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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