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Five Things Gaming Can Teach

While browsing through Blog Azeroth not too long ago, a former Shared Topic caught my eye. Titled “What has WoW taught you?”, I realized that there have been a number of things that I’ve learned in my time playing World of Warcraft (as well as other online games). Thinking about it, I’m reminded once again how certain positions in online games warrant being mentioned on resumes.

People Management

If anyone has ever been a guild leader, guild officer, or raid leader, they’ll know that this is very true. Managing people is a very difficult task on any level, and something that may have been thought as small and insubstantial can easily turn out to be the opposite. Raid organizers from Vanilla will probably shudder a little bit, as filling 40 raid slots while maintaining optimal balance was extremely difficult.

As soon as people start voicing their opinions, or certain people want certain things while other people want other things – managing this and keeping cool is an incredibly important skill to have in any situation. Companies can have seminars and courses specifically on people management. Consider your WoW experience as the preliminary stages.

Time Management

So much to do, so little time to do it. I’d say a large majority of people have a set amount of time to play WoW. Whether that time is two hours after the kids are in bed or all day because you have nothing better to do, there is still a limited number of minutes to do what you want. Figuring out what to do in the ideal order can help organize things much more efficiently.

If you have certain daily quests to do, it might be better to start out with certain ones first because you’ll need to use your hearthstone to get out of there. After that, the other areas where you do the next sets of dailies might have a portal to go back to your capital city, so the cooldown on your hearthstone isn’t as big of a deal.

Every job that is out there requires some sort of time management. The average job has an eight-hour day, and there’s certain things that need to be accomplished in those hours. By prioritizing certain things, it can increase productivity and make life a lot easier.

Keyboard Skills

Before I played my first MMORPG, my typing was horrible. I was the typical “hunt-and-peck” person, and I hated the “home row” style that was trying to be forced upon me at school. The game I played at first had a focus on role-playing and required quick responses with good grammar. In not much time I was able to increase my words per minute and the quality and accuracy of what I was typing.

Any data entry or administrative job requires this. There may even be jobs that have a typing test as part of the interview process, and even getting the job could rest on these skills. Fortunately online gaming makes practice enjoyable.

Patience

The person who likes to collect things must possess a lot of patience. Whether you’re a hunter camping a rare spawn to tame or waiting for the Time-Lost Proto-Drake to spawn so you can get the mount, there will be a lot of down time. Learning to be patient is a very important thing, or else it’s very easy to go a little bit crazy.

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service has good experience with this. You’re ringing through their order, and they take forever to count out the change in their wallet while there’s a long lineup behind them, all tapping their feet. There are times where you just have to take a deep breath and go with it.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Crap happens, deal with it. Very few things ever go according to plan, and it’s essential to be flexible and work with what life gives you. The perfect raid composition can still end up being a bad experience because people may not know the fight, people might disconnect, among other things. Just roll with it, keep on keeping on, and all those other phrases.

Life is full of surprises, and there’s nothing we can do about it. If an urgent file is dropped on your desk with 15 minutes to go before you leave, we have to deal with it one way or another. How you deal with it, however, is up to you.

Conclusion

If you’re the leader of a level 25 guild and have been running things for a while, I think that it would be a great thing to put on a resume. Everything that I just mentioned are very real skills that can be transferred over to any life situation. Hopefully one day employers will realize this.

Who says geeks don’t know how life works?

Protagonist Development

I don’t envy Blizzard’s creative development department. Not one bit. I do, however, have a huge amount of respect for Chris Metzen and his crew of awesomeness, as they have an extremely hard job – keeping things straight, and making the lore of the game make sense.

To begin with, creating anything new and original is really difficult. While the human/elf/dwarf/etc universe was not created by Blizzard, they took something that people could recognize and put their own spin on it. A few examples of their original thinking: dragons being the protectors of the world and having dominion over a certain part of it; the Emerald Dream concept, having a complete copy of the unadultered world exist in dream form; the Titans, Sargeras, and the Burning Legion.

Along with this is taking the characters that are created and making them believable. Nobody likes the perfect character who has absolutely no faults (/cough Rhonin and his raptor army), because there’s not a human in real life who is perfect. Take any good novel or movie and see the characters that people relate to the most, and look at who wrote their stories. It’s those people who you want to thank.

When a protagonist is established, it must be incredibly hard to balance the good and bad. They may have some great things about them, but there can’t be any downsides – once again, that are believable. Something simple such as being clumsy isn’t a character flaw, it’s a fact of life. Not trusting anyone because you were sold into slavery as a child is a character flaw, as it’s a huge obstacle that that person must overcome.

There will be spoilers for the Elemental Bonds questline of 4.2 following.

There are a number of major characters in World of Warcraft, built up over the years by the games or novels. Currently in Cataclysm, and particularly in a certain quest line in 4.2, Thrall is undoubtedly at the middle of everything. The leader of the Earthen Ring and the most powerful Shaman on Azeroth is a big thing to balance out as a believable character.

The quest line that I mentioned starts just outside of Nordrassil (after breadcrumbs from either capital) with a convocation of the four remaining Dragon Aspects, the Archdruids, and the leaders of the Earthen Ring (including Thrall and Aggra). Mending the World Tree in Hyjal was the plan, but unfortunately a certain fallen Archdruid had other plans from his “master”. Fandral explains that his master has sensed that Thrall is the single biggest threat to his master’s plans, and he needs to be taken care of.

Rather than simply killing Thrall, Fandral splits the shaman’s spirit into the four elements and sends them to the four elemental planes of the Skywall, Abyssal Maw, Deepholm, and Firelands. The Aspects seem unable to help him, so Aggra decides to take matters into her own hands and task the player to go with her and help restore him to one piece.

This is when we see the different sides of Thrall, and the emotions that he has been trying to keep together for years. Doubt, desire, patience, and fury are all expressed during the different parts. There have been times where he has shown certain parts of this through the game, but never have they been out of control. The elemental planes have enhanced these senses, so you and Aggra have to restore him to as close to normal as possible.

There have been some good conversations on Twitter that I’ve seen, mainly between WoW Insider staffers, arguing about what this quest line does. Does it establish Thrall as more of a fleshed out character, or does it make Aggra a major character with Thrall as the sidekick?

Personally, my thought is that it’s a bit of both. Thrall is given more depth as a character, but the problem that I see is the fact that he’s being set up as an uber-character, and very close to the Mary Sue problem of Rhonin. He’s going through this whole ordeal to basically “cure” his major character flaws – the fact that he has had the problem of controlling his emotions. After this, what else is there to make him realistic?

I have really enjoyed the progression of Aggra’s character. She was annoying at first in The Shattering novel by Christie Golden, but by the end of the book I had grown to like her. After having a small role in the Lost Isles part of the Goblin starting experience, we don’t see her again until she ferries the character into Deepholm. This quest line makes her much more believable and has more of a personality, especially during the Deepholm parts where she gets mad at Thrall for being so stubborn.

Nothing will be perfectly written. In all of the stories written, people can nitpick parts of a character for parts that they don’t like. However, getting as realistic as possible is the ideal dream of an author. With these characters being in a persistent world that is constantly being written, there’s more of a chance for them to have more development in the future.

My concluding thoughts is that the characters are written well, but I believe that Aggra shines more than Thrall in this part. I really like both characters, and having most of my history being a Horde player I’ve had a man-crush on Thrall at times for being awesome. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Metzen and the creative development team takes the story forward.

Out of the Frying Pan (Patch 4.2)

It’s not just any Tuesday today. Maestro, please begin the ominous music.

Today is when patch 4.2 hits North American/Oceanic realms for World of Warcraft. It’s been just over six months since Cataclysm was released, and our first major content patch with new and exciting things to do. We technically have had a content patch already, but redoing two existing instances takes a lot less work than a whole new raid and daily quest hub.

To say that there are a lot of changes is quite the understatement. I will be referencing links from WoW Insider throughout, and the best place to get a run down of the major changes is their guide to patch 4.2.

The major points of the patch are the inclusion of the Firelands raid and the Molten Front daily quest hub. Ultimately defeating Ragnaros once and for all, the raid also includes the chance to get a new DPS caster legendary staff. Similar to the Isle of Quel’Danas, the Molten Front area is a daily quest area that advances along with personal progression (I touched on this on a previous article).

For the first time with a patch, we actually have explanations for the class balance changes that came along with it. Ghostcrawler took every single change and said why they made them in point form. Rather than just saying “here you go, deal with it”, we at least have an idea of the philosophy the developers use when making their decisions. There are a great number of changes, best to take a look at which ones apply to your own class(es).

Another great change is the Dungeon Journal, which includes a version of AtlasLoot. Once again we see Blizzard taking addons that they like and feel should be part of the default UI and incorporating them. The Journal has information all the fights of Cataclysm content (will be expanded for the rest of the game eventually, I’m sure), along with abilities that the bosses use and gear that can drop. Currently there is the gear information on the Battle.net website, but this is a great way so people don’t have to use a third-party addon or alt-tab to find out what drops from a certain boss.

Lastly, one of my favourite things about 4.2 is the inclusion of a great cosmetic change. Since I’m back to being feral DPS, I can be a flaming kitty! I believe that it only requires the person to have the staff that drops from Fandral, and whenever you’re in cat form you become a cat… on fire. Dragonwrath turns the caster into a dragon with a proc, but it looks like this is a passive cosmetic change.

I hope that this opens the door for more cosmetic changes down the road, as we really need them – especially for druids. We have great gear, but in combat we’re in the shapeshift forms and are unable to see the great looks. The community has been asking for changes such as this for years, so hopefully we’ll see more down the road.

New content is awesome. I know I’ve been getting impatient, as this six month period since Cataclysm released seems to have gone by very slowly. Hopefully I’ll be able to raid the new place, for the main reason of becoming a flaming kitty. Otherwise, at least I’ll have the new daily quest area to keep me busy for a while.

Blizzard Entertainment: Twenty Years of Awesome

When it comes to the world of entertainment, staying power is hard to achieve. Game studios, publishers, games themselves, voice actors, along with the mainstream media like television shows – they come and go extremely quickly. Just take a look at any fall lineup of a major TV network, and it will likely be very different from what the lineup is at the end of the season. To stick around, you have to stand out and make give great quality with consistancy.

Blizzard is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, which is most definitely quite a feat. Not only the length of time that they’ve been around, but the fact that every single game that they have produced has been an excellent game and done well. Originally starting out making games for the Game Boy and NES, they broke into the limelight with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

The Warcraft series has truly become Blizzard’s flagship. While the original game wasn’t the first real-time strategy (RTS) game that was made, it was one that set the bar for how polished it was for the time. The fact that to this day some of the fundamentals that were used in the first game are still used in StarCraft II is a great example of how if you do something right, it will stay around.  I’m sure that nobody had the slightest idea of how much the Warcraft series would grow and flourish, along with the other franchises that they have made and will continue to make.  Not only does the series have immense popularity, but it has redefined the standards that other games have to live up to – whether a RTS or MMO game.  There’s a reason why people want to be the “WoW-killer”, because they want to outdo what Blizzard has accomplished.

The Diablo series broke ground for the adventure genre.  Not only was the game a whole lot of fun, but it was incredibly easy to play.  There wasn’t the need to spend hours practicing it, in the end it was a simple point-and-click game that almost anyone could pick up and enjoy in a short period of time.  The original Diablo also introduced Battle.net, which was one of the first online multiplayer facilities out there.  Rather than relying on computer-to-computer TCP/IP games, Blizzard offered their own servers to be available free of charge to bring gamers together in a massive way.

Some might argue that StarCraft is just a re-skin of the Warcraft RTS games, set in a space setting with a different story.  If you just look at the straight specs, that is mostly correct.  Yet prior to the release of StarCraft II in July 2010, there were competetive leagues still playing the original StarCraft (with expansion) for real life cash around the world.  While Warcraft was focused more on WoW in the recent years the development team of StarCraft II were perfecting the RTS part, which is evident by the instant success and praise that the game was given upon release.  Not only were the game mechanics well done, but the storyline was one that captivated their audience.  After playing through the campaign of SC2, I truly can’t wait to get the next part of it to see what happens next.

There was a chart released not too long ago which is supposedly Blizzard’s release timetable of games for the next few years.  If there’s any sort of truth to it, I am extremely excited.  This is a company which prides itself on the quality of their games, so there is very little chance of anything less than perfect coming out with their logo stamped on it.

Pride

About a year ago, something happened in Canada that hadn’t happened for a while. The Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver, and while that was great, it wasn’t the best thing that happened. Canadians were loud and proud for their country, and celebrated what the atheletes had accomplished for their country. We went from previously being the only country to not ever win a gold medal on home soil to the country which won the most gold medals on home soil. Everywhere I went, all I could see were flags, banners, shirts, mittens, jackets – whatever was available, a maple leaf was proudly displayed on it.

Normally when someone thinks of a country with a great national pride, Canada is far from the top of the list. For a time last February, I think that our country experienced something that I wish would stay a part of our culture. Unfortunately, that just isn’t how it is for most people. I’m one of those weird people who loves his country and is very proud to be Canadian.

Canadian Olympic fans in Vancouver

From National Geographic

There are many things to be proud of in life. Getting married and becoming a parent are two things that I’m most proud of. If you work towards something for a really long time and finally achieve it, you should definitely be proud of it. As an example, the show Departures is about a few guys who travel around the world for three years, seeing and experiencing so many awesome things around the world – Scott, Justin, and Andre should definitely be proud of that.

We should also be proud of who we are. I am a geek, and I don’t care what others think of that. I wrote before about embracing your geekiness, and it still holds true. Like many others, I’ve had some self-esteem problems in my past, because I let others get to me. I’ve learned to not really care about what other people think of me, but to care about: who I am, what I’ve done, and what I stand for. If my wife hates my guts one day, I care about that. If a random person on the street hates my guts, I won’t give it a second thought.

A good experience to help with your pride is to go to a convention like BlizzCon or the San Diego Comic-Con. You get to be with thousands of other people who share your geekiness, who like similar things to you, and where you don’t have to hide what you like. When my wife and I went to BlizzCon ’08, it was surreal to walk down the street and see people with the goodie bags, then go into a restaurant and have almost every table full of other people talking about what was coming up. There’s a great sense of acceptance when you have people there for a similar reason.

What I’m getting at is simple: be who you are. If you’re a geek, nerd, or whatever other stereotype or social label you can think of, be proud of it. You are who you are, and there’s no reason to change or hide it.

Gaming Socially

One of the most awkward things for me is talking about some of my hobbies with real life friends, coworkers, and associates. The conversation inevitably comes up at work, parties, or whatever you’re doing: “So, what do you do for fun?” There’s a little bit of a pause, then I would say something along the lines of, “Well, I mostly play online computer games.”

Depending on the company, there is a good chance for an awkward pause. Yet, there is always the chance that the conversation will continue and you’ll find out that some people, who you may have never thought would, also play online games – or even better, play World of Warcraft. Crisis averted!

I know my first question in this case is always the same: “Horde or Alliance?” That in itself is usually a good icebreaker, since that conversation can go on for a long time debating the merits and downfalls of both sides. The best thing about it is that you found common ground with someone else who enjoys things similar to you. Who says that geeks can’t socialize?

A great benefit of knowing fellow WoW players in real life is that you usually have something to talk about. After the usual talk of the weather and how the local sports team is doing, you can get to the meat of it all. The forums can get quite heated in their discussion, and that’s through faceless walls of text. If you have someone in front of you, that’s where great things happen.

The game also has a great way of introducing people. Back in Burning Crusade, we had a random applicant who was looking for a Band of Thorns guild on another server and found us, and applied. We let the person know that we weren’t that guild, but they sounded like a great fit for us. Sure enough, they applied and were a great addition to the guild. One day, we ended up talking through a Karazhan run, and through a lot of conversation we found out that I knew her from junior high school. Not only that, but she was one of my best friends through those years, and we hadn’t spoken to each other in about eight years. Through random chance, I rekindled a great friendship with this person, her fiancée, and some of her other friends.

Lastly, another fun example is a story that I overheard on Twitter. Fyreuni, one of the people behind the Daily Quests webcomic, was at a restaurant with friends and talking about WoW. The waiter heard this, and at the end of the meal he gave her the leftovers in a container with “For the Alliance!” written on it. She paid the bill, drawing a Horde symbol on it and writing “For the Horde!”

WoW has a great way of crossing all age groups, social groups, stereotypes, races, genders, and so on. There is usually never a lack of topic when you can talk about the game and solve all of its problems. There’s lots of fun to be had discussing the game online, but I think it can be even more fun when you have friends in real life who can do it with you.

BlizzCon, what a rush

With BlizzCon 2010 fast approaching us (as in just over a day from now), I keep looking back to one of the best vacations of my life, which was being able to attend BlizzCon 2008.

It all started on a whim.  I suggested to my wife that we should try to get some tickets to BlizzCon, and make a whole vacation out of it.  See Disneyland, SeaWorld, things like that.  Amazingly enough, she actually agreed!  At this point, she had only been playing World of Warcraft for a fairly short period of time, and I was still testing the waters for her geekiness.  Obviously, I married the perfect woman. Read the rest of this entry

Embrace your geekiness

The Baby DoctorToday is one of the best days ever – it’s “Embrace Your Geekiness Day”.  Works for me!  I’m quite proud to call myself a geek, and also find it quite funny how the term has evolved over the years.

Growing up, and for quite the longest time, it was never a good thing to be a geek or nerd.  It was always the term said when those of lower intelligence decided to insult you without knowing what to say.

“Yeah, well… you’re a geek!”

At the time, it wasn’t much fun.  I have not met many people who actually enjoyed their time in junior high school.  When you’re trying to figure out what kind of person that you’re going to become, the last thing you want is people making fun of you.

Of course, I’ve definitely come to embrace the term.  Geeks and nerds rule the world!  Look at Bill Gates, arguably one of the biggest geeks out there.  Just try to make fun of him, and I’m sure you’ll get a good lesson on true success.  Take conventions like the San Diego Comic-Con which started out as a small little convention for people trading comics – it’s now one of the biggest conventions of any type in the world!  You have many celebrities going there to plug their films and try to sell you their stuff.  Why?  Because geeks and nerds are successful!

World of Warcraft has over 11.5 million subscribers.  They may not admit it, but everyone who plays WoW has a bit of geekiness inside them.  Many times the biggest grossing films are the ones based on comic books, anime series, science fiction or fantasy novels, you name it.  It’s big business.

I’m very fortunate to have married a woman who is similar to me in many aspects, geekiness being one of them.  Looking at her, you’d never realize it, but over the years I’ve gradually coaxed more and more out of her.  It’s very nice to be able to sit down and watch an episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek, and then discuss it afterwards.  Hopefully our son will embrace the geekiness as well (the picture above is not our son, but it sure would be cool if it was).

If you’re a geek, say it loud and say it proud!  Geeks rule!

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