Thursday, June 12, 2014

3.71. The Edge Case

Si Team (with help from Sixfold) ends The
Lich King's reign in 10-Man mode, earning
"Fall of the Lich King (10 Player)",
Icecrown Citadel

Fifty Shades of Red

The Lich King struck Mature with Frostmourne, and the pale blood elf reeled from the blow. Will of the Necropolis proc'd, granting Sixfold a window to load up another round of HoTs. Blain called out a warning: prepare to move. We'd survived the Val'kyr dragging players off the edge to be dropped to their death by racing to the center of the platform; moments later, our safe zone became a death trap as The Lich King blasted us with Remorseless Winter. Exhausted, I commanded my digital death knight to pull freshly ripped Raging Spirits toward me before they dealt fatal blows to players less armored. Blain called for cooldowns to ensure a clean transition into the final phase, and it was upon us.

Sir Klocker and I balanced the weight of Frostmourne between our respective toons, trading at the application of Soul Reaper. The six remaining damage dealers unleashed hell into Arthas, his blows softened by bubbles of protective energy twisting outward from Neps' Hammer of Ancient Kings. Arthas' health slowly diminished, until at last, a final blast from his icy hands annihilated us in a single shot.

"Aw. Game over, everyone. Pack up your shit."

Klocker did his best impression of The Price is Right's fail-horn. The raid continued to joke and congratulate each other, as if nothing had happened. For such a clean execution, the raid was surprisingly chipper about this wipe.

The "wipe" was only an illusion.

Like clockwork, Fordring broke free, smashed Frostmourne and released King Terenas II who mass resurrected the 10 of us, and we gave Arthas what for. "Fall of the Lich King (10 Player)" flashed up on our screens, as Si Team officially wrapped their clear of Icecrown Citadel.

"Thank you to Eh Team for loaning us Sixfold today," I typed into guild chat. The formality was merely a show of respect to any guild members present and paying attention to the scrolling green words in the lower-left. In actuality, Eh Team was filling spots of their own as needed, following Crasian's second exit and Bulwinkul's vacation still in progress. As a good guild does, we worked to help each other fill spots as needed, a weekly ritual that grew out of our mutual needs as a result of the expansion nearing its end-of-life. It'd been a long time since any 10-Man team had been charged with poaching from one another. But before I could officially stick a fork in this particular issue, the dead horse would be flogged one final time.


When Sir Klocker returned to the officer pool, his first order of business was to bring to light issues that had been bothering him for some time. First on his list was a re-addressing of the loot situation, a path I had already begun to tread down. A dialogue unfurled, and I'd done some initial investigation into potential solutions for the next expansion. They needed polish, but at least ideas were flowing with enough inertia that I could douse folks like Cheeseus and Blain with them, gaining feedback and refining. Shortly after the loot conversation kicked off, Klocker pushed for the next item he felt was important.

There came an open discussion among the officer core to re-investigate the possibility of promoting Ben to Elite. Both he and Neps felt strongly that Ben had more than proven himself in the heat of battle, pointing out that his drunken tirades in Ventrilo had diminished significantly since the early days. Out in the field, Ben was far more than what the "Raider" rank asked of him, dominating meters and prioritizing the 25-Man progression raid's schedule over all else. Sir Klocker argued that it "didn't seem right" that Ben remain relegated to Raider. Had he not proven himself consistent and reliable for a long enough period of time? I couldn't argue with the sentiment. If anything, I was the most directly affected by Ben's increasing accountability. His willingness to improve translated into a much lighter load on my plate. It would be a shame to forget that he'd grown from a player that that lived by his own rules and the type of raider that would text me multiple times before a raid:

"Hey man, I’m gonna be five minutes late, hold my spot!"

"I'm just turning the corner now, I’m almost there!"

"Man, I'll be at the computer in like one minute!"

Better too much communication than not enough.

But as much as I wanted to give him the promotion, to give him that positive reinforcement for a job well done, something held me back from converting him into an Elite. As much improvement as Ben had demonstrated, the red flags still flew in my face...and my inner voice spoke. You will regret this decision. People don't change. Think it through. But he had changed! Why was this situation so unique, why was it any different than any other player I'd dealt with? It was entirely possible that those red flags Ben had flown in my face warranted a second look. After all, I'd come to the realization that not all people issues were black and white, but rather a million different shades of gray. Perhaps those flags weren't all as blood red as I imagined them to be.

The Halo Effect

I decided long ago that Ben was worth the effort, and wouldn't let it go. I let the officer core know I had something in the works to address the edge case -- this amorphous zone Ben floated between. Overqualified for a Raider, yet still unable to fulfill the prerequisites demanded of an Elite, Ben was something else entirely. I was committed to finding a way to acknowledge Ben's efforts, both in the short term and in the long. Quite a few players wondered why I even bothered putting effort into Ben; they had already written him off as immature, annoying, and not worth their time. Ironically, this was exactly the reason I bothered...because I hadn't made up my mind. Most perplexing was that every time I felt like I was about to come to a conclusion...I couldn't.

My hesitancy was more than likely a result of those earliest memories I formed of Ben; nights in which his perceptions of game mechanics filled our raid channel. His confidence walked the fine line between expertise and arrogance, dipping back and forth with just enough inconsistency to leave me guessing. Was it actual insight? Or an inflated ego borne out of PvP dominance -- an affliction plaguing more players than just Ben. Unfortunately, I lumped my judgments together: that "Halo" effect that causes us to focus in on one attribute, then apply it across the board when assessing the complete package.

Folks like Dalans weren't so easily convinced in observance of ego-fueled claims, "He'll never be a raider."

"Who? Ben?"

"He just spewed a bunch of nonsense about threat and aggro."

I'd fall into the trap, throwing in my own judgments, "How did we ever make it without the guy? Tell Ben that's why we never made any progress in The Burning Crusade. Oh, wait a second, WE TOTALLY DID!"

"Yeah, that won't work on Ben, he'll just laugh it off."

"It's all a big joke to him, isn't it?" I added, "Just like his life."

I had a lot to learn about judging character back then. Fortunately, I had people to guide me down the right path. People I previously thought incapable of caring about personnel issues. People like Blain, "His life is nothing to joke about."

"Why are you defending him?"

"His knowledge of the game has nothing to do with his knowledge of life."

My original read of Blain was no better than that of Ben's, in hindsight. Just because Blain's style was less communicative than Ater's didn't mean he lacked the ability to understand people. And as for Ben, he was still growing up in the guild, gaining life lessons at a completely different rate than the rest of us. Ego aside, his actions demonstrated he knew what he was doing, even if he couldn't articulate it. Just as he would learn this over time, I would also learn over time about how the halo effect had a grip on me, and how it would take calm objectivity and rational thinking to keep from falling into that trap. It meant not jumping to conclusions, especially after Ben had progressed so far.

Ben and Fred stand guard while Mature defeats
any challengers that stand in the way of the
"Gurubashi Arena Grand Master" achievement,
Stranglethorn Vale

Inner Demons

Learning to listen to my gut was one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. Time and again I struggled with those "hunches", that inner voice that screamed out warnings, that I was one step away from making a huge mistake. I justified ignoring it with my inexperience, contending that "my gut" wasn't a hard-and-fast rule I could point to when defining the expectations of the guild. If great leaders disagree on the many ways you can effectively manage people, one belief system that seems to be shared by nearly all: trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. This formed the basis for my entire Red Flags post, and subsequent integration into our standard operating procedure. If you do or say something that rubs me the wrong way, it's going to hurt your chances in moving up. To clarify, I offered a multitude of examples, and felt strongly it would paint a clear picture for the guild moving forward.

Yet whenever the situation involved Ben, I questioned my gut the most, wrestling with an inner dialogue to understand why Ben continued to fall into limbo. People don’t change. But they can if they want to! Do you really think he wants to? Actions speak volumes. His actions have spoken, he's absent again tonight, off to "buy diapers"...something he should have done well before raid time. True, but he is taking care of his kid! Kids come before a video game! It's only an excuse for not planning ahead. People make mistakes. Think of how many times he's offered help to guildies, training Bulwinkul on Boomkin, helping stand guard while a Guild Leader that sucks at PvP wraps up a PvP achievement. His heart is in the right place, he just needs to practice his planning and communication...these are things that are fixable.

The problem was that my gut pointed out all the things that should be cause for concern, but it was still up to me to decide what was a simple mistake that could be fixed, and what was the result of having no heart in the first place.


"I guess Si Team run is cancelled this week!" Blain shot over a whisper. He seemed more irritated than normal.

"What's going on?"

"Yeah, Ben went and got himself locked to an Eh Team run this week."

This is a surprise? Grumbling and disgusted tones followed as I joined into Vent to listen.

"Should've known this was gonna happen. Hooray for Ben!"

"Hold up, let's not jump to conclusions here, let me talk to him." I alt-tabbed to the Vent server, scanning the groups, and finding Ben's name nestled in the "Eh Team" room. I yanked him out and into the officer channel.

"So what's the deal, here?"

He rolled right into it, as if he'd prepared for this exact moment, "Ok, so, I thought that Blain had told us that the Si Team run was cancelled this week. So, when Eh Team was asking for a filler, I offered up. Blain wasn't even online at the time."

"So you had no opportunity to check with Blain to confirm this?"

"Nah, I mean, I don't have access to those officer notes, so I don't know what his phone number is."

"But more importantly, you didn't think to check with anyone online that could get you his number?"

"That's what I'm saying, I didn't think I needed to because I thought that Blain had already called it off!"

Standard miscommunication. No actual ill-intent.

"Alright, we'll see what we can do to maybe get a fill from somewhere else, but you do realize this puts us in an awkward position, right? Eh Team being what it is, and all."

"I swear, Hanzo...totally didn't think this would be an issue."

"I think it's probably best you let Blain and the rest of the team know this was a mistake on your part, an apology would probably work wonders to help fix this. And in the future, you have got to touch base with Blain first. Before doing anything that would lock you to Eh Team's run."

I heard the clicking of keys as Ben opened up the mic to speak, but was interrupted by a wave of trash begging for his Mind Sear. "Yep, got it. I will totally tell them."

There was no need to vilify Ben over this issue. This was a Red Flag that didn't need to reset expectations -- it was merely a speed bump on the road to getting Ben where I needed him to be. I kept my gut at bay, and hopped back into Si Team's vent channel, "Simple mistake. It's really not a big deal, just a miscommunication."

"Oh, yeah, no, I wasn't really upset. I was just pointing out how amusing it was," Blain answered.

So much context lost over whispers and tells, I thought. Some things really need to be said face-to-face, or at the very least, over Vent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>So much context lost over whispers and tells, I thought. Some things really need to be said face-to-face, or at the very least, over Vent.

And THIS is why I use so many emotes. XD

Makes it way easier to tell in text, what someone really means. :)

-Catelina, KT Alliance Holy Priest (coming up on one year of Hiatus D: )