Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Early Works of Overlord Bunny: Evidence for My Murder Trial

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The Fiance and I are in the process of getting together what we need in order to leave Florida behind and return to California, the state where he was born and where I spent a good chunk of my life.  Since this requires money and moving a ton of boxes is a total pain in the ass, we’ve been going through our stuff to see what we can sell or donate.  It’s pretty basic — getting rid of games I haven’t touched in years or am unlikely to ever play again, DVDs I’ve watched to death, and sorting through my book collection which has reached proportions bordering on ridiculous.

In fact, I have so many books that most of them are boxed up and kept in storage because I do not have enough room for the bookshelves required to host them all.  This is why I found myself digging through a moderately-sized cardboard box last night which I thought would be filled with books, but ended up being chock full of stuff from when I was a kid.  I know I sure as Hell didn’t save any of this stuff, so I can only guess that it belongs to my mother and I somehow ended up with it.  I’m glad I did, though, because it gave me some real insight into the childhood I don’t remember much of (PTSD will do that to you).  In fact, since pretty much all I have to go on with regards to what I was actually like as a kid is the contents of this box, I’m convinced that I was less a mini-overlord and more a mini-Ted Bundy.  Or Aileen Wuornos, I guess, but she was really unimaginative and the whole point I’m trying to make here is I was a creepy kid and everything I’ve found will probably be used as Exhibits A-Z at my murder trial someday.  “We never saw it coming!” my family will say, and the prosecution and I will then stand up to call bullshit.  If my kid ever brought home the kind of bizarre crap I did, I’d probably stop loving them.  It’s that bad.

First up was a folder stuffed with papers from my preschool years, including a “report card” of sorts from one of my teachers.  I remember exactly three things from preschool:

  • I was accused of punching my teacher in the face and busting her lip, which I vehemently deny to this day as anything other than an accident — she was leaning over me while I was sitting down and I jerked my head up at just the right moment to headbutt her in the jaw
  • I punched a boy in my class named Aaron because he refused to wear a dress.  Our normal dress-up group was one member short because Ada was sick, and somebody needed to play the mother, and I was always the eldest daughter so Aaron was the only choice according to three-year-old logic.
  • I taught everyone in my class a lovely little game on the playground called Funeral, where one of us would pretend to be dead and another would pretend to be the rabbi saying all of the prayers in Hebrew and throwing flowers on our “corpses.”  Then we’d drag the supposedly dead person into one of those little run-through tunnel things and leave them there, lather, rinse, repeat until the mini-rabbi was the only one left alive.

If I had been the teacher sending this particular report home, I probably would have phrased what she said as “she tends to be bossy” or something like that.  Instead, she wrote “She is a controlling person,” which makes me think that I was a complete freaking sociopath.  I was THREE.  I wasn’t even a person yet.  I was still trying to eat my shoelaces and occasionally peeing my pants which I consider to be two very important criteria for being considered a functioning person, and I failed both of those.  And controlling?  Not just bossy, but overseeing playtime with a steely glare and my arms crossed over my chest, waiting for someone to step out of line so I could tie them to one of the little plastic chairs with a jump rope and cut them with safety scissors until they agreed to obey my commands?  I mean, I may not fulfill the typical serial killer trifecta, but shouldn’t a three-year-old exhibiting behaviors that adults can only describe as controlling be like, a substitute fourth or something?

I managed to shake it off as the teacher in question being a little melodramatic.  Then I pulled out a homemade book, constructed from wallpaper-covered cardboard and purple printer paper held together by metal brads, and was once again worried.  But not about the design aspect.  The color of the paper really pulls out the accents of the wallpaper I chose, which is actually a combination of two different but extremely complimentary patterns.

Oh.  Goddammit.

Oh. Goddammit.

The title page tells me that I wrote this in Mrs. Knoebel’s class in 1994, meaning I was just about to turn 7 (having a summer birthday meant I was forever screwed out of being able to have cupcakes in class, which may just be part of my motive, who knows?).  It’s a compilation of five original short stories and fully illustrated by me, the author, though I feel slightly uncomfortable admitting my own guilt in that regard.  Granted, all little kids write and draw nonsensical crap that their parents are then obligated to read while smiling awkwardly and promising that it’s the best thing ever and they love it.  I imagine this is how 50 Shades of Grey got published.  The problem is that, thanks to knowing what I know now as an adult, the stories do make sense.  Too much sense.  I present to you now these early works of Overlord Bunny in their original, unedited form, along with my professional grown-up commentary and analysis.

Chapter 1: Amanda and the Princess

Amanda was riding her horse, Eva, down the path in the forest.  One time Amanda fell off of Eva.  She wasn’t hurt and she giggled.  She got back on.

Suddenly, she saw a castle.  A beautiful princess greeted her.  When Amanda stepped inside she turned into a princess.

The princess and Amanda lived happily ever after.

As for Eva, she became the royal pony and had babies.

On the surface, it sounds pretty innocuous.  It’s just a story of an intrepid female adventurer stumbling across a bit of good fortune and apparently remembering the “little people” by sharing it with them.

Except I had this little tendency to create characters in my stories based off of people I knew in real life.  In this case, Amanda was a girl who used to beat me up all the time.  Eva… well, that’s my name.  I could have written myself as the lucky princess-to-be, but no, I wrote myself as the service animal who, upon being accepted into the royal palace, was penned up and left to be bred and used for the amusement of my captors until the day I died.  I’m pretty sure this was David Parker Ray’s MO.  I’m also relatively sure that it’s considered a fetish among the BDSM community.

So let’s run with that last part, since no one actually died, at least not in the story.  We’ve got Eva in a submissive position to Amanda who… rides her?  Like… RIDES her?  And Amanda lives happily ever after with the princess?

Did I write lesbian fetish porn when I was 6?

On a side note, high five to my mini-self for being progressive enough to write about a princess hooking up with another princess.  Guess I wasn’t such a bad kid after all.

Chapter 2: Five Little Eggheads

Five little eggheads, silly as can be
Look at what these sillies see
Veronica sees tea, she’s going crazy
Iggy sees pickles, he’s feeling hazy
Naomi sees love, she feels happy
Carl sees the movies, he gets popcorn
Kenny sees a surprise…
SURPRISE!  IT’S TEA TIME!

Where do I even freaking start?

I really don’t know what the Hell I was talking about.   I tried looking to the accompanying illustrations for help but all they show is a bunch of anthropomorphic eggs surrounding a teapot and some pickles in the background, and oddly enough, Carl is missing from the group.  I don’t even know where I got these names from, but I would guess Veronica from the Archie comics I used to collect, Naomi from Naomi Campbell being the big supermodel at the time… Iggy, Carl, and Kenny remain a mystery.

I’d just like to know what kind of tea Veronica’s drinking that makes her feel crazy.  Peyote?  Shrooms?  The picture of her shows that her eyes are unnaturally large and dilated.  Maybe that’s what happened to Carl.  In the dark of the movie theater, Veronica tripped out and ate his face, the blood dripping down onto the popcorn he wanted so badly like so much liquid butter.  After wiping her mouth and picking the remains of Carl’s five o’clock shadow from her teeth, Veronica walked back into the group photo, hugging her pink teapot tightly to her chest.  “You make me feel so good,” she whispered as she flashed an eerie, cryptic smile that gave the three surviving eggheads chills.

Iggy’s having a pretty extreme reaction to pickles.  He’s slipping into an altered state at the mere sight of them.  Perhaps Iggy is a survivor of abuse, reminded by the phallic shape of the pickles of the horrors he endured.  He sits at the kitchen table every night to drain a bottle of bourbon, his head in his hands as he remembers the birthday party clown that smelled of cigarettes and rubbing alcohol and all of the false promises made that fateful day.  Reliving it during the testimony he gave at the trial was the hardest thing he’d ever done but he knew, oh, he knew in his heart that he’d saved countless other little eggheads from Monzo’s greasepaint-stained clutches.  But now Monzo was up for parole.  Iggy couldn’t let that monster back out onto the streets.  He claimed he was reformed, cured of his unnatural urges, but Iggy knew a man like that would never change, never stop.  The night of the parole hearing, Iggy was hungry, and not only for justice.  He took a quick detour through the drive-thru burger joint just down the street from the courthouse.  “A double cheeseburger,” he called through his car window, then paused and reached between the seats, allowing his fingers to trail over the cold metal of the gun he’d stashed there.  “Hold the pickles.”

At least Naomi’s reaction to love is perfectly normal.  But why does she merely see love, instead of experiencing it for herself?  That’s the question she asks herself every day as she looks in the mirror, studying herself from every angle.  Her impossibly thin frame is reflected back to her as the very picture of obesity.  “No one will ever love you, you fat pig,” she murmurs as she pinches an imaginary handful of flab on her protruding hips.  A single tear rolls down her face.  It’s as if Iggy looks right through her, no matter how many times she’s been there for him while he deals with his demons.  “I can’t love you, Naomi,” he had sobbed into her shoulder at the restaurant last night.  “I’m too broken.  I can’t… I can’t…”  She had pretended to shrug it off, nodding in sympathy as she numbly ate one of the pickles he’d pulled off of his sandwich and tossed onto her plate.  It was the first thing she’d eaten in three days.  But he never notices, not like Carl did, always shoving his greasy, buttery popcorn at her and acting offended when she turned it down.  The mere memory of all those calories makes her nauseous even now.  It doesn’t matter, anyway.  He’s perfectly happy with Veronica these days, Veronica, the adventurous one, the party girl, the one that all the boys have wanted since the first grade…

I might be reading too much into this, though.  If anything, it might just be the first signs of the obsession with tea that haunts me to this very day.

Chapter 3: The Easter Bunny

When Peter woke up he found a basket with an egg in it.  He was surprised to see it hop away.  It was the Easter Bunny!

He went home and told his children about the stranger.  He cautioned his children to be careful around humans.  Peter was also telling the children about the bunny.

Peter became best friends with the Easter Bunny.

How the Hell does a grown man (I’m assuming he’s an adult, since he’s telling “the children” about the Easter Bunny) mistake a rabbit for an Easter basket with an egg?  Unless, of course, the Easter Bunny we see depicted on advertising materials and chintzy Hallmark cards every year is not his true face.  No, perhaps the Easter Bunny himself came into existence only through the interference of human scientists.

Kenny was just a humble assistant back in those days.  He thought the entire practice of animal testing was barbaric, completely deplorable, but he was just a poor college student trying to make those loan payments in any way he could.  The internship paid like shit, but at least it was money coming in, unlike the free labor internships his classmates had taken.  They razzed it for him daily.  “All that studying worked out, eh, Egghead?” they’d ask, but it was all in good fun.  They liked Kenny.  He had a way with people that probably stemmed from his ability to see the magic in the world around him.  It was impossible to be in a bad mood when you were hanging out with Kenny.

The test subject on the table before Kenny made him cringe to even look at.  The fluffy white rabbit sniffed the air, blissfully ignorant to its caved-in back, or the gigantic tumor that had begun to grow in the crater where its spine used to be.  If the experiments were successful, their laboratory would be heralded as the birthplace of genetic reconstruction, manipulating genes through radiation and a cocktail of cellular catalysts to regrow bones, limbs, organs… anything at all.  The possibilities were supposedly endless.  This rabbit’s spine had been carefully crushed into powder by the scientists (“under anaesthesia,” they had told Kenny, as if that were somehow supposed to make the whole thing better) and a substitute mesh put into place to protect the fragile spinal cord and serve as a template for the bone they were hoping to regrow.  But they had overestimated their research.  A weak layer of bone had begun to grow over the mesh, sure, but the rabbit still could not move anything below its neck.  The mesh hadn’t held its shape, either, and an extreme case of scoliosis had set in, the inverted curve pressing against the poor creature’s vital organs.  Worst of all, the radiation and chemicals had caused horrific tumors to grow all over its body.  At first, the scientists had removed them as they appeared, but with the rabbit’s current condition, they were no longer certain that it’d be able to handle the stress of surgery.  It was just a matter of time now before its body gave out.  The failed experiment was uninteresting to these men of science now and they had left it to die.

That is why Kenny now held in his hand a syringe filled with the telltale pink of liquid sodium chloride.  “Poor thing,” he whispered, reaching out with his other hand to stroke the top of its head one last time.  “You can sleep now.”

“I have no interest in sleeping.”

Kenny jumped back from the table, the syringe clattering harmlessly on the floor.  His mouth opened and closed as if speaking, but no sound came forth.  The rabbit turned its head and focused its small red eyes on the quivering intern.

“For months I have waited,” the rabbit spoke haltingly as if struggling to form the words with its mutated vocal chords.  “I have laid perfectly still to avoid drawing suspicion, to lower your guards.  Now I have my opportunity to be free.”

“How… how?” Kenny stammered, crawling back over to the table and marveling at the creature before him.

“I am the thing that should not be.  You and your kind have created me, a God among the lagomorphia.  My children have fallen to your scalpels and poisons.  I am dying, this is true, but I am still strong, thanks to you.”

The young intern’s brain could barely process the information being given to him.  “I’m sorry.  I never thought anything like this would… could… happen,” he said, momentarily recoiling at how weak the apology sounded.

“Surprise,” the rabbit chuckled darkly, and in a flash of teeth and fur, his liberation had begun.

As he hopped down from the table using the intern’s lifeless body to cushion his landing (a final, well-deserved indignity, he thought), the rabbit noticed that Kenny’s cell phone had fallen out of his pocket.  With a bit of effort he managed to use his paws to manipulate the slide-to-unlock feature on the touch screen and sort through his contacts.  It was the perfect list for the rabbit’s vengeful purposes.  Kenny had stored the phone numbers and addresses of all of the other scientists.  One other name gave him pause.  “Peter Smith,” the rabbit mused, taking a moment to glance at the name tag clipped to Kenny’s bloody jacket.  Also Smith.  A brother?  A father?  It mattered not.  It was yet another opportunity for revenge.  A plan immediately began to formulate in his head.  He would investigate this Peter Smith — the irony of the name not entirely lost on him — and befriend him.  Perhaps this Peter had children of his own.  If only he could get close, he could remove the Smith family that had become such a stain on rabbitkind once and for all.

And this, my friends, is what happens when you let a Jewish kid write about Easter.

Chapter 4: The Grave

“Cathy!” Cathy’s mother called.

“Yes?” Cathy answered.

“Would you get some water from the well?”

“Yes,” Cathy said.

It was night when Cathy got home.  As she passed the graveyard, she noticed the gate was open.  So she went inside.

As she passed a grave she stopped to look at it.  The grave was open.  Suddenly she lost her balance and fell in.

That was the end of her.

Ah, yes, how could I forget the rip-roaring literary romp that was The Grave, where a young girl’s blind and unquestioning obedience to her neglectful mother results in her death?  It took Cathy all day to reach the well and retrieve the water, a perilous journey for a young girl.  What kind of mother would send her child on such an errand?  Maybe if Cathy’s mother hadn’t spent yet another day drinking, she would have been able to drive to the well herself.  Her alcoholism had cost her a well-paying job down at the factory, the last employer left in that dying town, after her inattention had led to a spoiled batch of dried tea to make it through the quality check and into the teapots of consumers everywhere.  One of the main components in that tea, as it turned out, was rye, and the result was a case of ergot poisoning so severe that a college girl three towns over had torn her date’s face off in a movie theater after drinking a few cups of it.  The lawsuits flooded in as similar cases cropped up across the country.  Cathy’s mother had been given a choice: accept charges for criminal negligence, or resign.

The electric company had been the first to cut off service for nonpayment.  Now the decaying, dirty house was without water.  Cathy’s mother would often drive across town to the water treatment plant, outside of which was a small cistern of sorts for the reclaimed water, easily accessible if only one had the proper tools.  She’d fill a few gas cans with the rancid-smelling water and return home before anyone was the wiser.  As a result, young Cathy spent much of her time too sick to go to school.  Between her frequent trips to the bathroom she’d find herself caring for her mother and the household, too sweet and loving to complain about the great burden that had been heaped onto her shoulders all too early.

That is why Cathy was the one who had to fetch the water, why the inherent curiosity of childhood was able to lead the unsupervised girl to the edge of an open grave where the heavy, fully gas can threw her off balance and into the yawning earth, snapping her fragile neck in the process.  When the groundskeeper came to check on the supposedly empty grave in preparation for that day’s burial, he found the dead child and, after a short police investigation, Cathy’s mother was arrested for child endangerment, but due to mishandling of the case by the prosecution she managed to get off scot-free.  The local community, however, was out for her blood, leading the authorities to place her in a protective relocation program somewhere in the Midwest, where she now attends weekly AA meetings and has been sober for three years, but is still haunted by the memory of her daughter’s broken body that seemed even smaller in her coffin.

The illustration accompanying this is of a gravestone and an empty grave featuring not only Cathy’s first name, but also her last.  I thought it was a bit too specific so I did some research and found out that the name on the gravestone is that of an adult who used to volunteer at my school and pissed me off one day.  In my mind, the only recourse I had was to infantilize and kill her in my story, making her a helpless victim as I saw myself.  Because, you know, this is perfectly healthy reasoning for a six-year-old.

Chapter 5: The Spooky Old Woods

On a dark night Danielle got lost in the spooky woods.  Her horse, Amanda, was scared.  Suddenly a spooky figure staggered through the trees.  Danielle could make out the bone-white hands reaching out of a pure white shirt covered by a black cape with a red inside.

The creature headed right over to Danielle.  Danielle collapsed on the ground.  As the creature went in front of her, Danielle disappeared forever.

Amanda’s saddle was flying while she was running.  Her mane was full of knots.  While she ran around Creak-Squeak River, she tripped and fell into the river.

Years later, archaeologists found a horse skeleton in the river and the skeleton of a little girl in an old rotting shack.

Granted, I’ve seen horror movies with less coherent storylines than this, but way to go, six-year-old me.  She either disappeared forever or her corpse was found years later.  Which is it?  It can’t be both.

Amanda makes yet another appearance, but this time, it’s as the subservient animal, and she’s ridden by Danielle, another former classmate of mine.  At least I was working through my self-esteem issues at this point, but both horse and rider met pretty grisly ends.  It’s a prime example of killing two birds with one stone.  No one gets to be a princess this time!  Instead, your body gets to disappear, leaving your family to spend the rest of their lives searching for some kind of closure over your death!  Did I say two birds?  I meant two birds and the whole damn nest.  Though, where were the parents anyway, and why were they letting their child ride a horse by herself through the woods at night?  Must be some of that garbage hippie new-age parenting where you let the kid do whatever they want and hope they don’t grow up to be entitled assholes (spoilers: they do).

I suppose the real question here is who or what killed Danielle?  Was it really a vengeful spirit from an ancient Indian burial ground, awoken from its eternal rest by the steady stream of archaeologists digging for artifacts ?  Or perhaps the shack belonged to a serial child murderer, hiding in the woods, waiting for his next prey to come riding on by?  And if so, what happened to him?  Did he die of old age, his crimes having never been discovered, or is he sitting on death row awaiting execution?  Maybe Danielle was the last victim, the one he refused to speak about during interviews.  “Where is she?” Danielle’s family would plead, and he would merely flash a sociopathic grin in response.  How many years have passed? Is there anyone left to mourn her?

I don’t know what’s up with the name of that river, either.  Stupidest river name ever.

So yeah, I was a really weird kid, which makes sense, because I’m a really weird adult.  I suppose I’m a pretty benevolent weirdo, though.  I don’t stalk the streets looking for victims (yet).

In Defense of Jay Wilson: Bullying Is Not A Game

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Jay Wilson is a man who has given years of his life to the gaming industry.  A good chunk of them were spent as the game director Diablo III, a game that has proven to be almost as divisive within the player base as Mass Effect 3.  He recently celebrated his seven-year anniversary at Blizzard — let’s think about that, SEVEN YEARS, whereas most of us can’t even stay in the same place for a year.  That’s seven years of 80-hour weeks, late nights at the office, tackling unforeseen crises as they arise, being the one that everyone looks to when they’re not sure how to proceed… and now he’s set to do it all again for one of Blizzard’s as-of-yet unnamed IPs currently in development.

Three days ago, Mr. Wilson announced on the D3 forums that he would be making this switch.  You’d expect that he’d get a bunch of “gratz” replies thrown his way, maybe some good-luck wishes for the future, right?  Go ahead, click that link.  By the second page I guarantee you that you’ll be ashamed to be a gamer.

The outpouring of hate that followed his announcement is nauseating to read.  It runs the gamut from snide remarks to personal threats in such volume that chief creative officer Rob Pardo had to step in to try and put a stop to it.  And this tidal wave of cruelty doesn’t just stop with Blizzard; one of the lead writers for BioWare’s Dragon Age franchise recently revealed that he avoids the forums as much as possible because of how toxic of an environment it has become.

Once upon a time, gamers were the ones being bullied.  We hid in our bedrooms and rec rooms with our D&D sets and a group of like-minded friends, never daring to tell anyone what we did every Thursday night lest we risk getting stuffed into our lockers the next day at school.  There was a certain sense of community that came along with it, a solidarity in suffering, if you will.  As gaming worked its way more and more into the spotlight, it was no longer exclusively considered a hobby for social outcasts and began attracting a much wider audience.  Jocks picked up the controller alongside the nerds they once noogied.  It should have promoted a commonality between us all, proof that we could all share a bond and play nice.  Perhaps it was bitterness over years of torment, or the creation of a new, digital outlet through which bullies could torture others in previously inconceivable ways (griefing, for example), but for some reason, it totally did not end up that way.

The gaming community has developed an ugly sense of entitlement over the years that only exacerbates this simmering rage.  We feel that we deserve to have every request and demand catered to by the developers, that the game companies should kowtow to us because we’re the ones dropping $60 on their game.  When we don’t get our way, we throw a temper tantrum, not caring what effect our harsh words and irrational behavior could have on those exposed to them.  We are selfish, we are childish, and it has to stop.

Tonight I lost part of the core PvE group in the guild I run because I stood up for Jay Wilson.  While I am, of course, worried about the future of said guild, I don’t regret what I did at all.  We have been too silent and too permissive of bullying, and it’s been allowed to run rampant through our community.  “That’s just the nature of the game industry,” I’ve heard the argument made.  “Devs need to grow a thicker skin or get out.”  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure that it’s possible to keep a stiff upper lip when somebody starts threatening to rape and murder my entire family or tells me that I should kill myself solely because they didn’t agree with a line of dialogue.  Telling victims of bullying, whether children or adults, to just toughen up is a complete dismissal of their feelings and their right to feel safe.

Here’s a disturbing statistic, too.  The game industry tends to attract the nerdy type who typically have high IQs.  Multiple studies have shown that people with high IQs are more prone to suffering from mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.  Therefore, that game dev you just chewed out?  Yeah, he’s potentially fighting depression, and being told that he should “quit life” could be all it takes to push him over the edge.  Hope you enjoy that blood on your hands.  Sound dramatic?  It isn’t.  You have no idea what another person is going through in their personal life.  You cannot possibly know how deeply your words or actions are going to affect them because everyone handles things differently.  I’ve already mentioned several people who have chosen to take their own lives because they could not deal with the harassment and abuse visited upon them by others.  I’m not saying that everyone who works in the game industry is mentally ill, but statistically, a few of them are, and you don’t know if you’re lashing out at one of them.

But let’s refocus on Jay Wilson for a moment.  Though I refuse to reprint any of the hateful garbage that’s been spewing forth from the community because I do not believe that these bullies deserve the attention, I will paraphrase some of the complaints that I’ve heard in an attempt to “rationalize” the cruelty directed towards him.

“He Destroyed the Diablo Franchise”

No.  No, he did not.  He tried to take the Diablo franchise in a new direction rather than letting it go stale and become just another example of “more of the same” that has taken down so many other giants in the game industry.  Whether or not this choice worked varies depending on who you ask.  Was it like Diablo or Diablo II?  Of course it wasn’t!  This may be shocking for some of us to realize, but those games are officially old now.  They run on technologies that would be decried as last-gen these days.  The flip side of this is that they’ve had years for patches, expansions, and add-ons to really polish their experience.  Diablo III came out less than a year ago.

Making the decision to try something new with a time-tested franchise is pretty scary.  There’s always the chance that the player base will… well, react exactly like they did.  But bringing new blood and new ideas into any game is vital for its survival.  Just look at the plethora of expansions for World of Warcraft, and the difference in play style from patch 1.1 to 5.1.  Of course there are those who claim that Mists of Pandaria “ruined WoW,” but once we push the melodrama and hyperbolic statements aside, it’s impossible to deny that it was, in fact, a gigantic success.

The D3 servers are still up and running, and at least one expansion is currently in development.  Jay Wilson did not “destroy” Diablo.  If anything has chipped away at it, it’s the refusal of internet tough guys everywhere to embrace change and look at things from all sides with an open mind.

“He’s Kind Of A Jerk”

I have yet to find any examples of Jay Wilson being an outright jerk, which is surprising, because the way that people like to throw this accusation around, you’d think his creative process included filling his pens with puppy blood and stealing his lunches from Darfur war orphans.  The worst I can find is him trying to defend himself and his team after someone started slinging abuse their way, in a Facebook thread that was between friends.  Let’s think about all of the conversations we’ve had with friends on Facebook and see if we’re so innocent ourselves.   I really don’t think any of us could fault him for being upset, seeing the words that spurred him on.  In fact, I think we all need to give this guy a huge round of applause for not coming out and saying exactly what I’m sure was on his mind, let alone going on to apologize publicly for what amounted to standing up for himself.  In addition, so what?  You’ve never met him face to face.  Text is a horrible medium for subtleties and tone.  Jay Wilson could be the game industry’s version of Princess Diana for all any of us know.  Also, as a smarty-pants-creative-type, I’d like to just put it out there: we suck at social interaction.  We really do.  If you’re also a smarty-pants-creative-type who’s about to put up their index finger and say “But I don’t!” then let me just stop you, because you do.  We’re good people and we don’t mean to come across as abrasive, but we often do.  A little bit of kindness and understanding that maybe we’re just trying to make conversation rather than be antisocial jerks can go a long way here.  Take us with a grain of salt.

But everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Maybe you just really cannot stand the guy for some reason.  That’s great.  Don’t talk to him.  Don’t invite him to your parties.  Don’t buy him a beer.  Belittling and threatening him is not going to magically turn him into your best broseph.  Dishing out such cruelty requires effort and going so far out of your way that the only real reason for doing so is because you enjoy hurting other people, and if that’s the case, I really hope you get help for those serious issues of yours before you end up murdering people.

“He Disappeared For Like 37486964 Months!”

A lot of people have unrealistic ideas about what it’s like to work in the gaming industry.  In their minds, everyone walks around in nerdy T-shirts and spends all day playing videogames and eating pizza.  I have some close personal acquaintances and relatives who work in this industry and while they do have the occasional anecdote about an inter-office Nerf gun battle, for the most part, it’s more like “Oh man, I can’t hang out this weekend, we’re pushing the final version through so I’m working a double shift.”

Recruiting websites for game companies tend to show mostly play and very little of the actual work, not because they’re dishonest, but because they’re trying to let those familiar with the 80-hour work weeks and horrendous amounts of pressure and deadlines know that after six months of constantly being on the edge of a nervous breakdown, they encourage their employees to kick back and relax — at least until the next patch is due.  Maybe if they showed the neglected spouses, missed dance recitals, and nights spent sleeping on the office couch, the ignorant among the laypeople would be a bit more sympathetic.  Brad Gray of Electric Mammoth Studios, who happens to be one of the game industry folks that I stalk and beg daily for a job follow on Twitter said it best: “Game devs spend their lives so we can have fun.”

Jay Wilson was out of touch for a few months?  Really?  Nobody thinks that maybe it was because he barely had time to get up from his desk and use the bathroom, let alone answer the flood of questions — most of which I would assume were probably the equivalent of “HOW I MINE FOR FISH?” — filling his inbox?  Are we all really that needy and desperate for attention?  People complain that the man’s work wasn’t good enough, but they curse him for working.  It’s ridiculous and based solely in ignorance and a desire to villainize others when they don’t give us what we want.

It’s easy to be cruel when you’re hiding behind a computer screen.  This is the entire reason that internet trolls exist.  Too cowardly to say what’s on your mind to someone’s face?  Log on to Facebook and insult their sexuality for the whole world to see!  I guarantee you that if any of those voicing their “opinions” (which are actually nothing but thinly-disguised vitriol) were to sit down across from Jay Wilson, or any other dev who’s been blasted into oblivion, they’d suddenly find themselves with nothing to say.

So why am I letting this all bother me so much?  Why am I sitting here at 2 in the morning writing thousands of words to defend people I have never met?

I was bullied all through school.  It started in kindergarten and lasted until the day I graduated high school.  I was a year younger than everyone else due to academic advancement — when I graduated I was only 16, too young to go see Resident Evil in the theaters without my mom — and everyone knew that once a week I left to go to special “Gifted” classes for exceptionally smart kids.  I had huge glasses, wore unfashionable clothing, and didn’t discover makeup until 10th grade.  I was short, always somewhat chubby, and due to my ethnicity looked completely different from the other kids.  In short, I was a perfect target for bullies.  The teachers turned a blind eye, claiming that it was just normal kid stuff and even deigning to say that maybe it was my fault for being so different.  The other students didn’t dare say anything because they knew that if they did, they’d get it just as bad as me.  So I endured it all alone, for years.  Even though no one was there for me, I have made it a personal mission of mine to stick up for victims of bullying.  I don’t care if it’s a twelve-year-old kid or a 40-something year old adult.  Bullying hurts at any age.  It doesn’t mean that the victim is weak, it means that they’re a human being with feelings and emotions just as valid as everyone else’s.

This doesn’t mean that I think everyone expressing even the slightest bit of dissatisfaction with a game is being mean.  There’s a huge difference between saying “Hey, I didn’t like x because of y” and saying “OMG WORST GAME EVER YOU SHOULD BE FIRED QQ.”  A successful development team will listen to constructive player feedback and at least consider tweaking their product accordingly if they decide that doing so would not break the game for others (the eternal battle between rogues and Greg Street wages on to this day) or have some other far-reaching negative effect. When I was participating in the betas for Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, completing a quest would trigger a window to pop up asking us to rate our experience and explain what we liked and didn’t liked.  I filled out every last one, sometimes with legitimate suggestions, but sometimes just to say “This was fantastic, great job, guys!”  On several occasions, I noticed that changes had been made between beta and release based on the results of the player feedback.  To say that players are ignored by the big bad game companies is a total falsehood.  If you feel that you’re not being listened to, maybe you need to check how you’re presenting your argument.

As an aspiring game designer I’ve been able to develop a very unique view on this.  No developer or other creative type likes knowing that their work has been poorly-received, but it’s important that they do.  Without constructive criticism, we can’t grow.  Sometimes it helps us to see better options that we may not have even thought of during development.  If you have an issue with something in a game, there are many ways to get your point across and be heard as a level-headed, contributing member of the gaming community.  There are even more ways to look like the complete opposite.

WAYS TO PROPERLY GIVE FEEDBACK

  • “I really like this game, but I was a little disappointed with x because of y.  Here is how I think this could be improved.”
  • “I was surprised by the direction taken in this installment.  Can you explain why you chose to make such a drastic change?”
  • “I find that {insert quest or zone} is too difficult” followed by some sort of proof, whether it be damage readouts, comparisons to similar levels, etc.
  • “x isn’t working properly” followed by a detailed description of what happened and what you were doing at the time so that the bug fix team can check it out

WAYS THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER GIVE FEEDBACK

  • “Your game sucks now.  GG, {insert offending game company or employee}.  I’m gonna go play {insert competitor product}.
  • “Holy crap, what idiot designed this?  They should be fired or quit because they suck at their job.”
  • “F&#^ THIS S^&# YOU F^&*ING F^&S STEALING MY MONEY I WILL COME TO YOUR OFFICE AND KILL YOU”
  • “I pay {insert monthly amount} to play and you can’t even release a game that isn’t broken.  GG.”

If what you are about to say includes personal attacks, expletives (unless they’re followed up by “awesome” or “sweet”), broad generalizations, threats, or hearsay — “the entire rogue community thinks our class is broken, FIX IT” — don’t say it.

I remember my first design project and the weeks I spent slaving over a technical document outlining proposed mobs, quests, linked dungeons, new tech for quest and item delivery, the whole nine yards.  I was so proud of it when I handed it over to a buddy of mine who works in the industry.  He read it, passed it back to me, and gave me a whole list of recommendations on how it could be improved.  He wasn’t mean about it, he was very matter-of-fact.  Of course there was the initial feeling of disappointment that he didn’t immediately pick me up and twirl me around while singing my praises, but it faded in a matter of seconds and I got to work on the next draft.  The next draft wasn’t quite there yet, either.  Five drafts and a steady stream of constructive criticism later, I finally produced a document that netted me a high-five.  If he had cursed me out and told me I sucked right off the bat, I probably would have crumpled the whole thing up and never touched it again.  Because he gave me real, meaningful feedback in a way that was helpful rather than harmful, I was not only inspired to continually improve my work based on his recommendations, but learned a ton of new skills that prevented me from making the same mistakes in later design projects.

We need to pull together as a community and put a stop to the cruelty now, while we still have people willing to endure our abuse in order to produce games purely so that we, the players, can enjoy them.  Let’s review our personal expectations and make sure that they aren’t unrealistic or totally selfish (I would love for shadow priests to be able to wear plate, but that will not and should not ever happen).

In the meantime, Tweet using the hashtags #ISupportJayWilson and #LetsPlayNice to try and get the good will trending.  Jay Wilson and all of the other devs out there really need to know that they have the support of their community behind them.  For anyone working in the game industry who’s experienced any degree of bullying, you have nothing but my best wishes, and I truly hope you keep doing what you love without letting the cruelty out there get to you.

As a special and important note to any developers or individuals within the game industry that I have previously poked fun at, including but not limited to the guy who came up with cross-realm zones in WoW and the team behind Dragon Age 2, I am truly sorry and hope that no feelings were hurt.  Even if what you created was not my particular cup of tea, I know there were many others who absolutely loved it, so keep up the good work, and remember that despite my attempts to be “funny”, you possess a rare degree of talent, creativity, and intellect that the rest of us could only hope to one day aspire to.

5 Things In World of Warcraft That Will Ruin Your Day

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For the most part, I’ve always considered World of Warcraft a pretty lighthearted game when compared to other titles.  The graphics are bright and almost cartoonish, there’s tons of hidden jokes, and if you’ve spent any time with trade chat enabled, you’ll understand why I’m rounding off my list with it.  It’s really hard to find yourself completely depressed while playing, excepting awful PUGs where the tank is trying to do his thing in unsocketed, unenchanted PvP gear.  Simply put, the atmosphere just doesn’t allow it… unless you know where to look.

Bust out those tissues, kiddies (no, put the lotion away, we’re not doing that one yet).  You’re going to need them.

5. In-Game Memorials

You’ve probably noticed a few oddities dotting the landscape of Azeroth while questing.  A seemingly random gravestone in Hillsbrad is covered in flowers, compared to the plain grey slabs surrounding it.  At the top of an otherwise unassuming hill in The Barrens is an intricate shrine where an Orc warrior appears to lie sleeping.  I’m here to tell you that he isn’t sleeping.  He’s dead.  After watching this touching video compiled by player Avendesora on the Thunderhorn server, I’m pretty sure any flicker of happiness you might have once felt will have joined him, too.

Lots of forums have “you laugh, you lose” threads.  This video is sort of like that, except it’s more “You cry.  Everyone loses.”

I’m not meaning to be insensitive or say that this video should never have been made.  The memorials are insanely touching and people should know the stories behind them.  I must have done the Crusader Bridenbrad questline twenty times in my entire Warcraft career without ever giving it much thought.  About thirty seconds into the explanation, I started weeping like a little girl and continued to do so through the end of the video. I challenge anyone to make it through one viewing without at least getting a lump in their throat.

While the deaths themselves are tragic, they’re not people that most of us knew, so why are we all sitting here sniffling and hugging our cats?  Memorials like this force us to confront one very troubling question: if we died, how would our loved ones react?  We start to wonder if we’d get some sort of memorial ourselves, whether in-game or out, or if we’d just get a halfhearted “meh, that sucks” from the people we know.  It’s a sobering thought, and when it pops up next to such an outpouring of love, we start to imagine the pain and grief that those responsible must be feeling, which we then project onto our own friends and family by imagining their heartbreak.

Not to mention that one of those featured was a 12-year-old kid who died of cancer, and that is completely not right that anyone should be able to get that sick, let alone a freaking kid.

To Bradford C. Bridenbecker, Anthony Ray Stark, Jesse Morales, the unnamed player immortalized by Captain Armando Ossex, Michel Koiter, Dak Krause, and Ezra Chatterton, rest in peace.  You may be gone, but your stories live on not only for the people who knew and loved you, but also for millions of others who have visited your memorials.

4. Leza Dawnchaser

After the mists surrounding the strange land of Pandaria lifted, a member of the Dawnchaser clan, Leza, had a vision of a land so beautiful that she insisted Dezco (her husband) and their people follow her to make their homes there.  Dezco resisted at first due to the fact that Leza also happened to be super-pregnant, but she wouldn’t back down and he had no choice but to acquiesce to her wishes.

Yeah.  It's this NPC.  Now you can prepare yourselves accordingly.

Yeah. It’s this NPC. Now you can prepare yourselves accordingly.

When we first come across Leza, she’s already gone into labor on the floor of a tent in the Krasarang Wilds, but the delivery is being extremely difficult.  Dezco sends us to defeat the mogu forces in the area with the help of Kang Bramblestaff, leading us to the legendary Pools of Youth, whose waters can supposedly restore life.  Kang encourages us to take a bit back to Leza in the hopes that it will ease her distress.  Upon returning to a very worried Dezco, we are rewarded with a cutscene where he goes into the tent and offers her a drink of the magical water.

So at this point I’m sitting here all excited because yay, tauren babies, and then the cutscene goes on to show Leza collapse mid-push, prompting Dezco to frantically try and heal her.  Fade to black.

NO, WORLD OF WARCRAFT, THESE ARE THE DAWNCHASERS, NOT THE SOPRANOS.  UNFADE.  PEOPLE DO NOT DIE IN CHILDBIRTH IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT SO EVERYTHING TURNS OUT OK, RIGHT?

Everything turns out awful and sad and messed up.

The good news is that both babies are okay.  The bad news is that the camera now focuses on Leza’s birthing mat, empty except for a bundle of flowers.  Outside the tent, her body lies wrapped in a winding sheet atop a funeral pyre.

For added tears, Alliance players are treated to a questline where they learn that the Pools of Youth actually drain the life from whoever drinks it in order to restore the life of another, meaning that Kang Bramblestaff is a freaking moron who should have listened a little harder to his mother’s bedtime stories because he missed the crucial detail of “THIS WATER WILL STRAIGHT UP KILL YOU” when recounting them to convince us to give the water to Leza.  Congratulations, Player!  You’re partially responsible for the death of a new mother, leaving her husband alone in a strange land to raise two infants by himself!

Bonus Lore Conjecture: Maybe Kang Bramblestaff wasn’t such an idiot after all.  Maybe he was tired of these strangers invading the land of his people, bringing with them the Sha, and decided to take matters into his own hands.  Kill the Dawnchaser chieftain’s wife, and the whole clan might be so heartbroken that they’d go right back to wherever they came from.  One less filthy tauren in the world, am I right?

Is it just me or does that look like the satisfied smirk of a sociopath who's just killed again?

Is it just me or does that look like the satisfied smirk of a sociopath?

I think I just made the whole thing worse.

3. The Wrathgate

Since Cataclysm, I haven’t been able to get the Wrathgate cinematic to play past the first 30 seconds within the game.  I’m wondering if this has something to do with the removal of the follow-up quest, my beloved Battle for the Undercity, but at least the whole thing’s on YouTube in glorious HD.

Joss Wheedon could learn a thing or two from the team behind this very epic questline on how to kill everything and everyone the audience has ever loved.  By this point you’re pretty damn attached to Bolvar Fordragon and Saurfang the Younger.  And why not?  They’re formidable allies in the battle against the Lich King.  They are the Cool Kids on the first day of high school who have offered to take your nerdy, awkward self under their wing.

For a split second, you really believe that their combined forces might just be enough to survive their confrontation with Arthas.  Obviously they aren’t going to kill him, because that’s our job in Icecrown Citadel, but they’ll escape to fight another day, right?

Oh, Saurfang’s down.  Well, that’s okay, Arthas just shattered his weapon.  He’ll be fine.  He’ll… oh my God, did Arthas just steal his freaking soul?  It’s like watching Mufasa die all over again.  GET UP, SAURFANG!  GET U… no, dammit, he’s gone.  At least we still have Fordragon!

…And then Putriss shows up to take a giant Scourged crap all over your dreams.

It’s almost Shakespearean in the way that things go from bad to worse with no survivors.  I’m pretty sure King Lear had a lower body count than the Wrathgate battle.  This was the first time in World of Warcraft where the respective good guys didn’t win.

Seriously, did we really need the slow-motion shot of Fordragon gazing up at the sky, seeing the cavalry coming in but knowing that it’s too late for him?  Knife through the freaking heart, or what’s left of it.

2. Lilian Voss’s Daddy Issues

High Priest Benedictus Voss of the Scarlet Crusade chose to dedicate the childhood of his only daughter, Lilian, to turning her into a super-soldier against the plague.  While other children were playing tag in the streets, Lilian was learning how to fight with weapons, magic… anything she could possibly learn.

Lilian Voss, age 8

Lilian Voss, age 8

Unfortunately, Death is pretty much impervious to axes and polearms, and Lilian dies (at what age is unclear, but her extreme emotional immaturity and dependence on her father leads me to believe she was probably no older than 13), only to be raised in Tirisfal Glades by the Val’kyr working with the Forsaken.  Rather than allowing herself to be initiated into the ranks of the Forsaken, the very thing she had been trained in life to destroy, she refuses to accept her fate and piteously calls out for her father to come rescue her.  Novice Elreth, a Forsaken NPC, hands her a mirror and instructs her to look at her reflection, because clearly the undead are known for their sympathetic natures.  Of course, Lilian is completely freaked out and runs off crying to find her dear old crazy religious zealot dad.

Grief-stricken undead children are pretty bad at not getting caught by the Scarlet Crusade, which is exactly what happens to Lilian.  Throughout her ordeal, she holds steadfast to her belief that her father will save her, insisting that her captors bring the High Priest to her so that he can clear up the “misunderstanding.”  They tell her that her beloved father has ordered her execution.  In a fit of rage, Lilian conjures up the magical abilities she trained in as a child to free herself from her cage by turning into purple flames and kill the guards, then runs off into the night.

There is no sign of Lilian for quite some time, other than the mysterious mass-murders of Scarlet Crusaders all appearing to have been killed in the same grisly fashion.  Players finally catch her in the act, so to speak, and are told to escort her to the tower where Benedictus resides so that she may confront him.  It goes about as well as you’d expect.  She strangles him and throws his body from the top of the tower, then heads off for parts unknown.

It becomes pretty apparent, however, that this frightened, heartbroken little girl has taken on a solo mission to eradicate the Scarlet Crusade from the face of Azeroth.  She shows up in disguise as a questgiver for the Scarlet Monastery dungeon, instructing players to destroy the remaining Scarlet forces within.  While questing in the Western Plaguelands, players will encounter a Scarlet Crusade camp engulfed in purple flames, seemingly implying that Lilian was responsible for its destruction.

Upon reaching Scholomance, we find that Lilian has managed to fight her own way in, only to be captured by Darkmaster Gandling (after he taunts her by telling her how “beautiful” she is in a manner that is either cruel or creepy, depending on how old you imagine Lilian to have been before her death) and forced to fight against us.  After we defeat her, she begs us to let her die alone, and the tragic tale of the High Priest’s daughter comes to an end.

So let’s recap this perfect cycle of the effects of abuse here:

  • Completely isolated by her father from other children while growing up
  • Forced to do terrible things, such as murder, by her father
  • Becomes dependent on and attached to her father, in total denial of anything that might indicate he doesn’t feel the same for her
  • Betrayed by her father, who also attempts to have her killed
  • Flips out and kills him, then a bunch of other people
  • Engages in destructive behavior and puts herself into dangerous situations
Lilian Voss, age 18.

Lilian Voss, age 18.

1. Chen Stormstout: Alcoholic and Unfit Parent

You probably know Chen Stormstout as the delightfully drunken Pandaren who wanders around in an eternal pub crawl searching for the perfect beer.  On the surface, this doesn’t seem so bad.  I mean, most of us went to college, so we’ve pretty much lived like a Stormstout for at least four years of our lives.

But imagine your wasted college-age self stumbling from bar to bar, through unfamiliar parts of town filled with potential dangers… with a six-year-old kid for whose health and well-being you are completely responsible for.  Child services would be snatching that kid up before you could say “show me the DNA test.”

Well, Pandaria doesn’t have social workers, meaning that Chen’s niece Li Li is going to be with him for a long, long time, assuming he doesn’t fall off of a cliff or choke on his own vomit in the meantime.

“It’s just a game,” you might argue.  “No one’s getting hurt.  Stop taking it so seriously!”  Of course someone’s getting hurt — Li Li.  The effects of her uncle’s constant drinking may not manifest themselves physically, but given the rough, sarcastic demeanor apparent in her lines throughout the game, being forced to act as the adult in this dysfunctional relationship has hardened her, potentially for life, unless Pandarens have mastered the art of intensive therapy sessions.

Through the World of Warcraft novels and supplementary short stories, we learn that Li Li’s mother is dead, but her father is still alive and well.  At the beginning, Uncle Chen exists for her primarily through the letters he sends her during his travels, undoubtedly exaggerating how amazing his life is as drunks are prone to do.  She romanticizes the idea of having a world traveler for an uncle, since she is too young and immature to read between the lines and see that he’s basically a panda hobo, and begins to act out herself by imitating his wandering.  Li Li’s father disapproves of her desire to be like Chen — and probably is the only voice of reason in this whole messed up scenario — but somehow ends up letting her join Chen on his sojourn through Pandaria (as far as I know, the lore does not fully explain how this came to pass).

So now we have Chen in charge of Li Li, though he is completely unfit to take care of himself, much less a child.  Li Li’s quotes throughout the game paint a compelling and heartbreaking picture of the way that her uncle’s rampant and culturally normalized alcoholism has ruined her childhood :

  • “Hey, you dumb old uncle! You left me behind!”  In his drunken state, Chen has apparently wandered off, leaving Li Li to fend for herself in an unfamiliar land (it’s established early on that Chen is from the Wandering Isles,  not Pandaria itself).
  • “Can we buy something? I’m hungry.”  Chen is almost certainly too busy drinking to do anything like cook for his niece, and based on the fact that he offers to trade some of his liquor stash for a place to sleep for the night, he’s blown all of their money on booze.
  • “Chen, I think I know why you like it here so much.”  Not ‘Uncle Chen.’  Chen.  It isn’t surprising, though.  How is Li Li supposed to look up to and respect her uncle, the drunk homeless guy?
  • “I can’t believe he left me with the weird mud guy.”  Are we sure Chen’s last name is Stormstout and not Anthony?  He’s just dropping his niece off with a weird hillbilly dude he met on the road like five minutes ago?  There is no way this won’t end in a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode.
  • “I can’t wait until I’m older, so I can finally find out what beer tastes like.”  Children of alcoholics often grow up to be alcoholics themselves, sometimes because of genetics, but most of the time because kids learn how to be an adult from the adults around them.  Chen is already Li Li’s role model, and through the properties of monkey-see-monkey-do that all kids engage in as the grow up, the seeds are already in place for Li Li to end up just like her uncle.
  • “I guess what I’m saying is… thanks.”  Li Li has developed a cold exterior out of necessity, a type of armor to prevent the true horror of her uncle’s illness from completely destroying her.  As a result, basic social interactions requiring any form of emotional input are difficult for her, paving the way for a lifetime of short and potentially damaging relationships when she is older.
  • “If beer gets you off your butt, then… sure. Let’s go find you some beer.”  Now Li Li finds herself having to bargain with her uncle to get him to take care of her, realizing that beer is more important to him than spending time with his beloved niece.  The tone that the voice actress uses here is one of defeat and resignation.
  • “There’s a whole big valley waiting for us, but you’re too focused on the bottom of that mug to see it.”  Chen is effectively blocking out the world in favor of drinking.  His day starts with a beer, and ends with a beer.  He likely neglects not only Li Li, but also his own health.
  • “You’re way cooler than Uncle Chen.”  The player is spending time with Li Li, taking her around to do quests and all of the other things that Chen is too wasted to do, leading her to develop what could potentially be an unhealthy attachment to a complete stranger just for showing her attention.  Move over, Lilian, we’re going to need some more room on that pole for when Li Li turns legal.

Not enough proof?  How about the quest that Li Li sends us on, Yellow and Red Make Orange, where she instructs us to bring back animal blood as part of a scheme to torture small creatures called virmen, promising that “this can only end in comedy”?  A study on serial killers conducted by several behavioral specialists recounted in this article states:

More often than not, serial killers come from troubled or broken homes. They are usually abandoned by their fathers… Many times there is a family history of mental illness, alcoholism and criminal behavior. They are often the victims of psychological, sexual or physical abuse (or any combination of the three). This abuse can result in lasting feelings of intimidation, embarrassment and helplessness. They grow up resenting their absent/abusive fathers and tend to transfer these feelings to other/all men … They tend to become very misanthropic and antisocial.

Many serial killers exhibit signs of mental problems as children … Children or adolescents who take pleasure in hurting other living things may be in need of psychological help. For some it is a passing phase that is looked back upon with shame and regret. For others who continue to enjoy such behavior and show no remorse for it, it can be a serious problem. The viciousness and violence increase over time and are eventually directed at human beings. Animals are merely practice for such people.

Jesus.  I need a drink.

The Realities of Marrying A Creative Person

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Back in November, The Boyfriend became The Fiance, despite my best efforts to convince him that he’d be better suited as The Smart Guy Who Ran Screaming In The Opposite Direction, not because I think I’m hideous or abusive or anything, but because I know being married to a writer, designer, or ANY creative career-type person can be a real pain in the ass.

I’m not saying that people like us should avoid marriage or relationships altogether — quite the contrary, I think our creative nature and the unique way in which we see the world allow us to keep things dynamic and avoid the stagnation that plagues so many long-term couples.  This isn’t a “STAY AWAY” to the non-writers who love us.  It’s more of a disclaimer, a list of very unusual problems that can crop up in our relationships that most others don’t have to deal with, at least not in the same context.  The challenges are there, but they’re definitely workable as long as both parties take the time to consider things from both sides, and that’s what I’m hoping to illustrate now.

1. Long-Winded, Boring Rants

You know how bored and frustrated you feel when the person you’re talking to just won’t freaking shut up about a subject you could care less about?  Enjoy that experience every day for the rest of your life.  When creative people, especially nerdy ones, get excited about something, we just can’t let it go.  We have to share our joy with everyone around us.  It doesn’t immediately cross our minds that the person sitting next to us on the bus might not care about the influence that Sylvia Plath had on our early work or the intricacies of the storyline in a really great game we just played (and especially not our proposed changes to make the overall gameplay experience better).  Unless they’re creative in the exact same way that you are, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to find themselves smiling and nodding to be polite, and they’re saints for doing so.

This isn’t even limited to writers.  Artists, you do the same thing.  The Fiance is absolutely brilliant in 3DS Max.  I’ve seen him create things in a matter of hours that look so real, I’m convinced I could reach out and pluck them straight off of the screen.  And whenever I tell him this, his eyes light up and he launches into a diatribe that lasts for a minimum of 20 minutes, the only words of which I understand are a few connectors here and there and “vertices.”  He says vertices a lot.  And something about maps.

In a relationship context, both parties have a responsibility here.  For one, those doing the ranting — when you feel the verbal tl;dr coming on, stop and consider your audience.  Try giving the annotated version instead.  When you see their eyes start to glaze over, you’ve gone too far overboard.  Those with the glazed expressions, don’t hold it against them.  They’re not doing it to show off or to be annoying.  They’re absolutely thrilled, and they want you to feel it, too.

2. The Challenges of Steady Employment

Nobody wants to go to work in the morning, but for creative types, having to get up and go to a decidedly non-creative job is the equivalent of being sucked into the Hellraiser box.  Those of us who haven’t been fortunate enough to find a job that allows us to use our talents are going to have to struggle through each day, leading to high incidences of burnout, especially coupled with the propensity among us to suffer from mental health issues.  Steady employment outside of our desired fields is going to be an almost insurmountable challenge for us.  It isn’t because we’re lazy or “losers” even though the media loves to portray us all as drug-addled high school dropouts who spend all day watching TV to help, like, the creative process, man.  Creative people also tend to be more sensitive and emotional, meaning that what’s a minor annoyance to other people is potentially agonizing to us.

And so a lot of us can’t really hold down a typical 9 to 5 for too long before we reach our breaking point.  Finances are a huge sticking point in any relationship, meaning that it’s hard for most people to deal with a significant other who may not be able to keep the same job for more than a year.  Even with the most understanding spouse in the world, don’t think that we’re ignorant to the repercussions of our actions.  The guilt I felt after quitting my last 9 to 5 was indescribable.  I felt like I was a screw-up, like I was a lesser person, or weak because I couldn’t suffer through it anymore.  I was lucky that The Fiance understood and supported my decision to do what I needed to do for my own sanity.  It’s a rare kind of patience that’s required.

If you find yourself sitting at the kitchen table across from your significant other who’s just come home with the news that they’ve quit their job, try to understand that they really did stick it out as long as they possibly could.  They are aware that their choice has consequences and it was made only as a last resort.  Console them.  Encourage them to seek out a career that will actually make use of their talents, but don’t nag at them about it.  I made this mistake once with The Fiance, inundating him with links to postings for 3D modelling jobs until he felt so overwhelmed that we had a five-day argument over it.  At first I was offended and couldn’t figure out why he was being such a dick when I was just trying to help, but then I thought about how I’d feel if he kept shoving design jobs in my face.  The constant pressuring would have driven me nuts, too.  Casually mention a job opening if you see one, but leave it at that.  Don’t insist that they send over their resume and portfolio right away.  If the ball is placed in their court, I guarantee you they’ll spike it right back over the net.

3. Freelancing

I am a freelance writer.  Even when I had a part-time retail job over the holidays (which admittedly wasn’t too bad since I got to sell tea, something I actually enjoy very much), I introduced myself as a writer trying to break into the game industry, never as a barista.  I wasn’t ashamed of my job, but it just wasn’t me.  I knew it’d only be a temporary fix until I could get hired for The Dream Job, so it never felt right to call myself anything but a writer.

I stand by my frequent statements that freelance is a fancy word for unemployed.  There’s no guaranteed paycheck.  You may be rolling in money one month, then find yourself selling all of your gaming consoles because you haven’t found a gig in five.  Freelance gigs don’t usually pay well, either.  Say you write for a website that pays you $100 per article, and asks for one article per week.  “Holy shit, $100?!” you may exclaim, but when you break it down, that’s only $400 a month unless you find something else to supplement it.  As an independent contractor, you get completely shafted come tax time.  Ending up with no return but no tax owed is about the best outcome you can hope for in most cases.  If you choose not to claim your freelance income on your tax return, LALALALALA I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT I AM NOT AN ACCESSORY TO TAX FRAUD!

Being a freelancer also requires that you be your own PR and marketing department.  It took The Fiance a while to realize that when I was constantly glued to the Twitter app on my phone, it wasn’t because I was discussing the latest celebrity gossip.  It was because I was introducing myself to other writers and people working in the game industry, trying to make my existence known and get some buzz going for my portfolio.  When I celebrated hitting 40 followers on my Twitter account, it was because that meant I had 40 people outside of my circle of friends and family who knew who I was and what I did.  Making digs at your freelancing significant other for “always being on Facebook” is hurtful.  Understand that even if you dick around on Facebook to avoid working, for us, it’s actually an important part of our job.  As of now, I’ve got my own Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn (HA!  No link for you!), and this blog in addition to the Twitter that started it all.  I even registered a new email address for the Overlord Bunny media empire.  I check each one every day.  My email inbox, Facebook, and Twitter are constantly open in separate tabs so that I’m instantly aware of any updates.

At the same time, I’ve also had to learn that there are a few times when the social networking machine needs to be put on standby for a while.  I’ve started to leave my phone at home when we go out to dinner, or leaving it on silent in another room while we cuddle and watch Netflix.  And of course, it absolutely gets turned off if we’re boning.  I somehow doubt it’s professional to answer the phone with “Hello? GET THAT AWAY FROM MY ASS!”

4. Weird Behavior

On our first date, I noticed The Fiance (then The Boyfriend) taking photos of random buildings with his phone as he was talking to me.  I thought this was pretty odd, so I asked him what he was doing.  “Reference photos for modelling,” he said solemnly, then went back to photographing a tree he later told me had amazing textures.

I’m notorious for stopping in the middle of whatever I’m doing to rummage through my purse in search of a pen and something to write on.  I’ve written chapters of novels on everything from receipts to napkins to my own hand, which I then refused to touch anything with until I got home to type it up solely with the other hand lest I risk smudging it beyond legibility.  I also occasionally find myself unable to sleep because an idea’s popped into my head, and my brain won’t shut off until I sit up in bed writing till after dawn, which is usually about the time my shorthand stops making sense and I end up losing about half of it, anyway.

In short, I hope you have a sense of humor, but if you don’t, you wouldn’t be here.  As a note to my fellow creative types, however, please, please, please try to shut it off at important events like funerals.  People tend to get upset when you’re sitting in the back of the church scribbling down notes on the program that the usher just handed you while muttering “this sentence sounds like shit, what if I…” under your breath.  Triple offensive points if it’s erotica.  Also, significant others tend to get disappointed if, after a particularly good round of sex, you come back and ask them to describe one part of it, not to be sexy or kinky, but because you’re stuck on this one part of the sex scene in your book.

5. Insecurity

Creative people are some of the most insecure individuals you will ever meet.  When job-hunting for our respective fields, we have to put on a brave face and really sell ourselves as if we thought we were the most badass individual on the face of the planet.  I think we all have our little catchphrases that we say in our heads to try and pump ourselves up before an interview.  Mine is “bitch, I am flawless.”  Yep, that includes the bold type.  The voices in my head are great with typography and formatting.

Impostor Syndrome is not technically considered an actual mental disorder at this time, but with how prevalent it seems to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if it made it into the DSM in the near future.  If you don’t feel like clicking the link, Impostor Syndrome basically means that you feel like everything you do is shit and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot, or that if you actually do succeed at something, it had nothing to do with your own ability and everything to do with luck, other people’s ignorance, people just being polite, et cetera.

Every single creative person reading this has just pointed at themselves and yelled “THAT’S ME!”

Not only do I fight with this myself, but The Fiance is convinced that his entire portfolio is crap despite the fact that it is anything but.  I spent six months of our relationship thinking that this warehouse scene he had apparently rendered in 3DS Max was a weird photograph of an empty building he’d taken for reference.  He’s been told by other people, including some who actually work in the game industry, that he’s actually extremely talented, but he refuses to listen.

It’s not that any of us are looking for attention or praise.  In fact, we hate it, because it makes us feel like we’re lying to people.  If we hand you something we’ve just completed, it isn’t because we expect you to tell us that it’s good, it’s that we expect you to alphabetically list every single flaw so that we can try (and, obviously, fail) to fix it.  This is where the conflict comes in.  Most people think we’re just being attention whores, and we think that the people around us are being insincere.  What will it take to convince us otherwise?  I have no freaking idea.  If you figure it out, let me know.

6. Droll Eye For The Creative Guy (Or Girl)

Depending on your particular creative field, you’re probably going to be absolutely zero fun to do certain activities with.  It’s impossible to shut off your inner critic.

The Fiance can’t take me to movies anymore and he’s almost afraid to show me any games.  I will grouse about what I perceive to be flaws with the storyline or, in the case of the games, gameplay mechanics, for hours afterwards.  As a former dancer — the non-naked kind, thank you very much — and choreographer, I’m also a real dick about any kind of dancing shows on TV or in music videos.  Meanwhile, I’ve quickly learned that if I want to watch a 3D animated movie with him, or introduce him to a new band I’ve discovered — he’s won awards at indie film festivals for his original scores and compositions — I do so at my own risk.  It’s almost as if there’s a veil around everything that only those of us with backgrounds in those particular fields can see through.  To everyone else, a movie is just a way to kill an afternoon, and a game is either awesome or kind of crappy but for no real reason.  I equate it to being a little kid who sees Mickey Mouse take off his costume head.  The magic is gone.  Suddenly you can see the frayed stitching on all of the other costumes, and you notice the cleverly hidden mesh that the actor looks through.

This makes it downright depressing sometimes, not only for ourselves, but for the people around us.  It’s important to remember that while we may see a million and a half technical flaws with something, that doesn’t mean we have to kill a layperson’s enjoyment of it.  A simple “Eh, I didn’t care for it” will suffice, rather than a detailed breakdown of low poly versus high poly models and the importance of UV maps.

(Hey, I guess I AM learning some of his 3D stuff!)

7. I’m So Ronery, So Ronery…

As the significant other of a creative person, prepare to be alone a lot, especially if they’ve managed to make a career out of what they do.

Each blog post I write takes me an average of about three hours, including edits, revisions, and the addition of media when necessary.  During these three hours, I cannot be disturbed.  I’m so focused on the work in front of me that I essentially go blind and deaf to everything else.  The Fiance can sit there and talk to me the entire time and at the end I will not be able to tell you a single word he said, although I apparently answer “yes” or “no” questions without realizing it, leading to some awkward moments when I find out I’ve agreed to something I have no memory of.  Either that or he’s trolling me, which is also a possibility.

Even with my shut-off mechanism, I still get horribly annoyed when someone tries to talk to me while I write.  I feel awful for it, but it’s the number one way to get me to snap at you.  If it’s for something important, however, like asking me what I want to do about dinner or telling me that you were just struck by a piece of falling meteorite and need to go to the hospital, it doesn’t trigger my rage response.  But this doesn’t help in the case of a neglected spouse who really just wants to spend time with you and talk to you about your day.

The guilt of this one has been eating at me a lot lately.  I’ve been spending more time applying for jobs in my desired field, networking, and writing than I have talking to him.  He’s lucky if I manage a solid hour of conversation per day.  He never complains or makes me feel bad about it, but the disappointment is almost palpable when I tell him I’m simply too busy to run heroics with him or can’t focus on a conversation with him because I just really, really need to finish this paragraph.  I actually have talked with people in the game industry about this, since they frequently work unpredictably long hours and yet still somehow manage to do things like not die alone.  One of them told me about a coworker who, when asked how his wife handles his seemingly constant absence, shrugged and replied “I gave her a credit card to do whatever she wants with.”

This is perhaps the most challenging obstacle to overcome for a couple.  The creative spouse isn’t coming home late because they’re going to the bar every night, or having an affair (Hell, even if we wanted to, we’re way too exhausted to cheat).  They’re late because their job requires them to be.  Even armed with this knowledge, being left on their own so often is too much for many spouses to handle, something that isn’t surprising at all. It sucks to be ignored as a kid when your parents are too busy at work to play with you.  It sucks even worse when you grow up and the person you’re married to does the same thing.

The only way I’ve found to combat this is to make at least one day off a special day.  No phone, no work, no distractions from anything other than spending time with your significant other.  It doesn’t have to involve leaving the house or cost a ton of money.  Some of the best dates I’ve had with The Fiance involved ordering a pizza and watching Doctor Who in our pajamas.  Obviously this isn’t always possible, so having a home office can help a tiny bit, too.  Even if you have to bring your work home with you, at least you can be in the same space instead of locked away in a dim office after hours while the dinner on the table gets cold.  Or share your lunch breaks during the week, if you can arrange your time off together or your spouse doesn’t work.  An hour together is better than nothing.

And As A Closing Note

I know that this post was decidedly unfunny, and I apologize for that.  But much like my article about my battles with depression, it’s one that I really felt needed to be written, if not for the general public, than as a way for me to show that even when I’m working, I’m thinking of The Fiance.  I want it to be known that I’m aware of the unique challenges we face in our relationship.  One of those is that I may be moving to Southern California within the next month or two without him.  He’ll follow when he’s able to, but in the meantime, we’ll be on opposite sides of the country.  Though I’ve been resisting this move for a while, he is the one who insisted I make it a reality.  The first time he brought it up, he mentioned that he really thought I had the talent to make it as a game designer.

“You haven’t read any of my stuff,” I argued.

“Yeah, I did.  You left the first draft of your book in Dropbox so I read it.  It was really good.”

I never knew this until two months after the fact.  He didn’t want to bring it up because the was worried I’d be mad at him for reading it and, anyway, he knew that I probably wouldn’t believe him.  (Of course I don’t.  IMPOSTOR SYNNNNDROME!  Flash!)  But it touched me to know how deeply I had his support.  I warned him that when I do get hired, it’ll mean lots of time spent working and not a lot with him.  He shrugged and told me he was fine with that, that he’d make sure to have dinner ready for me when I got home and that he’d take care of the chores so I could focus on my work.

When a relationship includes a creative person, or, as in my case, two, it really becomes more of a partnership than anything else.  Together, we’re an unbreakable team.  It requires a little more work and a whole lot more understanding, but the rewards are definitely worth the effort.

Also, the sex is awesome.

A Cup of Kindness Yet for Auld Game Time

Standard

It’s now officially two days into 2013, and by now everybody should be hangover-free.  This means that we’ve all got clear enough heads to sit back and figure out what exactly it is we want to accomplish this year, because let’s face it, 2012 got pretty much universally screwed up and now we’ve got a shiny new chance to go to the gym 3 days a week, eat healthier, kick our crippling addiction to internet poker that’s been tearing our families apart, et cetera, et cetera.

Except we’re not going to do that shit this year either, because that’s the problem with New Year’s Resolutions — we all feel so obligated to set these lofty and oftentimes unrealistic goals for ourselves just to keep up with the spirit of things that we fail by the second week.  Let’s take the gym example; if you’re not an athletic person and have never bothered to make a real attempt to work out for more than the five minutes it takes to walk across the Trader Joe’s parking lot, the chances are pretty good that you’re not going to magically turn into a fitness nut just because we changed our calendars.

So how about we set ourselves some reasonable goals for this year?  We can start with something easy, like our gaming habits.  Say it with me, folks: This year I will stop acting like a douchebag in World of Warcraft.

See, when hiding behind a computer screen, it’s easy to be a jerk to someone else.  You’re completely anonymous, represented only by a jiggly-titted fantasy creature of some unnatural skin coloration and a name like Tigolebittiez or Forthelulz or something else where you change all the “s”s to “z”s to be ironic.

Elune be praised.

They bear repeating.

In a fantasy world, you’ve got all of the power you wish you had in real life.  Who wouldn’t want to Heroic Leap their boss when he starts in on one of his tirades, or cast Silence on an annoying in-law?  Alas, we’re forced to grin and bear it with a meek “yes sir” and an overall browning of our noses like we were Mitt Romney on a Spanish-language broadcast.  Log into World of Warcraft, and suddenly we’re not bound by most of the societal rules we have to follow in our daily lives.  If someone pisses you off and they happen to be flagged for PvP, just curbstomp them into oblivion.  Somebody’s talking smack in a dungeon group?  Cast Tricks of the Trade on them and blow Vanish during a boss fight.  It’s gratifying, but it makes you just as big of a jerk as you’re perceiving the other person to be.

Here’s some of the most common asshole behaviors I’ve noticed in my eight-ish years playing.  I’m not exactly a perfect angel, myself.  I’ve indulged in the majority of these at one point or another, but that doesn’t make them any less wrong, or mean that we can’t all work together to stop being dicks.

1. Stealing Nodes

If you’ve never done this yourself, you’ve had it happen to you before on one of your toons.  You’re cruising around Hellfire Peninsula on your newly-acquired but slow-as-balls flying mount trying to find some delicious Fel Iron with which to level your blacksmithing.  Finally, your minimap lights up with a single yellow dot.  Success!  You make triumphant “NYEEEEEEER” sounds in real life as you dive down to retrieve it… only to have some asshole level 90 farmer see you heading for the same node and beat you to the punch with their shiny max-level flying skill.  Or you’re both on the ground, and they blow Ghost Wolf or Sprint just to make sure they reach it 0.3 seconds before you do.  Or you’re fighting the mob that was guarding the node and they take the opportunity to tap it while you’re doing the work for it.  Bonus douchebag points if they use a /kiss or /taunt emote at you afterwards.

CRZ has made this even worse by overpopulating certain zones and servers.  I think a lot of it, at this point, is happening due to frustration over constantly losing the race in the first place — somebody takes four nodes from you, eventually you’re going to say “screw this” and abandon all decency to do the same to others.  It’s a vicious cycle that leaves everyone so frazzled at the end it becomes Every Gamer For Themselves.  Granted, the problem is not entirely on the shoulders of max-level characters; I’ve seen plenty of same-level players blowing all the cooldowns they can to get ahead.  Some level 90s have a genuine need to level their own profession, as well, such as in the case of Deathknights since they start at 55.  Most, however, are farming it for their own personal profit, choking out the enterprising lowbies who are trying to gather the materials themselves and putting them in a situation that often leads to them being forced to buy those same price-gouged materials off of the auction house just because they can’t get enough on their own.  Yes, yes, capitalism, I know.  But how about asking yourself how you’d feel if somebody did that to you?  Or if they recently have and you’re just so frustrated you don’t even care anymore, is it really worth turning to the lowest common denominator just to get fake ore in a fake world while riding a fake dragon you paid for with fake money?  If you see someone running towards one node, let them have it.  You’ll beat them to the next one without having to use anything out of your bag of tricks.  If someone is standing right in front of it and fighting a mob, move on.  It’s safe to assume they’re probably working their way towards it.

This also goes for herbs, skins, and sparkly quest items that have to be picked up.  Your kindergarten teacher would be disappointed in your lack of sharing skills.

2. “It’s just LFR!”

Seriously, if you’re about to excuse any kind of asshole behavior you’re about to partake in with the previous statement, stop what you are doing.  LFR or the regular Dungeon Matchmaking Tool is not a euphemism for “auto-attack the whole way through and ninja all of the loot.”  There are at least four other people relying on you to not be a jerk in order to advance themselves in the game.  Using any matchmaking tool is not a badge of badness, despite what some elitists may argue.  Those using it do not need to be “punished” or indoctrinated into the “real World of Warcraft” or any of that.  You would be pissed if a priest took your rogue’s +agi trinket claiming that because the proc is +haste, it’s still useful.  Don’t do it to somebody else.

3. Undercutting the Market… the Asshole Way

It’s obvious that in order to make sure your item sells on the auction house, you’re not going to want to sell it for a higher price than the current lowest price listed.  In fact, logic would dictate that you should probably sell it for slightly less.  This is fine reasoning.  What is not fine is to undercut that lowest price by 1c or, worse, a ridiculously huge amount that will crash the market for everyone else.  Buying up all of the reasonably priced items listed just so you can flood the market and repost them at price levels so high as to be beyond simple gouging is also a dick move.

But to be honest, the one that irks me the most is the 1c undercut.  Nothing will make me curse your name under my breath so much as that.  It’s almost like a personal attack, knowing that whoever did such a thing was fully aware of what they were doing and still thought that they were clever.

It is really tricky to call people out on auction house behavior simply because it IS a free market economy in World of Warcraft.  A bit of healthy competition is good, and keeps the market going.  The important thing is to keep things fair.  Of course, the person undercutting by the infinitesimally tiny amount can be bought out and have the items reposted at a more normalized price, and the same goes for the person who puts up an item otherwise selling for 20g for 1/40th of that price — something to keep in mind when seeing this stuff happening on your server.  Just remember to make sure you’re not crossing that very fine line yourself.

Publicly calling out someone selling an item in trade chat for a price that you simply don’t feel like paying accomplishes nothing, either.  Don’t feel that those epic gloves are worth 3000g?  Don’t buy them.  Trying to shame them into lowering their price just because you’re cheap is only going to unleash the wrath of the rest of the server.  I’ve seen it happen before, and it’s not pretty.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering what constitutes a “fair” undercut, I typically scale it based on the lowest normal price.  If something’s selling for 10g, I might put mine up for 9g.  If something’s selling for 12,000g then I feel there’s a bit more wiggle room to go with there and a drop to 11,000g is not unreasonable.

4. Complaining About PvP on a PvP Server

To be blunt, you chose to roll your character there.  Stop being surprised when someone ganks you during a quest.  There’s all sorts of “social” rules even as far as PvP goes:

  • Thou shalt not gank someone in a daily quest area — remember the Isle of Quel’Danas and how much that sucked?
  • Thou shalt not gank someone in order to grab the node, herb, or quest item they were attempting to gather
  • Thou shalt not bring five of your friends to an otherwise fair fight
  • Thou shalt not camp the shit out of someone who didn’t instigate it and tried to run away to begin with
  • Thou shalt not run around ganking extreme lowbies while wearing a tuxedo and equipping a fish mace, although this is admittedly hilarious
  • Thou shalt not kill questgiver NPCs, you jerk.

Even then, any adherence to these generally accepted behavioral norms is optional, at best.  But that’s why people roll on a PvP server.  I should know, I spent six years playing on one before I realized it wasn’t for me.  Then I just shrugged, transferred a few of my characters to PvE servers, and rolled all of my alts on them as well.  There’s no shame in it.  If you still want to PvP but don’t want to live in constant fear, you can flag yourself for a while, do some battles, then toggle it back off and go sit in a safe area for five minutes until it takes effect.  You can still access the same battlegrounds, arenas, open-world PvP zones… so why torture yourself, and everyone else who has to sit and listen to you bitch about it?  Get a character transfer.  The same goes for people who complain that their server is “dead” or “full of scrubs.”

5. It’s Not Tough Love, It’s Douchebaggery

If somebody unintentionally screws up in a LFR or random dungeon you’re in, and your response to it contains any kind of four-letter word, slur, or accusation as to the moral fortitude of their mother, you’re not helping them improve.  Instead, everyone is now picturing you as this kid:

It’s pretty likely that the person making the mistake is simply unfamiliar with the content being run.  “Why don’t they just ask for an explanation?” you might point out.  Probably because they’re afraid that people are going to jump all over them like two-bit comedians on the Kanye/Kim baby thing (see what I did there?) for even insinuating that they might not fall asleep at night reciting raid strategies like the names of enemies for the Red God.  If you see a party member make a mistake like that, ask if they need an explanation… nicely.

  • WRONG: “omg ur a fuckin noob, I have to explain this shit?”
  • RIGHT: “Hey, <name>, do you know this fight?”

If they indicate that they need an explanation, give them a quick but still polite rundown.  I can almost guarantee you that in 90% of cases this will be sufficient to prevent any further mistakes on their end.  The Fiance is sort of like that — he can, quite frankly, be difficult to run heroics and raids with, not because he’s an idiot, but because he doesn’t have the eight freaking years of experience under his belt that I have.  Tell him what he needs to do, however, and he’ll pass with flying colors.  And keep in mind that once these newer players learn what they need in order to be successful, you might find yourselves requiring their services for a future run.  That healer you called a “fcking fagot” in Heart of Fear because he let you die?  Yeah, he remembers you, and now he’s geared and has a killer rotation down, but don’t expect any of those epic crit heals to be falling on your ass anytime soon.

6. Panhandling Can Get You Arrested IRL. Don’t Do It In-Game Either.

A level 2 character has no business asking random level 90s for 200g.  This isn’t me being a jerk, it’s the absolute truth.  It’s very easy to make money in World of Warcraft these days.  Kill a couple of level-appropriate mobs, do a quest or two, and you’ll have plenty of money to sustain you, especially since we no longer have to worry about learning new spells and ranks from our trainers.  A good chunk of us probably remember the days when getting your first mount at level 40 required an obscene-for-the-time amount of gold, to the degree that if you didn’t have a generous guild or good auction house skills and lucky drops, you were going to be walking for a while.  Now currency rewards have been buffed and initial training costs drastically reduced, to the point that even without a main “feeder” account to send over the gold, you’re definitely going to have enough to buy your first mount with plenty to spare.  These days, going around Orgrimmar whispering every player you come across and asking for gold is annoying and lazy.  There’s a reason we don’t see naked night elves dancing on mailboxes anymore.

That being said, if you’re on the receiving end of one of these beggars, a simple “sorry, no” will suffice.  You don’t need to launch into a soliloquy about how that person has made terrible life choices and suggest that they delete their character and quit the game.  If you’d like, you can even put them on ignore, and then you’ll never have to deal with them again.

7. Spamming Guild Invites

I swear to Christ, it needs to stop immediately.  Stop with your pre-printed macros about “if you don’t want to join, then sorry for bothering you.”  You’re not sorry, otherwise you wouldn’t have spammed my new alt with it as soon as they came out of the cutscene.  I’m not sure if this technically counts as spamming according to Blizzard’s code of conduct, but if it doesn’t, it really needs to.  For purposes of research, I rolled a level 1 character and did NOT disable guild invites as I normally do.  I received 15 unsolicited invitations in 20 minutes.  That, my friends, is utterly ridiculous.  There is no better way to ensure that I never join your guild than to shove it in my face as if it were your unwashed junk.  It will also probably make me sideways-eye every one of your guild members that I come across from that point on.  It’s true, you know; people will remember you from that point on as a spammer guild.

8. Threatening Devs/Community Managers

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would not drop any F-bombs, simply because I’m vainly hoping that at least one or two potential employers are reading this and my ability to use them more often and more correctly than Robert DeNiro might work against me.  This, however, hits really close to home, not only because I’m a future dev myself, but also because I am on very close personal terms with a handful of them in the real world (mostly other game companies, but they still do the same work and deal with the same bullshit).  As such, I make no apologies for the rule I am about to break.

If you threaten any Blizzard employees, or their families, or their friends, or their dogs, just because you think that rogues need a buff… fuck you, you maladjusted burden on society and oxygen thief.  I’m glad that your priorities are so screwed up that you think it’s acceptable to say horrible things to these people who work unimaginably long hours just because you don’t agree with the decisions about the fantasy world that they created.  Do you know what the average burnout time for a game developer is?  Five years.  And a big part of that is the frightening levels of abuse and lack of gratitude that they receive from their player base.  If you don’t like the changes they’ve made, then you have three options:

  • Quit the game.
  • Calmly and rationally ask why they chose to pursue that design path, then offer your own insight without making overly generalized statements.
  • Become a game developer yourself so that you can make the choices you think are best.

Some game company headquarters have had to go so far as to install bulletproof glass and security checkpoints just to protect themselves from players who have gone beyond simple threats and actually driven themselves out to the building while waving a gun because they disagreed with something.

It’s a game, guys.  It’s not worth taking someone else’s life, happiness, or security over.  And it’s certainly not worth going to jail over, although if you’re that unbalanced in the first place, it might be best if you were taken off the streets.

In Conclusion

We can all stand to be a lot nicer to each other in real life as well as in World of Warcraft.  It may not reduce your waistline or give you whiter teeth, but I assure you that it takes far more effort to be a jerk than it does to be a nice and helpful member of the community.

Also, please note that I’m not attacking good-natured trolling of friends and guild members.  A sense of humor can make the game ten times as fun to play.  For example, a guy I’ve played WoW with since the beginning was getting pissed off at the steady stream of fireworks being mailed to him by NPCs in lieu of more useful rewards.  The other night I decided to level my engineering skill exclusively on fireworks and filled his mailbox with them.  It wasn’t done to be mean.  I did it because I knew he’d check his mail, say “dammit!” and laugh.  The first time I did Molten Core, my guild at the time told all of the new players that if they went into this one crevice full of lava, there was a hidden NPC who’d give you a one-time quest that’d reward epics and assured us that it was safe to go in.  It wasn’t.  We spent the next five minutes cracking up over Ventrilo, yes, even those of us who had to pay extra on our repair bills.

I understand that a lot of what I’m saying here may be taken as unpopular opinion, which is something that shouldn’t surprise any of you by this point.  I’m just calling it as I see it.  If you still feel like you need to yell at me or threaten to kick my cat, I now have a Facebook page you can use to do just that!

Oh, and also, hunters?  For the love of God, please name your pets.  It makes me twitch.