First the art: today I was fortunate enough to discover Kelly Kerrigan, my new favorite artist.
Kelly, your aesthetic brilliance makes my cerebral cortex flood itself with joyful brain chemicals. May you have a long, lucky and prosperous life.
On both a full moon and a warm San Franciscan night. It’s like magic. Like the universe is screaming at me to write something in my blog, or something.
So okay, here I am, fresh from a week of playing the new WoW expansion, Mists of Pandaria. Verdict: I like it. It’s beautiful. There are pagodas and dragons and courtyards where phalanxes of NPCs practice martial arts moves 24/7 (and there’s a quest where you get to join them and try not to be the guy who throws a kick when everyone else is doing a punch). Somehow, sneaking around like a ninja is way more satisfying in a medieval Asian castle than in, say, a Norse-ish temple full of robot tanks and “constructs.” And I’d complain more about the aesthetics of Cataclysm but I never actually spent much time on them, having left the game before finishing any of the raids. My favorite thing in Cata was the underwater lands, which most other players despised, so possibly I’m out of step with other critics.
My mage is level 90, which was an exercise in masochism considering the heavy impact the nerf bat has had on what was formerly the easiest way to top DPS charts. Mages are particularly feeble at this point of the game. I can currently pump out maybe 25k of DPS while watching all the death knights, pallies, hunters and feral druids bringing in twice that much, so I’ve been skulking around grinding rep and hoping not too many people see me in my floundering stage. I’m hoping things will improve once I get more gear, and if they don’t, I have other toons.
My priest is level 86, has given up on healing people and is now shadow (and so far isn’t suffering nearly as much nerf bat collateral damage). The main reason for this is that they finally fixed levitate. Instead of running in mid air like an idiot, now you glide around with your feet hanging down, like something out of the Exorcist, and as a result, I’m usually doing that. When I’m not riding around on my shadow yak anyway. I have a monk too, it’s level 10 so far. Haven’t touched any of the rest, although clearly I should investigate the currently-overpowered melee characters.
The game itself has expanded laterally, with lots of things to do besides raiding and leveling. You can play a Pokemon-like mini game with your pets, sending them to fight other pets. And there are mini 3-person instances which can be tackled with any combination of characters. There’s even a nod to Farmville, where you can grow your own crops to level cooking.
How’s the socializing? Mixed bag. My priest’s guild is still quite functional, and reinstated me following my retirement, and gratses me when I achieve, and can provide in-depth nerdy discussion about the history of vidya games at practically any hour of the day. They even took me into Black Temple to re-explore this “raiding” concept upon my reappearance. I like those guys a lot.
My mage is in a gigantic anonymous leveling guild where hardly anyone talks. I don’t, because right after I joined, someone popped up in guild chat to say “what’s up, [n-word]?”, and someone else whispered me to advise that nobody in the guild talks because they’re all a bunch of [homophobic word]s. So I think I found out why nobody talks in that guild. Hopefully I’ll leave and join a better one soon. Until now, they give me level 25 bonuses.
While instancing, I ran across loads of reasonable people plus one memorable player screaming at everyone to go faster and DPS more (this was about three days into the expansion) (we all ignored the fool). And, for my fourth unpleasant encounter after having contact with approximately 400 other congenial and non-offensive players, I was in the noob panda zone and someone brought up the fact pandas are chubby. This led to admissions by several players that they were also chubby (humongously obese in one case, but he seemed jolly). Which led to a discussion of what everybody was eating for lunch. Things were going along appetizingly until some buzzkiller piped up that he hoped there were no fat chicks around, and he even defined fat chicks as weighing in excess of 175 pounds. If only he had said “meters.” I could have blamed him on the Canadians and/or Brazilians. Following this awkwardness, the conversation melted away like an ice cream sundae left in the sun. I imagined crestfallen heavy ladies sitting at their keyboards, maybe even the significant other of the guy who claimed to be somewhere around 400 pounds of fun.
Since this was my first actual genuine example of relational aggression since returning to WoW, I thought about it for a while. Maybe he was taunting a particular female player, given his specific weight reference. Maybe this was his typical attempt to infiltrate some pack of perceived cool kids in real life.
It’s very typical MMO relational aggression – define an out group (usually someone statistically unlikely to be present in significant numbers – not fat men, not female players) and insult it, and see if you can get others to join in the hate-bonding. If pressed, I would say that kind of thinking is behind about 80% of MMO sexism and homophobia. You’re a stranger in a world where you can’t see what anybody looks like – how do you locate the ones from the crowd where you’d probably fit? Maybe by finding the ones who share your prejudices. I sound pretty holier than thou, don't I? Yet I'd join a group that excluded the type of person I'm complaining about, in a heartbeat, although with an accompanying sinking feeling that I'd never see another 25 raid again. Such is the MMO paradox.
I could imagine a writer with a more feminist slant taking it as an instance of invoking the patriarchy to penalize any strapping females who dared to invade male privilege space (and selling 800 words on the subject). I could imagine a fashion writer slapping the guy on the back and offering up a picture of some postpartum lady celebrity displaying several pounds of disgusting cellulite as caught by a ninja paparazzi hanging from a tree 200 yards away (plus 200 words of typo-laden copy, for considerably more $ than the first hypothetical writer). I could imagine someone using this incident to concoct a hand-wringing slanted piece about how we need to tax calories and force all the fat dudes and chicks to leave their computers and head to the gym. Or maybe someone else using it to riff on eating disorders. I can imagine many, many types of one-note writers using this anecdote as fertile soil for planting the seeds of their favorite agenda while delivering an impassioned op ed. If I was one of those writers, perhaps I'd have a three story yacht like the one I just saw on Yahoo, but alas, I am a mere game-addicted slacker.
So here's my free (and commercial free) take: I thought it was rude, but I also thought the fact that it was probably the worst relational aggression that I’ve seen in a week was probably a sign things were improving.