Balancing WoW for Work and Fun: Then and Now/Sixth Screenshot Prompt
If there was a writing challenge to discuss the “Then and Now” shoofoff of the “Sixth Screenshot” prompt last year, I could have written a rosy entry on being a successful progression officer and vanity item collector, outlets that helped me relax while completing my newly-finished thesis at the time. A year later though, I’ve cleared DS normal twice and recently left the guild I was in for over four years. The missing piece of the puzzle that turns this trajectory around is that I also started work as the Content Manager for Wowhead.
I was stumped at the time of the prompt summarizing how I greatly enjoyed my current job, which I started during a period of many other changes, but ironically it prevented me from playing the game the way I was used to for six years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s laced with some nostalgia. I gave up though, and went back to covering beta.
I thought again of writing this entry a month ago, when my guild suggested bringing officers-gone-casual, including myself, to heroic DS for chances at the mount. It would have made for a nice entry, writing about how I couldn’t raid yet the little community framework that motivated me so much in past years was still going strong as I moved into a new part of my life. My officer team, valuing loyal raiders both past and present, always brought guildmates along for achievement or vanity things for free, knowing it built community and helped reputation.
Instead, newer raiders didn’t bother showing up for my run. Someone left a passive-aggressive post about how they’d show up if there was someone more relevant, meaning, someone who would pay more gold. The Black Market Auction House came out so that was a convenient excuse with gold and buyable epics, but you won’t kill many things if you ignore an officer’s raid plans and don’t show up.
It’s funny, in spite of working on features millions of people use each day, and on a more personal scale, chatting with more community folks on twitter, finding out how much the little guild environment I built had changed stung. That selfish attitude wouldn’t have persisted if I was still an active officer, but I had to step down because I got a very fun creative job. I think we can all agree cutting back was for the right reasons, but it still feels strange, from a personal perspective.
So, onto the screenshots. My vanilla screenshots are mostly lost, but I saved the six earliest ones from my old computer:
From this, we can learn a few things. Even though I was on a terrible laptop, I cared about atmosphere, taking care to find places with dramatic lighting or snapping a picture mid-emote. My sense of exploration is present as well, as some of the pictures are taken in pre-BC Caverns of Time and pre-Naxx Eastern Plaguelands, yet I focused on nooks and interesting walls instead of sweeping vistas. And you can tell I had a large collection of cloth gear on my rogue even at this early point (one robe is even a horde starter one), a theme that would spiral into collecting imitation priest t6 and much more, culminating in creating “lookalike tier” transmog set entries for Wowhead.
The pictures don’t show everything. They don’t give much information about raid experience or how I enjoyed putting clown suits together for the best stats. (Two-piece Madness ZG and Aged Core Leather Gloves forever!) They don’t show how being one of the first people on the server to win a ZG mount motivated me to stop caring about awful full tier, start lurking on EJ, and to show I was an awesome well-rounded player that deserved that amazing RNG. But they do show a fair amount of wonder at the world.
I went back through my current screenshots, and found this as the sixth one:
It was taken when my Burning Crusade guild quit raiding in Sunwell and I was waiting to hear back from new guilds. I had always wanted to join that guild in vanilla, and had a happy few tiers with them in BC until the core team was crit by outside scheduling issues. So in the twilight of BC, I flew around Azeroth after filling out several apps, taking pictures in my favorite zones like Feralas and Darkshore. I always liked this picture for how the sun and glaive flared together, as well as how my character’s head was slightly turned as if she heard a noise, hair swinging behind her. After Wrath hit, I also liked this picture for capturing the old look of Cursed Vision with glowing eyes. I had started to become interested in the lore in BC and demon hunters were the perfect hook to get me learning more–eventually leading to a burst of creativity where I wrote some stories about night elves. I’m pretty sure when I got the helm, I temporarily lost a set bonus and dps, but I just had to equip it since I was so excited.
If you had asked me to analyze the picture when it was taken though, I would have talked about gear worries. Anxiety that I was apping to Sunwell guilds without a full set of glaives, that I was using badge pants since they were ~20 dps higher than tier ones but most Sunwell rogues probably had the imba Felmyst legs, that I should scrounge up the gold to buy a crafted Leatherworking chest before raiding again. I always remembered that anxiety and how it ultimately proved useless. I did find a raid that cleared Sunwell pre-nerf, I did not see a full set of glaives or Felmyst pants drop for the rest of the tier, and I loved the guild. That taught me a valuable lesson about applicants, gear, and attitude when I did become an officer a year later.
I can’t tell you what I wore in later tiers (probably because there was clear BiS and alternative options were limited), but I can remember everything from Sunwell with striking clarity. How Sunwell tier and Felmyst pants were easy choices, but the 4th piece of Tier 6 and off-set items were contested. Thinking back to that moment, when I hopped servers in that outfit, all I wanted out of the game was a progression guild I felt comfortable in, and some gear to reflect the content I was working on.
I did get much more than that. After a Tier 7 slump where we failed Immortal, I became an officer and helped get us back on track to Death’s Demise and a bunch of other timely server firsts. People that left us over Immortal reported our recruitment thread out of spite when we started doing better, and yet I continued to handle recruitment in spite of my complaints to Blizzard not going anywhere. I dealt with the challenges of taking perceived 10-player “A teams” and ensuring everyone got their achievements and 10-player loot on offnights, instead of some players feeling excluded. A previous BC guild changed their minds about accepting me mid-xfer due to my gender, and so I always worked to ensure the guild was a place where women would feel comfortable.
We organized server-wide achievement runs to clear out all raid achievements in the game–I remember The Traitor King bugged for a large part of the raid, so we repeated it several times on 25s. We teamed up with another guild and finally got Immortal for all achievement-hunters. We ran two 25-player raids in late ICC to ensure everyone in the guild, even if they weren’t around for Death’s Demise, got a Mimiron’s Head and ensured every interested raider got a vanity item from the Shadowmourne box. We did vanity things like running AQ for the rare enchants and Black Temple to finish three glaive sets and had a party in Dalaran when we were done. Our officer core was a really strange mashup of Robert Baratheon, Stannis, and Tyrion if they peacefully ruled together on a council in an alternate universe, and it worked.
A vanilla raider that filled in for Ulduar 10 hardmodes helped me get a discount on some awesome clothing this spring. A former raid lead who filled in for me on Yogg +1 when I spilled a drink on my keyboard saved me a seat at BlizzCon’s costume contest. I answered some questions about work for a raider’s college essay, and he sent me a bunch of Darkmoon Faire books I needed as thanks. The most meaningful in-game interaction by far was the day of Cataclysm’s launch, where I had a pipe dream of getting the server first achievement but was unsure since beta had corrupted my old computer and I had no leveling experience. A group of us all aiming for Feats of Strength got on vent and dealt with my panicked quest questions for over 12 hours straight. Somehow I managed to not get lost, smash Escape in Uldum a lot, and pulled ahead of everyone else. One of my friends in vent was also a rogue, so I waited the few extra minutes for him to catch up, and then we coordinated hitting 85 in the same minute so we’d both get the Feat of Strength. To me, it represents how we blended competition and friendship well.
I had sensed my attitude was shifting in Tier 12 though: the week I handed my graduate thesis in was the week I asked to sit for the first time. The end of undergraduate was rocky and I had many demons to expel in grad school: spending my free time working hard to raid and get achievements helped me relax. Raiding as relaxation was entwined with an academic environment, and once freed from one, the other felt a bit untethered.
Soon after I graduated, I got my current job, which was vastly different from my previous one as a humanities and museum research assistant. And I realized my schedule had to be addressed as I covered Tier 13 previews during Heroic Rag attempts: it would only get worse when beta hit. It was time to move on, and since then, I’ve been struggling to redefine my relationship to WoW as a leisure activity. On one hand, things haven’t completely changed. I love sharing new things with people, and now I get to do that every day on the news blog for work! If I think something is cool in game, I can tie it into one of our features, like Transmog sets. But with an unpredictable schedule, many of the things I looked forward to doing every week simply aren’t possible. It’s odd covering heroic items on beta and realizing that I might not have time on live to actually get them. Last expansion I was thrilled to race to 85, but this time I’ll be writing guides and making sure the database is running smoothly when the expansion hits. And with how much WoW has changed, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it in exactly the same way if I did have the time–plus, that’s a lot of WoW on a daily basis. I’ve been meaning to finish up my archaeology series and write some things on appearance/transmog/fashion theory, but it’s a really intense time at work with beta’s unpredictable schedule. Especially since private server coverage is sadly popular and unchecked, making it more of a challenge to deliver news from actual beta servers that doesn’t sound stale in comparison.
Tier 13 was a strange time to stop hardcore raiding and attempt to still consume content in my overly-picky style. It wasn’t easy subbing in to the newly-downsized 10s, because fitting in two rogues is silly and asking someone collecting legendary fragments to sit for one with flaky attendance is also silly for progression. Most other raids were full on everyone’s new alt wanting a legendary. Some friends put together alt runs and invited me along, but I never could commit with my schedule so unstable. I didn’t have many non-raid achievements and mounts left to chase, and logging on to farm Karazhan, archaeology, and Utgarde Pinnacle without luck wasn’t exciting. Many of my friends also cut back on WoW due to increasing job commitments, so I ended up talking more to them during the day than in-game. Which is valuable–it showed the friendship went more beyond the game and pixels–but it made logging on pretty strange. Realizing that something has helped you grow, and now you’ve outgrown that framework, is bittersweet.
As part of the growing though, I’ve channeled my interests into large projects–a refreshing change after my work for a radically different audience. Transmog is a great example of that, so is the “Same Model As” tab. I got to travel for work instead of being cooped up in a library, covering Blizzcon and the Mists press event. Many of my early blog posts were about guides to various quirky things in WoW, and now we have a section for user-submitted guides. I like coming up with screenshots for holiday guides and newsposts using the large collection of disguises I collected over the years. Plus, as someone that’s been around forever, I can draw upon my breadth of experiences when editing obscure parts of the database. (And it has been a good opportunity to branch out into other things. For example: I grew up in a remote area where most things were heavily filtered away–from jeans to all TV shows to any video games–so there are always gaps I’m looking to fill and enjoy, which explains why I document every little detail in Ocarina of Time just because I can now.)
Coming up with a “Now” picture is interesting. Transmog lets people freeze their characters in a timeless moment instead of the present, how the player wants them to be remembered. An armory link, especially in my case, would lead to a misleading and more depressing conclusion without context. When I moved servers last week to relax in a healthier guild atmosphere, I put on my Sunwell set for Midsummer farming, since I felt uncomfortable in my reforging mess of LFR gear that was abandoned when beta hit. A lot of the memories of my previous transfer came back to me. This was the raiding set I always wanted to have because I thought it symbolized someone that had demonstrated skill and reliability. (I forgot about our old friend RNG, but, details.) I remembered sentimental things like loading up an alt with fireworks and firewater for good luck and logging out in the World’s End Tavern before I left.
In light of the old picture I found, I think a picture of my rogue idling in her idealized yet equally-outdated Sunwell gear for “Now” is fitting. I slowly collected the missing pieces with friends over the years, not least of which was my melee team farming Black Temple for over 6 months with me in ICC, and I don’t have any pressure to offer up a screenshot of current gear to show that things are good because I achieved something. The gear reminds me that I had a great time both raiding and collecting in WoW, hobbies that helped me get this current job, which I’ve now refined into something both enjoyable and professional. Collecting things at a slower pace now, I do miss how things were, but the past served me well. (Also, fun fact: I was so busy with work that I only realized this week I hadn’t purchased any Firelands vanity items.)
Transitional periods are always awkward, and there’s a certain irony that covering WoW for work made me redefine how I enjoy it in my personal time. I’m still in the process of sorting things out, and the recent guild situation made these feelings fresh again, but I’m glad I’m in this current place.