Thursday, April 17, 2014

3.63. Algor Mortis

"Tauren Druid",
Artwork by Thiago Almeida

Applying Yourself

"Hanzo, I'm really starting to feel worn out with the tanking thing."

I listened quietly as Omaric spilled.

"It's not really holding my interest as much as it used to."

"I see," keeping as much emotion out of it as possible, "so, you'd like me to start looking for a replacement for that role?"

"I mean, if you can...it's not a HUGE deal at the moment."

"You won't keel over dead tomorrow if I don't have a replacement by Friday?"

"Heh, no. I think I'll live past Friday."

"Well, that's a relief!" I gently joked, hoping to keep the conversation light. My strategy with humor has always been to weave it carefully through the tapestry of politics. It's my go-to tactic in winning over anonymous players in the heat of an argument, and has surprisingly good results, even if we truly don't see eye-to-eye on a particular topic of interest. The human mind is funny that way.

"But maybe just sort of look out for someone who may want to come in and fill that spot? That way I can start moving into more of a kitty DPS position."

"Alright, let me sift through our applications. We should have you doing kitty DPS in no time."

I wasn't looking forward to what came next.

---

Delete.

Delete.

Delete.

I clicked through my email. App after app appeared on the screen, and I scanned the answers to my standard recruitment questions. What is your character name? How old are you? What role do you play? How did you hear about us? Tell us a story about your raiding experience. Why choose DoD over any other guilds? One by one, I read the applications that flooded in on a weekly basis, each one more useless than the next.

Some applications ignored the very first rule on the list: Do not apply if you're under 21.

Ah, wonderful....here's an 18 year old.

Delete.

Oh, nice, this guy's 16.

Delete.

Next up were continuous applicants who demonstrated a complete and utter lack of attention to detail. I needed raiders that could truly comprehend my expectations -- many of our raid strategies came from complex guides that required exacting attention. So, I wove a trick into my application process to cull the herd: You don't need a forum account to apply -- the application is filled out and emailed to me. Yet, there before my eyes was the very thing I hoped to prevent: people unable to read carefully. It made for an easy email filter.

"Hey I can't figure out how to create an account to apply."

Delete.

"Can you give me a hand creating a forum account? I'd like to fill out an application."

Delete.

One by one, the apps hit my virtual trash bin, until none remained. Snake eyes, again. Everybody wanted to get their foot in the Descendants of Draenor door, but nobody was willing to put the time or effort in. I sat there with an empty inbox an overflowing trash bin, and felt nothing but disgust.

"Capturellamaphobopolis",
Hanzo's contribution to The CTF Expansion Project

Setting the Standard

I leaned back in my chair and stared at the pinhole sized dots scattered across the ceiling. Perhaps I was being too hasty, perhaps a good handful of these applicants weren't nearly as bad as I made them out to be. A conversation popped into my head from a year earlier, the weekend before I left on a trip to Dallas, Texas on business...the same trip in which I drafted an officer's termination letter.

"I think you should think carefully about being overly critical of players that can't write particularly well."

"Jul, he writes like a kid. I mean, how is that supposed to demonstrate any sort of leadership?"

My wife shrugged, "Well, some people can't. You can go to school and learn the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation...but good writing is inherent. Does he have other skills that would qualify him for the position, though?"

"I dunno. I feel like he comes across as an amateur. As he's not leading by example. I need him to!"

"Have you considered the possibility that maybe he can't? Maybe he is prioritizing things in real life more than the game. You said yourself that a game/life balance is something that's important to you. Maybe it's important to him as well."

"Ok, so that should stand in the way of fundamental sentence structure? Maybe he could give me just a little more effort?"

"Shawn...some people don't care as much about WoW as you do."

---

Memories began to swirl, fading in and out across a cloudy spectrum of images. I was transported back in time to a conversation I had with a friend, years before Blizzard would ever announce their intention of creating an MMO. It was 1998, and I was sitting at a desk in a room purposefully darkened by the IT staff. Our collective introversion confined us to the server room; I was a webmaster. On that day, however, I was distracted by a side-project I had assembled: The CTF Expansion Project. It was a collection of Capture-The-Flag maps for the popular Threewave CTF mod for Quake, built by my friend Zoid. I'd known Zoid since even before Quake, playing 2D Fighting games at his apartment in Vancouver...Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Samurai Shodown II. I'd met hardcore game addicts on Vancouver Island before, but Zoid was different. When he picked me up at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, I immediately recognized the music playing over his car stereo: the soundtrack to Darkstalkers.

I thought I was the only person in the world that listened to video game music. There are others like me.

To celebrate the success of Zoid's popular Threewave mod, I did my part by coordinating a handful of expert map makers to come together and assemble an expansion pack of capture-the-flag goodness. The CTF Expansion Project enjoyed moderate success, eventually finding its way into a larger production known as All-Star CTF. I felt it was a great collaborative effort, but the true test would come from Zoid's own critique of my map selections. When I pinged Zoid, famous for his short, to-the-point responses, I asked him what he thought of the pack. I remember his response well:

"It was OK. You need to set your standards higher!"

I'm certain Zoid meant it as encouragement, but it felt like a crushing defeat.

A Slight Reduction in Body Temperature

My focus on the office ceiling resumed. Were my standards too high? Or not high enough? I debated relaxing the rules, and giving a few more of these applicants a chance, players whose applications weren't spit polished to a military grade. Right on cue, my gut chimed in.

Do you want to create more drama for yourself? Did you like the way things ran during Vanilla and The Burning Crusade? Perhaps you'd like to go back to neglecting your job and family to spend every waking moment in game, dealing with their shit.

I shook my head and alt-tabbed back to work. I wasn't going to sacrifice our guild's integrity and current standing to let the dregs in. I'd fought to get rid of the stigma that we were a stepping stone guild, and it was apparent from the flood of applicant emails that DoD was no longer perceived as such. We would be their last guild. To that end, I owed it to the members to retain that which I held in high regard: the expectation that you come to this guild prepared to do whatever it took to keep us successful. I'd rather have the team suffer with 24 or 23 players in the roster, than force several people in "just to be warm bodies".

Dead bodies are warm for a short time too...but aren't very good at contributing.

I sat for a moment, lost in thought, contemplating the loss of Dalans and proclamation by Omaric revealing his increasing apathy towards tanking, and began to consider the possibility of solving the problem myself.

Oh, nice. So that whole bit about not forcing players into a role they didn't enjoy, that was all just a line you were feeding them? And yourself? Gonna go ahead and return to tanking, then? Tanking with a Shadowmourne? Bet that'll go over real well with the guild.

I needed a new tank. Someone to emerge with the expertise of a hardcore player, yet could assimilate into a guild insistent on mutual respect and treating others with a quiet dignity. Someone who was already fully geared, and who kept their armor polished, with their point-of-view squarely focused on raid progression through raw efficiency. And someone with a solid grasp on the game's mechanics, to mentor others, to take charge of duties, and to be someone I could count on week after week.

So, basically...I needed a miracle.

The ping of an arriving email rung through my earbuds and I glanced back down to the inbox. My eyes darted from left to right, reading the application...and grew wide in excitement. I flipped open the guild forums, pulled up the private messages, and quickly drafted up a response to Omaric:

"May have found a tank replacement for you. Stand by for further instruction."

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

...

When life gives you a seeming miracle, it rarely is. :/

This could end poorly. XD

-Catelina, Alliance KT Holy Priest

Fredrick said...

Never any rest as a guild master eh? x)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Catelina,

Or it could be the greatest thing to happen to the guild. YOU NEVER KNOW.

@Frederick,

When some guild leaders state that it's a full time job, they aren't kidding!

Fred said...

Oh this is about to get good.....

Mike O'Connor said...

After stumbling upon your blog through other bloggers I read your entire story in less than a week..your writing style and epic catalog of Wow memories is crack for the eyeballs....please...more...Truly awesome. Thank you.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Mike,

Thank you! I'm humbled by your high praise, and shall continue to deliver...there's plenty to story to go, still.

Tyler Iacono said...

Thanks for finding me a replacement Shawn! If only we knew what was in store for us... *the room visibly dims* All good things everyone, all good things! *yay rainbows instead*

Benjamin Riley said...

I wonder who this could be!?

Anonymous said...

The first bear Druid got displaced by the second bear Druid and lost passion for the game after having to go kitty. Then the second Druid decides to go kitty? Couldn't this have been avoided early on? Was there a third bear?

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Excellent point! Would Dalans have stayed longer had he known Omaric wanted to go kitty? Hard to say, but my guess is no, with the reasoning that it was a multitude of factors weighing on Dalans that led him to exit stage right. Maybe he'll give his 2c.

Dalans said...

@Anon: The role swapping had less to do with it than other factors. Change can be a good thing from time to time and in the back of my mind I had always considered going for full DPS, maybe trying out Boomkin since it had become viable or making a return to healing (one of the reasons I had been attracted to the class in 2004, at least now that was a possibility).

Not being MT/OT/any T, was more of a control issue. I've always been the sort of, sit back until things go really wrong and then say "here let me do that." It kind of describes my whole WoW career now that I think about it. I was a healer at first which provides somewhat of that feeling: "I'm keeping this group alive." Then my impatience kicked in and healing actually got boring so it was time to steer the ship and I switched to bear.

I can remember during our time in Black Temple (and even before that for Gruul and Fagtheridon), I had to lead a few runs through the lower bosses, clearing up to Illidan while Blain was AFK IRL or working on something outside the instance and folks kept suggesting through tells or Vent or officer that I should be raid leader.

This is less true now than it was when I was still active but I had a pretty healthy fear of failure, so much so that if I thought there was a chance I might fail, I wouldn't do something at all. I was actually afraid to be that RL that was remembered for screwing everything up, but at the same time I still had that voice in the back of my head, you're doing this wrong, just...just let me do it. I was conflicted.

In the end it came down to, I didn't have the time to research the encounters, prepare my character, lead my class and help out with the guild to the extent that I felt I should be. That and my free time was about to be cut down by real life obligations so I decided to hang it up.