|"Great Green Elekk"|
Artwork by María Teresa
The Elekk in the Room
If you play video games in your spare time, and you've ever had to carry yourself in any sort of social situation, there is an awkward aura that permeates the room like a noxious gas. Business associates tip a glass of wine to their lips, raise their eyebrows in a contrived sense of interest, and suddenly the once comfortable and relaxing happy hour grows...uncomfortable. You lean in with excitement and describe to your colleagues the process of positioning Onyxia, taking care to glorify certain phrases like "40 players online at once" and "five weekends of work", seeing if you can catch a glimpse of surprise in their deeply plastic expressions. For a moment, you forget about any biases in the world that people harbor towards video gaming, and that your fellow employees are genuinely fascinated by the struggles of managing a guild.
"Wow, that's pretty cool! Yeah, my son plays a lot of xbox in his spare time..."
...and you're snapped back to reality.
You smile, sit back and take a drink, and taper off the conversation about World of Warcraft. They don't get it. To them, managing a raiding guild, coordinating the schedules of 40 other players to coalesce at once, week-after-week, the effort of practicing a boss over-and-over in the hopes of standing above its lifeless body with a feeling of accomplishment and teamwork...to them, it means as much as a game of Bejeweled. A five-minute distraction on Facebook when the work day is running a little long in the tooth. Every technology-based job I had moved through was like this. I was surrounded by programmers, system administrators, all deeply tech-saavy folks...and none of them gamed. Not a one.
It was depressing and sad. It was the life of a lowly gamer, caught up in Corporate America.
|A snippet of the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML)|
Putting Ater on the Payroll
You can begin to imagine the flood gates bursting open with my discovery of Ater and his professional career. We were both ColdFusion web app developers. For the first time in over a year, we were talking about things other than WoW: Tech, programming, sharing our respective career paths, and where they led us. We talked about all the projects we'd been involved in, laughed about the same dumb problems that continually came up. Dealing with shitty clients, managing project schedules and the stress of looming deadlines...
...and how difficult it was to carry on any kind of a mature discussion about gaming with our colleagues.
I couldn't believe the odds...what luck was this? Finally, another person to be able to share discussions with about career paths as well as World of Warcraft, and I pressed him further. So when he revealed to me that he was dissatisfied with his current job, my heart began to pound. Holy Fuck, I thought, is it possible that he would consider coming to work at my company? The very idea made me shake. With Ater's leadership qualities and passion for getting things done, the possibilities he could bring to the table were endless. Was this even a viable option? Would there be any small chance in Hell I could find a way to swing this?
Could I actually convince my boss to hire my raid leader?
The prospect blew my mind. For years I had slaved at tech companies, surrounded by programmers and administrators who couldn't give a rat's ass about playing video games. Now, for the first time in my career, I not only could have a competent peer at my side to discuss both web development and video gaming, it would be none other than my very own raid leader and mentor. Never again would I have to try to describe World of Warcraft to a group of people pretending to be nice. Ater could potentially be by my side at the office, helping me to build better software, strategizing the management of DoD while we coded. But he was in Texas, I was up in Colorado. Was moving even an option? How realistic was this?
I walked into my boss's office the next morning, and pushed Ater's resume toward him with an outstretch index finger.
"You need to hire this guy. Immediately. I'll put him up if I have to. Whatever it takes."
He flipped the pages up with his thumb, "Texas! An 'out-of-state'-er...what makes this guy so good?"
"He gets things done. Amazing leadership qualities, and a real attention to detail."
"So have you worked with him?"
I looked back at my boss.
"Yeah. For over a year."
|Players on the Deathwing-US realm swarm The Dark Portal,|
minutes before the midnight release of The Burning Crusade,
The Dark Portal OpensOn the evening of January 16th, we coalesced at the Dark Portal, ready to step through the gate when the clock struck midnight. Moments earlier, Blain joined us, and...true to his word...re-rolled to a Blood Elf Rogue to begin anew. More familiar faces joined us as the Deathwing-US flocked to the Blasted Lands. At the stroke of midnight, The Dark Portal opened, and we passed through the twisting nether, bracing for the world that awaited us on the other side. Outland was a barren, red-tinted wasteland, a harsh world ravaged by war. All of our power and prestige began to fade. Within a few hours of digging into the new content, much of our raid-acquired weaponry and armor was replaced with silly, green-quality gear. The guild would take turns announcing in guild-chat what laughable quest reward had replaced the gear they had worked for months to acquire, rewards that involved menial tasks like killing Hellboars or discovering a mine shaft -- a far cry from Maexxna, to be sure.
The dominance we held over other players by sheer item level alone melted away, hour after hour, as the playing-field flattened out. As soon as we had enough people for a 5-man dungeon, we banded together and started running Hellfire Ramparts...and were shocked to discover how short it was. I had been tempered on the brutality of instances like 10-Man Scholomance, taking several hours (as casuals) to complete, slowly practicing and refining our clear efficiency, eventually getting it down to 45 minutes or less (as hardcore).
We were clearing Hellfire Ramparts in under 15 minutes. To say things had changed would have been an understatement.
Before long, we were clearing through The Blood Furnace. And while I refreshed my new Earth Shield on Ater, Dandrak and Crazzyshade combined their Mage and Warlock powers to blow Keli'dan the Breaker apart. I glanced down through the gate we stood on, peering far into the hidden chamber below us, and caught my first glimpse of an imprisoned Pit Lord, demanding that he be released -- his blood being siphoned away to power an army of Fel Orcs. You'll get what's coming to you, Magtheridon. Descendants of Draenor is on its way to return to its former raiding glory.
Keli'dan cried out, claiming we were ruining his plans, and slumped to the floor.
"Again?" I asked. The group concurred. I shot a whisper to Ater:
"All set for the interview?"
"Yup! All set."
"Nice. We'll see you at the airport!"