Thursday, March 28, 2013

2.42. Wise Decisions

Descendants of Draenor defeats Gurtogg Bloodboil,
Black Temple


It was about this time that a new mage named Wyse joined Descendants of Draenor. She was fresh out of the guild Hoax. They were not progressing well in raid content and Wyse looked to step up her game. I was aggressively assimilating players from guilds that were buckling from the weight of failed progression, and it was through mutual friends of these collapsing guilds that she learned of us. She, like many raiders during that era, were looking to get an Illidan kill by any means possible. The lack of solid mages in DoD remained a constant sore spot in my guild, so I gladly welcomed her in and set her up for raid rotations.

To my surprise, Wyse began sending me IMs throughout the day, often catching me during work hours. I never kept my contact information from the guild, and actually had a small following of guildies listed in Pidgin. They rarely contacted me. Usually, it was to send over a funny link or ask about a specific raid rotation. Otherwise, IM remained silent. Only one player consistently contacted me via IM: Ekasra, the shaman acting as Kerulak's replacement. Ekasra and I chatted in short bursts throughout the week. He fired off questions on how to deal with certain social situations and I'd give him my honest feedback. He'd thank me and go off to apply what he learned. That was the hope. The relationship was much like that of a student and teacher, and less of that which came between peers. We'd rarely chat away for hours about nothing, all conversations were short and to-the-point. So it was quite different getting IMs from a guildy who wanted to have long conversations about anything and everything.

Wyse was full of focus and energy about raiding. Almost immediately, she dug her heels in on Gurtogg Bloodboil, the next boss in line to taste cold steel. My mage officer, Goldenrod, expressed initial surprise at her performance. We were accustomed to picking up sub-par players from failed guilds, so it was a breath of fresh air to see a stranger join the roster and instantly put mediocrity to bed. from day one. With Wyse, it wasn't just about raw damage, though. For the first time ever, I saw a mage proactively decursing the raid without being asked -- an affliction that continued to plague the mages already present. In fact, everything about Wyse seemed to break the mold of what we were used to seeing in Descendants of Draenor. Of the few gals we had the luxury of adding to the roster, she was uninhibited and chatty in vent. Having a female player actively engage in digital conversation was something we simply didn't see a lot of; most gals remained reserved, and responded to our digital voices with transcription in raid chat. I implored the raid team to communicate and, more often than not, my female raiders would refrain from speaking. Wyse never had this issue. In nearly every way, she presented herself with a dedication I longed to see in many others that made up the roster.

After the fall of Gurtogg Bloodboil on June 1st, 2008, she was back IMing me the very next day. Where are those DPS charts? How'd I measure up against Goldy, Dandrak, Turtleman? What's the schedule for the next raid? Here's my progress on shadow resistance gear for Mother Shahraz! I was overwhelmed. Sometimes it felt like I could count the number of players that were this passionate about the guild's progression on one hand. To have someone brand new to the guild be this excited about completing Black Temple, well...I was humbled and thankful. Thankful that she hit the ground running, that her initial numbers were impressive on the meters, and that she was genuinely thrilled to be a part of us.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Mother Shahraz,
Black Temple

Mage Tanking

As the next boss loomed, my administrative duties increased. I was fine with it; it kept my mind occupied and off of recent events that had the tendency to depress me. I walked the roster, player by player, examining their progress on shadow resistance gear, marshaling my report over to Blain for his approval. Not only did I have to deal with the luxury of keying requirements for players, I now fielded the burden of vetting their viability for Mother Shahraz. The next boss in Black Temple would stick us in a blender and hit frappĂ© if our shadow resistance was anything shy of 365. In order to keep progress moving forward at a reasonable pace while maximizing our opportunity to gear the bench, Blain made the decision to start splitting the Friday and Sunday raids into A-Team/B-Team runs. Much like our strategy at the end of Vanilla, this tactic allowed us to take the undergeared to Mount Hyjal on Friday, using them to springboard the more experienced, geared group ahead into Black Temple. Double teaming content would, in theory, give progression more time to work on the latter bosses: Mother Shahraz, The Illidari Council, and eventually, Illidan the Betrayer himself. The potential for Blain's decision to cause drama was wildly apparently: who belonged on which team?

It was clear after speaking with Blain and Goldenrod that Wyse needed to be included in A-Team. She proved herself in only a few short weeks in the guild, meeting all the needs of a core progression raider that could contribute to the defeat of Illidan. Thus, rotations were adjusted. Wyse quickly found herself rotated out of Mount Hyjal and into Black Temple, which she initially expressed concern around, making note of the less skilled folks taking her spot. Once I made it clear to her that she was needed for the bleeding edge group driving progression, her concerns melted away. She continued to deliver competitive DPS, and was soon pushing even the mage officer himself down the meters. By June 22nd, several weeks after Gurtogg's demise, Mother Shahraz collapsed on the steps of her stage. From a purely analytical standpoint, Wyse had achieved the number one spot among our mages, dominating both damage done and curses cleansed.

It was clear by this point that Wyse would be essential to what lay ahead. The Illidari Council was a unique encounter in which four bosses worked together, sharing the same health pool. Via a combination of abilities, they would keep an entire 25-man raid busy with monitoring stuns, heals, interrupts, positioning, and so on. Execution required exceptional control and communication. The Council's AoE effects alone pushed our spatial awareness to new extremes, a combination of Blizzard, Consecration, and Flamestrike forcing players to be forever on the move. Blain's strategy called for one of the four Council members, High Nethermancer Zerevor, to be range-tanked by a mage -- a very common strategy at the time. This would be Wyse's opportunity to shine, and she proudly stepped up to this role of responsibility, delivering results as expected. She was IMing me daily with her latest research, providing criticisms on mage specs for the tank, their positioning, the fine details of how to perform the initial pull, and how to best handle emergencies. Again, I was impressed at her capacity to take on this increased load, while still delivering top performance.

The problem with rising to the top is that it becomes much easier for others to make note of your flaws.

Descendants of Draenor defeats The Illidari Council,
Black Temple


Because Wyse talked to me on almost a daily basis, I had insight into her personality and quirks that others did not. She was a younger and more passionate gamer, layered on top of all the complexities the female gender bestows upon us. Her mannerisms, her nuances, her likes and dislikes, and what affected her emotionally by the world were all bits of trivia I learned along the way. Much of the guild was not privy to these fine characteristics; their exposure to Wyse was limited to their observations of her in-game. Therein lies the dilemma. Relying on World of Warcraft as a medium to interact with one another in a social setting disallows for the capacity to gain cues from body language. This restriction is further exacerbated by a loss of tone, if one choose to remain completely out of Ventrilo. And while Wyse was active in VoIP during raid, it wasn't always the case outside of the schedule. What remained was plain text on the screen, devoid of context. Good-natured ribbing between friends comes across as cold criticism. Sarcasm delivers as genuine. And hyperbole paints the picture of a person sorely out-of-touch with reality. In short, the text arriving on screen lacks a human component that is vital to humans understanding one another.

Some humans, as it turns out, don't possess the insight to extrapolate true intent. Conversations shouldn't involve homework.

First on the "do-not-care" list was Dalans. Having a low tolerance for bullshit was his credo, and he was one of the first to start expressing distaste at Wyse. Although he appreciated her performance in raids, he disliked Wyse's tone regarding people constantly needing to improve, a tone that came across as "I'm awesome, why aren't the rest of you?" Poorly chosen words in the heat of the moment often meant the difference between an inspiring comment, and a condescending one. Dalans also grew annoyed at Wyse's exceedingly verbose add-ons, spaming the raid channel with excessive information about players lacking buffs, standing in fire, requiring a decurse, and so on. Bombarding the raid with alerts caused a new behavior to emerge: players began to silently /ignore the offenders...which they conveniently forgot to roll back once the raid was over. You can imagine the effect this would have on the unsuspecting player during off-raid hours. Wyse would ask a question in guild chat, and get little-to-no response. In terms of working together as a team, this was far from it. We lacked an official stance on add-ons, beyond my simple lobbying for raiders to use whatever they felt necessary. It never once dawned on me that add-ons could become oppressive and detrimental to our progress.

Other officers expressed a similar sentiment to me. Both the mage officer, Goldenrod, and my healing officer, Breginna, conveyed to me that Wyse was an outstanding player, but desperately needed  to work on toning down her criticism of others -- an act that was especially hard to swallow coming from a brand new guildy. Players would take one look at her "suggestions" and think the same thing. Who the hell is this person to tell me how to play? I've been here for years. For Wyse, it wasn't criticism; she was mentoring, trying to offer assistance and help those around her. I understood from our daily IMs that she wanted nothing more than for the team to succeed, but lacked the diplomacy skills necessary to convey this without offending people. It was not unlike Blain's own abrasiveness regarding honesty about a player's skill level. The difference, of course, is that the raid team had no choice but to obey when Blain dropped the hammer: He was the raid leader and they were obligated to follow his direction. As for Wyse, no such obligation existed. Animosity grew between the players and Wyse, which created a complex juxtaposition of concerns: how do I deal with a star performer that the guild is growing to loathe?

Managing Wyse would turn out to be a much greater challenge than I initially assumed.


Blain said...

Dang, were such a dick back then!

PS: Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Goldenrod said...

Wyse was a very weird case for me in management training. Her type is not rare, but my first experience in dealing with a person of high raw talent and intelligence, but low level social skills. What made her unique was the combination of the aspects listed above along with a tendency to be unusually vocal and attempt to be social.

She reminded me of students with asberger's syndrome. You all know the type I'm talking about. The guy who knows all the answers in the textbook but doesn't understand why you get so mad when he corrects you. The guy who doesn't understand why it's not appropriate to correct the professor with a smirk. The guy who wants to be well-liked, but isn't. The intention of such folks is often to be amiable and social, but their unfortunate combination of verbosity, lack of appropriate comment filtration, and inability to read facial or verbal cues when others are displeased with them leave them at a serious disadvantage in their social circles. Every circumstance in which they say something inappropriate is a net loss, because they are unable to learn from each situation and change their behavior in the way that a person without the disability would.

The communication limitations of an online game only exacerbate these disadvantages, and may even cause those individuals who normally function well in person to incur some of the same results. I didn't know Wyse well enough to know whether her people skill problems were a result of the medium through which she socialized, or a problem in her brain.

Shawn Holmes said...

Great observation, Goldy. We saw it time and again, and although Wyse was one of the first for us to experience first-hand...she wouldn't be the last.

And make no mistake, Wyse is a great, fun gal--I still talk to her today (and she's helped review these posts for accuracy), but at the same time has acknowledged that it was a struggle to balance that social awkwardness, that so many stereotypical gamers fall into.

Ryley Foshaug said...

You said A team. :p nothing thoughtful from me, just a chuckle.

Shawn Holmes said...


Dalans said...

@Blain: Just back then? Hardly.


Ryley Foshaug said...

I like how ominous your ... is.