Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2.23. The Taming of the Askew

Zanjina admires a joke in guild chat
about the 5-Man instance Black Morass,
Terrokar Forest

Cast Out

"I'm gonna need you to take my place on a more permanent basis," I typed to Ekasra, "are you up to it?"

"Absolutely. I'm confident that I can take Kerulak's place. I may not be the best healer, but I promise that I'll keep on it. Every day."

The topic was about to take a side-road.

"There's going to need to be a little more than just an improvement to your healing, though..."

"Such as?"

I took a deep breath. Ekasra was really the best bet at permanently taking my spot in healing from this point on. Yes, I did have other shamans; at least four others that were churning through the roster. But Kerulak was the only permanent one. The one there every week, no matter what. The one that scheduled his life around the raid schedule, rather than be reactive to it. I needed a guaranteed shaman in Kerulak's spot, week-to-week. One that I could rely on, and that would never give me any cause to doubt his consistency. Ekasra met all those requirements. He was young, hungry to prove himself, not tied down by outside responsibilities, and most of all, sacrificed everything he could to become a part of our 25-Man Progression raid.

...even his dignity.

Ekasra was not fitting in well. At all. A number of screw-ups in our early SSC raids were attributed to him. A mismanagement of totem aggro led to a heartbreaking wipe on Hydross the Unstable. His healing often fell short on the meters, and most players were hung up on how far they climbed the list, ignoring other valuable quantifiers like number of decurses or damage taken. But beyond Ekasra's struggles to gain a foothold in our roster was his propensity to remain a social outcast. Topics of conversation included his love of Magic: The Gathering, and his adoration of the "Russian musical group" t.A.t.U.  He and I initially bonded, sharing a mutual interest in French artists like Mylène Farmer and Alizeé -- the very same gal whose dance was applied to female Night Elves. But these interests were nerdy and obscure, and while I may have playfully taken lumps from my wife by demonstrating my devotion to Ace of Base, the guild showed little remorse toward a similar taste in horrible music.
On top of these socially awkward choices, Ekasra had the unfortunate luck of having to live with a speech impediment. The moment he spoke in Vent, two strikes were applied to him immediately, as a thick, noticeable lisp made him the brunt of a lot of cruel jokes and punishment, as he continued to sit outside the circle.

So much for being a guild that sold itself as a family-friendly home that treated each other with kindness and respect.

Caught up in the lapse of progression, we'd turned to vent our frustrations by bullying those who were easy targets, and I was sick to my stomach because of it. Not only because I had let us fall into the gutter like this, but because I allowed myself to join in the bullying. But while I could end that behavior on my part, and consciously stop the behavior from spreading downward through officership, it required work on Ekasra's end as well. It was time for a new approach. I had yet to actually sit down and come up with a workable solution to any people-related issues in the guild. But I had no other options, and Ekasra had to take Kerulak's spot.

"You need to work on how you handle people. This is going take some time to get right."

"Dalans gives me the hardest time, maybe you could talk to him..."

I stopped him, "No. You talk to him. I can't fight your battles for you anymore. It adds to the problem. They treat you like a kid because you act like one. In order for them to lay off, they need to know you can't be rattled. Y'know? You can't be bullied."

I let it sink in a moment, then continued.

"Besides, you know what Dalans told me, right? He said 'If Ekasra can't take it, then he needs to learn not to dish it out.' You know what means, right?"

Silence followed.

"It means you're making it worse. Responding to insults with your own insults doesn't work unless we're all best buds, and it's just a big joke among friends. You haven't broken into the social circle yet. Dalans and them don't see your responses as jokes. They see you getting riled up."

"Ok, so how should I carry myself, then?"

I leaned in to the mic, "Listen closely. This is going to be your new strategy moving forward. And it starts with you keeping your love of t.A.t.U. to yourself..."

Morogrim Tidewalker,
Serpentshrine Cavern

Tidewalker Down

"Run to Bretthew if you have Murlocs"

I listened intently. Blain's voice piped up, "Murlocs. Don't heal."

"Burn!" Chopliver followed, "Kill him!!"

Screaming followed moments later, while I stared at my desktop, watching the speaker icons next to each player's name light up in the Ventrilo client. I missed the first boss kill of Morogrim Tidewalker, days after the guild defeated Void Reaver, but was no less excited to hear their victory. A work-related event caused me to step down from the raid, and my stress level rose with the thought of pressing into harder content without being present to help.

"Excellent work, Blain." I shot over to him, once logged in. "See? All you needed to do was leave me behind."

"Is Zanjina ready yet?" he cut straight to it.

"I'm going to need about one more week. I'll probably bring Kerulak to next week's Morogrim, but after that...it's gonna be Zanny until Illidan."

"Good." I expected him to carry on with an observation that someone was pissing him off, and that my presence would squarely push that person out the door, but he kept his opinion to himself, while I logged on and resumed my Troll Priest's grind for a Frozen Shadoweave set. In the meantime, I took solace in the fact that it was June 25th, mere days after the defeat of Void Reaver, that Blain and co. had pulled off another boss kill. Sans Kadrok. Sans me. Things could survive in my absence. It was not a feeling of disappointment to be absent from the Morogrim kill, but more of relief. The first indicator that I didn't have to sacrifice every waking moment of my life in order to ensure things ran smoothly.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Morogrim Tidewalker,
Serpentshrine Cavern

Humility is a Virtue

The next weekend, we were back in SSC, completely through The Lurker Below and back on Tidewalker. This time, I was on Kerulak, side-by-side with Ekasra, watching his positioning, keeping a close eye on his totems. Bretthew was the linchpin holding it all together, which worried me. His Protadin tanking was vital to collecting up the Murlocs as Morogrim bellowed out for help. We'd tried other gimmicks like having Sir Klockerr throw up Righteous Fury, increasing his threat while he spam healed the Murlocks, dragging them to Bretthew. But gimmicks wouldn't pan out in the long run, we'd have to do Morogrim by the book, and that meant a tank was ultimately responsible for collecting them up on his own. Bretthew did this, and we succeeded as a result. As long as he continued to participate in progression, we'd continue to see Tidewalker collapse in a heap.

Even the pull was tricky. Morogrim hit Ater like a truck, so we liked it very much if he didn't die within seconds of starting the fight. It was a carefully timed heal that would keep him alive. Too early, and Morogrim would turn away from Ater, heading straight for the guilty healer. Too late, and Ater would be dead, producing a similar result. Practicing the pull took patience and care. Ekasra got a heal out early, but before anyone could respond with their usual disgust, he had a prepared phrase typed into raid chat:

"My mistake, won't happen again."

And it didn't.


Later on, as we reviewed the night's progress, boasting Morogrim Tidewalker for the 2nd raid week in a row, as well as significant progress on Fathom-Lord Karathress, we discussed how the raid went. The usual egos flared to life, as players pounded their chests with proverbial might pulling out the meters, Ekasra added his own two cents, in a somewhat unorthodox manner,

"Definitely not my best night, but I'll continue to polish it up for next week."

Ekasra's new strategy was subtle. It was hard to tell if anyone really noticed at all, this change in perception regarding his play and demeanor. Rather than go on the defensive, trading insults for other insults, his new approach was simple: Humility first. Accept his flaws, acknowledge them, and stress that his priority was to always improve, always grow, and that he always had something to learn. And rather than say it aloud in Vent, which opened up his Achilles heel to be pounced on by those ready to mock his lisp, he stayed quiet in Vent, listening but not speaking, responding only by typing into chat. Perhaps, as time went on, if he stuck to the strategy, he might begin to turn people around. They may not take notice now...but eventually, they would.

It was a good thing I suggested it to him.


Anonymous said...

Two questions:

1. What does "headbanger" mean? I only know that word in terms of music.

2. Why is the resto druid's gender important? Is some drama gonna happen because of it?

Shawn Holmes said...

1. Exactly that: the rogue in question (Chopliver) was a laid-back, "..dude, whoa" kind-of fellow. Loved metal music, and had expressed to me that he rolled an undead rogue initially because of its appeal--right down to the metal /dance that it does.

2. I wanted to point out that our resto druid was female, because I don't feel that female gamers get a good enough representation in general among our gaming communities and in the media. I feel that female gamers are often pigeon-holed into a stereotype, and shouldn't be. In this particular example, the resto druid in question goes on to become a well-respected officer of the guild whom I put in charge of healing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I totally forgot about the undead male dance!

That's interesting about why you chose to highlight her gender. I had assumed it was intentional, but I'm used to (likely from the cesspool of WoW forums) female being mentioned as either an excuse for not performing on par, or as a derogatory term.

Shawn Holmes said...


Exactly! Breginna ultimately became like a "Den Mother" of sorts during TBC, was a vital coordinator of the healers throughout our progression in the 1st expansion, and acts as one of our guild administrators today. If you listen carefully, you can hear her in some of the videos that were posted along Chapter 2's blog posts.

I wholeheartedly agree that gals in gaming aren't represented fairly or accurately, so any opportunity I get, I plan on doing so!

La said...

Loving the memoirs. I only came to wow late TBC although i'd played occasionally on other peoples accounts during vanilla so its cool to hear about what I missed out on. I agree that female gamers are underrepresented/ acknowledged. However, it's funny that you mention stereotypes, as in my experience the stereotype is that girls mostly just heal, which you're inadvertently reinforcing. Sometimes they'll let loose on a ranged class (Mage for cool spells, huntards for pretty pets), but I raided as MT prot pally with blood dk for alt runs (Originally coz my guild was short on tanks in wrath and it was a 45min dungeon queue for dps, but i grew to love tanking with a passion bordering on unhealthy, and with a pretty much full heroic t13 set my pally could handle anything thrown her way. Life forced a downgrade to casual during mop unfortunately, so I haven't seen much raid content since msv). One of my favourite things to do was with players new to the guild/looking to apply - run them through a dungeon with another guildy doing all the talking, wait for a comment about my play then thank them over vent in my girliest voice and listen to them hyperventilate in disbelief coz everyone knows girls don't tank...

Shawn Holmes said...


It's sad but true on that stereotype, but those were the gals that we had -- many of whom fell into a healer role.

Just off the top of my head, the gals I recall that were non-healers in a prominent raiding role were:

Wyse - Mage
Mortalsend - Warlock
Rainaterror - Shaman (Enhance)
Blackangus - Boomkin

I certainly would've liked to see more, though!

Unknown said...

Does the fact that you knew some of your old Guildies were reading this change some of what you're saying? Ice seen Dolans comment on some posts, but I like how you're still somewhat critical of his behavior.

Shawn Holmes said...


The guild was actively aware and involved along the way. Dalans was definitely the proofreader of the bunch, but I had to take many of the individual members aside at various time and preview posts with them. "Is this how you remember it?" "Does this feel accurate?" They were very good about being honest and upfront, correcting mistakes in memory.

Perhaps most of all, they were very good at reflecting back on their own poor decisions. Gamers in general are very good at deflecting blame, and this was a huge concern for me early on. I didn't want the blog to feel like I was perpetually calling people out.

Fun fact: My initial first few blog posts didn't even include character names. "The warrior officer", "the shaman with the lisp", etc. Learned very quickly that was not going to work. You can credit Annihilation for encouraging to "just put their damn names in, already."

Jean-Marie said...

Morogrim Tidewalker, what a PoS!
We wiped night after night for more that a month (4 days/week).
Our MT had to take a few days break out of frustration because of that boss!