Bringing Back That Old Feeling

When I was in high school I was not that into music, much to the wonder of my friends. I never wrote down lyrics in notebooks or quoted cute songs to my girlfriend or really even had that extensive of a collection. In a world where underground music was currency for the cooler kids in each clique, I was eating beans out of a tin can in an alley.

I had my own tastes, sure, and a few bands I loved, but on the whole I really only listened to the radio and a few video game soundtracks. My friends, on the other hand, were spelunkers in musical caves, excavating a Las Vegas band with a blues beat or a local band who sounded oddly like No Doubt. I don’t want to give off the impression that I was ostracized for something as stupid as musical stagnation (it was high school, though, so I guess that’s not that odd of an assumption), but it was something that I noticed growing up. People just loved their music and, more than that, loved introducing their friends to new bands and being That Person Who Turned Me Onto My New Favorite Band. It was a weird form of validation but… it was high school.

It wasn’t until ’04, my sophomore year, that I found my five minutes in the musical spotlight by introducing a friend of mine to a band named Say Anything. Somehow I had stumbled upon their song “A Walk Through Hell”, an adorable song about a boy facing fantastic challenges to get to the girl he loves, and within my own circle of friends I had ignited a love for a new band. I was, for a week or two, very popular as my friends showed the song to their friends who in turn showed it to their friends. People either downloaded or bought the EP the song was from and, BAM, Say Anything suddenly had a great following at my school.

The popularity didn’t last long, as nothing does in high school, and I soon went back to saying “huh?” when people brought up their new band discoveries. But I stuck with Say Anything, buying their old EPs and their first album, “Baseball”, and listening to nothing but that for weeks on end. While my friends had discovered Hot Hot Heat or Saves The Day I was still stuck on Menorah/Majora and Baseball, singing along with Max Bemis about girls and Teenage Stuff. That band was my first taste of what it was like to get hooked on music and, to this day, has opened me up to a very broad selection of music.

Months after finding out about them they signed onto a label and put out the album “…Is A Real Boy”, which I think has defined my teenage years. I think of it as the soundtrack to my first real kiss, first girlfriend (and everything that goes along with that), and all the other firsts you can accomplish in high school. It holds a special place in my heart, is what I’m getting at, and is one of the best albums put out anywhere ever (fact). I want to heft so much praise on this album, want you all to listen to it and go “this is what church should feel like” and buy every piece of Say Anything merch to help out this awesome band but I realize that Nostalgia is playing a big part of my love of this album (which is OK) and that it’s really only pretty good (false).

This was all important in setting up the stage for current-day Say Anything: a band with a very healthy following of people who spend enough money to support them, good commercial success, and a lead singer without the mental problems that he suffered through during the band’s formative years. I’m always excited to hear about them playing in Houston or coming out with a new album. They never fail to floor me during a live performance, be it in a stadium or low-key venue: bringing fans up to sing with them, staying after for hours and hours to sign anything and everything people want, and just generally looking to be very grateful of what they have.

A couple of days ago their latest album leaked, and after agonizing about whether or not to do the Right Thing and wait (I am, unfortunately) or download it, I decided to see if any reviews had been posted about it. None had, but I ran into an interview the lead singer did where he talked about getting back together with the producer of “…Is A Real Boy” and about how they were trying to Get Back To Their Roots. I sat, staring at the computer, a small thought bubbling to the surface of my mind: I had heard this line before. A quick wiki search brought me to a snippet the band said about their last album, titled “Say Anything” (this is also good), paraphrased: “our last album was us branching out, seeing what we could do, and this one we feel will be more original, will pop out like ‘…Is A Real Boy’ did.”

You see this a lot with… well, every human ever. There’s that point in our lives or in our art that we view as The Best It’s Ever Going To Get and we try so hard to recapture that lightning in a bottle, to make the miracle happen again. Say Anything thinks that “…Is A Real Boy”, rather than being their past, is a goal they must achieve. Older people sometimes think of their early twenties as that time. People getting divorced sometimes think of their early marriage as that time. It’s different for everyone, but we all have that time we want to relive because our memories have twisted and distorted the reality of the time and made us believe that it was better than what we have now.

So imagine my surprise when, days later, I heard a similar sentiment from Blizzard:

  • Kaivax: “Pet battles, Scenarios, and dungeon Challenge Modes are all coming to World of Warcraft. And we want to rekindle the fires of existing features that haven’t gotten much love for a while, such as reputation systems, daily quests, world bosses, and yes — world PvP.”

An honest assessment, logically. These are things that Blizzard has shied away from recently and, for whatever reason, want to revisit. Sounds… a lot like a band I know.

The idea that WoW had a Good Ol’ Days is very pervasive in the community. People cite harder bosses, world PVP, and a “more cohesive” community as reasons why Vanilla or BC were better expansions. Some may also posit that the current expansion has none of these and, thus, is inferior to a prior expansion. All you need to do is look in any major WoW forum and you’ll find at least two threads debating why the current expansion isn’t as good and, inevitably, someone will explain that the “casuals” have devolved the game into something akin to Hello Kitty Island Adventure.

This thought is cancerous, friends, and we need to do away with it.

In the case of Say Anything, the band will never be able to replicate the raw emotion of “…Is A Real Boy” because the lead singer (and the man who played every instrument sans drums on the record) is in a better place. During production of the album, the lead singer succumbed to years of mental instability and had to be institutionalized. Years later, married and content, how can you go back to a place as terrible as mental illness is? You can’t, at least not without killing yourself. As amazing as the album was and continues to be, the last thing I want is for Max to go back to that dark place. As much as my NOSTALGIA makes the album to be the greatest thing ever, I understand the dangers of paranoia and APD and understand the hate and vitriol that  come from them.

Blizzard needs to understand that nothing they did made Vanilla “great”. Systematically it was a terrible game: you had to grind for days to get specific resist gear, had to grind days and days to get good PVP gear, had to grind for hours to get mats for raid buffs/potions, had to grind days and day to get a single level. World PVP, while it had the POTENTIAL to be fun, was mostly an inconvenience to players trying to level or get quests done (recall that the fabled Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battles took place in a zone for level 20-30 players and that they were often caught up in the conflict). We did all of these things because MMOs on the level of WoW’s commercial success were mostly unheard of and it was all we knew. We were worse players and Blizzard were worse designers.

In Blizzard’s case, there is nothing they can do to recapture the “feel” of Vanilla: that lies within the player. They can put out Vanilla 2.0 and that would mean nothing towards nostalgia if the players don’t think of it as such. All they can do is make the game they make and hope that people play it. The worst thing we, as players, can do is put on our rose-tinted goggles and compare two expansions. Reasonable comparisons are a hard thing to ask for, though, because no matter how hard we try we’ll always have the feelings like “well in Vanilla I was in a successful guild and we were all having fun and now I’m guildless and not having fun” which will inevitably cloud our judgment – WHILE THIS IS NATURAL, it makes comparing the two very hard to do objectively.

The question begs: what’s to be done? Honestly, nothing. This is not a cry for community reform, merely a way to hopefully put a mirror in front of people and say “please, consider yourself”. Remember the past, yes, and perhaps remember it fondly, but please leave it at that.

I suppose this is as good of a time as any to say that I don’t think that Blizzard is bending over backwards trying to figure out how to get the “feel” of Vanilla again. I honestly just saw the statement and connected dots in my mind, slowly coming to the idea that a post could be made about it. Remember that the past is never as amazing as you think it is and that this, the Now, the Holy Present, is here and it is better than the past because you have more experience and you are alive and breathing.

Death-who?

BIG DRAGON WHAT HAS FIRE IN HIM


The dear Zahrym has been awfully busy today: within a few hours of each other we’ve had a deluge of information regarding the new instances that are coming out in patch 4.3. According to these teasers we’ll be teaming up with the Dragon Aspects to combat Deathwing’s final assault on Azeroth. In a very interesting turn of events we’re treated to a possible future thanks to Nozdormu: a terrible timeline in which Dragonblight is a wasteland and Death Himself is impaled upon the towering spire of the Wyrmrest Temple. Here something is stopping Nozdormu from accessing the past and, thus, the Dragon Soul — the only artifact the Aspects can use to finally end the Earth Warder. The next instance takes place sometime during the War of the Ancients: here brave adventurers will attempt to steal the Dragon Soul away from the fount of arcane energy, the Well of Eternity. Afterwards, in the last of the new instances, players are returned to the present time to escort Thrall to Wyrmrest Temple to deliver the Dragon Soul to the Aspects.

All in all, these are shaping up to be very interesting instances. While the majority of the playerbase are going to be chomping at the bit to get a hold of new epic items, I’m going to spend most of my time taking screenshots and staring at all the NPCs I’ve never had the pleasure of, y’know, seeing in game (hi, Azshara!). It’s a very interesting build-up to the much-hyped Deathwing encounter(s), much like the three new Icecrown instances were build-ups to Icecrown Citadel and the battle against the Lich King. With these instances we’re getting a chance to rev the Hype Machine to eleven without the need for teasers or patch trailers. There’s a very big difference from seeing a preview and thinking “oh man, can’t wait to punch that dragon in the face!” and adventuring through timelines to retrieve the very item of said dragon’s demise.

Interestingly enough, both the Icecrown 5-mans and these new Deathing 5-mans take the story of the villains and expound upon them in ways we hadn’t known earlier. In the instance of Icecrown we found out that there must be a Lich King and that there was the possibility that a part of Arthas was still inside the metallic monster, holding him back. Both the Horde and Alliance got very interesting RP moments with either Jaina or Sylvanas and the ghost of Uther the Lightbringer (which, like all RP scenes in dungeons, got old fast) that delved a bit deeper into the enigma that was the Lich King.

Similarly, with the new Deathwing 5-mans, we see that… we see… um.

Well, nothing, if the previews are any indication.

Which is fitting for the Earthwarder: nothing to expound on the nothing we know about now. Sure, we know of his history and how he became who he was but little of his present condition. Like most of the villains in World of Warcraft, Deathwing is an insane monster bent on Azeroth’s destruction — a discerning feature, though, is how he became this way.

When the Titans bestowed their creations, the Dragon Aspects, with different faculties to watch over, Neltharion drew the lot of Earthwarder, the master of the soil and earth and the keeper of the secrets held within. Despite being a very large, black dragon with wings he was given sway of the ground and deep below: of the tunnels that cut through Azeroth to its core, of the fires which churned and powered the very planet, of the veins of magma miles and miles below. Everything below the sky was under the guise of Neltharion… and this was his undoing. Unlike his villainous kin, he was not driven mad by delusions of power or the loss of the ones he loved — sure, power was a part of it, but I don’t think that was in any way what really pushed Neltharion over the edge. What drove him mad was simple: it was meant to happen.

Being keeper of the tunnels and fathoms below the crust of Azeroth has a job hazard none of the other Aspects can contend with: the Old Gods. Chained below the earth by the Titans after Cyclopean battles, the Old Gods had little but whispers to aide them. Their mad jibbering had only one place to go: from the soil to the ears of the one who, for all intents and purposes, was the soil. He was doomed from the start. The only wrong he had done previously was being created. Whether or not the Titans had any idea that he would succumb to the insane piping of the Old Gods is not something we can speculate — but if they seriously couldn’t foresee a problem with putting someone in charge of beings whose only real power is to corrupt any and everything they touch, they’d be pretty terrible Titans.

TITANS: WE'RE GODLIKE AND ALSO HUGE DICKS

So here we have a dragon who succumbed to the work hazards of keeping the secrets of silent Azeroth: driven mad and emptied out by the whispers of the Old Gods. Unlike Illidan or the Arthas, there was no grace to this fall: Neltharion fell into madness hard and fast. Also unlike Arthas and Illidan, once steeped in insanity he had no goals barring the one held by his masters: the complete and utter annihilation of order and stability in Azeroth. Wanton, wholesale chaos is their goal — not the redemption of their race or proving their worth. Before the aqir began to worship the Old Gods they were without substance, more of an idea of chaos rather than beings with chaos as a goal. With their personification and entry into corporeal form came the need for harbingers and, once again, the dragon with his ear closest to the ground was the likeliest candidate.

But here’s the crux of this final goal: it’s boring. Speaking from a story perspective, there’s nothing more boring in a villain than goals this broad. Deathwing would be better suited in a long mustache to curl, cackling as he pressed the “GO” button on some mundane Laser Death Machine. He has none of the depth of Arthas or Illidan nor any of the emotional investment, which is odd considering that we knew about Deathwing long before we knew anything about the wayward paladin or Night Elf. All we’ve seen from him are steps towards Total Destruction, trying this or that plan, breeding this or that dragon, and while those are interesting distractions to fight and defuse, when the time comes to finally tear the magma dragon from the sky and bust his chest open for purple loot I’m not going to be looking forward to it like I had with Arthas or Illidan. I won’t care. I want his loot.

Given my theory that he was basically created to be driven mad by the Old Gods, there will be some sadness as I pry open his chest to loot him, but nothing else. No “FOR MURADIN!” or “IT’S KIND OF SHITTY WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU, ILLIDAN, BUT YOU’RE ALSO KIND OF A DICK SO HAVE A KNIFE THROUGH THE GUT”. No pageantry on my part. Just a cold desire to see him die and see the end of the expansion. Which is… so very sad.

Deathwing had so much potential. His best friend was Malygos — another Very Sad story, I might add — and his killer was standing not ten feet from him and he mentions nothing of it. No cries of vengeance towards Alexstraza. No mention of the children he’s lost. No sad desperation that he didn’t choose this, that he was chosen for this role by the Titans… Just the stock overuse of the word “fool” and a promise to see Azeroth born again in molten hatred. He was transformed, in the blink of an eye, from a calculating bastard to the Villain of the Expansion. He was, to turn a phrase, Transmogrified from a character with substance into a giant black box with the word $VILLAIN written on him in Helvetica.

Illidan had almost the same problem in Burning Crusade, if you’ll remember: he was rarely seen while leveling up and almost forgotten until his defeat in the Black Temple. Many players, upon reaching the final boss of the Black Temple raid, were left asking “wait, Illi-who?” because Blizzard had all but hidden him behind the shadows, casting him as the devious Man Behind The Curtain, a force unseen but “felt” in Shadowmoon Valley. They rectified this with Arthas in Wrath, but to a demoralizing degree: we saw him too much, interacted with him too much, were let off the hook by him too much. It made sense, in a way, when you defeat him, because you know that he wants you to fuel his Scourge war machine. Knowing that he planned to use you as generals to lead his armies gave me a sense of “oh, OK, kind of makes sense why he fled all those times when he could have easily tore my soul from my body”. Yet despite that it’s unfair to just forget the dozen or so times he look at you, Frostmourne in hand, and said “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you pesky players!” and Death Gated to safety.

Blizzard has a cycle: they do something wrong, they fix it a bit too much (overbuffs), and then they go back a little too much. We saw this with raiding: BC raids were a slog because you had to go through almost all of them to catch up before the great Gear Reset around Sunwell. Wrath came and Naxx was an utter joke and raiders were saddened. (Ulduar came back fighting, being fair.) Cataclysm comes out without an introductory raid, cockblocking many guilds at the three 4.1 raids. I feel like they did this with their villains. We went from “Illi-who?” to “oh God, him again” and then back to “oh, uh, him… that dragon… Death-something”.

I don’t care about Deathwing and that’s incredibly sad because I feel I could have, given the right direction.

- Bug

4.2

Hello, friends.

I’m late to the party! I know, I know, it’s terrible of me. (Was I supposed to knock and wait to be let in? I thought since we were cool I could just knock and open the door…) Look, I brought a case of beer and that CD you lent me a few weeks ago to make up for it. I couldn’t help but be late! I was away, I had shit to do, and I got really preoccupied with some movies. But I brought some gifts and I also brought something else: initial reports from the molten trenches of the Firelands. I know! How kind of me!

Patch 4.2 dropped a few weeks ago and in the ensuing weeks there have been a few guides here and there describing either the decor of the raid instance or the boss encounters. Until the dust settles in my little raid group and we get some things worked out I won’t feel right talking about specific boss strategies for different classes and specs, but I can share with you guys what I’ve taken from the patch and the instance in general. Nothing focused, just rambling thoughts.

4.2, class balance (or lack thereof! *rimshot*) aside, brought a few goodies to the table to share with all of us. To your left there’s a roast quail, glistening with the new PVP Season 10 sauce; to the right there’s the mashed potatoes and stuffing, served with dripping Molten Front dailies; and directly ahead there’s the hickory-smoked Firelands boar, mouth agape and stuffed with an apple, belly bursting with purple-texted goodies, each piece you can snatch full of odd boss gimmicks and tank swaps literally falling off the bone! I don’t know about you guys but I haven’t eaten all day (I’ve been saving myself for this meal!) and I’m starving. So, yeah, say grace and all that, but do it faster, c’mon too slow, oh come on THANKS DEITY WE APPRECIATE IT NOW MY STOMACH WANTS TO BE WORSHIPPED TOO.

Dig in!!

PVP

As an occasional PVPer I feel I should get my impressions of this out of the way before I offend too many people with my terribleness. Like many have said before me, the change from Season 9 to 10 was anything but graceful. Season 10 waited too long after Season 9 left before jumping on stage, and even when it did the landing didn’t quite stick – yes, a broken leg isn’t a pretty thing to look at, but at least it was apologetic and back on its feet like nothing happened. After the fiasco with the odd ilvls the Honor gear had I was surprised at just how much Blizzard wanted to make the mistake right again.

Now, I was in no way surprised when they apologized and said over and over again how it was their fault, their bad, so sorry guys but shit happens. What caught me off guard was their claim to refund people who paid for the lower ilvl loot for not just what they paid: but with 4k Honor. For those PVEers who don’t know a lick about PVP: that is a whole lotta Honor, guys. How they’re exactly going to decide on who gets the hefty sum is still up in the air, but the gist of it seems to be that if you bought Honor gear from the vendors before 4.2 dropped (and after Season 9 ended) you should get 4,000 Honor. We’ll see how strict they get with the offering, but as for now I’m looking forward to my hunter rolling in the grist when the Honor bank floods the streets with riches.

DAILIES

Oh man, dailies. I both love and hate dailies as a system for leveling up any aspect of my character. They’re mostly fun if I don’t set myself to doing them, y’know, daily, but therein lies the crux: when they’re new and there’s tangible rewards (I WANT THAT DAMN BIRDIE MOUNT) I kind of feel bad when I slack on them. Not this time, though: I’m saving myself from the hell the Argent Tournament put me through and just doing them when I feel like it as opposed to doing them per day.

(Sidenote: I did the Argent Tournament dailies every day when they came out and got Crusader just when others did. I spent all my tokens on tabards and pets. Then Cata shat on me and made the tabards cost silver instead of a fair amount of tokens. Not really upset at that, just thinking that I could have staved off my addiction to tabards for a few more months and I’d be riding around on a sweet birdie mount. Oh well!)

As for the dailies themselves, I’m finding them quite fun. “The Protectors of Hyjal” is quickly becoming a staple of my day and something I legit look forward to. I love the randomness associated with the quest and the possibility to meet some old NPCs I had forgotten all about. Of course there are also NPCs that I’ve gotten that I could never forget about: Calder Grey being the foremost in my mind. He’s literally one of the greatest and funniest NPCs Cataclysm has introduced me to and makes me proud to be a Forsaken every time he asks me what he likes most. (Hint: “Murder”. He likes murder most of all.)

I found the Leyara mini-quests kind of fun in that it’s reminding me that not everyone directly related to world events has a stake in things. She was Falstad’s wife before he died in Sithilus (torn apart by the mean old General, no less!) and was recruited when Fandral went extra-crazy (not just kind of crazy when he kept Malfurion locked up in the Dream and poisoned him). Seeing her kind of drove it home that you don’t have to be a major lore character to want to change things, even if you’re misguided and following a man who holds the position of Majordomo (something Ragnaros has a habit of… erm, dethroning his subjects of regularly).

The Molten Front provides a nice change of pace if you’ve never seen the inside of the Firelands raid. There are fresh dailies there and a bevy of achievements to get if you’re into that kind of thing (I am!). If you also happen to be a hunter and are a fan of either spider pets or pets that not everyone can get you’ll find a lot of things to either camp or pray are up when you’re doing your dailies. The taming challenges, while fun in theory, tend to get diminished as long as you have one or even two friends who are keen to help you. But what else could we ask for, really? You don’t want the challenges to require 9 or 24 other players just to get one measly PVP pet do you?

RAIDING

Molten Core 2: The Reckoning is, in my mind, leagues above and beyond most of T11. The fights are tough, like I thought T11 was, and the loot is great, but there’s still something about the raid that puts me in a great mood. Maybe I just remember Molten Core too fondly. And I do remember it fondly, for some reason. My rose-tinted glasses are affixed firmly before my eyes and I see nothing but rainbows and unicorns and new tabards as far as the eye can see. What difficulty of making sure 40 raiders were ready to go? What farming Azshara for hours on end to come up with raid consumables? Pffft! We ran in an killed bosses and got loot! We definitely did not spend an entire month on Ragnaros (not the instance, just a full month of wiping to one boss)! Heavens, no.

Now, I loved the hell out of Blackwing Anything and BWD tickled all the right nostalgia buttons in my brain to make me love the hell out of it. But it still felt like BWL. I was still fighting Nefarion and his minions, still putting to sleep the experiments he wrought, still having to kill dragons I felt really bad killing, still having to backhand dwarven constructs that somehow managed to stay alive during Nefarion’s reign of the upper half of the mountain. It felt too recycled.

Firelands somehow manages to take the motif of Molten Core (fire? check. elementals? check.) and make it new. Killing a whole bunch of trash to spawn Shannox can be annoying, but damn it it’s a fun little mechanic to get the kennel master of the Firelord out and about. Beth’tilac is also a neat gimmick and an interesting boss from a story perspective, if dry in the sense that I’m fighting Lolth but with more burning. Lord Rhyolith is interesting in that he’s an elemental as old as the Firelands AND that you have to steer his lazy ass away from the bad lava. Alysrazor seems like a lot of gimmick fun as does Baleroc. Hell, I can only think of Ragnaros as a boss that has gimmicks I’m going to come to loathe!

So far TSU TAIN GUU FAITAA has downed Beth and Shannox down regularly (twice and three times, respectively) and we’re making very nice progress on Lord Rhyolith. Afterwards we’re gonna pluck a burning budgie out of the sky and make her cough up purples. Beyond that? I don’t know. Baleroc seems like the obvious choice. At this point I don’t care, though. I’m having a lot of fun with 4.2 and the Firelands and I don’t want to overthink it like I tend to do with a lot of things.

You’ll get boss strategies tailored to whatever roll I end up playing (looking to be a holy paladin this tier! I’m pretty excited to heal again!), but not until I feel I’m ready to talk about it without a whole bunch of guessing. So give me a week or so and you’ll have a post about Shannox (who I can actually talk about as a tank, a melee DPS, a ranged DPS, and a healer since I’ve done all those roles for that fight!) and one soon after for Beth’tilac.

You guys can’t fool me, though: I know you don’t come here for the boss strats. Between all those things I’ll have more ranty fluff full of meta-musings on blogging and playing the game, same as I always have. And who knows? I know a baby bear guide that needs updating. Maybe there’ll be some of that, too!

- Bug

The Small Bug: Life, Again

(“The Small Bug” is a minipost. Note how it is, in fact, mini, and how it fits snug in the palm of your hand. It’s so cute! Look at its little mandibles… and rows, and rows… of teeth.)

Hello, friends.

It’s been a long time. I’ve missed you all. While I can’t go into too much detail as to why I’ve been silent from this desk-steeped perch I can say that I have, actually, missed this place. If you’ve followed me on Twitter you know I haven’t been silent there if only because it’s easier to be “seen” in short bursts of activity as opposed to taking the time to align wood and hammer in nails to construct a blog post. Things have happened, and for that I’ll be changed, but in that (and also removed, if I want to take this levels and levels above any meaningful discussion) I’m due for some regularity.

On a comfortable note, a bear named Bear has abandoned the Earthen Ring ship and cast out his net to gather fish and any flotsam that float his way. After five years on Earthen Ring I felt it was time for a change: the server had outgrown me, or I had outgrown the server, and I no longer felt like I was enjoying my time there. Thus I began to fish for other servers and guilds and, in an instant, I found the first few breadcrumbs which would lead me to a new home.

In my searches I’ve found a new home on Drenden with Rades and his friends in TSU TAIN GUU FAITAA, a smallish guild full of people I’ve yet to find any troubles with. They are everything I envisioned my WoW-playing life to be and for their hospitality I’m so very grateful. It’s easy to find acceptance when you’re really looking – when you want and strive to be a part of a group people tend to fall into place around you. My net has caught a brilliant school of fish where I sidled up and assimilated; it’s hard to imagine ever not being there.

By the time this draft reaches the front pages on my blog I’ll have update my About Me and relevant links to any Armory characters I deign to include so that those of you with stalker tendencies (present company included!) know where to find me. In the coming week I’ll be writing regularly (I struggled not to put “again” at the end as my schedule never permitted me any sort of regular *anything*). While I would love to put deadlines for posts up, I think that’s best left where records cannot be kept so that, should I fail, I’ll only feel like I’m letting myself down as opposed to the dozen(s?) of you that read this.

In short, in summation, tl;dr: I’ve missed writing. In a time where any outlet is needed I have forsaken mine and have paid the price emotionally. As I trudged up the hill, boulder against my shoulder, a place to wax idiotic is really the most I could ask for even as I breach the hill and the stone falls back down the slope.

And to anyone who has set eyes on anything I’ve written and stifled a smile (or let one blossom on their lips) I thank you. If you never comment or ever get in touch with me know that, should we meet, the first round is on me. For those of you who don’t drink: the first round is, again, on me, but you’ll be driving me home. Just don’t get too upset if I start getting a bad case of grabby hands… It just means I like you.

- Bug

It’s Just A Game

Hello again, friends.

Why is it a bad thing that someone can be emotionally invested in a game?

I’m not talking about fantasizing at all times of the day about their character and how it pertains to any situation, or anything really above and beyond the norms of enjoyment, but more along the line of what we bloggers feel about the games we blog about. There is a very real line between being obsessed with something and having an investment in it – this is a line some of us skate daily with anything we do and being able to straddle and ride that line for months and months are what separate some of us from the people who Need Help. After all, to blog is to love something enough to want to write about it (whether it be general life, a particular way of doing things, or any hobby you can think of), right? So there can be a general consensus that if you write often or even not so often about anything (for this discussion I’ll be referring to a game most of us know: World of Warcraft) you have investment in it, you want to think about it, you are involved in this game to a degree most are not.

I have spent a lot of time in World of Warcraft for the years I’ve been playing it doing different things: sometimes I raided, sometimes I PVP’d, sometimes I did daily quests, and other times I did none of those things but still logged onto the game. If I added up the /played time of all of my characters I would reach a number that branches out into a number of months. Therefor, friends, I have an investment in this game: that is Time. I have spent a lot of Time in this game, engrossed in the lore, swallowed up by the people I’ve met and the digital places I’ve been. I remember things that are not in the game anymore, experiences I will never go through again, and because of those things I am the man I am today. There is a Past to this game that is wholly my own, that no one has experienced as uniquely as I have – you have your Past, which I have never experienced before, and that separate but ultimately real reality shapes your investment into this game.

This reality I’ve shaped by the sum of my experiences and added onto the expectation of experience are also my investment, apart but not unconnected to Time: these are my Memories. Combine the two and you have something that has no monetary value – a Thing of pure emotional investment (for without my joy for the Time I’ve accumulated, it’d be nil) but at the same time something that is very real and very powerful. These are the things we can’t see when we play, one of the many things hidden behind the computer and the face and lodged within the mind and the heart.

I am unashamedly invested in this game. I put forth my effort and my time and I place at stake my reputation on doing certain things within the game. So when I am told that it’s “just a game” and that I “shouldn’t take things to seriously”, I’m at a loss as to how to respond. Am I to take the years I’ve spent and throw them to the wolves to be devoured? (NOTE: There is a very real truth that no one should take any sort of hobby as seriously as the person saying these things means: there are lines that you should never cross with regards to any game or any fandom. Getting upset that you and your friends cannot kill a certain internet dragon? Acceptable. Getting violent in any regards when you and your friends cannot kill a certain internet dragon? Unacceptable, completely and fully.)

For a second, let’s dissect the anatomy of this statement.

“It’s just a game” only comes into play when someone is emotionally charged (negatively or positively) by WoW and is usually said by someone with less investment. For instance: I (called Person A) play this game a total of five hours a week, you (Person B) play more than I do. I have no investment in this game: this is pure relaxation for me and I couldn’t care less if anything unique happens, all I want is to relax and enjoy myself in whatever I do. You, on the other hand, have goals you’d like to accomplish on any number of characters and care whether or not these goals come to fruition. Holding no investment in this game I can say to you, whenever you get upset or too happy, that it’s “just a game” and mean it because it’s exactly how I feel. Shaping this reality for myself, it’s hard to see any other way: this is how I play the game and if you do not play it the same way you are playing it wrong and wasting time. (NOTE: This can happen both ways. Person B plays more and has more investment and sees anything less as a waste of time and less enjoyment. Person A is not getting his money’s worth and should just unsub if this is how he plans on playing. See?) Thus is born the statement.

Despite the genuine feeling behind it, can it even hold water? Literally, yes, this is a game – there will never be any disputing that. Can this game be considered a Way of Life? Certainly: people have, do, and will shape their life to fit around the mold WoW has enforced upon them (raid times, PVP queues/teams, daily quests, reputation grinds, the AH). To the crux of the argument: are any of these things a Bad Thing? Back to our previous example: Person B plays the game for, say, 50 hours a week. To me, the writer of this blog post, this is a number that is far too high and is unhealthy. Who is to say (beyond a licensed professional [and even then it gets grey]) that this is a Bad Thing, though? If they can play that much and still work and lead what society deems a “normal life”, who are they hurting? What difference does it make?

Truth: it doesn’t. It really, really does not. Because you only raid does not mean the person who only PVPs is wasting their time. More to the point, just because someone takes this game seriously as a hobby does not mean they are wasting time or live in their parent’s basement (though this is true for some and is only sad on a case-by-case basis). It means one thing: they enjoy something you enjoy but in a different capacity, shaped by different emotions and experiences. How, really, are any of us different? We play WoW, we enjoy the game, and we actively lurk or write blogs about them.

Can the fucking division in this universe cease? Please?

When to Quit

Hello, friends.

I know that a few days ago was April 1st and that a lot of people were expecting to be trolled by literally every website on the internet, but I decided to forgo the tricks and pranks. I don’t blog enough to have created a niche for myself, so there’s nothing I could have done to make anyone say “by golly, what a change!”. It works out well for me because I get to relax on a day that has most scrambling to redo their Twitter icons or blog headers and Loa knows I hate being active in any way. If you’re reading this and fiending for a taste of April 1st tom-foolery, the MMO Melting Pot has a post detailing the bigger jokes pulled on us today.

Now…

Most of my posts are either guides or introspective (without revealing too much about myself) and, upon reflection, I think I’d like to change that. Not revealing a lot about how I play from day to day and some things about me, personally, was intentional: even now I’m not what any sane person would consider an active or e-famous blogger and felt that I could shed my internet persona as time went on and the blog received more and more traffic. Like Faeldray I’m aware I’ve yet to carve any sort of niche into the community and, perhaps unlike her, I’m still deciding if I really even want to. There comes a time when you craft and craft and craft and begin to question why you do it: is it for yourself or for the currency (in this case comments and page views)? Some can honestly craft for both but I have a feeling that I’ll either fall into one group or the other. It’s time I took an honest look and tried to figure out where my puzzle-piece limbs fit.

Most of you know me as @Buglamp, the guy from Twitter what made a blog about druid tanking through the RDF feature. If I’m regarded as anything these days it’s by my Twitter handle and not my character names (which I find more than appropriate). Despite that, know that my characters matter to me a lot. Of the army of alts I have, three stand out: my bear tank and the original focus of this blog, Bear; my alt holy paladin whom I’ve had since mid-Wrath, Olim; and the character I’ve had since the Burning Crusade and my true and forever Main, Fritenite. (Clicking on Frite’s armory page will bring up something odd. I’ll discuss that later.)

These are my identities in the World of Warcraft. I do not play them equally but I do, in fact, relate to them all and play them whenever I can. They are all in different co-guilds under the banner of alea iacta est, a marriage of convenience if there ever was one.

For the past few months I’ve been furiously leveling Bear through the dungeon finder, tanking the entire way, trying to find out if low-level bear tanking is as hard as most say it is. For the most part it is rather difficult but not so difficult to anyone with prior tanking experience. During this time Bear has become my main. I was no longer a hunter, no longer a Forsaken: I was a troll druid, and a tank at that. My mindset changed, my outlook changed, and my play style changed. Going from a ranged class to a melee class was somewhat difficult, but nothing that time could not adjust. I have spent the better part of my WoW career as a ranged class (my first character in Vanilla was a night elf druid and I was horrifyingly terrible at it) and only now am I truly experiencing life in the front row. Despite these things, what I found the hardest to adjust to was leaving Fritenite.

I’ve recently become burnt out on Bear. For two levels I’ve been playing as a cat, questing in Hyjal and Deepholme when I had the time and tanking once per day to get my Justice points. I could go into a rant about PUGs but, honestly, they’ve never been that bad when I was tanking. I’ve had DPS pull for me, healers who had no idea what they were doing, general douchebaggery, and the myriad problems that every player has when confronted with World of Warcraft strangers, but those people were the exceptions to the quiet let’s-just-get-this-over-with groups that I always seem to get. If I had to pin-point any singular reason why Bear’s been getting less and less attention is because of how excited I was over him. I started him a few months ago as Pazdingo and bravely strutted into instances and tanked fairly well given the toolset I was handed. I was a good tank, guys, and that alone made me want to tank more. I had hopes of being the example by which other PUGers held tanks in regard to.

After tanking and tanking and tanking and druids and druids and druids I’ve lost my way. While I was leveling the bear-formerly-known-as-Pazdingo I did not touch another character. Frite, Olim, my thousand alts: nothing. I wanted Bear at max level and I wanted him there yesterday. I think that’s what made me fall out of love: being in love. And there’s something new about me you know: I don’t take the things I enjoy lightly. I want to be the best I can be and I’ll work very hard to make that happen. A lot of times this comes up and bites me in the ass but I don’t know how to do it any other way.

So then comes the question of what will become of this blog: after all, it was made specifically for bear tanking through RDF. What am I to blog about when the luster is gone? I thought about this for a couple of days and decided: I’ll quit playing Bear for a bit. Fritenite, ye Olde Maine, got some play in recently and I’ve been loving the hell out of BM once again. Olim hasn’t been touched yet, but she’ll get some time whenever I get the healing itch (or the healing rash, as it leaves and comes back whenever it chooses).

And then, again, I got bored of Fritenite. After like two days, guys. I didn’t get bored of hunters, just my character. So I did the one thing that is sure to get me interested in ‘im: I changed him.

We are... Forsaken.

Her name is Buglamp and I’m in love with her. This character has been through three server transfers, two faction changes, five race changes, and now one gender change. I’ve deleted other alts and shelved mains, but this is what I come back to time and time again: this hunter, in whatever form it is for the time being. My happiest moments in WoW were on this hunter in BC, chain-trapping my way through Moroes or kiting slimes in Wrath. This is me: my main. She’s tough, no-nonsense, and fierce. If I were put into any video game I’d hope it’d be as her.

This, my friends, is how I deal with quitting: I quit. I can’t change the fact that the guild I’m in right now is not my home, nor has it ever felt like my home, or that Earthen Ring no longer feels appropriate for my playstyle – at least not yet. What I can do is figure out what in the game I do enjoy and clench onto it while the fire still burns hot in my hand. One day I’ll leave World of Warcraft, or it’ll leave me, but until then I need to play for me and only me, to do what makes me happy with my money. In that regard I won’t be changing the nature of the blog all that much: I have notes from PUGing and I remember quite a bit of it vividly, so there will be guide posts for aspiring bear tanks, and the fluff posts will still be going strong whenever I get the urge to churn out some bile.

This game we play, where we’ve found friends or loved ones, needs to be considered just that: a game. You need to find your own enjoyment within or you’ll end up hating yourself and the people around you for doing things that don’t make you happy. And if you find something boring? Quit, start again with something else. If everything you try can’t hold your interest then I suggest getting the contact info of people you really care about in-game and canceling your subscription. WoW is a game to be enjoyed, not a job to be despised.

And so, to Larísa: you will be missed. I wish you knew how much you’ve inspired several bloggers to do what you’ve made into an art for three years. For the past year I’ve seen the pillars of our community whither away and leave while you’ve stood stalwart against time. Inevitably, you’ve fallen prey to time as well. As long as you know that your existence has touched the lives of hundreds of people and that they are better off having known you through your writing, I feel I can say no more. Godspeed, miss.

And so, to my friends: please be happy. Please play because you want to. Please, please, please just be happy.

- Bug

(e: Further redundancy: sometime soon, Bear will hit 85 and will raid tank the shit out of some instances. But not for a couple of days or weeks at least. He’ll get love, make sure of that, but in the mean time I’ve got some BGs to attend to. *salute*)

Connection

Hello again, friends.

Ever since I’ve started blogging I’ve been looking at things in a different, more selfish light: every bad thing that happens to me in game, every silly or stupid person I meet in a random, every interesting quest I do all make me wonder “is this blog-worthy?” As in “how can I exploit this situation and write about it later for the enjoyment of the few people who will read this?” I’ve heard from a few other bloggers that they’ve felt the same way and thought the same things. I can’t speak for them, but I’m not that ashamed about my new mentality. Blogging, as well as most (if not all) social media, is masturbation – you get something and you put it in public view as if to say “what I have done/made is pertinent enough to warrant your attention”. Given this I’m not surprised I’m looking for new ways to stroke it for my readers.

Something else that’s come from blogging is something I’ve commented on before on Twitter: it involves how much we perceive to know about people when our only contact with them is their blog. I blog about leveling a bear tank through World of Warcraft’s Random Dungeon Finder system. How much, from that, can you glean? Forget for a second that I’ve made comments about being a heterosexual male – what does my blog tell you about me? Do you know that I’m tall, skinny, that I work at a restaurant as a shift manager, that I’ve a love of alcohol and cigarettes, or that my actual name is one letter? Most of you would say no, and that’s the correct answer.

IDENTITY

So when I get told that I’m a literal masochist for leveling a tank through RDF, what should my response be? Do I try to tell them that I tank while leveling in order to know my class better? Should I not give a shit and just let it alone? In all honesty I went with the second option, mostly because it’s low on the list of things I need to pay attention to at this point in my life, but the thought that they know me because of a few posts I’ve written stuck with me for a while. (This is how my brain works: someone says “man I love frogs” and I think about that phrase over and over again until I have this cool idea for a cybernetic frog fanclub I want to start at my local town hall. Basically I take small things and make them big things. I’m an engineer of mental jetsam.) I mulled it over at odd times in the day, wondering how much of me they saw and how much they filled in the gaps, about how people outside of the internet do this all the time, and about how it was kind of sad that we can find people on the internet we think are pretty cool but don’t really know much about.

Like, let’s take me for a moment: one of the people who got me into blogging initially was a man who goes by the name of Rades. He runs a website that, in the past, chronicled his character’s journey in raiding as a Beast Mastery hunter. He DPS’d ToC/ICC when they were relevant in Wrath and talked about how cool it was and how neat BM hunters were. He took a subject as mundane as that and made it really interesting through some kind of literary witchcraft. With time I was a very frequent guest to his website, never commenting but always reading what he had to say. Without him knowing me I grew fond of him, grew to appreciate the things he said and his views on certain subjects.

Eventually I caved and got a Twitter account and, with time, caught the bug known as blogging. I got to know Rades as well as two separate people on the internet can without extensive Q&As (which, in my case, is not very well) through Twitter and comments on his blog. I’ve gotten acquainted with a few other people via Twitter and blogs, but that’s the nitty-gritty: I’ve simply seen the very shallow surface of what they portray on the internet. I do not know them all that well. I would not call them if my car broke down and I needed a lift. I would not ask to borrow money if I was in a bind. All I know is that sometimes I put things on Twitter, they respond, and I am happy.

For others it isn’t so simple. Going back to my previous example, Rades recently made a main change to his Death Knight. I could have commented saying “this isn’t you Rades, this isn’t the Rades I know”, but that would be disingenuous because I do not know him. In a hypothetical, he could post about something I strongly believe in and take the opposite side as me – once again, I could comment saying “oh wow really Rades? I never would have expected this from you”. Time and time again we come back to the point that I know of Rades, the internet persona, not the man behind the keyboard and his mannerisms or beliefs.

I don’t find this to be a bad thing, though, just a cautionary tale. Via other forums I have met people I came to be good friends with, that I’ve taken trips across the country with to hang out and drink with excess. People meet on the internet and get married later. I personally know people in long-distance relationships with another person they have not met, who are madly in love as any other couple. Shit like that happens, but it takes something that the hypotheticals I’ve mentioned before don’t have: a willingness from both parties to connect on a level deeper than the one we come across in our day-to-day internet life.

WE DO IT TO OURSELVES

Here’s the kicker, those of you reading with blogs: we do it to ourselves. We wax pedantic into a metaphorical microphone and hope people respond to our thoughts or data. We want the attention, we want people to talk about the things we’ve thought, we want people to see what we see and then look inside themselves. Some of us want to help (that is the foundation of our soap box) while others, like me, want to entertain: both options involve the same amount of time and energy put into our craft and both groups will feel a general sense of self-pity when no one comments on their thoughts or it seems that no one even sees their thoughts. We do this thing we do and hope it gets out there in the stream of the internet to be fetched up by bears like any ordinary salmon and yet some of us get upset when others deign to understand our minds.

I can see no problem with either group. They pander to different audiences and so I can understand why some would think they are different. Some fail to notice, though, that there is nothing different about We Who Blog: we are the same because we want the same thing. We want to belong to a community who accepts us. We pander, we tell stories, we show pictures, and we do it because there is love inside that we want to share. We love books or WoW or dragons or turnips. We love things and want others to love. There is nothing wrong with that.

I’ve seen a few people (mostly non-WoW bloggers) get upset at these things I’ve talked about, as I’ve been, and in all cases I wonder what we thought would happen? We put the gun barrel into our mouths and were surprised when a bullet slid down our throat. We want the commercialism without the intimacy, we want the sex without the cuddling, we want to be seen and to be hidden at the same time. Is this fair? Can you get into the public medium and stay hidden at the same time? It’s no surprise that the answer is a resounding yes, you can blog and have no one know a lick of shit about your real life. But know that people will see you and really try to see you, be it with love in their hearts or something else entirely.

THE MIRROR

I’m almost done, but I wanted to touch on a subject that I’ve also thought of for a while: how people construct the form of others without knowing the shape. Pretend there is a blogger who writes about turnips and how amazing they are and did you know that turnips were used by the South to lure dragons into caves where they would harvest their flames for time-traveling Nazis? Also pretend that all of this fascinates me so and I read her work for a year or a few months and then she’s all “man I’m so allergic to turnips now so I’m gonna blog about carrots because they’re like swords you can eat how awesome is that shit”. (Sound familiar? This example is almost an exact rehash of my aforementioned example concerning Sir Rades. Repeating it seems odd but I need to make sure that the situation is understood and that there is no confusion.) I don’t like this and I inform madam blogger about this terrible assault on my senses. Maybe I say mean things and maybe I’m very calm about it: the tone of my message is not the focus but how I’ve come across the conclusion that it is unacceptable for her to blog about anything other than turnips and dragon’s fire.

I know that this phenomenon is rampant in the psychology field and I’m sure they have a name for it, but I call it The Mirror. It’s what we use to fill in the blanks concerning other people when we have little knowledge on them. We see that they enjoy turnips or raiding as a Beast Master hunter and we pick up our spyglass to peer into their depths not knowing that we are looking at a mirror and not at the real person. We fill in the color-by-numbers with our own paint instead of with the colors they provide for us. I am angry about her not blogging about turnips because that’s all I care about and want from her without conceding that this is her past time, her enjoyment, and that she should do whatever she feels comfortable doing. I am imposing my morals and my bodice into her clothes and pretending that all of it is her. When we do this we effectively kill them and put ourselves in their place. By the time that happens there is almost no turning back until we get an in-depth view of her life from her.

There is no moral to this story. This is a tale sung because I see this and I thought others should think about how they view others. Do you see them for who they are or are you selfishly looking at yourself with a wig on and pretending it is someone else? This is not a chastisement but it is something that you should think about, my dear reader.

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