Friday, April 15, 2016

4.68. Stay Awhile and Listen

Everyone dies, but DoD wins,
at the defeat of Heroic: Baleroc,

A Farewell To Arms

"Can you hear me?"

"Yeah...kind of. Where are you?"

"I just walked out of a Lego store, and am now talking to you from a parking lot somewhere outside of Disneyland."

"Nice. Is Goldy with you?"

"Nah, he's picking me up later. I'm killing time."

"So, Pandaria..."


BlizzCon's data dump on the next expansion was not why I wanted to talk to him. I steered the conversation back, "...listen, I have a question for you...and I mean this in the nicest way possible...but where the hell is Charcassone?"

"What do you mean?"

"What I mean is, why did she suddenly stop signing up for the 25-Man right around the same time she became a regular in Starflex?"

"Oh, she just had a change in her schedule, no big deal, Fridays and Sundays just don't work as well for her. I had a long talk with her about it. That's all it is."


"And you gave her the same speech we agreed on? That it's not OK to use Starflex as a back-door out of the 25-Man just because it's 'inconvenient'..."

"I definitely did. This really was a schedule conflict she couldn't get around."

Happy hours. Movie nights. Birthday parties. Social gatherings. I rescheduled my life around raids for years. It always stunned me when players claimed they couldn't possibly make the Friday/Sunday schedule work. How much of it, I wondered, was truly unsolvable, and how much of it was I just hate raiding on the weekend, no offense. She could have told Jungard anything. How could he have known differently?

I took a deep breath, steeling myself for a request I wasn't happy about.

"I need you to do me a favor, Jungard. I ask you to do this. But...I need you to hold your 10 back from completing Glory."

"Sure. I mean...are you thinking Starflex is going to motivate more to try to step out of 25"

"It absolutely will motivate them. Even the nicest, most dedicated people have a breaking point. I need to eliminate any excuse they might use to reach that breaking point early. And let's face it, who wouldn't want to raid with Jungard?"

He laughed.

"Yeah, no problem, we can totally hold off on Glory."

I sighed with relief, "Thanks. And my gratitude to the team for this request."

"Oh, they'll be fine about it. They support DoD 100%," he said, adding "I assure you there are no Eh Team shenanigans going on over here!"

I chuckled at Jungard's jab. It was all still fresh in my mind -- the accusations, the collusion, the denials, and Bheer's eventual true colors revealed. It felt like it had just happened. Reality quickly set in, however. The events transpired a year earlier. 

A moment of introspection brought the impact of our relationship to bear. Jungard and I had seen many things together, having raided side-by-side for years, sharing screams of triumph as readily as we shared our misgivings with various folks who set foot in DoD's halls. Both video game bosses and human beings had agendas. Learning to keep that knowledge in perspective strengthened our ability to lead...and our friendship.

I stared up the sky and remained silent, letting Jungard talk as long as he needed to. I ignored the depressing reality of the situation. This is how it was all coming to an end: phone calls about administration and politics. One of the greatest Arms warriors ever to set foot in Descendants of Draenor...had been reduced to taking phone calls from his guild leader requesting he not be so good.


How the attempt was considered a kill was beyond me. Even the photo finish betrayed our knowledge of the game. When the golden achievement pennant "Heroic: Baleroc" flashed up on our screens, it took no fingers to count how many were left standing. Every single player in the 25-Man raid lay dead in the charred earth. Yet, exactly on the one hour mark, the fiery demon bellowed in agony, shrugged and writhed, until his empty armor collapsed in a heap alongside the fallen.

That same night of October 16th, 2011, a little more than an hour after our inexplicable defeat of Heroic: Baleroc, Heroic: Fandral Staghelm also fell. With the Majordomo's defeat, the heroic portion of Glory of the Firelands Raider was complete. The metas that remained were the unorthodox kills -- killing bosses while standing doing handstands, drinking a glass of water, patting our heads and rubbing our tummies. These were the hoops Blizzard gave us, and we jumped. The tanks have to kite Shannox? Fine. Watch us kite him around the entire map.

DoD defeats Heroic: Majordomo Fandral Staghelm,

Answering The Call of Duty

The strategy was straightforward. Knock out as many individual metas as possible, focusing only on one at a time, with the sole exception of Do A Barrel Roll!. This Ekasra-themed achievement demanded that no player in the raid be struck by one of four specific attacks during an Alysrazor kill. Do a Barrel Roll! smacked of nightmares long past, namely The Immortal. But unlike The Immortal (and thankfully), avoiding the named attacks was no longer limited exclusively to a single week/raid lock. Somewhere, someone behind the Blizzard curtain had shown us mercy.

We tackled each achievement until it was complete, rather than trying to do everything each week. Then, for that same raid lock, we'd look at what attacks were left to collectively avoid in the Alysrazor encounter and made adjustments to specific players in the raid to give us the best chance of knocking at least one of the four attacks off the to-do list. This was our regimen, week-to-week and we stuck to it, counting down to Goldenrod’s 1000th Seething Cinder, and the guild’s next legendary item.

Even amid good progress, something was off with the group. We weren’t stalling (not nearly as horrifically as Heroic: Lord Rhyolith) yet raids were still heated, tempers flared more readily, and strategy was openly challenged and debated. Fun, it seemed, was in short supply. With no bench to support players walking off on the job, I increased my sensitivity toward signs of burnout. If I picked up on any frustration, inappropriate arguments, or even unexplained changes in tone-of-voice, I had to intervene to keep things together. Even the loss of one key person from the roster could bring DoD to an abrupt end.


One evening, Mortalsend broke down. On the surface, she appeared frustrated at a combination of random dungeon runs filled with the very worst kinds of personalities on Deathwing-US, and a hyper-critical view of her new role as healing druid. I suspected she missed leaving behind an easier (and perhaps more enjoyable) warlock.

It didn't add up. 

Having only played with Mortalsend for these few months, I knew enough of her personality that these trivial game-related concerns would not be enough to crack through her emotional armor. Something was up, and it had to be family related.

Mortal's husband, also a guildy, was stationed overseas. Shore leave had only just ended, a few weeks earlier. The highs of temporarily reuniting with her significant other had shifted to depressive lows, mired with loneliness and unwarranted guilt. Couple the sum total of that psychological weight and mix in a healthy dose of "LEARN 2 PLAY FUCKING MORON!!!1!1" spewed from randos in LFD, and you begin to see why the pressure of a video game might seem insurmountable.

I intervened the only way I knew how: I directed Mortal to call me, right away. My intent was to get her talking, to get things off her chest, and hopefully, to feel better as a result of offloading the pressure to someone else. 

I exited the computer room and shot past my wife as I headed to the back yard, the only place I got decent reception.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Problem with Mortal I need to address."

The phone started vibrating before I even got to the back porch. She unleashed. I listened. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, all poured out. I waited for the right time, then reminded her of her importance to the guild, that what she was feeling was perfectly normal, and that things would get better.

"Sometimes things are up, sometimes things are down. Funny how they're never either for very long, eh?"

When I wrapped up the call and wandered back into the house, Jul glanced up from the couch.

"How long did you talk to her?"

"Uh," I fumbled with the phone to pull up the call time. 55 minutes. "...Wow, I guess...nearly an hour."

"That's a little inappropriate, don't you think?"

I stared at her a moment, contemplating the question. Inappropriate how? Was it the stereotype of spousal jealousy at hand, convenient that Mortalsend was a woman and I was a man? Or was it to draw attention to old habits growing more prevalent, once again invading family life -- my preoccupation with a video game over all else. I wanted balance and sanity; this longer-than-was-healthy call was yet more evidence to the contrary. At the start of WotLK, I had it all worked out. I would pick my battles and delegate the rest. Problem was, there was nobody left to delegate to.

"Yeah," I replied, shoving the phone back into my pocket, "you’re right. It was inappropriate." Then, I marched back into the computer room, leaving Julie to believe whatever she wanted.

DoD defeats Shannox after kiting him around the
entire map, earning "Bucket List",

Pack Your Bags

I could hear the frustration in Fred's voice. I was running out of things to say to convince him to stick this out, by whatever means possible. We were so close. Now, he was on the verge of stepping down from not only healing officer, but healing, period.

"Wings fights me on nearly every decision.  I can't get any kind of consistency with the healers, we take new people every week now. It's...really wearing me out. It really isn't as enjoyable as it once was."

I needed an entirely different approach with Fred. The situation with the roster was dire, but Fred was promoted in good faith to seize the role and take command of the healers. I extended the benefit of the doubt to him. This would not be how he repaid me. It was time to take a hard line.

"I understand your frustration. It's a rough patch now, but we can't do this without people like you. Remember: I opted to promote Lexxii over you and that was completely on me. But now, even against my better judgement, I've given you the reins have stepped up to deal with some extreme shit. You've definitely shown me that you can do this. And you have."

"...But," I continued, "now it's on you to follow through on your commitments. You agreed to take this on because you believed you were capable of shouldering this load. I find it hard to believe you'd want to suddenly back-pedal and give me a reason to say 'Ah, should've known he wasn't up to the challenge.' You don't want to give me that excuse, do you?" 

I heard a digital sigh cross Ventrilo as he contemplated my words.

"We need to get through this, Fred. We need to wrap up final thing we can say we accomplished together, as a team...because you and I both know that anything past Firelands is a crap shoot at this point."

"Yeah," he said, coming around, "Yeah we do."

"One day, we're going to look back on this story, Fred. We'll reflect on all our accomplishments and all the shit DoD had to wade through. That story will have a lot of people...great names who stood by us, along with a handful of fuckin' losers like Drecca that gave us the shaft. So, when that sad day arrives and we've all gone our separate ways...and our story gets told...I have to ask you: do you want to be remembered as one of the good guys? Or one of the villains?"

When all else fails, pack your bags for a guilt trip.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I gotta say, I love the blog. But, by this point, it's sounds like you were trying to drive people away. Making it so unenjoyable to play. You can call these people your friends, but at this point they weren't. You were their boss. And I would have quit. Why commit so much time and money when it seems like most people weren't enjoying it, especially the 25 man. Maybe it was a lack of communication of people committing and not just saying they were done with the 25 man, but I'm reading it as you were trying to prevent people from leaving it, which is shitty. If they wanted to spend their free time on something different than you and you won't, that's a controlling "friend".

By the way, I supported the way you handled things before, just disagree how you acted from the last couple posts till now.