I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for about five and a half years now. Over that time, I’ve noticed a few parallels between life in Azeroth and life in the Real World ™, and I’ve been thinking lately about a few of the things I’ve learned from WoW.

For one thing, WoW taught me the value of doing dailies. A naturally lazy person, I’ve always struggled somewhat with the monotony and redundancy of daily household chores. Five minutes after I do the dishes or finish the laundry, there are more dirty dishes and dirty clothes! Still, these things must be done. As I’m fond of saying, “We are all Sisyphus.”  But WoW taught me a good reason to do your dailies: Reputation.

See, I’m in a mixed marriage: I’m a geek, he isn’t. I was the only girl in our weekly Dungeons & Dragons group in high school; he’d never even heard of a 20-sided die. He doesn’t understand the appeal of video games at all; I play WoW 25 hours a week. If you’re married to a non-geek,  you know how hard it can be to balance your play time with the funny looks your spouse gives you. Doing my real life dailies and weeklies, whether it be Doing the Dishes or Hanging Up Hubby’s Shirts, earns me valuable Spousal Rep which I can leverage into extra WoW time. Sadly, there’s no gold reward for those dailies, but you can’t have it all.

WoW is teaching me how to be a boss. No, not the level 83 Elite kind… the other kind. I’m not necessarily a person comfortable with being in charge. Nevertheless, I founded and co-lead a raid team. Sometimes, this involves things I find unpleasant or uncomfortable. I have to deal with raid drama. Decide who to sit out for the night when we have too many raiders. Tell people what to do and how to do it. (In all fairness, I’ve delegated a good portion of the “telling people what to do” bit to my trustworthy and capable co-lead & main tank, but you take my meaning.)

Coincidentally, in the last year, I have also been learning how to be a manager/boss/co-owner of a business. I was laid off from a company about to go under, so I went to work at my husband’s small business. I’m new to his business, but as Mrs. Owner, I manage the shop in the afternoons. Sometimes, this involves things I find unpleasant or uncomfortable. I have to deal with employee drama. Decide who gets how many hours when we have too many employees for the current workload. Tell people what to do and how to do it. The job teaches me about raid leading, and raid leading has certainly taught me a lot about my job.

Warcraft has also taught me many useful analogies for dealing with the people around me. For example, I work with a frequently cranky, often unreasonable individual. If I tell you she has a huge aggro radius, and a nasty AOE temper that hits everyone regardless of who taunted her, you can understand my main strategy for dealing with her: I do my best to stay out of range. And I think we all can recognize the wisdom of “stay out of the fire.” Is your boyfriend an asshole? Does your job suck? Are your roommates intolerable? Don’t just stand there. Get out of it!

See? You do learn something every day! Even in Azeroth.

This Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was suggested by… me!

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This week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic–When Should a Healer Let Someone Die?–was suggested by Ecclesiastical Discipline:

Where do you draw the line on shifting the priority of someone’s heals down (or refusing to heal them all together)? Is it if they upset you personally? If they are consistently standing in the fire? If they have lame dps? If they aren’t managing their aggro? If they go afk for fifteen minutes in the middle of a boss fight? Is it only when it’s jeopardizing the entire group’s success? I believe there is a point for every healer, but where does the gray area fall? Does anyone really heal the jerk who is offensive and stands in fire when there is anyone else who needs healing?

I love this topic because I recently had my first experience of intentionally letting someone die.

I’m not a healer prone to letting people die. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but when it does, I feel pretty bad. You just can’t prevent some deaths, of course, but even when that squishy, AOE-spamming, aggro-pulling mage goes down despite my shields, despite my penance, I feel a little bad.

I once explained my healing priorities to my friends:

  1. Tanks
  2. Me
  3. Other Healers
  4. DPS I like
  5. DPS I don’t like

I take some ribbing about that from time to time. It is true that if I’m fond of you, you’ll rate a little better during triage. Honestly, though, I don’t really let the obnoxious die. I heal them last. I let them get low in hopes of alarming them. I don’t let them die.

Maybe I avoided healing for so long not just because I thought it was a stereotype that girls play healers, but because I actually fit that healer stereotype so well. I’m a mother. I’m the eldest child. I’m a caretaker type in many ways. Me wishing ill on someone is less like: “I hope you fall down the stairs,” and more like: “I hope you stumble and scare yourself!” So you have to really piss me off before I’m going to just let you die.

Sometimes, though, someone just deserves to die. I was running my daily random and got Violet Hold, which I like because it’s fast and easy. We got a bear tank — I love me some bear tanks. One of the three dps was a retribution paladin.  I like pallies. Nothing against pallies at all. Except this one kept pulling aggro.

“Dude, turn off Righteous Fury,” says the bear. For those who don’t know, Righteous Fury causes 80% more threat from a paladin’s holy spells. I don’t play a paladin, so I don’t know how many holy spells ret pallies use, but it must be a lot, because he was pulling aggro like crazy.

No reaction from the pally, but you know, the pulls keep coming. I feel like I’m healing two tanks. I’m crazy overgeared for VH, but still. The bear asks again. He’s not being a jerk, he’s just asking the paladin to turn off Righteous Fury. I don’t know if the paladin had his chat window off or didn’t understand what was being asked of him or what. I just know that after the third time the tank asked, I’d had enough.

Here, let me help you with that Righteous Fury. I believe it comes off when you are dead.

I rezzed him between waves, he didn’t turn RF back on, and we breezed through the rest of the instance. I didn’t even feel bad for letting him die. Well… maybe a little bit. It doesn’t matter though, because it was the right thing to do and I would do it again.

I’m a healer. I’m a good healer. I will do everything I can to keep you alive. But if you act like you want to die, I just might let you.

This week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was suggested by Spinks of Spinksville: Cataclysm is coming! The old world is going to be destroyed and remade.

Which town, quest, NPC, or zone really needs to be purged with fire, in your opinion? Will you enjoy dancing on the ashes of a particularly hated quest giver? Or is there some zone you avoid like the plague (Plaguelands excluded) where being nuked from orbit could only improve the experience? And why do you hate it/them so much?

What needs to die in a fire in Cataclysm? I’m not generally very big on complaining about the game. This is Blizzard’s world, and I usually think they are trying to do their best by its denizens. Will of the Forsaken nerf? It was overpowered! Change to the talent tree? Blizz is just trying to keep the playing field even. That said, I’m not a total fangirl. There are a few things that can go right ahead and die in Deathwing’s fire.

The shaman water totem quest: I suppose this quest could be viewed as a rite of passage. Want to be a shaman? You must suffer, grasshopper! Running all over the Barrens, Tarren Mill, Ashenvale and Silverpine–at level 20? And I had a mount when I did it! I shudder to think about doing it back when we didn’t get our mounts until 40. The consolation doesn’t come until you do your Air Totem quest, when you go to the questgiver and he just hands it to you. After all, you’ve been through enough.

Malygos: Can you hear the tears I cry when you are the weekly raid quest, Malygos? I hate you so much that I would actually skip the weekly if I didn’t have raiders who wanted the frost badges. For them, I go. I hate your 3-D space that I find so challenging to navigate. I hate the vehicle mechanic introduced in the third phase, so that if the raid doesn’t understand it and wipes, they have to start the whole damn thing over again. I hate the fact that we get a weekly raid quest that there’s a key for, so if no one present has the key, we have to do a separate boss in a separate instance to get the key. I know, we can port right to Sapphiron now. And I know, the fight’s not that hard anymore. I just think it’s unnecessary.

Azshara: Surely I am not alone in this. I avoid this zone at all costs. It’s too bad, because Azshara could be cool. The scenery is lovely. I like the hippogryphs and the dragonkin and hey — who doesn’t love to kill some naga? What I hate about this zone is how difficult it is to navigate. There’s no road system whatsoever. There are mountains blocking you at every turn. You fall off a cliff and never find your way back up.  There’s no inn; just some NPCs hanging out at a hardscrabble little camp without even a proper tent. I’m normally quite an environmentalist, but jeez! Let the goblins have at it with this place!

The idiot selling flasks in the auction house at a loss: I actually have no problem with healthy competition. If you’ve undercut me by 5g, well… fair play. But seriously, I was making a decent profit on flasks – nothing exorbitant, just a healthy little return on my investment. Then you come along and start selling below cost. Obviously Blizzard can’t do anything about this, but dude! You’re killing me! Knock it off, will you?

Jaedia at The Lazy Sniper suggested the current Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: What are you doing to conquer the pre-expansion slump?

So after saying just the other day that I wasn’t a victim of the pre-expansion slump, I realized it wasn’t true. Sure, I’m still working on progression in ICC, so I’m still seeing new fights, moving through content that’s fresh for me. An advantage of being slightly behind in progression is that while other raid teams and guilds have no new content to keep them motivated right now, my team is still excited about ICC.

But my team raids just six hours a week, and I play WoW around 25 hours a week. Which means I’m still seeing lots of content I’ve seen before. Which means I’m definitely feeling the pre-expansion slump. I’m ready for Azeroth to be new again. I want to roll new races, see new starting zones, revisit all the changed places in the Old World. I still love this game, but I’m ready for it to be new and exciting again.

In the meantime, though, I find myself with a little pre-Cataclysm to-do list to work on, so I do Ginnger’s dailies. I do Sindei’s dailies. I transmute something on Marsha. I’m not going to lie – it’s not that exciting.

So, what am I doing to keep my game going?

It’s always been my in-game goals that have kept me playing. Whether it’s a certain achievement I’m after, a piece of gear, or even a vanity pet, I enjoy working toward something. That certainly remains true with Ginnger, for whom I have plenty of goals. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been running regular Pit of Saron in hopes of getting a shield upgrade for Ginnger. PuG after PuG, the shield wouldn’t drop. When it did, a pally tank rolled against me and won it. Finally, I ran it with a few friends, and voila! The shield dropped. Clearly, friends are the key to success!

I’ve also been leveling my druid, Aless, though in a very casual way. I’m leveling her as boomkin. It’s not the fastest, I know, but I just wasn’t feeling it with the cat melee. Naturally, I want to try out druid healing — maybe it would teach me to trust druid HoTs in raid — but I’m not committed enough to leveling her to shell out for dual spec yet. Maybe around 60, if I stick with her.

The other thing I’ve been spending more time doing is playing the Auction House. Not in a super serious way or anything, but just to have more of a steady income. It’s really kind of entertaining, watching the prices, knowing what I’m willing to pay for materials, what kind of profit margin I’m getting. If prices on the items I’m selling drop too low, I hold off for another day and a better price.

I made some use of the remote Auction House feature during the Beta, but I haven’t subscribed to the pay service. Yet. It’s tempting, since I could then do some of my Auction House stuff from work. I like the remote Auction House interface, and whatever I do remotely means I spend less time in game doing business, and more time collecting Emblems of Triumph for Ginnger’s Elemental Tier 9 set. Of course, my Auctioneer data is all in-game, but I’m involved in only a few markets, so I pretty much know what I need to buy and sell for. Honestly, $2.99 is less than what I might spend on coffee on any given day, but we’ll see.

Ardol from The World of Warcraft Philosophized (one of my favorite blogs, by the way) suggested this week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic:

The idea of this shared topic is to write a post about your favorite something(s). Maybe it could be your favorite movies, favorite books, or if you wish to write about WoW, your favorite quests, favorite abilities, etc. I won’t limit this to being in just list form; if you wish to expound on one particular tv show or dungeon, go right ahead. The true purpose of this kind of topic would be to help your readers get to know you as a person, but to focus on one particular aspect of who you are and what you like, and to see who agrees or disagrees with you.

So here are a few of my favorite (mostly WoW-related) things:

The beautiful gloom

Favorite starting zone: Organizationally, the Blood Elf starting zone is the best. That said, I have a soft spot for the Undead starting zone. It’s a nice change of pace from Durotar and the Barrens, and it’s not full of Blood Elves.  And I sort of like the gloom of the Forsaken. What can I say? I have a lot of inner angst.

Favorite quest / quest chain: My favorite quest, by far, is the shaman water totem quest.

KIDDING!

It’s not terribly interesting, but for whatever reason, I’m always pleased when it’s time to do Lost in Battle. I know, I know: Mankrik’s wife is nothing now but a Beaten Corpse. I’ve reported this fact to him countless times, but he just doesn’t get it. The truth hurts.

My favorite quest chain overall has to be the Wrathgate line. This is perhaps the most epic questline in the game, with the culminating cinematic, the betrayal of Varimathras and Putress, the tragedy of a father losing his son, and the Battle for the Undercity. The first time I did this line was on an undead character, and from that point of view in particular, the chain was amazing. I’ve made sure to do this on all three of my 80s, and I’ll be sure to do it on any future toons as well.

You dare post a screenshot of the Host of Souls???

Favorite instance: It kind of depends. If I’m trying to get a bunch of Triumph badges, Nexus is my favorite because it’s an easy five badges–maybe seven if you get it on random. I like Oculus because it’s easy, if you can get people to stay in it, and I’m still hoping the blue drake will drop for me. Yep, you heard me: I like Oculus. (I can spell it, too. One “c,” not two, people!) I used to love Culling of Stratholme, because I loved Warcraft III, but that’s before I had to run it eleventy thousand times as a random.

But I’d have to say my current favorite is Forge of Souls. It’s easy. It’s fast. I love Bronjahm for the awesome music, and I love the Devourer of Souls for the awesome intro. “YOU DARE LOOK UPON THE HOST OF SOULS???” It’s still reasonably fresh. I like Halls of Reflection, but with the wrong group, it’s a nightmare. I like Pit of Saron, but healing on Garfrost when people can’t figure out the whole Saronite Rock mechanic gives me hives. So there  you go. Forge of Souls. “I SHALL DEVOUR YOU WHOLE!”

You haven't worn socks till you've worn handknit socks.

Favorite thing to do outside of Azeroth: Knitting. I haven’t knit any Warcraft projects, despite the requests of my Wowcohol cohost, Daniel, but anything’s possible.  I’ve been knitting a lot of socks this year, but soon it will be time to start on winter knitting: I need to make a hat for my husband, a scarf for a friend, and a baby blanket for a young expectant mother who’s due right around Christmas. That’s a lot of knitting, so I’ve got to get on the stick(s) soon!

“So I was talking with Eda on twitter tonight and she mentioned that she’s had 4 raids in the last 2 weeks get canceled. And that got me wondering, what do people do when their raid is canceled?” — This Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was suggested by Deynor of Swift Retribution.

Everyone has canceled raid nights from time to time. Sometimes, it just can’t be helped.

Of course, I have things I like to do when a raid is canceled. But in thinking about this topic, what interested me more was the infrequency with which my current team actually cancels raids. We’ve been raiding together for a little more than six months, and I can count the canceled nights on one hand.

I think the last one may have been a couple of months ago, on a patch night, due to server instability. Even then, as I recall, we still hung together long enough to get the weekly raid quest done (a big priority for us on Tuesdays). We also had a canceled raid on Christmas Day, but of course, that was more of a planned night off than a last-minute cancellation. I think there may have been another time, too, when circumstances  had about half the raid unable to show up, so I just called the whole thing a few days ahead of time. If it’s not last-minute, does it still count?

Why doesn’t my team cancel raids? We’re a casual team, but contrary to what some folks seem to think, “casual” doesn’t mean sloppy, unreliable, or uncommitted. Actually, I think our casual nature may be part of why our raids don’t get canceled. Everyone is there only because they really want to be there. We’re there to have a good time and to hang out with each other. It’s low pressure and fun, so people show up.

Of course, sometimes people have other things come up. Their internet connection goes down. Something in their real life comes up. These things happen. But my team marches gaily forward! We pick up substitute players if we’re missing some of our usual core.  Sometimes, we just change plans our plans a bit.

One night when something went wonky with the raid we were working on — I don’t remember what exactly happened — we broke into two five-man teams and did the new ICC heroics. We all stayed on Vent together and chatted as we went along, but our raid night wasn’t canceled, per se. Another time, we were missing a couple of players on a night we were scheduled to work on downing Yogg-Saron. Reluctant to drag an outsider into our wipefest, we picked up a player and farmed ICC rep instead. Some raids might be canceled when the leader can’t be there, but  I have capable, trustworthy co-leads who take over on those rare occasions I have to miss a night.

As for those rare occasions that we do have to cancel, I may work on leveling any alts I’m working on at the time, or I may tend to some dailies on my main. I might sign into a bank alt and take care of auction house business. I might work on this blog, or maybe sign into the Starcraft II Beta and get my ass handed to me yet again. Most likely, though, I’ll head back to the living room, to sit and knit — I’m currently working on a pair of socks — and watch a little TV with my husband.

Based on recent reports from Blizzard that 70% of their accounts never make it past level 10, Guthammer of Guthammer’s Last Stand suggested this Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.

When Blizzard recently disclosed that 70% of their accounts never get past level 10, I was a little surprised. Leveling 1-10 is so fast and simple, I was surprised that people give up that quickly. Trials are 10 days long, and the first ten levels only take a few hours.

But perhaps my view of the first ten levels is a little skewed. After all, longtime players have significant advantages over newbies when it comes to leveling.

First of all, I have heirloom gear and funding for any alts I decide to start. Ginger had all available heirlooms equipped at level 1. With a twenty percent XP boost, and the equivalent of blue-quality items, the first ten levels are lightning fast.

And I know the first ten levels. Of course, I’d be a little lost if I rolled Alliance, but after five years of rolling Horde toons, I’m deeply familiar with the starting areas. I know where the mobs are, the fastest way to the major cities, what areas I’ll go to next. I know which quests to do and which ones I want to skip.

I also have the advantage of addons. Brand new players aren’t likely to know about addons and how much they can speed up the leveling process. It doesn’t matter if you use Carbonite, TomTom + Lightheaded, or Quest Helper, these help streamline leveling.

Finally, I have a great deal of social support in the game. When I’m starting a new alt, I can get help from my friends when I need it, whether that’s quick instance runs, downing elites, or just chatting as I crank through the early levels. Unless they come to the game with real life friends, new players have little or no social support: no one to run instances with, no guild or buddies to help or guide them. Ever try asking a newbie question in trade or general chat? It’s not particularly encouraging.

So how do you fix these issues for brand new players?

Some efforts have already been made. The tutorial has allegedly been improved, though I confess I haven’t checked it out yet myself. I actually kind of remember the tutorial as being OK anyway, but as I said, it’s been a long time. Blizzard has added quest helper functionality; I still prefer addons for this, but it should be a big help to newbies. Not everyone wants to spend an hour hunting for the quest location like I sometimes did when I started!

An increase in health and mana regen for low level toons, coupled with decreased mana costs on their early spells, should also help with some of the tediousness of the early levels. (You know: Cast, sit & drink, cast, sit & drink.)

More changes are planned for Cataclysm. All the starting zones are being revamped, with improved flow like that seen in the Blood Elf and Draenei starting areas. Class changes for low levels — giving level one hunters a pet or equipping level one rogues with two daggers, for example — will give players a better feel for their class from the start.

I think all those things will really help new players, but I find myself coming back over and over to the social aspects of the game. Don’t get me wrong — I think the game itself is extremely engaging. But I increasingly find it’s not about just the game for me. It’s much more about the friendships I’ve developed in the game. I find myself logging in just to see if my friends are around, sometime on nights I might otherwise take off of the game.

Blizzard is implementing new guild rewards in Cataclysm, as well as the upcoming Looking for Guild function, to encourage the development of these kinds of relationships in-game. Recruit-A-Friend, too, is meant to encourage in-game relationships, this time by getting your real life friends involved. The more social interaction you have in the game, the more likely you are to keep coming back to it. Conversely, the more asshattery new players encounter, the less likely they are to return.

I’m not sure exactly what Blizzard can do about some of this. Some players are just jerks — we’ve all seen them. Other players will restore your confidence in humankind. Player interactions are really up to the players themselves. We can’t kick the jackasses out of the game, sadly, but we can choose to be helpful and friendly. The game has gone beyond being a game and has grown into a community. I hope most players will decide to welcome others into that community.

A lot of this goes well past level 10, of course. Blizzard is making its effort to help out those new to the game, but established players have a part to play as well. So be a community player, and help a noob get to level 11 (and beyond) today!