A raider at last

Well, I’ve apparently been more busy actually playing WoW than writing about it recently. Part of the reason for that is that this guild really is a raiding guild, even if it is a bit small as such (about 15-20 active members). I have been having a lot of fun.

But let’s start at the beginning. When I arrived on the new server, I was all alone, and as it has a much lower population, it felt even more empty. I was nervous, a bit insecure, and immensely curious. Would this server somehow feel different? Would I sense a different culture of interaction? Of activities? Of conversation?

In some ways, yes. Early on I observed a long conversation in General chat about Canadians vs. Americans, a specific topic I never saw emerge on Destromath. When M. had me invited to the new guild, I realised that guild chat and the intimate joking we exchanged in SAPS were not present in this group. The low population of the server made it more difficult to gather pugs, to sell items in the AH, or to survive alone generally. On the other hand, there seemed to be more people without guilds, as well. I believe this is a slightly newer server.

I quickly realised, though, that this guild is far more typical of WoW as a whole, and not so different for many of Destromath’s citizens. Work by folks like Mark Chen had introduced me to organized, goal oriented-type guilds, and this was finally one I could relate to his descriptions. In my first week, about 5 people joined the guild, and although I believe this was somewhat atypical, this guild is clearly accustomed to regular recruiting and a flow of members in and out (without the heartbreaking drama of SAPS).

The raids are regular – usually twice a week – and generally happen within no more than an hour of their scheduled time. They use the WoW calendar for activities, and many members play primarily at these scheduled times. For SAPS folks, in contrast, WoW was clearly a place to hang out, escape, and do…. little. It’s nice to have activities. (Plus, my gear is getting better…. oh, and it’s fun!)

So. Now I raid. (Before I didn’t. Not really. Not really at all.)

Naxx boss Thaddius hits players with positive and negative charges, requiring players to switch sides constantly to avoid killing each other with conflicting charges.

Naxx boss Thaddius hits players with positive and negative charges, requiring players to switch sides constantly to avoid killing each other with conflicting charges.

Armed with a can of seltzer water, freshly made popcorn (in a pot, not nuked), and the occasional sugar-free chocolate pudding, I would settle in at my modestly chaotic desk to raid. These raids have been mostly “25-man” [sic] runs of what has been the top level raid, Naxxramas (“Naxx”). I have the best gear – and am most helpful – as a healer, and along with 5 or 6 other healers I keep a rather well-organized bunch of boys (+2 women) alive as they maneuver through complicated raid bosses like Thaddius by chatting on vent.

What’s novel for me about these raids is not the people so much as the atmosphere. Our GM is usually the raid leader, and he takes his role seriously. Armed with what seems to be rather incredible patience, he will explain the fights in careful detail, encourage us when we “wipe” (all die), and squash the inevitable grumpy or cruel comments that emerge when folks get tired.

An advantage, of course, is that over half the raid is from our guild, and they both listen to and are loyal to our GM. The smoothest raids have been ones in which we partner with another guild, allowing us to bring in only one or two outsiders/strangers.

Unlike my experiences with SAPS, these raids don’t make me feel guilty for mistakes or for my general ignorance. Even corrections and suggestions seem to be said with more support and casual understanding.

I find this contrast rather odd, actually. I am in a more formal raiding guild, with regularly scheduled raids and full of members who are not nearly as close we were in SAPS. But here I feel as though I am a welcome part of a raid and that shortcomings are easily forgiven. I would have thought that the friendships underlying SAPS would make for a safer-feeling environment, but far from it.

Lan and main tank of ToH, Dampe dancing in Lumberjack shirts made by M. (and yes, singing That Song)"]<

Lan and main tank of ToH, Dampe dancing in Lumberjack shirts made by M. (and yes, singing That Song)

Of course, those feelings are part of a much longer history with much more complicated relationships, but…. still. It’s just better here. It’s more about what we do. We still have some silly dance parties (although far fewer), but mostly, this guild is… a raiding guild.

Thinking again about how people interact and build relationships in this space, a raiding guild reminds me far more of meeting people in a class, say, than in a bar. Oriented around regular activities, we interact for a purpose but are there to enjoy ourselves. We can be as social or as quiet as we wish (although there are some caveats to this – more on that later), and the raid itself provides an interesting measure of social safety. No longer together because of our feelings for each other, we are freed from the tensions such feelings bring.

All in all, things are less personal. More about the activities. More boy-world, play-sports-and-make-friends type of thing than girl-world huddle-and-gossip.

Interesting that I prefer it so clearly.

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