Things I Have Learned In LFD

April 20, 2010

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time with the loved/feared/loathed/ Dungeon Finder. On Juujube, I’ve been working off an obsession with getting all three Paladin roles geared out enough to shore up the raid as needed- we’re working on training new tanks so that Ossifer Bear and I can take nights off or play with other roles/characters, and the flexibility is suddenly appealing. Being almost always the only plate-wearer, and only strength-based melee DPS in the raid, I’ve gotten a number of ICC drops for those offspecs- but the rest of the stuff, especially the healer set, requires badges, so away for triumphs I went. If that weren’t enough mixing with the primordial soup of the playerbase, I’ve been having a mad dungeon-running flirtation with my warrior alt, to the point that I’m actually toying with the idea of pushing her to 80 in order to have the option of changing mains in Cataclysm if I really don’t like where protection paladins have gone. (Or just really like where prot warriors have- tell me heroic leap doesn’t look like more fun than a bucket of kittens.)

1. Not only do people treat me differently depending on whether I’m tanking or healing, I act differently. I don’t just mean the generic ways in which one treats tanks or healers- I mean people are much more likely to assume I’m a man or a woman, and I act more or less feminine depending on which role I’m in. Not dramatically- my basic personality doesn’t change- but I emote more, use more smilies, and am less likely to give someone being stupid a verbal crack across the chops if I’m wearing my healing kit than my sword and shield. Everybody assumes the female blood elf holy paladin is a woman; no one assumes the female tauren prot warrior is, and this both significantly changes the way I am treated and the way I behave. I don’t know whether I find this fascinating or unsettling.

2. It is possible for someone not the tank to pull for the tank and have this actually be helpful to the tank. I don’t mean a DPS tagging a mob heading for a healer and bringing it to the tank, I mean, in this specific case, a healer running out, facepulling mobs that were nowhere near the pull, and bringing them to me to tank. This has always driven me COMPLETELY FROTHING when running heroics on Juuju, largely because healers assume that the limiting factor on the size of my pulls is my health bar rather than my ability to generate threat*.

This healer, however, would wait until I had the mobs I pulled firmly on me, then run out and grab another when I could easily taunt and apply some quick attention-getting. It kept my rage bar about half full, so that getting firm threat over the next pack I pulled for myself was easy and I was able to pull faster and more smoothly with fewer breakoffs. I have no idea if the guy played a rage-based class himself or what, but it was a Bizarro world of helpful pulling. Is your mind blown? I know mine was.

3. There actually seem to be fewer douchebags around lately. It seemed like there was a peak a few weeks after LFD was introduced during which every asshole tactic in the book came out of the woodwork, but all my “terrible horrible rude pugger” stories date back to pretty much that period. I haven’t had someone gogogogo at me in weeks if not months. Other than the aforementioned example, I’ve only had one person pull for me that wasn’t a guildie using tricks or misdirect. Things are still as silent as ever, but nobody’s been getting up my nose. It’s weird. I think other people are getting all the asshats for me.

4. There must still be asshats, because on Holly the warrior tank, there’s a very marked difference in attitude in groups I zone in to start an instance fresh with, and groups where I zone in midway. The former take it for granted that things are going to run fast and safe; the latter are downright cuddly with me just for doing my job in the exact same fashion. There must be at least one other tank in the 28-32 level range that’s a real prize of a jackass…

5. Despite the fact that I now run as a tank or a healer depending on my mood and the character, I still do some of the things as a tank that make me a bit crazy as a healer. The other night our healer in Gnomeregan disconnected, and I didn’t notice until three pulls later because the shadow priest had taken over for him. I preach about making sure you know where your healer is and that he has mana before pull, but I’m as guilty as falling into that rhythm as anyone… at least I wait at the beginning to make sure everyone is buffed and fed before I’m off to the races.

6. I take both deaths and any intimation of poor performance *far* more personally as a healer than I do as a tank. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m not that experienced yet and I’m more worried that something actually WAS my fault, but when someone manages to rip aggro despite my best efforts or facepull and die when I’m tanking, I usually have the “well don’t do stupid shit, I’m the tank, not your personal savior” reaction. When it happens when I’m healing, I feel like I’ve failed. I also wonder if this ties into point 1 at all.

*Yes, paladins have good AoE threat. However, as I have ranted before, we have good AoE threat over packs of up to about four mobs- beyond that, unless we’re frantically tabbing around, the only thing holding them is consecrate, and at 80 consecrate is the weakest multi-target threat generator we have, not a golden patch of aggro velcro.


Pretty In Plate: Why Are Female Tanks Rare?

April 2, 2010

It’s been widely observed, and been the subject of no small amount of ad hoc stereotyping and evo-psych, that broadly speaking, female players prefer to heal, and male players prefer to tank. Up to a point, this isn’t quite true; lots of male players like healing, and our own healer corps is just about fifty-fifty divided between men and women. Likewise, there seems little notable gender difference in DPS; if DPS are majority male, it seems to reflect nothing more than that male players are the majority period and DPS itself is the majority role.

However, much to my irritation, there does seem to be a marked gender imbalance in tanking; a strong majority of main-spec, main-toon tanks are men. At this point enough players are female that “girls don’t play WoW” is now a tongue-in-cheek /trade joke rather than accepted truth, but so relatively few tanks are women that it really IS relatively striking to find out the tank is a chick. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there weren’t more male players playing female avatars that tank than there were actual women playing tanks. A great deal of this is my own prejudices- I’ve actually never seen any specific demographic breakdown for real-world gender and role choices. Class choices and demographic choices in general have been analyzed repeatedly, but not with any attempt that I’ve seen to differentiate between male and female players and their preferences for class X that can DPS or tank or heal and which they choose. I’m going off the fact that so relatively few other tanks I meet seem to be women; there’s one or two on my blogroll, and I know at least one other dedicated tank lady on my server, but most of the women I know who do tank do so as an offspec- frequently as off to a healing spec.

Lots of reasons are thrown around for why this seems to be. One is that none of the tanking races/classes look “feminine”, which is not only a pretty shallow assumption about female players’ need to feel pretty in an MMO, but rather easily refuted by the existence of the wildly popular Fruit Blood Elves as the only Horde paladin choice, not to mention women seem to have no problem at all playing female tauren in herds when it comes to druids. Another is that tanking is just too high-pressure for the delicate sensibilities of women, which is also rather easily refuted by the undeniable bias to healing classes- it may just be my own bias, but healing has always struck me as a much higher pressure task in raids than tanking. Unless I have a job chasing down a lot of bitchy adds, I’m pretty much just standing there 969ing with a wide threat lead while I look for opportunities to use my utility abilities and occasionally move the boss out of fire. I have my Grid frames set up in a healerish fashion just because I like having the information, and chasing those health indicators looks like a far more stressful job to me than the one I have. I spend the entire fight in control, and it’s usually a surprise to me when something happens that put something normally controllable by me out of that control.

Another common theory is that women are drawn inexorably by their ovaries into the “nurturing” role of healing while men are drawn likewise by the testes to the “protecting” role of tanking. This has never made too much sense to me, given that both roles are two different ways of looking after the raid rather than killing the hell out of something, and women and men seem about equally drawn to the “killing the hell out of it” side of things. That, and my healers and I seem to be about equally of the same feelings toward the people under our care, especially as regards their tendency to stand in fire, watch DPS meters rather than threat meters, and so forth- and it’s not with sweet nurturing adoration. We both spend our game time “saving” people; most of the difference lies in whether we’re staring at boss crotch or raid frames. Healing isn’t a gentle activity like raising a child, it’s even more reactive than tanking is. I’ll grant more potential “grain of truth” to this whole school of thought than any of the preceding reasons, but the fact that men seem just as attracted to healing as women still makes it fail overall for me. It’s “why don’t women want to be tanks as often” that requires explaining, not “why is there this gender polarity in healing and tanking (that doesn’t exist for healing)”.

The best theory I can come up with is that while healing is a high-pressure job that often involves leadership skill (the latter most needed in raids), it’s not nearly so visible as tanking. Especially in dungeons where everybody is often a stranger, everybody expects the tank to lead the way, and if the tank screws up, it’s incredibly visible. Everyone expects tanks to walk into the instance fully formed from the head of Grom Hellscream, and especially since the advent of the random dungeon system, woe betide the tank if he or she is still learning their craft or doesn’t have such great gear. Tanking brings out your inner control freak whether you thought you had one or not, because it’s your job, fundamentally, to be in control at all times. Men get a fair amount of social reinforcement to appear tough and confident and even cocky, while the social description for women that act the same way often comes along with some variant on the theme of “bitch”. Women and men both have defined cultural templates for leadership, but for women it tends to be more “let’s team-build” than “Okay, I’m here, here’s how we’re going to do it”- and tanking, especially when one is playing with people they don’t know well, falls much more into the latter category. Men fall more easily into the role because they’ve received a lot more cultural training and a lot less discouragement to act the way tanks are “supposed” to act.

Of course, all of this is coming from an acknowledged tomboy whose only concessions to girliness are occasionally painting my nails for good luck on raid night and long hair, so maybe my ovaries just haven’t had a chance to tell me how much happier I’d be as a healer the way they do for other female gamers. I DO have that holy set I’ve been building…

Odds, Ends

February 24, 2010

– It’s interesting how, due to just being a fairly small guild, the nature of problems experienced can vary from week to week. Week before last we had way more qualified raiders wanting to raid than we had slots and were starting our first serious effort to build up a second team. Last week we got crit hard by real life and had to go to ToC because the only other available tank was only geared for ToC at best for one night, and cancel the other. What happened? One of our core DPS was apparently hospitalized (we still don’t know the whole story there), another’s on a new and punishing work schedule, Holy Terror and Ossifer Bear had sudden family obligations and the same thing happened to Suicide Dotter and Raid Array, our backup healer has a work schedule that means he can’t make almost all regular raid nights, our backup backup healer got snared by work and is now moving across the country and is only spottily available, and our backup backup backup healer has acquired an offline social life, which wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t raid mainly on weekends. Whew. Priority has suddenly changed from “form second team” to “figure out if we need to completely reorganize the raiding schedule”.

– I’m going to have some adjusting to do when we eventually do form a second team. It’s seriously disorienting to me to tank with someone other than Ossifer Bear. I kept wanting to say things like “No, this is all wrong, bear stands on my RIGHT during this part!” I could not more thoroughly fill a “tanks are control freaks” stereotype if I were actively trying. This is one of many reasons I always have Vent on push-to-talk, though the main reason is that the raid does not need to be subjected to my constant muttered litany of profanity. Holy Terror is PTT for the same reason. Comparing notes with her as to who’s getting cursed about was interesting.

– The minor kerfluffle regarding single-gender guilds was interesting. (I’m linking to Cranky’s roundup so I don’t have to do it myself. Look at the bottom.) For the record, I don’t care if people want to form a guild around the concept of thinking Kirk was better than Picard and only want to associate with other Kirkians, let alone if they want to be in single-gender guilds. What amuses me is mostly the defense that Tristan of the male-only guild advances, which is that men are such cave trolls they have to isolate themselves, lest they inadvertently abuse the female players. I didn’t listen to the actual podcast in question, but apparently the corollary defense is that male players are so disconcerted by working with people that have boobies (which they can’t even see) that separating results in better performance.

Both of these arguments are, to me, like listening to transmissions from the planet Zongo. What the hell kind of maladjusted little boys are these people playing with and why do they tolerate them to the point that they’ll keep themselves hermetically sealed from the opposite sex in order not to set them off? Granted, it could just be that they’re saying this because they think just saying “we like to keep it guys’ night out only and we can’t do that playing with girls” will get them flash-fried, but if you’re going to be in a men-only guild that’s kind of going to happen anyway and it seems oddly nutless to employ such weird logic that inherently disparages their members.

Then again I don’t get a lot of these issues in general. There’s plenty of “girls don’t play WoW” type jokes in our server’s tradechat, and a few female players always bite on it, but it always struck me as being as standard a /trade trope as Chuck Norris, murloc-themed movies, and anal [skill] jokes. We once pugged the raiding alt of SWC’s most notorious tradechat troll*, whose standard repetoire includes plenty of jokes about women and stoves and making him sandwiches, and he didn’t say boo to the female raid leader or any of the other female voices on Vent. Either he’s a coward vocally or, more likely, he just trolls to get reactions from the reactive. It seems incredible to me that anyone actually believes this stuff.

Then again, any male or female player that behaved like either of the stereotypes that both male and female only guilds justify their existence with** would be g-kicked immediately no matter how leet their skills and gear, so maybe this is only more reason why we’re not the top progressed ten-man guild on the server.

*This was *not* when I was in a position to have a say about it, for the record.
**To re-clarify: I think they should exist without having to justify it at all.

No Toys For Tomboys

February 14, 2010

Ophelie posts today on issues touching on being a female gamer, specifically today regarding handling of spontaneous gift-giving by male players, which apparently happens to a lot of them. (It’s part of a larger series on the treatment of women in-game, which is interesting reading.)

Interestingly, it has *never* happened to me. I get in-game gifts sometimes from Stingray, who is married to me and obviously fond of me, and every so once in awhile from guildies- but always as an explicit return for a favor done, not “just because” and certainly never because I’m a woman so far as I’ve been able to determine. In terms of the random gift from a stranger, acquaintance, or for-no-reason from a male guildie, it just lies entirely outside my experience.

Oh, there are a few obvious reasons; it’s likely that I never got anything while levelling either of my two 80s up there was because the kind of players that do this either assumed I was a male player, or that I wasn’t the kind of girl they were interested in. Jumuuji the hunter is a male tauren (I just thought being a bull-man was a scream), and simply nobody assumes that the giant sneering cow has a waifish lovely on the other side of the keys. Juujube the paladin started off life as a female dwarf named Hamcrusher, and everybody makes jokes about female dwarves needing beards and otherwise being aggressively unsexy*. Evidently, people that would choose the “ugly” femdorf are assumed to be either male players that don’t want a beard you could hide a chicken in, or hairy-legged butch lesbians.

The other obvious reason, I suppose, is that it’s well-known within our guild that I’m married to Stingray and that’s why I don’t get it from guildies. A relatively high proportion of us are married or long-term couples (including *all* the officers- six of us, three married couples), so it might just be that it doesn’t occur to anyone to do anything to remotely disrupt the arrangement.

Neither of these reasons completely explains it, though. Juujube is now a blood elf (though she’ll be a tauren the second Blizz lets me), and she is the typical flirty-looking “sexy” character just because it’s nearly impossible to design a female blood elf that’s *not*. I’m surprised our idle animation doesn’t include twirling a lock of hair around our fingers along with the headtilt and hip cocking. She is, however, clearly a tank with the gnome-coffin shield she totes around, and I’ve noticed that most people tend to assume any tank is a male player. (Two of our guild’s male players have tanking alts that are female blood elves, in fact.) Either way, I get the impression that friendly flirting and the like is still the norm even for female players that are known by all to be involved in a relationship or married. That also never happens to me.

There’s probably no true great mystery about it, though. The likeliest reason, when I get right down to it, is probably the same as why I didn’t get any of this kind of treatment in high school- whether it’s the girl in real life wearing combat boots or the female avatar in game wearing plate boots, she just doesn’t come across as all that open to it unless she clearly indicates otherwise. Hell, even over Vent I come across as a lot more “grrr” than “giggle” if only because my voice is naturally low enough that catching a cold means I will be addressed as “sir” over the phone for the rest of the week.

That, and seeing me in /gchat describing someone in a PuG that’s irritating me as a douche-dripping cumburrito probably isn’t all that alluring. Oh well…

*I always thought she was cute in a stout sort of way, actually. In some agricultural cultures and I imagine dwarves among them, what you want in a woman isn’t so much long twiggy legs and delicate wrists as it is the ability to lift a sheep under each arm. While giving birth.