Have your WoW skills helped you in real life?

I’ve learned a lot of things throughout the years I’ve played WoW. Many of the skills are fairly game-specific. For instance, I was very excited when I figured out how to strafe on my hunter, but I’d fall on my ass trying that in real life. It’d make an amusing youtube video, but that’s about it. But there are many other skills that I thought were game-specific until something came up in real life, and I realized I was applying the wisdom of Azeroth to real life problems. And that it was working. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been surprised by how often those seemingly game-specific skills overlap with my real life and give me an edge in dealing with very real, day-to-day situations, or even emergencies.

One example is trolling. I used to be really terrible about letting people get to me. I really didn’t know what a troll was, as it would never occur to me to act that way myself, and so I was troll-bait, getting into ridiculous arguments with people who were probably laughing out loud at my outrage. Attempting to respond to someone making troll arguments is a fool’s errand, but hey, I’m a fool, and once upon a time I took the bait. But the problem is that the person on the other end of the internet doesn’t really believe what they are saying, so they’ll just keep arguing more and more outrageous things to get a rise out of you.

Back to real life, where I deal with teenagers daily at my job. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the kids I work with – they are smart, hilarious, and amazingly talented. But they do like to test the limits of what the adults around them will allow. In essence, they want to troll you – they want to see how far they can push you. Will you really punish them as you threatened? Will you back off in the face of a real confrontation? Can they get an emotional rise out of you? Poke, poke, poke!

Sound familiar? By the time I had a few kids try this with me, I’d had plenty of experience with trolls in WoW. Experience that taught me when to engage someone in a real conversation and when to refuse to do so. So I look at this particular young person and call their bluff. That might mean I punish them for doing foolish things. It might just mean I don’t fetch whatever it is we both know they want from me unless they ask explicitly and politely. But buddy, I’ve dealt with far worse than whatever you can dish out, so bring it on.

Had I not had the experience with extreme trolls in WoW, those kids would have walked all over me. I’m really nice, I really like to help out the kids I work with, so I’ll bend over backwards for them until they give me a reason not to do so. But they are teenagers, exploring their autonomy and testing the adults around them. Sometimes the best thing to do to a troll, on the internet or otherwise, is to stand smiling nicely while they dig themselves into a verbal hole they can’t get out of, then carry on with your life. The nice thing about real life trolls? Sometimes they actually learn something from the encounter.

Soloing content has its real life counterpart as well. For my relatively young age, my health is quite poor. It’s tough to go do normal things with my children, or with friends, but if I’m careful, I do have things I can do to temporarily bolster my health. I often pay for it later in pain, but for that day, I’m well enough to run around an amusement park with my kids. Sound familiar? It’s like saving up all of your cooldowns, then blowing them all at once to survive, allowing me to do something that is otherwise impossible for me to do. Thinking of it that way lets me manage myself better than if I didn’t see those health-bolstering methods as limited cooldowns that I have to time correctly for the maximum benefit.

My experiences with tanking have similar real life corollaries – being in charge without being a power-hungry pain in the ass, communicating with my spouse/healer in a way that is essentially work-related, because even fun tank/healer combos take good communication and work to maintain. When my partner and I are both totally worn down but realize we have another five hours of taking care of the kids before we can crash for the night, he gives me a look and says, “You tank, I’ll heal.” And there is something poetic about it. Just a few words can say so very much.

What about you? Have you found the lessons WoW has taught you coming into play outside of Azeroth?

Who is your favorite faction leader?

Once upon a time, Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, everyone’s favorite Banshee Queen, would easily have won. I’ve had a girl-crush on that character for years. Her story has such deep tragedy, and yet she can’t even die and finally rest. Instead, she’s chasing down Arthas through Icecrown. Better yet, remember that epic battle in her Undercity itself, with Thrall, where we got to run around fighting with her and SHE WAS SHOOTING A BOW THAT FIRED WITCHES INSTEAD OF ARROWS?! Ahem. Yeah, she’s my girl!

She still wins, really. She’s the freaking Banshee Queen. But I’m surprised at how close Vol’jin and Lor’themar have come to being favorites of mine over the past year.

I really, really dislike Garrosh. I didn’t like him back when he was supposedly a tough but decent guy. Remember how whiny he was out in Nagrand? But now I really hate him – so Vol’jin’s blatant offer to shoot an arrow into his black heart had me cheering in my seat. He doesn’t even try to hide how much he abhors Garrosh.

Lor’themar Theron is more of a steady force. He’s diplomatic, wise, and seems capable of guiding the Horde, though I’m not sure he could actually lead it. The eyepatch helps to dispel some of the typical male-blood-elf stereotypes by making him seem more badass.

In short, I apparently like my faction leaders to be “badass.” The Alliance always seemed like the sweet good guys, the one’s who make cookies. I’m not sure that’s all that true anymore, but they give off that aura. The Horde has more room for badassery, making me glad of my choice all those years ago – even if it means I have to put up with Garrosh as our warchief for just a little… bit… longer.

Do you follow competitive WoW?

My first thought was, “Nope!”

But immediately after I thought, “Why not?”

Having done arenas and died, and then watched my teammates manage to pull off a win, or fight to the bitter end – arenas are really, really fun to watch, but only if you know what you are watching pretty intimately. I don’t really think that casual questing or even raiding is quite enough to get to that sweet spot where you can follow the action in a meaningful way. Let me be clear – that’s not meant to be demeaning in any way to folks who play in those ways! I’ve been a 35-hour a week super casual player in WoW for years. I’ve also forayed into PvP and arenas, mostly during Cataclysm. I played BGs until I mastered them, then moved on to arenas. I never mastered those, but I had a pretty good idea of what to do.

Watching competitive WoW, specifically arenas, is a great deal like watching fencing. Everyone waits. You see this great flurry of movement that’s entirely confusing if you’ve never fenced, and then it’s over. Wait, what?

But if you are a fencer, or a WoW PvPer in battlegrounds, or even fight on an arena team, that waiting has heavy meaning because you know exactly what it is that the players are waiting for. And when you see it, in that same moment that they see it – when they burst into a flurry of action and reaction, or better yet that second sense kicks in, the one that tells them what their opponent is about to do, and they counter it with speed you can’t believe, just as they should – when the tides turn and the losing team does something just right, while the team you thought was winning makes a critical mistake – and the rest is silence. How is that not exciting? Interesting? You get an adrenaline rush just watching their performances.

So while I don’t watch the competitions at this point, I’m looking at getting my DK back into PvP. As I get better, the matches I do watch will essentially move in slow-motion for me, each movement having meaning, building to their conclusion through skill and error. In conclusion, I haven’t in watching it, but I think I should be!

What would you buy from the WoW in-game store?

I buy two categories of products, though they can overlap:

1) Cosmetic items such as mounts and pets, usually when they go on sale for 50% off. I gift these sometimes, too.

2) Fundraiser items, such as the Cinder Kitten or Cenarion Hatchling, where the money is going to help people.

I don’t buy from the Blizzard store all that often, but then, I maintain a subscription. Three of them, even. So I don’t think I should feel obligated to buy anything from the store to play the game. With the expansion to the store that Blizzard seems to be contemplating, I would heartily encourage them to stick to cosmetic items: Pretty armor sets, mounts, pets, even player housing and the items for customization that invariably come with it.

While I do not think that allowing items on the store that affect gameplay is consistent with the way Blizzard has run the game so far, I do understand that things change and it’s probably inevitable eventually. If they were to introduce a Free to Play option, I’d like to see subs become a way to get unlimited or large amounts of goods that FTP players have to option to pay for a la cart, especially if these items affect gameplay – XP potions, useful items, etc. That way I don’t feel like I’m being hit twice, once for my sub and again for the goods I need to be competitive in game, but there’s an option for people who can’t afford a sub every month, and still ways for them to get the goods they want if the have the money.

I dislike the expansion of the store, but at the same time I understand it from a business standpoint. I do hope very much that as it is tested and rolled out, Blizzard seeks to maintain the same integrity they’ve shown in their years of running WoW by finding creative ways to make money while staying true to their mission, game-side.

Community Blog Post: Is leveling in WoW too easy?

In general, I’m fine with leveling speed. You can hit 90 very quickly if that is your goal. On the other hand, nothing is stopping you from taking your time and smelling the roses, so to speak. Nothing is stopping you from playing without heirlooms or a full set of bags, runspeed shoes, and a hundred gold or so sent over by your main, if you have one.

That said, it’s true that it’s really, really tough to die in a starting zone. They’ve even made all of those angry mobs yellow, so you have to be the one to start combat. It’s easier, sure, but that doesn’t make it more fun.

So, put those two together – what would I like to see changed about the leveling experience? I’d like to need to use my class or racial cooldowns to succeed. Not for everything, but maybe for the boss of the starting zones – maybe my Blood Elf silence is crucial for that fight. Maybe the Troll’s Berserk is really important for theirs. Later on, when we start getting more class abilities, make them important for specific points in leveling, as well. I thought that they started doing more of this at endgame, and I think they need a lot more of it woven into the leveling experience. It has the added pro of teaching us how and when to use those skills – a lot of the concern about speedy leveling seems to be that people don’t have a reason to really learn to play their class.

Blizzard is gunshy of spending too much dev time on leveling content due to the backlash they faced after Cataclysm, but I think they need to be very careful not to ignore it entirely. This is the very first experience people have when they start playing. Make it engaging, challenging without being impossible. Pay a little attention to it each patch or expansion to keep it well-cared for like a well-tended garden. You can’t pull all the weeds out once, after it’s grown wild, and expect it to produce anything worthwhile.