am an adult, 30 years of age and feeling more like 25.  I have a mostly stable job, I can say I'm happily married, and I get to play games I enjoy in my spare time.  But that isn't everything.  Despite all of this, much to my therapist's disapproval, I doubt myself and others.  I want to be open with my wife, my colleagues, my peers in game and on the blogo-tweeto-sphere.  But I just don't bring myself to be outwardly so.  I don't trust you.

Don't feel bad.  I don't trust myself either.

Trust is earned, not given.  That's what my father used to tell me.  There are very few things I remember about my father, but he would try to inject words of wisdom and life lessons into me whenever he could.  "Don't trust the world, it will let you down."  "Friends are temporary, family is forever." And so on.  In many respects he is right.  When you're in a dungeon, battleground, or LFR scenario, you often don't know all of the players.  You are put into situations where you have to trust them to help you accomplish your goals, goals which all involved share: the end result.  Justice points.  Loot.  Honor.  Achievements.  Shiny things.  You can't do these things on your own (unless you outgear/outlevel the content), so you must work together.  What I often do, in these instances, is keep my mouth quiet and do my job.  That's easy for me to do as DPS, stay out of the fire and kill Skull/X/etc.  Achieve glory and etc.  Go back to guildies/Real ID friends and tell tales of how people are so eyebrow-raising in PuGs.  I think we've all been there.

It's easy for us to not trust pugs any more than we trust Thrall to hurry up already.  Its easy for us to rely on our raid groups or arena groups or guildies or Real ID friends to be there when we need them.  But what do you do when you don't have those resources?  What do you do when your guildies leave for greener space-pastures?  What do you do when you have no friends, when you have different schedules than your spouse, when you don't get to see your loved ones?  Who do you talk to?

I think most anyone would do what I try to do, and probably with a fair bit more success: you go out and try to make friends.  And because of the nature of friendship, if you really want to be friends with someone, you have to put yourself out there, you have to be vulnerable.  Acquaintances, no big deal; just give them the old song and dance, pat on the back, log off cya round.  Friendship is more.  Friendship leads to deep care, love, or respect for one an other.  Friendship requires trust.

How can you make friends, in game or out, when you don't trust anyone, not even yourself?

If you have the secret formula for this I will pay you all of my monies.  Because the truth is I'm 30 and married for almost 5 years and I have a hard time trusting anyone.  I have a hard time opening up to guildies, and in fact, do not really know anyone in my current guild.  And that's just on my priest; my shaman is not guilded at all.  I haven't gone through the trouble of guilding him because at some point, I'd just like to group up based on my Real ID friends list, which is still quite small.  Getting an email address out of anyone these days requires a personal connection, unless it's a junk email account.  I know I don't like to give mine up unless I have to.  Again, it comes down to trust.  So, why not just trust people?  Why can't I trust anyone?

This is your last chance to get out before I go all apeshit emotional on all of you.  This isn't something I would normally discuss, but I've recently realized (last night on twitter) that because of the nature of twitter, and in some ways, the internet, there is a level of anonymity.  That anonymity can be breached, easily in fact.  But nonetheless, these blogs, tweets, avatars, and chats with each other about the game, politics, and so on, can make one feel liberated, free of worry of judgement or persecution.  That's not to say there aren't consequences; I am not sure how anyone will react to my post, but I am making it anyways because I want people to know me better.  I want friends again.  I don't have good friends now.  The friends I had are more like acquaintances now.  I need some freaking companionship for when my wife is asleep, and I need to quit being a chickenshit about it.  So here we go: the reason I don't trust myself or you.

I am not my father.  My father was a monster.  He is still a monster, but I have learned to tolerate him better.  My dad did some things that put my family in a lot of danger, and he didn't care.  When I was 2, someone cut him off on the freeway; he forced them off the road with my mom and I in the car, and beat this guy up within an inch of his life.  My dad was reckless and inconsiderate.  He beat me.  He beat my mom.  He abused us verbally, physically, and mentally.  Part of this I'm sure was related to his hobby: making and dealing meth.  I wish I were kidding.  He threw a fucking pillowcase full of kittens in a river because he couldn't sell them.  This man was to be my role model, and at my young age I was oblivious as to how much this would shape my life.

At age nine things were at their worst.  Something happened and the real abuse started.  He locked us into rooms.  He tortured my mother.  She tried to fight back, get help.  But she felt powerless.  She felt alone.  And she couldn't abandon her children.  So she put up with it.  We all did, in fear of our very lives.  One day he turned his back for a minute and we ran.  We fucking RAN like there was no tomorrow.  And he chased us.  He chased us down the street with a rifle.  I don't remember if he shot at us or not, I just thought it was over.  And yet, it was not.

An aside, my father did not get what he fully deserved out of this.  Drugs were not found because my mom did not want to get involved with the drug ring.  The police weren't going to do much of anything.  Had it not been for one of my uncles, he may not have done any time at all.  He ended up doing 18 months in county for a list of all the things he did to us over the years, but only after my mom convinced a female case worker to hear her out instead of the male she was assigned.  I say this as an aside because I do not trust many men.  In fact to date I only trust two, and whatever male twitter followers or fellow bloggers read this.  Men are evil.  Men do horrible things and can get away with them more so than women and it's bullshit.  For example, take the dad who shot his daughter's laptop; if that were a mom, people would question her ability to raise a child.  Dad?  He just is a dumb redneck who doesn't know any better.  I used to be guilty of this same exact thing, along with many other things I am not proud of.  But that's in the past and I am trying to move on.  The point of this is that women are equals and in most cases superior to men so just fucking deal with it.

We moved after the divorce, because obviously we couldn't stay where we were.  We needed a fresh start.  So I got to start over making friends in a new place.  Only I was so full of rage and pre-teen angst that I was instantly labeled an outsider.  I was the brunt of most everyone's jokes, from popular kids to not-so-popular.  I was the key to anyone's popularity, a trend that followed me throughout grade and high school.  As I became more isolated, I gained weight and eventually glasses.  At my heaviest I was 230 at a height of 5 feet.  While not terrible, it got many people concerned for my health, which made me more anxious about myself and led to some other not-so-appropriate habits.  Mainly, smoking and drinking.  At 16.  Well the drinking at 16, the smoking at 13-14.  The stuff was provided by the myriad of men my mom would try to use to replace my father.  I don't blame her, she was lonely as well, and was working two jobs to support all four of us.  These men, though, would eventually leave, making it even harder to trust men.  An other aside, good men don't treat women like shit at all.  There are few good men on this planet.  Ladies, for that I am truly sorry.  For the gents, I am also sorry, because I may never know how close I can let you in.

At 8th grade I was contacted again by my father.  He wanted back into my life.  I regret doing so, but I was afraid he would find me, so I just let him in.  Things were ok at first, visits at first, then phone calls.  He had done his time, remarried, and founded a business for himself.  He became a catholic.  He was sorry for what happened, or so he claimed.  He hoped I could some day forgive him.  I never did answer.

By high school, things were not so bad.  My senior year, I became more sociable after I lost my weight and gained contact lenses.  I even had my first kiss.  My first girlfriend.  My first someone special.  Until she dumped me for God.  That hurt.  That made me mad at God, at the world.  And there, out of that vile hatred that simmered in my head about my lot in life, stemmed the idea of finality.  I started acting out on myself.  I started watching things on the internet I should never have seen, things to this day that still haunt me.  I cut myself.  Deep.  People were concerned and I told them that if they really cared they would stop me.  Only one did, a friend who to this day is one of the few decent men I know.  He led me to God, ironically enough.

This is where things kind of get weird.  I believe to this day in the power of Christ, and while disputable I have seen it first hand in my life.  That said, today's "Christians" and the church in general is not what I think it should be. The real Jesus is loving, caring, and respecting of all.  He does not judge, blame, criticize, or hurt people.  He does not care about your race, sex, preference, past, none of that.  Jesus loves everyone.  Many people today who try to claim that they follow Jesus come up short of His expectations, and I feel terrible having to live with being labeled as one of those guys every time I bring up my faith. That's something I didn't learn until recently, and for that I am truly sorry.

After I became a "christian" I thought things would get better (easier), but ultimately my father and his attitude would creep back into my life.  My mom had left me, moving to where I now live in pursuit of an other chance for love, which sadly did not work out.  My dad wanted me to move with him and go to school.  I decided to tell him off and live on my friends' couches for two years, playing music and having the life I wanted in high school.  That did not last long either.

Eventually my mom needed financial help to get out of an other abusive relationship, and I obliged to help her, as I swore I would protect her at all costs when my father left us to rot.  However, in transport I was left with no option but to call my father for help, after telling him off.  To this day he lords this over me.  8 years ago, and still, it's an issue for him.

After finding work in my current town, I found myself alone again.  I tried going to church and getting involved, and I ended up meeting my wife.  She has been so patient with me, anger issues, depression, and all.  Before I got married I got a government job.  I lost all anonymity because technically I am a public servant.  And serve I do.  What I do is not glamorous, and I get mostly backlash and complaints from the public and my peers. This was great for a while, but shortly after our marriage, her father, a man I was slowly learning to love, left her mom for an other woman.  This pissed me off to no end.  I was swirling around a sea of negativity, and feeling pressure to keep it up while putting my wife through college (she is currently getting credentialed to teach).  And worst of all, for me, was that I felt abandoned by the God that claimed to love me.  One day last year I popped.

I remember the day.  I was at work.  A customer had just laid into me for something that I had no control over.  I looked back at my lot in life, frustrated with the way things were going.  Despite everything I had, I was miserable.  I wanted out.  I wanted to quit.  So I punched myself in the face.  That same day after work I got into an argument with my wife over something so irrelevant I don't even remember.  I raged and shouted at her.  I lashed out towards her, cursing at her, raising my hand towards her.

Instantly I stopped.  I was paralyzed by the fear that I was my father, something I swore I would never become.  Shamed, I locked myself in the bathroom and contemplated ending my life, only this time for good.  But I knew there was an other way.  So instead, I got help.  I sought out a therapist.

I will never forget the first session.  We talked and talked and talked for what seemed like ages.  And by we I meant me.  At the end of the session she looked me in the eyes and told me something I needed to hear but could never understand.

I am not my father.

After more sessions I started to calm down.  I was also diagnosed with high anxiety and depression, which I am getting treatment for currently.  I was asked to read more, to help me relax.  I read a book titled "Searching for God Knows What".  That book allowed me to really understand the gentle love of Jesus without the bullshit hypocrisy and politics that mar today's churches and religious leaders.  It allowed me to be more conscious of what I say, do, and think; how I treat people, even those who I don't quite understand.  It allowed me to desire relationships with people, relationships that weren't just fickle, but meaningful, caring, and healthy.

Relationships, however, require trust.  Relationships require me to make myself available, to make me be compassionate and patient with people, to make me willing to be vulnerable.

So, readers, I hope that this inspires you to learn that in the darkest of times, you are never alone.  I have seen the darkest places, and come out better and a bit healthier.  I am not a perfect person, and I never will be.  I will do my best, though, to be better than I was yesterday.  I can look back and dwell on the shit that may have made me fucked up, or I can move on and be happy.  I am choosing the latter.

If you would have me, I would someday like to call you a friend.  I would like to talk about things I may have left about, about the games we play and world we live in, about the sunny beaches of California which I see almost daily, about the things I believe in, music, food, whatever. If you can trust me, I can try to trust you. I promise I am not my father.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, or you suspect they are harming themselves, or you are harming yourself, please get help.  You may not see it yourself, but you are a valuable person and are deeply loved and cherished.  You can visit Helpguide.org or seek out other resources locally.  Do not let your life go to waste on a whim.  You are not alone, and you never will be.

Update: The awesomely awesome Nymphy at D/E the Tank! and Famous Shaman blogger Lodur of Way of the Totem, as well as many others, responded to Apple's post.  Apple herself made some updates as well.  This should be a reminder to all of us that we are not alone, even when we feel despondent, isolated, or broken.  This is also a reminder to all the oppressors that we will overcome any obstacle thrown in our path, that we won't give up the fight for OUR rights.  Further awareness and openness can only strengthen the bonds between us, not only as gamers, but as humans, colleagues, family, and friends.  And while I fear these stories may continue to come out of the woodwork, it is good to know that there are more shoulders to lean on.  Again, I encourage you to seek a friend, a guildie, anyone, before contemplating taking your life, before giving up on yourself.  You ARE worth fighting for!

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Interesting Scenario...

After my last post about my positive experience with the LFR tool, some of my twitter friends had a discussion about the LFR tool and issues that tend to arise with being grouped with random people.  Random people, mind you, who may not have your intentions in mind, who may not care about you or your feelings or needs, who is only looking to satisfy their own desires for E-Glory, loot, etc.  People, as fortune usually would tell us, who can be downright mean, rude, demanding, or any other myriad of undesirable personalities, and who aren't afraid to let us know where we mess up.

Without giving too many details away in respect to their privacy, this friend had an incident in a Well of Eternity group, and since then is unable to go back into said group for many reasons.  This inability to do the instance could prevent my friend from being able to do LFR.  This would prevent my friend from seeing the end of the game that I talked about a bit in my last post.  Eventually, as we discussed, my friend will get to see the final battle with Deathwing, in all it's fiery glory.  But it may not be until Pandaria is being explored, or if that item squish thing happens, maybe further depending on what happens with the older raids.  I told my friend that I would be there for them if they needed help with grouping, but after our conversation, I got to thinking.

My wife is the same way as my friend in some respects.  She doesn't like getting yelled at, doesn't like being told what she is doing is wrong, that sort of thing.  My wife isn't dumb, she knows what she needs to do.  She just has no desire to do research for a video game (I think I talked about that a few posts ago).  In all likelihood, my wife will not get to experience the final battle with Deathwing either.  So that's two people in my circle who may not see the dragon beastly thing fall.  How many more could be out there, unable to participate in LFR, and for whatever reason, is unable to participate in the final act in a meaningful way?

The truth is, we don't know.  We may never know.  I assume that there are a good amount of people that ARE doing LFR.  I don't have numbers to back that up, however.  But beyond them, you have the 85s that aren't interested in raiding at all, and only want to beat each other up in Arena's or Battlegrounds.  I assume that leaves a fair amount of max level characters that could participate in LFR, but for whatever reason, they just can't or don't.  So how do we include them in the story?

There's a couple of things WoW has done in the past to accomplish this.  In Vanilla, you had the AQ events to unlock that place, and I'm not sure if there was an event to lead up to Naxxramas.  In Burning Crusade, you had the Isle of Quel'danas dailies, as well as Magister's Terrace, that gave a slight level of involvement. But Magister's Terrace was a heroic, and a hard one at that, that had little to do with Sunwell in my opinion.  Wrath had a fairly decent lead-up to ICC, again, in my opinion, with the three dungeons with the nice gear upgrades.  The final boss of the final dungeon had you running from the main antagonist, however.  Not very heroic of our heroes to be running alongside Jaina or Sylvanas for our very lives.  Still, we got to see Arthas at least.  But again, these were heroics with potentially complicating mechanics and moderate risk encounters.  And while, yes, both the Terrace and ICC heroics also had normal modes, nobody ran them, because everyone wanted the higher gear upgrades.  Those that did run the normal versions dropped group if their one item upgrade didn't drop.

Cataclysm took a step back here, surprise, in my opinion.  The gear gap from the heroics gives you a better chance to participate in raids, however the final story doesn't really feature the main antagonist in any way.  Rather, it has you jumping through hoops to acquire the only thing that could destroy Deathwing.  This is similar to the Magister's Terrace encounter, which featured a reborn Kael'Thas as the end boss (which led to a phenomenon I shan't reconstruct).  While interesting, I think Blizzard missed an opportunity to have Deathwing pop in and try to stop our heroes, or something.  Not only that, but Cataclysm end game heroics don't have a normal option, a shift that Blizzard intends to take with them in Pandaria; why run normals when you can run heroics instead?  Well, because not everyone can handle heroics.  Some people couldn't even handle normals in Wrath or BC.

All of these end game encounters share something, though.  Despite their differences, they all featured boss mechanics that asked much of the players compared to heroics from earlier in the expansion.  This is also becoming a trend in the game in general, where players adapt to mechanics and don't feel challenged.  In return, Blizzard has to step up the difficulty, often by throwing stuff on the ground, adding AoE packs, making us move, avoiding moving walls, etc, and while they have said before they would never do an other Oculus type encounter, I'm sure they could improve upon the mechanic and implement it in a different way.  This does nothing to ease the fears of a gun-shy healer, like myself, or a pull-shy tank such as my spouse.  This creates more stress, and stress isn't very fun.  I play this game to avoid stress, not experience it.

Can Blizzard realistically implement something for non-raiders, or for that matter, non-dungeoneers, that gives us a feeling of immersion?  Can they give us a taste; a real, honestly, good sized portion of the final act?  Could Blizzard implement a way for every player to experience the story while it's still current, in a low stress/decent reward scenario?  I believe they can, and if you saw the Blizzcon coverage a while back, I bet you know where I'm going with this.

Scenarios!  Remember them?  Remember when they said that they would implement a way for us to group up and take on story lines without necessarily needing a dedicated 5 man group?  Remember the speculation that came with this announcement? It's still there, on the Pandaria  features page.  It's not filled in yet, but it's there, and with it lay infinite possibilities.  I know that at Blizzcon they had a picture of a Kobold and something about the Jangolode Mine or something like that.  But what's to stop them from keeping them away from end game content?  Imagine, if you will, a scenario like this for current time.  Deathwing, in human form, is torturing Thrall while imbedded in the earth, as in The Charge of the Aspects short story from a while back.  Imagine that we heroes are trying to distract Human form Deathwing while Thrall is trying to free himself.  Yes, you'd have to change that story up a bit, but the possibility is there.  While I'm sure Blizzard could come up with something cooler, they can do it in a more friendly, welcoming, relaxed way.  A way that everyone could experience.  However, it's never that easy with Blizzard is it?

Look on that page I linked about Pandaria's features.  The LAST thing on that page, that is yet to be filled in, is scenarios themselves.  What if scenarios become Path of the Titans or the Dance Studio or the Helicopters of Wintergrasp?  There are other issues, too.  For example, if you implement a cool story in scenarios, how do you make those encounters more epic for the dungeons, and the dungeons to the raids?  What kind of rewards would scenarios yield to encourage players to take the leap to the next level if they so desire?  How do you make an encounter exciting without making it overly complicated or hard to manage?

These are questions Blizzard will have to answer.  These are also reasons why I, as much as I hate to say it, feel that ultimately, scenarios WILL become the dance studio of Pandaria.  It's unfortunate, but I am not sure if making a short window to the end story is really a priority of Blizzard.  Prove me wrong guys.  Please.  I want a fast pass to the end game.  I want access to a low stress, epic encounter that won't be a huge time sink, such as an LFR raid (because it still takes a couple hours to do LFR).  I want something that could break the mold of Tank-Healer-3 DPS, something me and a couple Real ID friends could take on.  Just 3 of us or so.  I want to see what Blizzard could do with that.  I think many of us do.

I would love to learn to be a better tank in a scenario.  I would love to refresh my healing skills in a scenario.  I would love to teach my wife to tank in a scenario.  I would love to just have fun or goof around in a scenario.  Not everyone can handle heroics, as easy as they may be to others.  Not everyone can handle LFR raids, as easy as that may be for others.  Sometimes I can't handle criticism in game, as constructive as it may seem.  Especially on the internet, when it's hard to pick up on inflection, you only have text to rely on.  If I read the text with the wrong intent in mind, I might take it as an attack and start to shut down.  I did that yesterday at work.  For no good reason I started to amp myself up, preparing for an attack that never came.  It ruined my day.  It's stupid that words or the actions of others could have such an impact on us.  But we're out here.  We exist.  I exist.

That's why I think scenarios would be a great addition.  Low pressure, moderate reward, and a sense of immersion and contribution to the end game, when it's still relevant.  Could Blizzard do it?  Sure.  Will they?  We'll find out in a week or so at the press release.  Until then, it's business as usual, with crossed fingers that you don't end up with a jerk face in your group talking down to you because you can't keep up with him.  Because, unfortunately in today's end game formula, there are still more of them then there are of me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

LFR Amazing-ness

Just a quick little update I've been meaning to talk about...

So last night I had the pleasure of finally using Real-ID to do Dragon Soul.  @aerix88 invited me to join him and a friend late last evening, Horde side of course.  While we were waiting, we had a nice conversation about alts (as well as a twitter conversation) that inspired me to gear up my shaman when I get some time.

I popped on SleepyHams to see if anyone was on (where were you Aerix? JK) in preparation. Alas, it would be just the three of us.  Once our raid popped, we buffed up and did the normal stuff you do pre-raid.  It felt so familiar, and I started to feel uneasy about how I would do.

Let me tell you, it didn't matter.  It went fine.  It's not that it was easy; you couldn't quite power through certain mechanics like you could in Wrath.  No, it just was less hectic.  It was relaxed.  It was fun.  It was amazing and gratifying.  I got Tier gloves, two achievements, and a sense of satisfaction for doing something I have never done before in my five-plus years of playing the game.

I downed an end game boss.  It doesn't matter if it was LFR.  I still did it.  It felt great.  And that got me to thinking.

LFR should have shipped with Cata.  I think if it had, I would not have been so burned out on the grind.  And now that I've tasted Deathwing's blood, I am looking forward to doing LFR every week until I'm geared up with main and offspec.  It could take weeks.  It could take months.  And if I decide to do it both on Alliance and Horde side, it may not happen.  But that's ok because it was fun.  Fun!

So now that I've overcome one of my big hurdles as far as WoW is concerned, hopefully I can continue to meet cool people like Aerix and do RealID groups.  I know a couple of my followers are prodding me to go Alliance.

This is just a quick update though, as I have much I need to do today before work.  I just wanted to share my excitement for something that I care about so much in this game.  Look for a more fleshed out post about random stuff in a few days.