Looking for more than Group

Last year, on November 14th, quite a few of us within the WoW community took part in what we called the Raid for the Cure.

It was an in-game event for both factions on the Kael’thas-US server intended to increase awareness of the importance of early testing for breast cancer.

A lot of wonderful people, including many of my readers at the time, all got together that Saturday afternoon and took part in the event. It was an amazing experience to be a part of.

All cheesy BS aside, I know that I felt really choked up by how many people came out to take part in the run across the realms, and wore Pink Mageweave shirts and /danced and generally had a great time together.

Several people took the time to whisper me during the event, and email me both before and after the event, to share with me their own personal stories of how breast cancer had touched their lives, and how they were taking part in the run as a way to once again feel closer to the person or in some cases people in their lives that breast cancer had taken from them.

Being a part of something like that, even for just one day, really reminds me why the “massively multiplayer” part of this game makes such a difference. We do have the power, all of us together, to transcend the programmed intent of the game and make of it something else, something with great personal meaning for each us, if we decide we want to.

And then we go back to the serious business of smacking Arthas upside his head.

I was asked yesterday by Kit in an email if we intended doing another Raid for the Cure again this year, a RftC2.

Sort of, kinda, but not really.

Yes, we do intend to try and organize a charitable event in-game across both factions on the Kael’thas-US server.

What we are not doing is continuing with the Raid for the Cure theme for a second year.

Last year, we had a very personal reason for organizing the Raid for the Cure. Julie’s diagnosis, and her battle with breast cancer, caused within us a desire to show our support for her. It was a personal cause, not a general one.

This year, Cassie and I want to show our support for a different cause, one that has intense personal meaning to our family, one that is really never far from our thoughts.

Our own personal lives have been touched, very deeply, by Heart Disease.

Cassie’s maternal grandmother died of complications arising from her battle with heart disease on June 4, 2007, and within less than three weeks, her father had passed away very suddenly from heart disease as well on June 21st.

Cassie was devastated by this, she was just torn apart. I really don’t have the words to describe how close her relationship was with her father, a wonderful, caring, loving man. He was such an incredibly warm-hearted man, I felt so welcomed by him into his home and the incredibly warm extended family that he had helped nurture, that even within the brief time that I knew him, I have only ever felt pride in choosing to take her family’s name instead of keeping my own when Cassie and I married.

The biggest factor that caused Cassie to begin playing WoW was as an attempt to find a means to distract herself from her grief at her father’s passing, and though several years have passed, it’s been clear to see that her grief remains as fresh today as it was when he passed years ago.

That is why this year we’d like to organize an in-game event meant to heighten awareness of the risks of heart disease, and to be a time of remembrance and celebration of the lives of those of us we loved, and still miss, that have been taken from us by heart disease.

It’s a very personal cause for us, and I know that I would feel joy in thinking that I had done something, however small, in helping to support organizations that are working to find solutions.

What we’d like to do, starting now when there are still months to go before October/November, is to ask for volunteers who would be willing to work with Cassie and I in planning the event, organizing it, and running it when it happens.

The event we will work towards and take part in will be on the Kael’thas-US server, both Alliance and Horde side. If someone likes the idea, and wants to organize one of their own on a European server, I’ll certainly be happy to advertise it on my blog if you let me know the details.

We’ve got some ideas, but now is the time to really get a plan going, and we can’t do it without your support.

This event is going to completely driven by the individuals that want to come forward and take an active part, a true community activity, and everyone that wants to participate in the planning stages or wish to offer their services as event volunteers are not only welcome, but needed!

So if you’re interested in taking part in this with us, with a planned event date somewhere in the end of October, or early November, please email me at tigerlordgm AT yahoo DOT com.

I can tell you one thing… Cassie pointed out that the Red Linen Shirts look quite attractive, and the mats are certainly a lot easier to come by than the Pink Mageweave ones. Cassie told me she could see a vision of the event, and a scene of dozens of players wearing bright red shirts, forming the shape of a big old heart in the middle of Barrens. Is she the only one that sees that vision?

Why I do the thing I do, revisited, returned, regurgitated

I got a nice short email earlier today, in response to the “The Return of AnnCoulter” post.

I expected some responses, after all, politics is serious business. It really is, and emotions related to politics run very deep.

I’m certainly not going to be surprised about getting some kind of flaming arrow of indignation fired my way.

Good lord, the country I live in is damn near split down the middle, politically, so why would I think the readers of my blog all think like I do on anything?

Hell, I’d be SCARED if all of you shared my opinions on everything, because I’m freaking insane. You’re my therapy, so if you’ve got MY back, who the hell has YOURS?!?

I get this email, and I was bored this afternoon over my lunch hour, so what the heck. It’s apparently that time again, it’s been a few years since I did one of these posts, so I guess we’ll do it up right.

From: E=Mc

I don’t appreciate political bashing in with my wow fun.

Take care and have fun.

That’s it. That’s the email I got, in reply to the feedreader emailed “Return of AnnCoulter” post.

Simple, right? No swearing, no offensive language at all, spelling and grammar are correct. On the surface, it appears to be a nice, simple, intelligent email. These are usually considered telling points in an email, lending greater weight to someone’s opinion.

Unfortunately, where it fails is in maturity and sense.

Let’s say you are reading things on the internet, you’re browsing, surfing the web. Following links, reading blog posts in various places, WoW.com articles, whatever.

Along the way, you may encounter something you really like, and think that it would be nice to subscribe to their mailing list or to their blog feed, in the hopes that you’ll get to see similarly enjoyable writing delivered conveniently right into your mailbox in the future.

Suddenly, you do get another post by the same author delivered into your email box or in your feedreader, and this one shocks you. The author didn’t write another article on a topic similar to the last one. This time, he wrote about a subject you take very seriously, and in addition, you don’t like his attitude about it. You’re offended by this idiot. Hey, he may write the funny okay once in a while, but what the heck makes him think you care what he actually thinks about anything else? You thought you were signing up for one thing, and here you are getting something else entirely. This will not do.

So, what do you do then?

A mature individual may do many things, depending on how strong he or she feels about it. They may unsubscribe from that writer entirely, wanting to make sure they are never bothered by that kind of thing again. A total flush to prevent being further offended.

Or, the person may decide that, as irritating as that article was, the other posts were good enough, enjoyable enough, that they don’t want to miss out on any more in the future. They were irritated, but not so much that it outweighs the positives of the funny posts. So, they’ll simply “mark as read” or delete the offensive posts, and scan future posts quickly to weed them out and continue on, only reading the ones that sound interesting.

Those both seem like reasonable responses to me. People change, writing changes, and you never know when someone like me might just go off the deep end.

Why should you put up with it? With a ‘subscribe by choice’ blog, like mine, it couldn’t be easier to flush the bad articles from your life, or the blog itself. You just unsubscribe and delete any links to the website, and don’t follow any links from anyone else, and you’ll never see that blog writer again for the rest of your life.

So, all that being said, where in all that do you fit in a situation where a person decides to email the writer with a brief two sentence message like that? What end does that serve? 

I’ve given it a little thought, and while I can’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of anyone else, I can speculate, and will.

What I would speculate is that such a person, when faced with an article that irritated them or made them unhappy, they could not simply take action of their own to protect themselves and leave it at that. No, they felt the need to take action to share their unhappiness, to spread it around.

The “If I’m not happy, why should anyone else be” mindset.

That’s just not an attitude I can respect.

I know that over time, misunderstandings can happen. Especially when people read posts about WoW and Bear tanking, and are directed here or linked here from WoW-only websites, and accordingly develop an expectation as to what the point of the blog is, what it is I do here, and what they are likely to see.

I’m going to do my best to clear the misunderstandings up.

My blog exists as a place for me to write what I want to write about, when I want to write about it, on any given day. I write whatever I may be inspired about at the moment. I write about my enthusiasms. I especially write about things that bother me. I frequently write what I think of are entertaining posts to cheer both myself up, and hopefully other people.

I do not limit myself to any particular topic. On the “About” page of my website, it says “BigBearButt offers his cranky opinions of a long time World of Warcraft casual feral druid about druid life, the WoW world, and everything.”

That last bit, where I say “everything”? That early bit, where I say “cranky”? Both of those are keywords for the content of this blog.

It’s my own personal website used as a means for my personal expression.

See, I don’t want to mislead you. If you think the blog posts wandering from topic to topic is a temporary situation, please don’t. When I do write about WoW, most often it’s from a Feral Druid Tank mindset. But I don’t limit myself to that, and if that’s the only reason why you’re here, well, you’re facing a lot of disappointment.

So, that’s the blog. That’s what you can expect in the future. Basically, the same old, same old that I’ve been doing here for years.

Now, I don’t want to be unkind. I might tend to think it’s simply an immature desire to lash out at someone that irritated them, but maybe there is an alternate reason why someone would mail me like that.

I know that there is a tendency for people to think that in any situation where they receive a service, they are a customer, and the opinions of a customer are always right and should be respected.

I know that, because of this philospohy, a lot of people feel that if they are not happy, it’s important for them to make their unhappiness known to the ‘management’. Sometimes it’s not for personal benefit, but to try and guide the management service towards better efforts in the future, or just a desire to nudge people to do what you want in the way you think they should, to mentor them when you feel they’ve gone off track.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t apply here. You are not my customers. You do not pay me money. 

Our contract, such as it is, is that I will continue to write what I want to write, and I will continue to post it publicly for anyone who wants to spend some of their time reading it.

I pledge to myself that I will do my best to stay true to myself, and to write my honest thoughts and opinions and research. 

Your end of the contract is that you read it whenever you feel like it or not, as you choose. Whether you walk away amused or irritated or bored, it’s all your decision. But if you do choose to comment, you do so in a mature way, sharing your honest thoughts and opinions, being considerate of others, and if it’s within your power, helpful in your suggestions. 

Further, and I do think this is something that is implied but may not be readily apparent, if you have really strong feelings you want to share in great detail, especially ones that are in direct contradiction of everything I ever say, then you go make your own blog and write your own posts there. You don’t just try and hijack mine every time I write anything.

You may be my friends, you may be people that have been visiting only once or have been here for years commenting frequently and becoming folks near and dear to my heart, like Dechion, Katt and Tesh, but you”re not my customers.

I pay for the website hosting, and to the best of my knowledge I’ve never asked any of you to rush out and fund my purchase of anything. I certainly don’t recall trying to push for people to buy items from the blog store so I can get some cash.

I don’t even host ads, despite a lot of emails wanting me to, so I don’t receive money from passive pagehits. I’ve always felt ads would have been unsightly.

See, I don’t do this for money, If I wanted money, hell, I’d still write for WoW.com and I’d have closed this blog a long time ago. Life isn’t all about making money. There’s nothing wrong with making money, and there’s nothing wrong about websites having banner ads.

But not being a money making enterprise leaves me ethically and morally free to say what I’m saying right now, which is that I don’t owe anyone a damn thing in what I write or how I write it. 

I write for fun, I write for myself, and I write for the amusement and enjoyment of you, my friends. I also continue to try to provide a place to share ideas and suggestions and tips for people starting out tanking, to help get their feet wet and feel confident.

When people do spend money on the blog store, I don’t even keep that. So far, it’s all gone right back into buying shirts or buttons I’ve given away to readers, either at local Meet the Bear events or through website contests.

I’ll never be a Penny Arcade making money with this stuff; it’s not what I aspire to.

I’m always happy to discuss what part of my opinion may have upset you in private, as long as you’re interested in talking about it via email, and not just in lecturing me. If you want a reasoned discussion, hey, I’m your Bear. Close your mind, and I close MY browser.

Where I simply shake my head in laughter is if you read something I wrote that you didn’t like because I wrote about a topic you don’t want to have to see on a “WoW blog”, and then you email me to tell me so.

I don’t care. Click “unsubscribe” and move on with your life, don’t bother me with your sillyness.

Am I supposed to go, “Oh my, I stepped over the bounds of a WoW blog and delved fleetingly in the deep waters of the political spectrum, and my readers have made their wishes known; henceforth, I shall restrict myself to good, wholesome WoW related blog posts so as not to offend.”

No, it doesn’t do that.

I write what I write that I really think and feel. You may love me, hate me, or say ‘meh’, but at least you know it’s me.

If I am really thinking about something a lot and being bothered by it, I’m not going to censor myself, when talking about it and getting it off my chest really does make me feel better. That’s one of the best things about having a blog; to write what I really think and get it off my chest.

I may hold myself to a personal standard in my writing, and I may do my best to hold to that standard, but I do not OWE any reader anything. I don’t answer to you, I answer to my own conscience.

In return, you do not owe ME anything. 🙂 Ain’t I nice? This is finally one thing in your life where you know that no bill will come due.

If you don’t like what I say or how I say it, you don’t have to just endure it. Heck no. You always, ALWAYS have the power to exercise your freedom of choice and remove me from your feedreader and from your life. I’m just one more idiot in a world full of them, writing BS on a blog.

Where we have the divide, is that your freedom of choice does not include a right to attempt to inhibit or discourage my exercising of my freedom of speech and freedom of personal expression on the blog I pay to maintain.

If and when you don’t like what I say on any given day, you have the power. Just unsubscribe, and never come back. Don’t subject yourself to what you find offensive. Be a mature individual, and just close the browser to me.

Just, whatever you do, please don’t bother taking that further step to email me just to tell me you didn’t like my going off WoW topics, or talking politics or whatever. I’m not going to censure myself to make you happy, or apologize for speaking my mind here in my house.

It’s just not going to happen.

Tales from the Truckstop

I’ve mentioned a few times here that I spent two years immediately after leaving the Marine Corps as a cross country truck driver. CDL, 18 wheeler, the Bear with the most rolling along coast to coast.

During those two years, a lot of things happened that could be blog fodder, if looked at in the right way.

I’ve got two different types of trucker stories to share.

I’ve got the ones that I personally saw or did and thought “WTF”, and then there are the ones that were told to me in truckstops by other truckers over a cup of coffee that sounded great, but who knows if they’re real or not?

Hence, Tales from the Truckstop.

On this lazy Friday I’d like to share one story in particular, a story that I can personally verify as having actually happened.

It remains in my mind as one of the biggest “WTF” moments of my life. 

It was a fine, sunny summer day in Illinois. I was driving my skunk truck north, rolling along I-57 after having spent a hellish morning making deliveries and pickups in the back alleys of St. Louis, on the west side of the river.

I was heading on north through southern Illinois, heading generally towards Chicago, but my intention was to cut over towards and around Indianapolis before reaching the I-80 corridor and barrelling on through to my eventual destination, a pet food processing plant near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Perfectly placed along my path is the oasis of truck stop heaven known as Effingham, Illinois.

Effingham is to truck stops as Wal-Mart is to rednecks.

What I’m saying is, you see a LOT of bad flannel and too tight tube tops over stretch shorts in flourescent colors.

Oh, wait, no that’s not it. Oh well, whatever.

Back then they had a Petro travel center, a Flying J, two of the biggest truck stop chains around, and a ton of smaller mom and pop outfits all around that area. Acres of parking lots around central trucker facilities, facilities so large they had their own movie theater for truckers, I think at the Petro.

Yeah, that’s right, after a long day of trucking most truckers sleep in their trucks, they don’t get motel rooms. But you still want a nice meal, a shower, a place to relax and watch TV or movies, and socialise. The really big truck stops not only have the “free shower with fill up for truckers” that is pretty standard, but they’ve got movie theaters in the truck stop, TV rooms with stadium seating, massive video arcades and you name it.

Basically, a big truck stop is kinda like a massive shared apartment where your roomates work different shifts. You pop in, get a meal, take a shower, do your laundry, sit down and chill out watching a movie, hit the gym, and then back out to your truck for some sleep before hitting the road.

These days, what with satellite phones and internet and cheap laptops and T1 connections to the truck, it truly is a good representation of college dorm life. Minus the booze.

Effingham is a trucker mecca. As a major crossroads for over the road travel, with multiple main highways running through or nearby, at any given time hundreds if not thousands of trucks can be found parked amongst the lots with more trucks going in and out all the time.

I decided to take a break for a bit, get some rest and let my hours roll over on my log before I hit the next stretch of road. The US government regulates how may hours a professional driver is allowed to drive in a given 24 hours period, you have to maintain a continuous rolling logbook clearly listing start location, stop location, time spent driving, miles driven, and hours not driving, subject to audit by the DOT at anytime. You get audited and are found in violation, your ass is grass. But that’s another story, and it never happened to me. 🙂

I decide to roll into the Petro at Effingham, my favorite of the chains. I like their food, used to have a really nice beef brisket on the menu.

As I’m rolling into the big truck entrance following the continuous stream of trucks, I do notice one of the trucks heading out.

It was a big yellow semi, one of the trucks run by JB Hunt.

JB Hunt was famous back then, around ’95, for having some of the most inexperienced and ignorant drivers on the road. True story or industry myth? Who knows?

I noticed this one in particular because I saw that the small side accessory panel door was open, and flapping in the breeze as he drove out the gate.

Note: Not the exact truck, photo is just to show you what door I mean.

The little accessory area there is for holding tools, tire thumpers, road flares and emergency signs, rags, that kind of stuff. It’s got a lock, and typically they open on side hinges like any other door. It’s not accessible from inside the truck.

Like I said, as I’m driving in, he’s driving out, and I notice his side accessory door flapping away.

I keep going in, not much I can do, what, I’m gonna flag him down? Chase him down the highway?

But one thing I CAN do is try and raise him on the CB.

I, like all other truckers, had a CB radio in the cab. I normally kept mine off, because truckers in my experience were for the most part illiterate, ignorant hate filled bigots. Not exactly the kind of people I felt like sharing a nice, lively debate with.

You still needed a CB, because most large companies used them in the shipping/receiving office to tell trucks when a dock door was open, and which one to back into.

Anyway, I flip on my CB to try and raise Mr. JB Hunt truck, when right away I hear another trucker break in and say something along the lines of, “Hey JB, you got a side door flapping there, son.”

Okay, mission accomplished, someone let the poor guy know already. Time to gather my shit and head in for a shower.

I’m parked and getting my stuff together, towel and shampoo kit, clean clothes, but the CB is still on in the cab.

I’m not really paying attention to it, I’d just forgotten to turn it right back off.

Suddenly, I hear this excited voice break in the channel, yelling “Holy shit, JB get your ass back in your truck!”


Next thing I hear, literally the next thing is a different voice yelling “What the hell is he doing outside the truck?”

A brief pause.


The radio went bugnuts after that.

I sat for a while listening to the panic, the screams, the confusion and uproar, but it was all a mess, no useful data buried in the noise, and after I started hearing sirens out on the highway roaring southbound, I shrugged and headed indoors.

Here is the story as pieced together by all the folks in the truckstop after the fact, with the assistance of some nice Highway Patrol fellas that were kinda curious wtf he mighta been thinking.

It turned out that good old Mr. JB Hunt driver, heading south from Effingham on I-57 at a high rate of speed, heard his fellow trucker warn him that his side panel door was swinging in the breeze.

At this point, a few miles away from the next exit and apparently having the f’ing Hope Diamond or something in his side panel that he just COULDN’T risk falling out, what he decided to do was place his rig on cruise control, open his driver door, and, while standing there and hanging onto his door frame and the steering wheel, swung his body out of the truck on the driver side and tried to kick the door closed.

Apparently, he took a few really good kicks at it and couldn’t quite reach, so he reaaaaaaally extended himself out there… and fell off his f’ing truck.

The truck, of course, was on cruise control, and blithely unaware of the fact it was now a flying dutchman, a rolling engine of death, doing 65 mph southbound down I-57.

Picture this with me, as I relive that moment in my minds’ eye.

A fully loaded 18 wheeler, dingy faded yellow, 80,000 pounds (40 tons) of steel and rubber, barrelling on down the interstate at 65 mph… with nobody at the wheel.

Just, holy shit.

Inevitably, not long after the idiot fell off, the truck drifted to the right, caught a bump, jack-knifed and flipped, coming apart in a nice graceful tumble down the right shoulder of the interstate, flinging debris and customer product into the treeline. 

Now, obviously I never got to follow up and find out the whole story, but at the time, the driver was being reported as okay, banged up and scraped bad, but basically fine.

Forever after, I will be driving along, and I’ll see somebody do something stupid on the road, and it will remind me of the all time stupidest driver I have ever seen or heard of in my entire life that managed to walk away from his accident.

I’ll remember that excited, anxious voice on the CB for the rest of my days.


That, and of course my immediate thought… “What a f#&(ing idiot.”

Now that’s just messed up

So, I’m dreaming last night.

It’s me, and I’m hanging out with The Beatles and Cheech Marin.

I go into a hair salon to get a haircut, for some reason I think I really need a haircut, and the lady refuses to give me one. Just flat out refuses. Won’t serve me.

I’m ready to storm out of there, but Paul gets her to open up about why she’s being crabby, he’s a real smooth talker, and it turns out it’s because I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “Hey Congress – I love and support our troops, it’s YOU that suck, assholes!”

Paul gets her to agree to give me a haircut, but we have to go somewhere else and wait 78.5 minutes. Exactly 78.5 minutes.

Not because she has anything to do, just because she won’t serve me for 78.5 minutes.

No, I don’t know either.

We walk down the block, and we’re hanging out. Just waiting. Killing time.

I’m cutting up, acting the class clown, dancing goofy, flapping my arms around, just trying to get a laugh out of Cheech. It occurs to me I’m having a great time. Just, the best. No worries, nothing to do, nothing but time on my hands chilling out waiting to get a haircut, and joking with my buds Cheech and the Beatles.

I say to Ringo, “Hey dude… Zug Zug, man…” and bust out laughing.

Just, “Oh what a night… late December back in ’63” kind of times.

We wander back into the hair salon and I sit down in the chair for my haircut. I look up in the mirror, and realize…

I’m Chong.

Then I wake up.

Man….. that’s just messed up.

The Return of AnnCoulter!

Coming off the levity of the last post, I thought the time was right to bring back a little serious discussion.

Thus, may I present to you…

The Return of AnnCoulter!!!

The real AnnCoulter

I was just sitting there last night, perusing my charts and spreadsheets for Rogue gear and specs, and it occured to me…


So, I resurrected my poor, lost, abandoned Hunter.

I know why it happened. When I transferred to Horde side, I had a newfound fascination with all things Hordie.

In the time that has passed, I’ve grown to love the Horde culture in a way I never thought I would (except for those damn Undead, anyway), but still… something was missing.

That something was my Hunter.

With a new feeling of enthusiasm, I returned to the Alliance, dusted off my hunter, and checked out her gear.

Damn… my Rogue’s only been 80 a week, and she’s already got a better ranged weapon than my Hunter. That’s embarassing. HPoS hoeeeee!!!!!

 I did more than just randomly start tearing up the Heroics, however.

I actually ventured into the realm of Elitist Jerks, to see if there is any love to be found there for Beastmasters.

You cannot imagine my joy at finding that Rosamonde/Florimel has been doing more than just keep it alive… she’s even updated the main BM thread with the latest ‘taken out of context’ quote by Ghostcrawler.

You know the one… the one the asshats grabbed ahold of to show why Blizzard agrees with them not to allow BM into their reindeer games.

You know…

“The only specs we really failed on in LK raiding were Frost mage, Subtlety rogue, BM hunter and Arms warrior.” — Ghostcrawler.

Well, Rosamonde is certainly keeping the torch held high in the Elitist Jerks community. And she links to several other resources helpful as well.

I read everything in her main thread, I studied specs, some spreadsheets, checked out MaxDPS, did a little more reading, and then went out and changed a Glyph, modified my spec, and started making a list of potential upgrades.

But now… now I have an interesting decision to make.

On the one hand, I’ve got Voytek the Spirit Beast Bear, my staunch and true companion, whom I dearly love. And I really enjoy taking him with me to instances, and just bumming around with me in general.

I also don’t really care what my DPS is, as far as being a hundred up or down where I *could* be. You know what? In the real world, boys and girls, we accept the human factor into our estimates. The human factor… such as knowing I’m more liable to blow my DPS due to leaving Viper on for half a boss fight than I am because I ain’t using a MM or SV spec.

You can talk all you want about optimum potentials, the reality is, the human factor means if I screw up for one second, all that potential is out the window. It also means that my judgment is called into play. Is it better to keep mindlessly burning through my rotation, or do I go off the GCD to drop a Freezing Arrow on an incoming Rifleman in Heroic Halls of Reflection?

There is more to the game than rotations slavishly adhered to, and I’m sorry, but sub-optimal spec or not, I’ll take my judgment over most of the players I get grouped with and take my chances on the final results of the Damage Meters, thanks.

So, all that being said… the Elitist Jerks thread says that Devilsaurs are the highest damage Ferocity pet available to me.

Sure, I ain’t all hung up on DPS…

But I just so happen to HAVE a Devilsaur in my Stable.

Ahem. AnnCoulter, come on out of your kennel!

Damn, AnnCoulter may be ugly, and her skin is hideous, and those fangs are just nasty, and that breath! Whoof!

But boy, she can sure bring a smile to my face when I zone into an instance, can’t she now?

There’s just something that warms the cockles of my Conservative soul by saying, “All right AnnCoulter, go git ’em!”

Hey, just because I’m a political conservative doesn’t mean I can’t have a sense of humor. Nor does it mean I want Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter on my side in any debate over ideas you’d care to name. I still prefer to think of them both as liberal plants.

Anyway, this means I’ve got a tough choice.

Do I go with my buddy Voytek in my instance runs, the big soft cuddly bear, or do I bring out the most vicious, nasty, hideous fanged beast in existence to unleash upon my opponents?

Decisions, decisions.

Cybercitizens, wave those virtual passports!

Welcome to another edition of the rambling bear. Will this be a Bearwall?

Let’s find out together!

Since my Rogue dinged 80 last week, I’ve run quite a few Heroic instances to get geared up.

Why am I getting geared up? Honestly, I have no idea. It’s one of those unexplainable urges, perhaps related to the drive to collect. Even though I have no intention if ever raiding with the Rogue, I still feel an urge to study gear upgrades, plan acquisitions, and do runs to improve my stats. I don’t know where the urge comes from, but there it is.

As I ran all of these Heroics as a low gearscore Rogue climbing the DPS ladder, I ran into what I’m hoping is just a really, really bad run of idiot tanks. Just, “holy crap you morons have no business tanking” kind of tanks.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t have any problems with the behavior of any of the DPS in the runs. Nobody I’ve run with has behaved poorly, or even talked except for saying hi. When things get really bad, it seems like the modern response that has evolved is to just drop group without warning if you’re not happy. No bitching, no recriminations, just ‘poof!’ gone.

On the other hand, and yes I stick with the runs no matter how bad they get out of some kind of sick fascination with these train wrecks, I’ve seen some of the worst tanking I could imagine.

In one case, and I’m not lying, I told a 5450 Gearscore Paladin tank in Heroic Pit of Saron that if he wanted to learn how to tank for the very first time ever, he needed to pick a non-Heroic. Then I joined the other three people that had already dropped group without warning after the third time the healer died from mobs that were never grabbed by the tank… before we ever reached the first boss. That last Dragon trash mob pull was just too much for the group, they all dropped while I stayed long enough to be rude. I’m sorry, if you’ve played long enough to get that kind of gear for your tanking set, and you’re THAT bad, you’ve got issues. Run a normal, for the love of pete. There is a limit to how many mobs a Priest can solo while you go running ahead ignoring everything behind you pull after pull.

As an aside, I am maximizing my “Tricks of the Trade + get on the Healer’s mobs” technique. I find myself using it SO often.

In some ways, I suspect I’m reaping instance karma earned from my “…then you might be a bad tank” post.

Okay, in the interests of fairness, I did have a run with one healer asshat… he didn’t actually say anything bad, but we were doing Heroic Halls of Stone, and everything was going very smoothly, even though we had a very low gearscore Warrior tank. The tank was doing a great job, holding aggro, managing mobs, etc. His gear was just starting out so he was squishier than, say, an ICC tank. But he was doing a great job. I was shocked. Healer was never run ragged out of mana, never too hard to heal, just a little squishier than an ICC tank.

Perhaps it was this squishiness that annoyed the healer, the need for him to actually do something for a change, because when Brann was triggered for the fight against waves of mobs, the Healer dropped group the millisecond Brann was activated, dropped without a word, I guess in the hopes that without a healer the waves would steamroll us.

Fortunately, we got another healer before we even saw the first wave, and we finished the entire run smooth as silk. So, the healer succeeded in doing nothing more than costing himself some Emblems and a deserter debuff, but, oh well. The things some people do, right?

On the other hand, I was in a Heroic Pit of Saron run with a group, and everyone but me was really well geared, run went smooth as silk, and when the crossbow dropped from Krick and Ick, I randomed because there was a Hunter in the group. Hunter ended up winning it on a random, and I whispered him that if he wasn’t going to actually use it, I’d buy it off him for 30 gold.

He gave me the crossbow, refused the gold, and ended up he’s on my server, and has a Rogue raiding in ICC himself, offered some spec advice, gear advice, and has a Leatherworker with leather ICC patterns that he lined to me offering to craft them if I wanted them someday.

Go figure, right? One day you can get runs with people that actively try to drop group at the worst possible moment to screw the other strangers for no reason I can see, and the next you run into someone that just goes out of their way to be nice and helpful, says “Put me on your friends list, if you’ve ever got any questions or could use a tank to run you into HHoR for the offhand Rogue sword, just let me know. My alt is a tank, geared well enough to handle HHoR. I might be able to get some friends of mine to go in with us, too.”

It’s thinking about all this, the core issue of player behavior, the good, the bad and what can be done about it, that brought me to the next train of thought.

I’m always suspicious of comparisons and metaphors and similies, and basically anything that tries to make a point by comparing two different things. Whenever you start out thinking of one thing, when you switch to the other you bring along your own baggage. You’ve got preconceived ideas of what the first thing is, and you apply some of those to imagining the second one.

Still, we do it all the time. Someone tells us they ate in a Hardees, and we ask what that is, if they tell us it’s like a McDonalds, that gives us some vague frame of reference. We’ll picture the typical McDonalds layout, food, speed, cleanliness, price point etc, and figure a Hardees is somewhat like all of those.

Maybe some time later you actually see a Hardees, step inside and order a meal. When it comes, maybe you’re surprised because the food is more expensive than you expected, or slower than you expected, or fresher or more upscale, whatever. The point is, after you make those initial comparisons in your head, you’re going to be ramming up against your preconceived ideas when you encounter the actual thing.

You start off with a frame of reference, and that informs your thought to some extent ever after.

So, the behavior of players in WoW, and what to do about it? What can be done about it?

When I think of World of Warcraft, I think of it using the same frame of reference as I did when I started planning to purchase it; a video game set in a fantasy world similar to other first person perspective video games, with the addition of a multiplayer aspect.

That perspective works up to a point, right? It’s a video game, ostensibly for fun, and you can play it as one, and there are also other people in it you can choose to hang out with.

I think it breaks down in the fine details. I further think there’s a frame of reference that does work better.

One of the most consistent long term problems players have are related to the behavior of others. Our unhappiness when other players’ actions and behavior and attitude affect our own gameplay experience in a negative way.

Who do we ultimately hold responsible for doing something about player behavior?

The other player? No, we acknowledge the existence of asshats, and we frequently note the stark truth of the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. We pretty much just say to each other, “yep, Asshats are asshats. Would they pull that shit in person? Nope. Chickenshit little pricks. They’ve finally found a home.”

But we don’t hold them responsible. We don’t expect them to modify their own behavior. In fact, I think most of us have given up on them, and just wonder when the freight train of life is going to run their asses down. Sooner or later, bills come due.

No, we don’t hold the asshats responsible, we hold Blizzard responsible, and we petition Blizzard to return stolen loot, to report offensive behavior expecting them to take action against the other player, and we further expect Blizzard to find ways of blocking player behaviors from being able to affect our game experience in negative ways.

I think some folks even expect Blizzard to come up with ways, through game code and design, to force players to either play their characters well in a group, or be blocked from joining groups at all.

Blizzard, for their part, has their ToS and ToC, and they’ve also been experimenting with programmed methods of adding consequences to behavior.

Vote kicking, deserter debuff durations, streamlined spam reporting, reporting offensive behavior through trouble tickets, blocking players from being vote kicked from groups once a boss fight is engaged, etc.

Blizzard is actively developing and implementing methods of controlling player behavior using rewards and punishments.

What do we expect? We, as players of WoW that pay Blizzard our monthly fee, expect Blizzard to act in good faith to provide us with a safe, friendly environment to have fun. And damn, do people get loud and pissy if they think there’s more Blizzard could be doing.

We expect that when another player succeeds in affecting our gameplay in a really negative way, such as by stealing in-game goods from a guild bank, or by hacking an account, or by using language or behavior intended to offend, we can turn to Blizzard for some kind of resolution.

What we’ve all done together is fulfilled the prophecies of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and scores of others, and made a reality of the concept of a virtual cybernetic government.

Wherever our meat body may reside, we have these new worlds to live in online. They are here, now, and there are several to choose from.

We pick and choose among them, what features they provide to their citizens, how much the taxes cost us if we choose to live there, what laws and customs we will have to abide by… what behaviors will or will not be tolerated, and how such behaviors will be policed.

Make no mistake, that’s what has happened. Those of us that play a persistant MMO are making choices as to where we live our virtual lives… and companies like Blizzard know this, and are studying methods of keeping their citizens happy.

Blizzard is the government of World of Warcraft. You can decide for yourself how to classify it, but they hold the power over their country, and they can decide what rules or laws they will put into place… and to what extent they will choose to enforce them, if at all.

What I find interesting when thinking of the game as a virtual world, is considering the steps Blizzard has already taken to try and control behavior, and how ably players find ways of bypassing them so as to still hurt others.

Blizzard doesn’t have jail, but they can cancel your account. In the middle ground, there are temporary bans, and there are forced name changes for reported offensive names. Those have been around for years.

But really, how recently did the drive to control behavior through in-game incentives and punishments begin?

Creating the LFG interface tool was an excellent step towards streamlining the matchmaking capabilities of the game… but was it also one of the first steps in trying to build in behavior controls?

I know that in Burning Crusade, people could choose to leave group, and I think you could boot someone from your group, but you couldn’t force them to leave the instance… and the instance wouldn’t let more than the predetermined max number of characters in at one time.

I recall one epic tale of a player in Shattered Halls that was treated offensively by the rest of his group, was somehow made to leave group so they could bring in a friend of theirs as a fifth right at the end, and he refused to leave the instance. He camped the instance refusing to leave for a long, long time… long enough that all of the trash he helped to kill respawned, so that the group would have to rekill everything if they wanted to do it with their buddy instead of him.

Somewhere after that Blizzard changed the game so that if you were in another group’s instance, it would boot you out automatically to the nearest graveyard; no more camping to prevent others from playing. No, they weren’t related, what was remarkable about that particular story was that for a change it was the rest of the group that abused the system, and the ability to camp the instance and prevent the fifth from zoning in that upheld justice, or something like that.

Was that Blizzards’ first real act of trying to program in morality, to paraphrase the old “you can’t legislate morality” saying?

Some players would ninja loot items, and then say that it was a mistake, and you could petition Blizzard if you wanted the item back, but they can’t trade it, sorry. Blizzard changed the game so you CAN trade items with other players that were in the instance with you.

Now vote kicking… modifications to the length ot the deserter debuff. Tracking of how often you initiate a vote kick, and adjustments programmed in to limit your ability to vote kick if you ‘overuse’ it. Overuse it? By who’s definition?

Why, Blizzard’s.

While we talk about video games and playing and stats and gear, Blizzard has been patiently assuming the responsibility of creating a system of laws and punishments (and rewards) for a virtual world, and they’re doing it with the pressure of keeping the majority of their taxpaying citizens as happy as possible, so that folks don’t emigrate to another virtual country.

They have other tools to keep people around as active and happy citizens, expanding the boundaries of the game world, new frontiers to explore, new horizons to discover, new opportunities of advancement and excitement.

Are the new Guild leveling rewards an attempt to get us to more effectively police ourselves, by giving lone wolves a tacit reward for playing well with others? Once you are enticed into joining a large guild in the hopes of gaining access to the best rewards, you then become subject to that guild’s rules, and face the consequences if you violate those rules and they find out.

How about the recent Real ID forum foofarah?

We keep talking about WoW as a game, but let’s call it what it really is; a virtual country that we have chosen to become citizens of, with Blizzard holding the reins of government.

I know it’s not a new idea, it’s decades old. But I do think that it’s interesting how different some of Blizzard’s decisions and game designs can look when you change your point of reference away from a video game, and look at WoW as a persistent virtual country that we can all choose to join or not.

This is what we are, my friends. We are all potential citizens of the virtual, with our passports held tightly in our hands. We have the freedom of touring all the worlds of the nether, seeing what each is like, what laws of physics rule these realms, how pretty they may be, what there is to do while we vacation there.

We may even find some that we really like, and may think about making our home there.

Why are the various virtual countries so eager to extend us a warm welcome, all smiles at the immigration offices?

Why, in the hopes that we’ll become tax paying citizens, of course.

As a potential citizen, when we make our decision, part of that decision should be asking ourselves, what are the laws like here? How well are they enforced, if at all? If the other citizens are violent or antisocial, if someone in the game targets me hoping to ruin my virtual life or steal my property, what recourse do I have? How hard is it in this country for others to infringe on my own gameplay, my freedom, my right to property?

I know that I loved reading Neuromancer, and Snow Crash, and so many other books in the cyberpunk genre, but when I thought of those ideas of virtual worlds, I always expected it to come some time in the future.

Many of those worlds painted the future cyberspace as a place where what race, sex, color or age you are would be immaterial; the future cyberspace would be built on a foundation of enlightened utopia, where the quality of your ideas would be all that mattered, and by definition, if you could GET into cyberspace, you would somehow be too intelligent, enlightened and sophisticated to be an ignorant bigot or irritating little prick.

Well, the future is now.

Today, I am a proud and happy citizen of World of Warcraft, and I log in each time, passport in hand, taxes all paid up.

And I encounter the reality of my fellow citizens… ah, well. So much for enlightened intellectualism and the abolition of bigotry and hatred.

Anyone for some [anal] trade chat? /sigh.

When I log into WoW, I’m also eagerly reading about other countries that are being founded even as we speak, countries whose borders are due to open in the months and years ahead.

I look forward to learnig more about those worlds, and perhaps touring them myself.

Are the developers that design those worlds realise that they are the architects, each in their own way, of their own constitutions? Do they plan carefully what laws they will have in place, what measures they will take to enforce them, and what the consequences of those decisions can mean for their long term future?

Star Wars: The Old Republic is coming soon… I was fascinated with the design of the graphics, the announcements of races and classes, and gameplay videos. Now I find myself wondering what the interaction between players will be like, and what limits, if any, will be placed between them?

We’ve long moved past the time when having a profanity filter or a character name approval process is enough for a game to claim to be responsible.

Am I the only one that wishes Massively.com would add a regular column looking into the actual mechanics of controlling character interaction in MMOs, of programming in morality or of policing behavior, and start comparing what is implemented in games due to come out soon? I know that I for one would be fascinated to read it.

A Few of my Favorite Things

My apologies in advance to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Aggro on monsters that endlessly miss me
Beastmaster hunters and ghost saber kitties
Writing about bacon and bear butted themes
These are a few of my favorite things

Sons learning swimming and building toy models
Girl Genius comics and Sir Pratchett novels
Swift forms that fly and can herb on the wing
These are a few of my favorite things

Crüxshadow lyrics that scream out defiance   
Kitchen spruced up with a brand new appliance      
Wife of wide wonder that makes my heart sing
These are a few of my favorite things

When the PUG fails
When my work stinks
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Ret Pallies feeling all uber o’erpowered 
“Oh No John Ringo!” and Weber’s gal Honor 
Richard with bunnies and Bitterleaf’s grin
These are a few of my favorite things

Alex playing games with his wabbit slayer antics
Pink on Pandora and Starcraft all frantic
Ramsey’s foul mouth while Collichio’s king
These are a few of my favorite things

Smooth luscious Guinness in tall frosty glasses 
Bacon I’m naming twice in seperate stanzas
Playing the game when it’s Cassie and me
These are a few of my favorite things

When the PUG fails
When my work stinks
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

To steal a line from Ryan Sohmer….

           – Because I can