I follow Carol’s blog, World of Abilitycraft and when she asked the question ‘does character matter?’ and answered it with “character matters because without it, you lose yourself”, it really made an impression on me. I have many reason for playing WoW, but the two most personal reasons I have are (i) distraction and mental occupation is a brilliant pain management strategy and (ii) it’s something I can do that makes me feel useful. I left a very cool guild this week mostly for the first, but partially also for the second reason and it was a decision that kept me wide awake for two consecutive nights, worrying over whether I was doing the right thing.
One of the statements I hear most in warcraft is ‘it’s only a game’. I understand that yes, it is only a game and in the list of priorities, there are many more important things than being a dedicated raider. People come first, but for me, that has nothing to do with the game. If my husband is in an accident and I miss a raid without prior explanation because I rushed to the hospital, I expect my guild to understand and be supportive. Conversely, if I set three hours of my time aside to raid and ask not to be disturbed unless it’s important, don’t expect me to be understanding when you repeatedly afk with brb or g2g because your mum insist that you clean your room. Warcraft may be ‘just a game’, but the people I play with are very real and they deserve the same level of respect and consideration I give people I meet face to face and I expect that feeling to be mutual.
I’m big on loyalty. I’m the type of person that will give most people a near infinite number of second chances if they give me a valid reason for why they deserve one. As such, I found it very difficult to even start thinking about changing guilds. If it wasn’t for reason one, I would have stayed, but one of the biggest reasons why I play is that it’s mentally challenging and distracting. Whilst I’m concentrating on the strategy of a boss fight, I forget for a few minutes just how much pain I’m in and how unbearable it feels most of the time. I forget that I can’t breathe very well and I can rise to the challenge of accomplishing something despite suffering a few dislocations along the way. I have reached the point in both skill and experience where I need to progress to the next level and when an option came along to join one of the best raiding guilds on my server, I took it.
Although I cannot fault the guild in any way, their style turned out to just not be my style. I am not elitist. Recount data is interesting, but it’s not something I want to see flashing across my screen after every single encounter. I’m not easily offended by either sexual innuendo or swearing or possibly interesting combinations of both, but again, it’s not something I find appealing or interesting. I’ll put up with it, but why should I? Surely there’s a guild out there that would be a better fit for me. Putting that feeling of ‘don’t be impulsive / finish what you start aside with a little, well actually a lot of persuasion and support, I relented and went guild shopping again within 48 hours to try and find a place where I could contribute and feel comfortable. The experience second time round could not have been more different from start to finish. I was treated with respect, interest and made to feel welcome right from the start.
And then I read Carol’s blog and it made me think. I was reminded of an Oculus run I did this week. Three and I include myself, of the group had never done the instance before. The tank spent two hours on the first two bosses, patiently explaining strategy and telling people what they did wrong every time we wiped and we wiped a lot. I didn’t really want to stay as I read up on strategy beforehand and none of the wiping was my fault. I did my part and really, why can’t the DPS do theirs? It was a PUG, I had no loyalties, but I also didn’t really have anything better to do. And so I hung around mostly because I wanted to stretch my patience as well as see how long the tank could go without pulling out his hair. Observing him for two hours made me realize that I have a lot to learn about patience and integrity. I’m impatient and apparently my loyalty has to be earned. I spent my evening last night sitting next to Chris whilst he was wiping on Grobbulus on 10-man Naxx and regret saying that I could have been a bit more helpful from the start. My first reaction was a little harsh “I did it on heroic this week and it’s easy, don’t know why you’re having issues”, my second reaction was impatient “just avoid the poison clouds, its big and green and obvious, you can’t miss it”, but I think I eventually got there the third time. I took time to watch, time to listen to him until I understood why he in particular was dying. I then showed him the layout of the room, showed him what the poison clouds looked like and demonstrated continuously during the fight exactly where he needed to run to if he was injected and also pointed out how I knew where to go. They still wiped, but he got it in the end and I’m confident that he, at least, will never stand in a poison cloud and die ever again. It was more fun breezing through it on heroic myself, but making someone else’s gameplay a little easier has its merits too.
I love playing with people who have less experience than I have and aren’t as well geared and it has nothing to do with feeling superior or having fun. It’s a learning experience. It’s nice to be a little selfless sometimes and learning to be more patient is never a bad thing. I’m also very conscious that I make some of the stupidest mistakes that can be made. I’ve stopped telling people that I dislocate joints – it’s generally too personal a detail to share. And so I’ve become the person who occasionally stands in the AoE damage and dies on trash, the person who falls off the pipe and has to be summoned back up by a warlock on the way to Gluth and the person who is more petrified of the Thadius jump than anything else in Naxx. The less skilled the players, the more patient they are with my mistakes. Also, the less skilled the players, the less mistakes I make as the margin of error is that much bigger. There is a definite degree of selfishness in my behaviour that doesn’t say great things about my character.
I play for selfish reasons and personal satisfaction, but sometimes there is a higher level of satisfaction in helping someone else achieve something than there is in getting something for myself. Not that I don’t enjoy playing with people who are more skilled and better geared. But then again, there is a distinct satisfaction in learning something new that I don’t get from getting stuff. As much as I enjoy logging in my auction toon every day and collecting my daily gold, it’s a superficial pleasure. There’s a reason why I’m the person who always forgets to loot the boss or roll on loot. My priorities are simply elsewhere. I dislike when the game becomes about rivalry and loot. Not that I haven’t gleefully jumped up and down when I’ve received an item that I’ve been trying to get for months, but it’s a small joy. I understand that gear upgrades is the means to an end and as such, I do pay attention, I do spent money on buying gems and the best enchants, but it’s not just about gear. Upgrades are not the most important thing in the world.
I love playing. I love the game mechanics. I love the stats. I love the scenery and enjoy the peripherals. I love the little frost trail my KT mace makes. I love playing with other people. But most of all, I love that it can be a place where I can contribute and participate in ways that I usualy fail to do outside of the game. I can’t replace to AA batteries when my mouse runs out of charge, even if I did have the batteries, but I can down KT on heroic mode, survive the Heigan dance, the poison injections and the thaddius jump and these things matter to me.