The work of WoW

[this was posted on the day it was written]

I am now level 80, and even have some decent gear, although not much. The guild does many more activities, especially instances, and I really enjoy them. There isn’t all that much for me to do alone except “dailies” – short stand-alone quests that you can repeat each day to earn gold and often reputation with a faction to enable purchase of high level items from NPC vendors.

I have changed my orientation to the game, and within it. I am basically dividing my time between being a restoration shaman healer (especially for instances) and a melee class enhancement shaman. The former is more useful and more widely needed, but very high-pressure, especially in 5-person instances where I am the only healer. Car. is our top healer, with fabulous gear, lots of know-how, and many instant and area-of-effect druid healing spells. I can’t compete with that, but I can be useful, especially when the “tank” (the character who is strong enough to take most of the damage from attacks) is good like D.

I have a lot of issues about being a healer. It’s fun, and it makes me feel useful, especially because my class is never going to be at top levels for damage done (or DPS, “damage per second”). In sophisticated playing, where coordination and support with the group is the main goal, shamans are incredibly helpful. But especially in pugs (pick-up-groups) my low DPS signals low status, and I feel keenly aware of my poor performance.

But healing is very, very difficult. Partly, my problem is switching back and forth from melee to healing class – it always takes a while to adjust to the new game-play style. Partly, when party members die, it is automatically considered the healer’s fault.

I am, as it turns out, pretty sensitive to angry players, although largely only from strangers.

This game is, as I noted early on, a “boy world” where power, domination, and control are paramount. Although the game itself seems designed to foster certain cooperative values, in practice it rarely does. Status comes from high levels of damage, and healers, although greatly needed, and at high levels, are not given as much respect as others. This can be subtle, as most understand how necessary they are, but few compliments to healers will be given in groups of strangers, and most players basically ignore healers unless something goes wrong.

This is certainly a gendered value system, if only by virtue of its parallel to stereotypical masculine status markers. As a woman, I feel this keenly. I am aware that my personal values, motivations, and interests are not so exclusively in gaining power, yet I feel embarrassed and rejected when I am not powerful enough.

This sets up a conflict between what I do for myself in the game and how I participate with groups. For the latter, I need the best gear so that I can heal well. But I am not focused and advancement-oriented enough in the former to be able to achieve the latter.  Since hitting level 70, this has been my weakness in the game, and has kept me from advancing according to its norms around player value generally.

I am adding additional barriers to this difficulty by splitting my attention between healing and melee fighting. I have some pieces of good gear for each, but would have more if I focused on one or the other. I do not because a healer alone is rather boring to play, and, as someone who is intimidated and uncomfortable with pugs, I need to be able to have fun alone.

In many ways I am not a “good” WoW player, then. I do not focus enough on the “work” I need to do to be the best, and I have made some choices that hinder me further. The game itself is designed to privilege those who are willing to repeat the same activities many times over to advance their gear. I confess: this bores me. Instances are fun because of the people I do them with; pugs are not fun because it feels too much like routine work.

In short, I am a social WoW player, a classification that is greatly derided. I am also, unsurprisingly, typical of many female players, especially those in my age bracket. I focus on the relationships and social interactions I have in the game, often to the detriment of advancing according to game achievements.

Lloydvi, C.'s toon, and Lan, almost 70.

Lloydvi, C.'s toon, and Lan, almost 70.

Also, it should be noted, to the detriment of myself.  That would be the perils of guild drama. Ahhh yes. That will, perhaps be tomorrow’s entry.


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