Crossing Lines

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this again, for fear that “Holy Concentration” turn into “Alethiar Rants”, however, needs must.

Let this serve as fair warning, beloved reader, that this is a rant post. This may in fact be my most ranty rant post. If you would like to pass up on reading this post, in favour of less ranty pursuits, I will harbour no ill will toward you.

So, with the preamble out of the way, I push on to more serious matters.

Entitlement.

Entitlement and the denigration of others seems to be the new vogue. It’s something I’ve seen a lot over the past few years, but lately it seems to have gotten worse. Either that or I am simply more sensitive to it.

This offensive behaviour has been cropping up in various game forums, with various “players” vocally expressing their right to everything under the sun. Apparently, raiders shouldn’t need to complete a raid more than once in order to be fully geared in shiny epics; raids are too easy; raids are too hard; levelling takes too long; levelling is too fast; there are too many “noobs” spoiling the game for “pro” players; there are too many elitist jerks spoiling it for casual players; etc.

The list goes on, and on, and on, and, well, you get the picture.

I can shrug this off as somewhat par for the course. By nature, most of us seem to need something to complain about. It’s the age old, “grass is always greener” issue.

So, where’s the problem, you might ask, (if you were truly determined to read my rants, that is!).

The problem comes when that sense of entitlement; that sense that we are somehow owed something beyond mere entertainment by the game companies, crosses a line. Suddenly, it’s not enough to bemoan the fact that class x is so much better than class y, and therefore obviously favoured by the entire development team of company z. Instead, it becomes necessary to interpret each and every change in the game as a slight against the players. Decisions are no longer taken after painstaking consideration and testing of game mechanic balance. No, company z secretly hates their players and are trying their very best to annoy them all to the point where they leave en masse. Yup, that’s a great business model.

None of these mental giants seem to grasp the fact that the game companies are not faceless entities, churning out content for an ungrateful, yet financially reckless, customer base. Of course these are businesses, and they are run as such. However, I defy anyone to watch Chris Metzen take the stage at Blizzcon and claim that the people who make these games for us don’t care and are only there for the money they can squeeze from us.

Why do I mention this? Well, I feel it’s important to understand, as many seem to miss, that the games we play are made by people who care. People who are passionate about what they do. People who take wild, crazy, creative notions and turn them into fantastical worlds in which we can live out our wildest dreams.

I imagine they enjoy what they do, (else they wouldn’t be doing it, right?) but they are still like the rest of us and like a bit of recognition now and again. Who doesn’t like to be told, “hey, great job!” after pulling off something that seemed impossible. Who wouldn’t like to have been the one to have come up with the Wrathgate quest chain, (along with countless other wonderful storylines). Who wouldn’t like to be told by numerous people that you should lose your job, that you deserve only ill and, in some cases, that the world would be a better place if you weren’t in it?

Right?

Yes, I wish I were joking. Unfortunately, I’m not. I’m about as far from joking as I can get right now.

In recent months I’ve mostly stopped reading the game forums because the needy, self-centred sense of entitlement just annoyed me. However, every now and again I will undergo a masochistic sense of curiosity, which will draw me back to the forums like a self-destructive moth to a flame. Then, of course, there’s Twitter and the endless, wonderful stream of links it brings.

Amidst all of this I’ve seen the announcement by Bioware that they needed to lay off a large number of talented and dedicated staff who had worked hard on Star Wars: The Old Republic. This news was met with a vocal minority who seemed to feel this was entirely appropriate since the game failed to meet their expectations and that, somehow, these people deserved what they got.

Before that there was the Jennifer Hepler debacle, which resulted in some of the vilest, most offensive outpourings of verbal bile that I have ever seen online.

This week has seen that same horrific mob mentality surface in force in the Blizzard community. I will not name names, (purely because I don’t want to give the trolls any more of a public forum than they already enjoy) but two fairly well known people in the Blizzard community are now being targeted with the same vitriolic bile. Demands that they lose their jobs, and worse, simply because these pathetic excuses for humanity feel they have been cheated out of some level of enjoyment. That “their” game has been “ruined” by these individuals.

Where does this come from, and why?

I have no answers here, though I suspect the oft-cited internet anonymity plays a part. However, I think there is something darker and deeper at play here, and I certainly don’t appreciate it.

These are people who spend their working life creating things. They create entire universes for us to enjoy, and this is the thanks they get? In what reality does that make any sense?

It is entirely acceptable to feel passionate about these games. It is because of passion that I write this blog. It is also ok to feel annoyed when changes are made that we feel affects our chosen class detrimentally. The  game creators are certainly not perfect, nor should they be. They sometimes make mistakes, and that’s alright too. What is not alright is to take feelings of annoyance about a game, and cross the line into reality.

This may come as news to some, but not being able to solo tank/heal/dps an end level raid boss, while epic loot rains from the sky and an angelic host sing of your greatness, is not the end of the world. Losing the job that supports, in some cases, yourself, your partner, your children and your aging parents sure as hell feels like the end of the world! Having someone tell you that the world would be a better place without you in it can most certainly feel like the end of the world. As for the other filth I’ve seen spewed by some; I only hope that the offending minority never have to be victims of that which they so freely wish on others.

And so ends the rant. I have been a part of the Blizzard fan base for a long time, (since Warcraft II) and I have been an active player of a number of other games over the years. For most of that time I have felt part of something special. Something unique, that bound those of us who shared that experience into a community. I’m sorry to say that these past few months have made me want to distance myself from the “community” that surrounds these games. I am under no illusion that these acts are being carried out by a very, very vocal minority, but they taint something that I hold very dear. I am also fortunate to have a platform and a voice with which to oppose everything these people espouse.

To the developers, writers, dreamers and creators of all of these games I offer a heartfelt thank you for all you have given us, and continue to give us. You have shown us worlds we could only dream of, and given us some of the richest, most rewarding experiences we could ever imagine. You all deserve only the best, and I can only hope that things work out for those who recently lost their jobs.

To the detractors I say only this. These are games. Remember that. When you wish someone redundant, or injured, or dead, that’s someone’s life you’re talking about. Is a game, any game, really worth that?

I’m back!

Well, sort of.

So, another protracted absence from yours truly, and nary an explanation to be found. Did I stop caring? Had I found something else to occupy my time? Had I run out of things to write?

While the last sentence has more than a grain of accuracy to it, the truth is I was very unwell. Don’t get me wrong, this was not the kind of unwell that is terminal, but it was the kind of unwell that made a significant impact on my life.

About 7 weeks ago I started getting frequent migraines. I have had them before, on occasion, and they are never a fun event. This time was different. This time I wasn’t recovering. I felt the onset of the first migraine, triggered by a couple of different factors, and braced for the worst. After a couple of days, I wasn’t any better. After a week, I was still no better. A visit to the doctor procured some Triptan based meds, as the usual over the counter meds were having no effect.

After a weekend on these meds I felt I should try going back to work, (though I knew I still didn’t feel right). After a few hours in front of a computer display that had a discernible flicker, (don’t get me started on that topic) I was feeling absolutely dreadful. I took another Triptan wafer and headed home early. I have almost no recollection of that journey, as it was made in a complete fog. I got home and went straight to bed.

I then spent the following weeks in something of a painful and emotional limbo. I was back and forwards to the doctor so many times that I think I could draw his office from memory now. I was put on Proplanalol based beta blockers to try and get the migraines under control. They worked, to a point.

The migraines stopped, but I had persistent daily headaches. Far less severe than the migraines had been, but headaches nonetheless. I was constantly sleepy, and physically fatigued.

However, the worst effects was mental. I became exceptionally slow mentally and found it very hard to keep track of conversations. I had difficulty finding the right word, and would fumble for them fruitlessly. I was reduced to tears on one occasion because I simply could not hold a conversation. It was not a fun time, and even now I find I am not at my best. Concentration is difficult, and I am still constantly fatigued. As a result of all that, I was in no fit state to be writing anything for this blog, for which I apologise. I feel an obligation to those of you who still visit here, despite my lack of updates.

The most frustrating factor in all this is that I still don’t know what caused this to happen. At the moment it is mostly under control, but I have had one near miss already. I’m under no illusions that I am “better”. I guess it’s a waiting game, and I need to hope for a more permanent resolution.

In other news, I have played a little Diablo 3, though the pace does nasty things to my head right now. For someone who has been awaiting the arrival of D3 for many years now, this is proving to be torture.

I’ve also been playing a bit of Lord of the Rings Online, since the pace is considerably more sedate. I tried getting into LOTRO some time back, but just couldn’t. Oddly, this time seems different, and I’m having a blast. The Tolkien lore nerd in me squees every time I go somewhere familiar, or meet someone notable. My most recent moment of bliss involved a trip to Tom Bombadil’s cottage. I just want to move in with him, though I suspect Goldberry may have words to say about that!

So, I’m back, kind of. I’ll write as often as I can, (depending on having something interesting to write about). Apologies again to all those who felt let down by my absence.

PS: I also wanted to take this opportunity to tender my sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who were there to welcome me back to the fold. There are times I still feel like I am writing these posts for nothing, and that no-one cares what I have to say. It’s an old hang-up of mine, and it’s easy for me to feel irrelevant and friendless. The WoW blogging community have shown me a very different reality, and there are a large number who I would be happy and proud to call friends. None of you will ever know just how much it means to me to be accepted by you, and I will never be able to thank you sufficiently for what you give me each and every day. Thank you.

Mini update

Just a little update on things, since 140 characters on Twitter is far too few to work with!

I suffered a rather painful hard drive failure a week or so ago. The drive which hosts my WoW installation, (along with my Steam games, etc) decided to disappear. One day it was there, the next it was gone. I couldn’t even see it in the BIOS. I tried, and tried, but nothing I did would work. It was just gone. All of my addon settings, UI layout and, more importantly, 4 years worth of screenshots was gone. Needless to say I had no backups of this information, (yes, I know!).

To say I was annoyed would be somewhat of an understatement. All of Alethiar’s history in images, gone.

I kept trying, vainly hoping to recover something, but it seemed hopeless. Then, last night, I decided to plug it in to another computer and see what happened. It took a while, but it did appear. When it finished loading drivers, the drive was present, but not accessible. I could see it, but not browse the files I knew were there. Cutting a long story short, I eventually discovered that the Master Boot Record on the disc was corrupt. I was able to repair it, and the drive was accessible again. Happy day!

I now have my screenshots back, though there do seem to be some missing that I know I took. Still, it’s better than nothing!

I may start posting random images of Alethiar’s travels over the years. Just because I can ^.^

By way of a start, here’s Alethiar, around level 58, in Silithus. She seems a tad too dressed up for such a horrid place, but she always was a bit odd.

Alethiar in Silithus

 

I also took up the gauntlet that was thrown down by @stoneybaby, and joined the ranks of the WoW Ironman phenomenon. I noticed there were far too few Priests in the running, so I figured I would try to change that. Say hello to Nethariel, who is currently working her way to level 10:

Nethariel

 

Her journey to 85 will likely be very slow, due to my other commitments, but she will make an interesting side project. I’ll be sure to post updates on her progress.

Balance – not just for Druids!

So, it has been a LONG time since I last wrote anything here. Some people have commented on my absence, which I find touching. If I’m honest, I still tend to feel I am writing these posts for an audience of one.

There have also been a couple of questions about what I’ve been up to in my absence, so this post may be rather longer than usual!

Way back in November of 2011, I was asked to try raiding with a friend’s guild. It meant playing as Alliance, and playing as a Shaman, (a class that I was not very familiar with). I had a level 70 Draenei Shaman that I’ve had for years, and never done anything with. So began the epic adventure of getting to 85, getting geared up and learning how to raid properly with an unfamiliar class.

If I do say so myself, it went better than I could have hoped. I passed my trial period, went on to do some Firelands raiding, and proceeded to assault Dragon Soul. I was there when we cleared 8/8, and for the guild’s first heroic Morchok kill. As a guild we managed to get a couple of realm first achievements along the way too. It was a great time, and I enjoyed it immensely.

What wasn’t so great was everything else in my life. By way of background, I have a tendency towards tunnel vision. When I decide I want to do something I tend to focus on it to the exclusion of most other things. Such was the case here.

When I was first asked to raid, I felt I had all the time in the world to do so.

Let me clarify: I work full time, and I am currently studying for a BSc in Computing through the Open University. In the period leading up to being asked to raid I had no ongoing modules. I had a module due to commence during November, but I convinced myself that, when the time came, I could balance raiding and study.

Instead, what happened was that I spent far too long raiding, and no time at all studying. My first warning sign came when I handed in my first assignment, (incomplete) and got a stellar 43%. Even then, I was sure I could find some sort of balance. I continued to raid, and I continued not to study. I had a second assignment due, and I had done no work once again. Panic mode set in. What was I going to do?  Another bad result would mean a failed module, and a lot of wasted money, not to mention a serious, potentially unrecoverable, kink in the path to my degree.

This is when my friend proved just how good a friend he is. He told me to stop raiding. He said that he would miss me, and that it would be a shame, but that my studies were more important. I, of course, kept trying to insist that I could still raid from time to time. His answer was that I simply wouldn’t get a spot. I could sign up all I wanted, but I wouldn’t be raiding any more. It was the best thing he could have done, and it made all the difference in the world.

I stopped raiding, and started studying. I worked my arse off for about three weeks, and submitted a complete assignment. This time I got a more credible 92%, (still not 100%, but it’s a lot closer than 43%!).

Why do I tell you all this? Well, being forced to take a step back from raiding taught me a few other things as well.

While I was raiding, I was neglecting other aspects of my virtual life too. I stopped blogging, I stopped tweeting and I stopped enjoying my time in Azeroth. Raiding was great, and proved to be a welcome challenge. However, it also proved to be an enormous time sink, and to allow no time for the things I enjoy doing in and out of WoW. I wasn’t playing alts, I wasn’t questing, I wasn’t exploring, I wasn’t RPing, and I hadn’t played Alethiar, my main, for weeks. It was getting to the stage where I dreaded logging in to WoW, since it would be another night of being the team player, and putting the desires of everyone else first.

I know how ungrateful that must make me sound, and I apologise for that. I also know how frustrating it must have been for my guild gearing me up, only to have me quit raiding. I regret that the most, as I know how frustrated I would be in their position.

However, being honest, I like having a degree of freedom back again. I like being able to log on for 10 minutes without feeling that I should be doing something “useful”. I like not having to make sure I max my VP each week. I like being able to farm old instances for transmog gear. I like being able to explore the world again. I like having the time to walk in towns again. In short, I like being able to do my own thing when I want. It’s amazing how much more fun the game is when you are free to enjoy it as you please!

I realise now that raiding “properly” is not for me. It feeds the worst aspects of my personality, and leads to all kinds of unpleasant feelings. With the amount of focus and drive required to raid “properly” it is all too easy for me to lose myself, and think about nothing else. I found very quickly that I was becoming gear driven; I could perform slightly better if I had this gear, or that weapon. I resented others who won such items over me; “They’re not even going to raid, but they are winning x”. It was a horrible way of thinking, and not something that I feel proud of.

I also realise how much I missed my support network on Twitter and the blogosphere. It’s amazing how quickly some of you came to feel like real friends, and not just random strangers on the internet. The messages of concern I received during my absence were very touching, and made me feel all the more guilty for dropping off the radar!

So, where are we now?

I’m slowly finding time to play again, though I am currently having to commit a lot of time to my studies. I have been back on the Sha’tar, playing Alethiar and having a whale of a time. I’ve run the LFR a few times now with her, which is something I would never have had the confidence to do prior to raiding with my Shammy. My beloved priestess now has 4 pieces of her T13 set, which I think is one of the most amazing looking tier sets Blizzard have ever produced. I feel relaxed and happy again, and I look forward to logging on whenever I get the chance. I’m also slowly worming my way back onto Twitter, and aiming to write more frequent updates for this site.

I have a bunch of post outlines that were intended for a Shaman blog that will now likely never come to be. They may end up on here at some point in the future instead.

I should also say a big thank you to my raiding guild for all the fun times I had with them. If anyone is looking for an EU Alliance 10 man raiding guild, check out Flaskaholics, (I hear they may be short a Resto Shaman ^.~ ).

Regarding the title of this post: Full credit goes to my better half, who came up with it. I think it is a brilliant title, and words that I need to learn to live by!

P.S. I’m back ^.^

Quick update

Okay, so I know I have been a terrible blogger and haven’t actually written anything in far too long! Bad Alethiar!

I had hoped to get some posts here, and was also hoping to launch the Shaman blog I have been planning. Unfortunately, gearing and trialling with my Shaman left little time for anything else, (including sleep).

As things start to stabilise, I hope to get some writing done. Rest assured, my plans remain the same, and Holy Concentration is certainly not dead. I just need to find some time to do all the things I need to do.

Normal service will resume shortly. Thanks for bearing with me!