Challenge Mode: Confronting Bullies and Users of Offensive Language in WoW07.17.13

I want to take a step back from druids, crummy puns, and game mechanics and tell you fine folks a story. I imagine that many of you will be able to relate, though I wish that weren’t the case. I was bullied as a child. I’m not sure why it happened, though I suppose I was sort of a weirdo: I liked robots and books and leggings with stirrups. But I can’t claim it was because of my sexuality or my socio-economic status or the color of my skin. I was bullied because I was…me.

Obviously I turned out okay. It “got better.” I eventually learned that I didn’t need to bury my quirks and interests to make people like me, because those people really weren’t worth my time. But for most of my childhood, I was a truly miserable human being. One day, after I came home with my glasses fogged up from crying, something about a group of children calling me a human dictionary[i] and throwing icicles at me, my mom said, “You really need to stick up for yourself. Take a stand, bean bag.”

Later, when an eighth grade girl on the bus pulled my glasses off my face and stomped them into ruin, I remembered my mom’s remonstration. I balled my shaking hands into fists, and I punched her in the face. Have you ever witnessed a perfectly silent bus full of middle schoolers? My principal sure hadn’t. After I sorted things out with my school’s administrators,[ii] the school bus altercation assumed legendary status: no one bothered me again. I learned that if I finally challenged my tormentors in a public space, I could reveal that they, too, were vulnerable. I could shame them.

I’m not advocating violence. I was in the sixth grade when all that happened, and I wasn’t quick or confident enough for a clever repartee. What I am suggesting is that confrontation and education are necessary elements involved in addressing bullying, harassment, and abusive language. I feel that we are obligated to become moderators of our safe spaces, whether that’s at home, in the office, or in Azeroth. There are risks, of course. You could be hurt, physically. You could be fired. You could lose friends. You might be harassed more. At the very least, you might get vote kicked. I can’t tell you your acceptable-risk threshold—you’ll need to figure that out on your own. But I would like to explain how I deal with harassment and ignorance online—in WoW, specifically.

Passive Disapproval

At first, I started expressing my disapproval for abusive, homophobic, misogynist, ableist language (or for names like “Sirrapesalot”) by reporting each offender for language. It’s easy, it presumably starts to create an electronic “paper trail” for that individual, and it also automatically blocks that person. This method can be an excellent tool for immediately obliterating offensive individuals from your space, especially if they’re simply trade trolls or people encountered in passing. Unfortunately, you’re also not confronting this person about his or her poor behavior. They may eventually be slapped with some sort of warning or ban from Blizzard, but they likely won’t understand why.

One-sided Conversations

I started to feel dissatisfied with reporting. It’s too anonymous, and it doesn’t provide the offender with any sort of immediate feedback. If there’s a repeat trade offender, a raid member in an LFR, or a five-man player shitting up the instance channel with “You’re a pussy faggot” or “A fucking retard could play better than you,” I immediately stop what I’m doing and start composing a tell. I’ll be blunt, explain that their language is hurtful, completely unacceptable, and will be reported to Blizzard, and then I immediately put that person on ignore.[iii] Do not give them the opportunity to respond: you’ve challenged their behavior, and they’re probably going to be upset about it. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, the initial anger will subside, and they’ll eventually come to the realization that they can’t act like an asshole with impunity.

Sometimes, if the language is used in a conversation manner rather than as something directed at a specific person, I’ll craft a different sort of response. I’ll explain that while it probably wasn’t his or her intention, language such as X or Y can sometimes create barriers or end up being really hurtful—it doesn’t engender a sense of an inclusive community. I may even acknowledge that it’s difficult to train oneself to remember how words can cause real pain, and that I hope he or she will try to keep all this in mind in the future. And then I wait. Usually, I don’t get any response—whether this means that individual is ashamed or doesn’t care, I can’t really know. Occasionally, though, this conversation opens a dialogue, which is almost always positive—it gets the wheels turning. It even provides you with an opportunity to offer helpful resources. But if I receive a hostile response, I quickly follow my above protocol and ignore that individual immediately.

Public Conversations

I have this instinctual desire to keep confrontations private; that way, I can minimize the damage if the conversation gets out of control. That being said, addressing offensive language, bad behavior, or general creepiness in a public space calls attention to it and underscores it as problematic—you’re unequivocally letting someone know that he or she crossed a line. Everyone gets to see how ignorant it is, and even if they might not agree with you at the moment, you’ve given them something to think about. Maybe they don’t know what “ableist” means, and they end up looking it up and learning something.

But what do you say? I don’t think it’s useful to level with, “I find that offensive.” You’re going to get a hey, great, I don’t really care that your tender sensibilities have been “offended.” Instead, I think it’s more productive to say, “That kind of language hurts people” or “That language perpetuates stereotypes that are really damaging” or “I really hope you wouldn’t say that kind of thing to your friends and family members who might be queer/disabled/women” or “If I heard someone say that to me in person, I’d call the police or get a restraining order.” I’d also recommend challenging their premises with humor and hyperbole.[iv]

Problems at Home

What if the creepster/offender lives in your guild? What if this is someone you have to deal with all the time? It’s important to address this on a case-by-case basis (and remember that your personal safety is paramount). If someone is using language you think creates a negative environment, you can pretty easily have a one-on-one conversation about how to move forward. Talk to that person in the same fashion you’d talk to a friend whose behavior you wanted to challenge, and make it personal. Try not to paint that individual as a shitty person, even if that’s how you’re feeling at the moment—we’re not all magically enlightened. Many people are hugely unaware of the privileges they have in their own life, and it can be important to take it slow.

If, however, someone is pointedly harassing you or someone else, you should bring it to the attention of your GM and them know that A) it’s not acceptable B) it makes the guild look terrible and C) you (or someone else) feels unsafe and unwelcome. At that point, you’re placing the burden of confrontation on someone else’s shoulders—and that’s okay. Your GM should be willing to advocate for a positive, progressive environment. If they’re not, you know that it’s time to block the offender and move on. Remember: you deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t let an oppressive guild atmosphere ruin your enjoyment of the game—even progression isn’t worth that.

In the event that the harassment continues, make sure you document it. Take screenshots and open tickets as soon as it occurs. Call Blizzard’s Customer Service number at (800) 592-5499 and say that you’d like to report threatening behavior. Let them know that if they are unwilling to take punitive action, despite your documentation, you’ll be bringing the matter to your local authorities. If you can help it, do not allow this behavior to escalate.

Keeping It Real

Ultimately, I believe in Real Talk, and I try to espouse it in all aspects of my life. It’s about being open and honest, even if being open and honest has the potential to be hurtful—especially initially. It’s not an excuse to say shitty things to people, but is rather a plan to continue to challenge yourself and others to be more compassionate and emotionally engaged. It’s about discourse. It’s about confronting adversity, in plain language. It’s about being clear and direct with regards to your desires. It’s about creating a culture of exchange and explicit consent. And you know, sometimes it gets me in trouble, especially at work. But I think it’s so important to my own personal integrity that I keep at it. I hope you do too.

How do you deal with bullies, offensive language, and in-game harassment?



[i] Which I now realize I should have taken as a compliment.

[ii] Thankfully, the principal was someone who understood that I was a kid with good grades who never got into trouble and was simply pushed to the breaking point. These were also the days before zero tolerance policies.

[iii] The assumption, here, is that this person is knowingly using loaded language to make someone feel bad and will presumably turn that language on me as soon as I give him or her the opportunity to do so.

[iv] Unfortunately, I often feel like I’m never quick enough on the draw for this; my dude mans is often a lot faster. He also really doesn’t give a shit what other people think about him.  

Posted in Guide, Raiding, Rant, Social Justicewith No Comments →

This Doesn’t Feel Very Good: Feral State of Play in 5.307.12.13

What do you do when you’re not satisfied with your DPS output? Well, first I evaluate my sobriety.[i] If that’s not at issue, I complain about it to Lycentia and deflate into a wasted husk of futility. After five minutes or so of that, it’s time to get serious. I start by asking myself a few simple questions.

1.    Did I die?[ii]

2.    Was I forced to DPS in front of the boss?[iii]

3.    Was there a lot of target switching?[iv]

4.    Did I forget to eat/flask?[v]

5.    Is there a lot of movement in this encounter?[vi]

These kinds of DPS discrepancies can usually be addressed (or even written off[vii]) with a few tweaks. But when low DPS becomes a perennial struggle, it’s time to seriously overhaul your play. Sometimes it’s just a matter of acquiring better gear or reforging what you have for maximum efficiency, like ensuring you’re prioritizing Mastery Rating over Haste, for example. You can even Ask Mr.Robot or place your faith in the reforging templates available in ReforgeLite.

But when that isn’t enough, you evaluate your rotation. While I wholeheartedly enjoy not having to be the mangle bot anymore, we now have the added complexity of managing Thrash and Predatory Swiftness[viii] procs. You should be keeping up Savage Roar, Faerie Fire, Rip, Rake, and Thrash, and making sure you’re not clipping the dots. If any of those buffs, dots, or debuffs wears off, your damage suffers dramatically until you manage to get them back on track. It’s very easy to screw up and play inefficiently. I’m often tempted to sneak in a Ferocious Bite when I’d be better off refreshing Savage Roar or waiting another three seconds for Rip to fall off.

What else? You need to keep an eye on Omen of Clarity. Opportune Omen of Clarity procs are the best way to keep Thrash on the target—a free Thrash means that you’re not penalizing your rotation by wasting fifty energy without gaining a combo point. You also want to avoid hitting Tiger’s Fury as soon as it comes off cooldown; if you have more than thirty-five energy, you’ll waste it. You’ll want to take advantage of Berserk, too, but if you activate it when you’re low on energy, it’s not going to help you much.

There’s more, and you can get down to fine details analyzing logs and using SimulationCraft, but my point is that optimal feral DPS requires considerable micromanagement. We know this—it always has. Part of the joy of cat raiding is successfully handling a relatively complex rotation and seeing huge DPS gains. Since Cataclysm, though, it’s felt…clunky. Ponderous. Stretches between Shreds sometimes feel like minutes. The effort involved in managing our rotation does not ever seem to equal the damage being done. As someone on Twitter confessed, optimal play still seems to land ferals in the middle of the DPS pack. Couple this with the problems inherent to melee, and it becomes pretty discouraging.

Heard that one before.

Listen—I’ll admit that I’m not rocking the best gear these days. Maybe I’m even a little lazy, a little cavalier about my maths. But comparing my elemental shaman to my feral druid speaks volumes. With very minimal effort[ix] and monitoring, I can do eight bazillion damage on Brewnette. I still optimize my rotation and scrutinize my gear, but it’s never a chore. It’s breezy. Chain Lightning is joyous. I have useful minions. I can cast Lightning Bolt on the run without activating any additional spells, and I can even still turn into an animal. What’s not to love?

I miss feeling that same gleeful exhilaration while playing my druid, and I can’t help but feel like it’s not just me. How can we make the feral experience better?


[i] Oh, like you haven’t had a drunk Karazhan night. Come on.

[ii] Stop being stupid and use your damage-reduction cooldowns next time.

[iii] This is actually less of an issue than it used to be thanks to the initial damage equalization between Mangle and Shred. It is, however, still better to Shred whenever possible because it’ll do more damage on bleeding targets.

[iv] Generally not conducive to any rotation that requires ramp-up time, especially if the targets die quickly.

[v] *headdesk*

[vi] The more you’re moving around, the less time you’ll be able to punch the boss.

[vii] Let’s face it—some bosses are designed to be handled more technically; the glass cannon approach isn’t always feasible.

[viii] Assuming you’ve taken Dream of Cenarius, of course.

[ix] Flame Shock, Lava Burst, Elemental Blast, Lightning Bolt, Earth Shock—rinse and repeat and maybe drop some totems.

Posted in Feral, Rantwith 9 Comments →

Hey, I’m still talking here!07.10.13

When I stopped blogging in 2011, it was largely because I lost interest in the game. Cataclysm felt flat, like a curious filler episode in between real content, and I became disconnected from my character and my endgame experience. I wasn’t raiding in any satisfactory capacity, and further, I wasn’t compelled to. My general disinterest coupled with the added duties of being a new homeowner and a renewed dedication to fitness sealed my departure, and I didn’t pick up a new MMO until June 19, 2012, when The Secret World released[i].

Looking back, 2012 turned into a very important year. It’s strange that it can take so long[ii] to finally feel like you’re becoming the unstoppable cyborg badass you always imagined you were. And you know, I’m not just describing a physical change (though that’s also occurred)—I’m talking about a complete introspective metamorphosis. I imagine I’ll probably detail this exploration in essay format at my other blogging project, but my point is that I encouraged new growth. I kindled some new flame of my being, and I was able to reach out to other likeminded individuals in my community for the first time since I moved to the Midwest.

I still ignored Mists of Pandaria. Truthfully, I was kind of an asshole about the whole thing[iii]. But I think that I was just feeling left out and left behind, and sort of anxious that I wouldn’t have a place in the community anymore. Eventually I caved to a peculiar sort of boredom, bought the expansion, and started the arduous process of leveling both my Alliance- and Horde-side characters again. I collected more pets. I hopped into dungeons and raids when the opportunities presented themselves. In fact, I’ve mostly been quietly coasting, playing casually and idly considering gold-run challenge modes.

I never thought I’d come back to WoW blogging, but after listening to the first episode of Justice Points the other day, I realized that there’s still a lot I want to say. I may not be theorycrafting (much) or working on progression (probably), but there are still elements of both the game itself and the community it’s generated that I want to talk about. I was kind of hoping you’d all join me on that adventure.

We need to talk about Brewnette.


[i] I didn’t want to go into great detail about The Secret World because that’s not what this blog is about, but if you have the opportunity to play it, I really believe you should. In my opinion, the game only really suffers from some user interface idiosyncrasies and a dearth of new content, but it gives you an incredibly immersive experience, a compelling story, and some really, really unique multiplayer experiences.

[ii] You know, like 27 or 28 years. 

[iii] Pandas are too silly, I’m sick of the corruption themes, adding mini games will trivialize content, catering to the lowest-common denominator will eventually set everyone’s house on fire, et cetera. 

Posted in Mists of Pandariawith 4 Comments →

Blizzcon 2011: no, I’m not there.10.21.11

Every year my husband and I discuss whether or not we want to attend Blizzcon. Our conversations usually follow as below.

“Wow, look how insanely expensive the tickets are this year for a two-day convention that focuses on three games.”

“You want to try and go to PAX instead?”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Then I remember that it’s less about the games and the not-usually-surprising announcements (which I’ll hear instantaneously on Twitter) and more about the community I’ve been a part of since 2006. Each year I read those Twitter feeds and live-blogs and forum posts with a certain jealous fondness, wishing that I, too, could hang out with the people with whom I’ve long exchanged ideas and silly conversation. Hell, I just want to go someplace warmer than the Midwest. I have to tamp down the sentiment and consider the simple math.

Two Blizzcon tickets = $350

Two round-trip plane tickets from Detroit to Anaheim = $900[i]

Hotel room for three nights = $537[ii]

Food = $200[iii]

Miscellaneous spending money = $100

Total = $2,087

Working off of the assumption that I’d like to take an actual vacation at some point during the year, spending approximately $2,000 on a glorified long weekend doesn’t fall into our budget plan—especially now that we have a house. And though I’ll miss the people and the high fives and the neckbeards and the /flex photoshoots, I can still watch from afar and speculate. What will they announce at Blizzcon this year?  

After last year’s lackluster performance—why, oh why did you release the Cataclysm trailer and details before the convention?—I think it’s safe to say we’ll see information pertaining to the next expansion. I still want to believe that Mists of Pandaria is a red herring that has something to do with a mobile game or trading card expansion—especially considering the implications of panda-based characters in China—but I’m starting to think it might be legitimate. I can see the summary now—

A sheltered land of mist-draped bamboo stands and free-flowing beer faces a new terror—bamboo blight. You, adventurer, must team up with your with newfound Pandaren allies to find a secluded group of herbal pathologists and develop a cure before it’s too late!

I’m also expecting to see a new Diablo cinematic, and maybe, just maybe we’ll get a release date. We can all dream, right?

For those of you at the convention, have fun, stay safe, and take lots of pictures.

[i] This varied, obviously, but $450 (with tax) was the average per person price for a three or four day trip from Detroit to Anaheim.

[ii] This was at $179 a night, the cheapest room rate I found near the convention center. Most rooms were much more expensive.

[iii] Again, this is a pretty variable number. You can certainly eat very cheaply on vacation if you’d like, but assuming that we’d be attending certain parties and meetups, I imagine it’d be on the high end.


Posted in Rantwith No Comments →

Bonus! T13 Set Details Released09.27.11

You know Blizzard is overwhelmed when they decide to release 4.3 information in the wee hours of Sunday morning while many of us were eating pizza, getting drunk, and catching up on past episodes of True Blood. In the event that you were partying and didn’t have the opportunity to check your RSS or Twitter feed, here’s a quick recap.

  • Feral, 2pc – While Berserk is active, Savage Defense absorbs are 100% larger, and your Blood in the Water talent now causes Ferocious Bite to refresh the duration of your Rip on targets with 60% or less health.
  • Feral, 4pc – Frenzied Regeneration also affects all raid and party members, and your Stampede talent now grants two charges after using Feral Charge (Cat).

Ravage me again!

Let’s start with the bad news first—any sort of modifications to Stampede are situational at best and won’t provide cats with a sustained DPS increase. Why? Although certain encounters are designed with predictable add switching (Ragnaros) or events that require one to leave and re-enter melee range swiftly (Searing Seeds[i]), I suspect that, for most encounters, Ravage2 will be used once at the beginning of the fight and will then be forgotten.

I do realize, however, that I’m evaluating this bonus wearing T12-colored glasses. It’s entirely possible that T13 content will require an excess of melee target switching. By providing cats with two free[ii] ravages, perhaps Blizzard is trying to address the fact that cat burst damage is incredibly lackluster when target switching is involved. Unfortunately, we’ll need four pieces of gear to access this bonus and alleviate some of the burst damage concerns.

Taking a bite out of DPS disparity

The feral two-piece set bonus provides a far more significant sustained DPS boost. Blood in the Water currently functions as an execute—as soon as your target drops below 25 percent health, Ferocious Bite has a 100 percent chance to instantly refresh the duration of Rip on your target. The idea is that the bulk of one’s combo point generation can be solely dedicated to Ferocious Bite without having to use them to maintain Rip as well.

Now, with the T13 two-piece bonus, you can stop worrying (for the most part) about Rip once your target hits 60 percent, increasing the effectiveness of the two-point Blood in the Water talent by 240 percent. Before your little fluffy heads explode, please remember that the two-piece bonus won’t improve your DPS by 240 percent. Right now, two points in Blood in the Water accounts for approximately 1.66 percent[iii] of your DPS. Therefore, if the two-piece T13 bonus improves that by 240 percent, we’re probably looking at an approximate DPS increase of 2.324 percent.[iv]

Some bears are probably here by accident

Because I haven't been tanking since Wrath, I can't comment with any authority on the bear bonuses. I do, however, think that the two-piece bonus is marginal; when bears asked for another defensive cooldown, I don't think they were looking to switch Berserk from DPS to mitigation. The four-piece bonus, on the other hand, seems like a welcome addition to a bear's arsenal.




[i] Searing Seeds is cast by Majordomo Staghelm in Firelands.

[ii] Without the Stampede talent, Ravage requires one to be stealthed and behind the target.

[iii] Wondering where this number came from? It’s simple, even if you’re math challenged. Using Mew, establish a baseline DPS by plugging in your ideal build and the appropriate set bonuses, trinket procs, and raid buffs. You can even import your own character from the armory. Once you’ve established a baseline, record the number and then remove the two points from Blood in the Water. Recalculate. You can use the difference between your baseline and the second number to calculate the percentage of DPS for which Blood in the Water accounts. I found that this number hovers between 1.6% and 1.7%. It’s probably safe to say that the DPS increase from the two-piece bonus will be greater than 2% and less than 3%.

[iv] Give or take a few tenths of a percent.


Posted in Cat, Cataclysm, Patch Noteswith No Comments →

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    A textual adventure in double entendre and endgame druiding!