Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'I'm Just Sayin' and Other Words of Hate

Back in high school my group of friends developed our own language. It was not a conscious action; we never set out to create a series of ‘code words’ to hide our nefarious deeds from our parents or anything, it just happened over time. Like any language, the ‘lingo’ or ‘verbiage’, as we called it, changed over time as phrases and words replaced others. Thirty years later we still use it a fair amount when we get together, and I’ve even passed some of it on to my wife and kids. I’m not sure if I’m pleased or disgusted by that fact.

The World of the World of Warcraft has its own ‘lingo’, and, like my high school verbiage, it has changed and adapted somewhat over time. A word like ‘Mob’ which generally refers to ‘bad guys’ came from an old programming term – Mobile Object Block – that really refers to any moving NPC (and there’s another in-game phrase). Other phrases have been adapted by WoW players from elsewhere, such as the largely-awful ‘leet speak’, like the various ‘lol’, lulz’ and ‘n00b’.

As a new player who had no experience with MMOs when I started playing WoW, the in-game language was initially quite confusing and sometimes intimidating. By the time I was in my first 'serious' guild, I knew enough to know that MT = Main Tank. Whenever someone in my guild would type ‘MT’ in guildchat I’d assume they made a mistake, that they were addressing the ‘Main Tank’ in their party, and I'd sometimes type back 'Wrong Chat'. It wasn’t until someone actually typed out ‘mistell’ that I realized my error, and stopped my silly behavior.

Another one that confused me was ‘FTW’. I pored over this one in my head for several minutes until I realized that it could only mean one thing: ‘Fuck the World!’ This meaning, both defiant and victorious, was drilled home to me the moment I first hurled my Hammer of Wrath at a fleeing Southsea Freebooter in Tanaris. I cranked it up (1.5 sec cast time back then) and watched that silver streak drill him in the back: ‘Hammer of Wrath, Fuck the World!’ It definitely works this way, doesn’t it? As certain as I was of FTW, I was utterly mystified by FTL, and I just couldn’t figure it out. Like ‘MT”, it wasn’t until someone actually spelled out ‘For the Loss’ in guild chat that I understood. That was also the moment I realized how wrong I was with FTW. Of course, Fuck the World still works just as well (if not better) than For the Win.

As much as I like Fuck the World (and now you’ll never think of it quite the same, will you? Power of Suggestion, FTW!) there are three phrases/ words commonly used in WoW these days that I just can’t stand. Here they are:

I’m just sayin
I’ve seen this for quite some time in both trade/general chat and in various WoW forums (mostly on the O-boards), and I’ve never liked it. How much I didn’t like it was brought into sharp focus last week in ICC. We were clearing the hallway up to Valithria Dreamwalke for the first time, and we had just encountered Crok Scourgebane, Captain Arnath (who, if you’ve ever struggled through Alchemist Finklestein's daily, has some of the best lines in the game), et. al. After the first set of pulls, a member of our group says (in raid chat, he has no mic): ‘We should try and heal the npcs since they’re helping us. I’m just sayin.’ Why is it that it bothers me so much? To me, ‘I’m just sayin’ is typically code for ‘This is so obvious that any idiot should know it, what does that say about you since you didn’t?’ Is that what he really meant to say? I doubt it, yet it always reads that way to me. I felt like saying ‘Sure I’ll heal those 4 extra adds, but you’ll probably die. I’m just sayin’.

Whereas ‘I’m just sayin’ always rubs me the wrong way, ‘meh’ depends more on the use, but I’m still not a fan. At it’s best, it conveys a degree of ambivalence: “Hey, what do you think of the 2-piece T9 bonus?’ ‘An extra 10 seconds on my judgments is meh, I'm going straight for T10.’ That’s much better than ‘W00t! I just got [link piece of gear here]!’ ‘Meh.’ Used this way, meh just comes across as the ultimate dismissal. Here you have someone expressing happiness over getting a piece of gear or an achievement, and someone else taking a big, steaming dump on it. Thanks a lot!

. . .
I’ve had a deep hatred for this phrase since the first time I ever saw it, back in a completely disastrous Hellfire Ramparts run when I was level 63. It was deserved, I’ll admit, because I was completely awful, but the first time it popped up in party chat, I knew it was aimed squarely at me, and that it wasn’t good. Other notables that day were ‘I’ve NEVER had this much trouble here before’ and a real whopper:
[Party] [Pallytank]: O
[Party] [Pallytank]: M
[Party] [Pallytank]: G
In fact, I think the OMG might have come immediately AFTER the ‘. . .’ I really was that bad of a healer back then.

Fortunately I’ve never seen it directed at me since then, though I have seen it pop up in raids from time to time. PUG raids, particularly VoA, are prone to ‘. . .’ It almost always follows a wipe, and it generally means something along the lines of ‘OMG, this group is total fail, I can’t believe I’m in this group, did you all buy your accounts yesterday?’ It’s usually followed by ‘Player… has left the raid.’ Personally, I feel we’re better off with . . . out of the raid. Try to offer something constructive and give it another try. If the only thing you have to say is ‘. . .’ then good riddance. I’m just sayin.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Class Choice

Professor Beej did a nice little guest post over at World of Matticus recently asking ‘why did you choose your healing class? ’ It certainly has sparked a number of stories and responses from the readers, and I was going to add my own response in there, too. Unfortunately, I realized two things: first, that it was a fairly complicated answer that wouldn’t quite fit in the space available; second, I’m overdue for a post here (I could also add a third: this topic has been popping around in my brain for some time; Beej’s post has given me the push I’ve apparently needed to actually do my own. Thanks, Beej!).

I’ve already dealt a bit with how I got started in WoW. That post deals a little bit with my prior computer game experience, which was limited primarily to games like Grand Theft Auto, Indiana Jones, and the like. As far as WoW, I had pretty much no idea of the game and how it worked, beyond what I’d seen as my wife and daughter played. Probably the closest thing to WoW experience I had personally was a brief foray into Dungeons & Dragons in high school. We didn’t play all that much or for very long, and not very well (the most memorable point in it was our party being gang-raped by a kobold king – such is the mindset of a teenage dungeon master). Still, some of the role-playing elements of D&D influenced my approach to WoW and the character creation process, even though I wasn’t going to play on an RP server.

When I sat down at the computer with the intent to play that first time, there was nothing on my mind except knocking around a little bit and seeing what all the fuss was about. I had no real concept of what any class did, except that hunters had pets and mages threw fire around (I knew this from seeing my daughter and wife play, respectively). Unlike Spazmoosifer, who mentioned in his response to Beej that he rolled a priest because the guild he was going to join needed one for raiding, I had no plans for anything beyond that day. So I was ‘stuck’ with the information that Blizzard could present during the character creation process. It was all up to me and my whims.

One of the first things I realized is that I needed to be able to relate to the toon I was about to play. This actually made choosing a faction pretty easy, as I looked over the horde models, they just didn’t do it for me. Orcs, trolls, and tauren just didn’t do it for me. Blood elves? Hah! Undead? No, thank you. I found that I needed my character to be a little more…human. And that’s what I picked. I didn’t investigate the racials, didn’t know (or care) that humans have a passive ability that gains more rep than others. None of that mattered. I just needed to be able to relate to the toon that would be running around in front of me, and I didn't quite connect with what I was looking at.

With the choice of faction/race/sex made I now had to choose a class. As I read through the class descriptions I found that three jumped out at me initially: Paladins, Druids, and Warlocks. Why they appealed to me, and why I made my ultimate choice, is somewhat hard to put down into words. It partly comes from the ability to relate to the character, mentioned above, but it also came in part because of how, despite not being a Role Player, it was important for me to project part of me into the character.

The Druid and Paladin both offered diversity, which was something I liked. The Druid, as a described, ‘command nature’s wrath’ and are ‘masters of the wild.’ I’m a nature guy, a lover of the outdoors, a bird watcher – playing the druid would seem to allow me to express my personality in a particular way. The Druid is ‘who I am.’

The Paladin is ‘a mix of melee fighter and a secondary spell caster.’ Furthermore the Paladin ‘can withstand terrible blows in the thickest battles while healing their wounded allies and resurrecting the slain.’ Wow! They are ‘Guardians of the Light’ who ‘bolster their allies with holy auras and blessing to protect their friends from harm and enhance their powers.’ The Paladin sounded like the ultimate team player, and I’ve always prided myself on being a good team player. When all the other kids wanted to play forward in street hockey, I played defense (of course, my hero of the day was Bobby Orr so I guess it wasn’t that great a sacrifice. Watch this for some highlights of Orr’s ‘Golden Years.’), since we had to have defensemen. It sounded very noble. Like the Druid, the Paladin represented ‘who I am’, but as I read the description, it also seemed a lot like ‘who I want to be.’

Then there was the Warlock. Where Paladins are ‘Guardians of the Light’ and Druids are ‘keepers of nature’, Warlocks are ‘masters of demonic power.’ Warlocks ‘plague their enemies with disease or curses, hurling bolts of fire or shadow energy across the battlefield, and summoning demons to aid them in combat.’ How cool is that? Yet the appeal of the Warlock was not just in hurling fiery damage around (my wife was playing a mage, and I could see for myself how cool that is), it was in the fact that Warlocks seem ‘evil.’ They are the anti-Paladin. Playing a Warlock would be a way for me to live vicariously on the Other Side, to not just flirt with darkness, but to embrace it. Instead of being ‘Mr. Lawful Goody Two Shoes’ (another quote from my old Dungeon Master) I could let my ‘Evil Twin’ run around and wreak havoc – wouldn’t that be fun? In a lot of ways, the Warlock would seem to allow me to ‘get away from myself’ a bit; and after all, isn’t the point of a game to escape?

It actually took me much longer to write those three paragraphs than it did to make the decision. The notion of ‘rolling’ a Druid was discarded pretty much the moment I read the Paladin description. The real debate for me was between the Paladin and the Warlock: Play the good guy that I am/would like to be? Or play the guy that I keep locked away all the time?

In the end I suppose the need to play something that represents both who I am and what I aspire to be overcame the sick thrill of setting your enemies on fire: I chose the Paladin. Given my personality it’s no surprise that I gravitated towards the Holy tree – the ability to help others through healing is one of the things that appealed to me about both the Druid and Paladin (I couldn’t remember why Shaman didn’t appeal to me at the time. Then I reread Blizzard’s description of the class. Talk about damning with faint praise! Perhaps if William Shatner’s commercial had been out then …).I knew early on that I wanted to go deep into the Holy tree – as cool as Avenger’s Shield looked (it was the top of the protection tree at the time), Holy Shock just seemed that much better – even when level 70 was so far away as to be meaningless. Once I started healing I found that I liked it, even when the results were disastrous. Which they often were.

As for my Warlock: when I set about creating him, I admit that I had a vision in my head of what he would be like. I gave him an extra-stern face, and even thought that I’d play him with a different personality – one more befitting a master of the dark arts. Ultimately, I play him just like my Paladin – in other words, he’s like a mini-me. Poor sap!

There you have it. Not quite a direct answer to the question Beej raised, but something of an answer nonetheless. I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you chose the class you did: was it for reasons like mine, or because it looked cool, or because you knew you’d get raid spots? Does your toon represent who you are or who you’d like to be, or have no meaning at all? Let me know!