[Lan: Another guest post, this time from S., the resident hunter]
My guildies and I were loitering in Org one evening, I on my main (female BM Hunter) and they on their alts (resto and feral Druids), preparing for some inappropriate adventure or another. I, in my efficiency, was repaired and outfitted, and sufficiently stocked, which left me to chat with my spirit bear. I noticed a fellow hunter next to me with a sparkly spirit cat – I acknowledged his pet with appreciation and mentioned in public chat that it was first time I’d seen one in “person”.
Meanwhile, I was chatting with my druid pals via Skype, and I started giggling as Mr. Hunter started to spread his digital tailfeathers, bringing out rare pets. I followed suit: spirit crab, rhinoceros, runed demon dog. I called over the druids to see this fascinating exchange – one of the druids has a paladin, and I’ve regularly seen him engage in a similar ritual with other pallies, healing each other continuously until they were out of mana.
For some reason, my druids did not like this hunter-stranger. The druids joined our little party in the Valley of Strength and made fierce gestures and commented that they should leave “their girl” alone. These were of course followed by alternate forms and their relative sparkly effects that make the druids so endearing.
The transformations started out small – cat form – and became gradually more spectacular – Moonkin form, triple tree form. For each heightened display, the hunter responded with a bigger pet – Maddex the scorpion, King Mukla the gorilla, King Krush the devilsaur.
During these shenanigans, Mr. Hunter whispered to me: Add me sweetheart maybe we can catch some bgs, double BM :D. As a RL female having heard tales of such wooing but never having experienced it, I related this to the druids via Skype. The emotes unfolded, and all the while Feral Druid was running around making sparkles in his characteristic style:
Resto Druid winks slyly at you.
Resto Druid says NO. Not going to happen.
Resto Druid stares Mr. Hunter down.
Mr. Hunter laughs at Resto Druid.
Mr. Hunter smiles at King Krush.
Resto Druid tells Krush NO. Not going to happen.
You pet King Krush.
After cleaning up the wine I spit out from laughing so hard (pinot grigio is required for adventuring in Azeroth), I got to thinking about identity – there’s some gender business going on here, especially assumptions on Mr. Hunter’s part that I am, in fact, a female player. Or, rather, he just doesn’t care if I am or not.
There’s a class identity dynamic as well … I complimented Mr. Hunter on a lovely pet and he responded in kind based on the shared meaning we hold for our pets because we’re both hunters. Then there was some crazy difference in the risk-evaluation that was going on among the avatars compared to how we might interact offline … I’m not sure I would have approached Mr. Hunter offline, and while my guildies may have come to my “defense” in such a scenario (we are a bit of a family, after all), it’s doubtful that they would have come in brandishing their finest weapons (or other such sparkly equivalents).
The very sick grad student in me wants to write 30 pages on why this scenario is so fascinating.