So, I’ve learned a few things from ERP. I’ve learned a few techniques about how to write a good erotic scene. I’ve also learned (through some very cringe-worthy moments) about what does not constitute a good erotic scene or even good writing period. I’ve learned a bit about the spectrum of people that play Warcraft (or at least the subsection of players that are willing to take on a role-play scene involving romance and/or eroticism.) But the most important thing I’ve learned, and certainly the thing that I wish to distill into this week’s Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Azeroth broadcast is about communication.

Blizzard has by design limited the explictiness of sexual encounters possible in the game. Mods aside, your character cannot achieve true nudity and the animated emotes and the pre-programmed sounds that go along with them are written to be risque but certainly not offensive. (None of which I disagree with, just to set the record straight. This is a game that younger children can and do play, and I completely agree that Blizzard is responsible to keep their product acceptable to the parents of those children.) So, if you and an of-age and willing role play partner decide to engage in some adult recreation, your possibilites for body language are limited. You are, for the most part, restricted to writing out your scene, your reactions, your thoughts, your wants – in short almost everything that matters in an erotic encounter. (Yes, I realize that the restrictions in terms of body language apply to almost every in-character encounter, erotic or not. Keep reading, I promise I’ll get to a point eventually!)

When my single-and-looking gnome finds an acceptable playmate for the evening, she is limited to the boundaries of my writing capabilities to communicate to that playmate exactly what she wants and how she wants it. She needs to be explicit in her actions and reactions for the scene to have any meaning or purposefullness at all. While there may be a certain amount of ‘chemistry’-driven spontenatiety, there is very little room for mind-reading. To get what you want you have to say what you want, clearly and possibly in great detail.

So, with all the people out there role-playing (and erotically role playing) with fun and satisfaction had on both sides, how is there such poor communication skills in our daily lives and our at-home relationships?

I understand that there are socialization forces at work here. Men are told they are “less manly” if they don’t know what they want and get in there and get it. Women are told they are “unladylike” if they voice their thoughts on what they want and demand they get it. We are told that people who are together should “just know” what the other person wants and that saying explicitly what you want or want to try or are even just thinking about makes a relationship seem less sexy. Toss in a healthy measure of Puritanistic thinking about sex and you ceratinly don’t get an atmosphere that is in any way conducive to frank conversation.

I also understand that there is an element of fear here. If you turn to your partner and say “I want to try X, with Y and some of Z” then you’ve given them a very specific way to say no to you. To reject you and your wants. It’s frightening to open yourself to that kind of rejection from someone you are close to. What if they say no? What if they think you’re a deviant for even suggesting it? What if they tell someone else? What if they mock you? It’s a leap of faith, to be sure.

When you add in Internet Anonymity, a lot of those obstacles disappear. Gender and sexual orientation boundaries become blurred, the emotional investments lessen and the great warm security blankie of the internet whispers us the promise that if things turn really nasty, we can just disappear back into the crowd. Free from the frightening realities of having to look someone in the face and say “what I want is this” we are given a safer environment in which to hone our skills in terms of exploring the boundaries and possibilities of human interaction – sexual and otherwise.

I know that I have the skills to properly, clearly, conscisely and effectively communicate my thoughts on any matter up to and including sexual encounters. Just by some of the comments I get on this blog, I know that I am capable of making my point known and understood. I can also see concrete examples of other bloggers and other role-players, having the skill set to communicate the most exquisite nuances of human thought and interaction. We need to start trusting in those skills. We need to trust in the relationships that are closest to us. We need to be able to trust our friends and our partners to treat our emotional nakedness with tenderness and dignity. We need to be able to go to our guildies and speak our minds and be heard and understood. We need to go to our partners and express our wants and our desires, our insecurities, our hopes, our curiosities and trust that because they are there with us, they will understand us.

There needs to be less fear and more open emotional honesty in all of our human interactions. Yes, you might be ridiculed. Yes you might be hurt. But someone, somewhere needs to extend that first hand of openness. Every guild, every partnership, every relationship out there can benefit from better lines of communication. Trust me. Try it.


Behind Every Guild Leader …

So, being a guild leader is a lot like being an actor. Or maybe a politician. (Insert “is there really a difference?” joke here.)

It’s a good thing that Ventrilo has a push-to-talk button. Because it’s convenient for me to yell and scream and swear and call the raid and the boss every name under the sun and curse all the powers that be for making people so collectively stupid and lazy … and then push the magic left-control key, and in a calm, soothing, encouraging voice tell everyone to take a deep breath, step back, and we’ll rez, regroup and try the boss again.

As with any team, politicking in-guild is important. That co-worker in the cubicle next to you with the hacking cough and who insists on making every call on speaker phone and goes out at lunch and smokes really foul cigars and stinks all afternoon … yeah, he’s much more senior in the company than you are and you could never in a million years tell him that he’s the most annoying human being ever. Likewise, the enhancement shaman with the lousy spell rotation, the weirdly gemmed gear, the half-resto spec and the nails-on-the-chalkboard irritating voice comes to every raid, donates a metric assload of mats to the guild bank every week and brings some pretty sweet caster buff totems, and is not actually a bad guy, just an annoying one. You’ll never tell him either that his laugh makes you think of cats fighting in a dark alley or that his cloth warlock gear is absolutely pathetic. Sometimes, you just have to put on a nice face and smile politely.

That goes double for guild leadership. Or any leadership position.

When we talk to someone, we’re always in the spotlight. When I need to have a “hey maybe you need to shape it up a bit” talk with someone, it has to be done in the politest, most compassionate, politically correct ‘it’s not you, it’s the guild’ way possible. And it’s not always easy, but I do think that I manage it most of the time. I’m only human and it’s difficult sometimes to seperate my personal feelings about a player from my WoW-professional feeling about their raid performance.

All this niceness leaves me with a churning, burbling, seething excess of bile, however.

When I’m not online, I can sometimes be found stomping up and down the house raging about how X player did Y stupid thing in the raid last night and how I wish I could just reach through the screen and slap some sense into them. Or how badly I want to tell Joepaladin that he’s a useless drama whore and I wish I didn’t need his worthless Holy-spec carcass in the raid so damn badly.

Sometimes, it’s just me and the critters at home. The dog doesn’t have a clue what all the yelling is about, but he’s getting out of the line of fire just in case and vanishes under the couch like a shadow, the cats shrug and exchange knowing ‘oh aren’t these humans excitable creatures’ sort of looks and go back to thinking their inscrutable cat-thoughts and the parrot thinks it’s time to have a Loudest Animal in the House Contest.

Mostly though, it’s my better half who takes the brunt of my WoW-rage. He at least is a sympathetic listener, being a casual (though Horde-side) player himself. He understands concepts like gear suitability and spell rotation and aggro management and can nod sympathetically when I ramapge around the kitchen with eyes bloodshot raving about the rampant failure all around me. When I need someone to nod and go “mmm-hmm, oh, really?” in all the right places, he’s there. When I need someone to be with after crying all afternoon about someof the hateful comments that drama inevitably brings, he’s there. But, when I’m so worked up and tense and have myself wound into a right fury over some little thing and I’m just looking for any excuse to tear someone’s head off for no reason, he’s also there.

There’s a reason I call him ‘long-suffering’. When I went away two years ago for the summer and lived in a plywood shack in the arctic with another geologist, a geographer and a bear for company with 5 minutes of conversation via satphone every two weeks or so, he was patient and understanding. And this summer while I was away again living in a tar-stained, smoke-filled, 46 degree Centigrade hell, he was always there, keeping the home fires burning and giving me a home I was grateful to come back to. And almost since I started playing the game he has dealth with the abandonment by a video-game addict (me) and the stress that guild leading can lay on a person who maybe isn’t all that socially adept in the first place.

And I know it’s a lizard brain type response. If I took even two seconds to use my calm, rational forebrain, I’d see how I let the stress get to me when I shouldn’t. I’d notice that my guild is actually full of capable, competant peeople who just happen to be regular human beings who make mistakes from time to time. I’d see that I’m snarling at snapping at my better half because he’s there and I have to play nice with the guild. I’d realize that all too often I neglect our time for guild time.

We’re two individuals from a race of passionate people and that passion, that emotional fervor, extends up and down the emotional scale. Joys are more joyful, but rages are more intense, too. He’s a litte more level-headed and easygoing than I am, but we can set each other off at the worst of times. I know that my stress and emotional turmoil that can result from guild or raid issues, can easily spill over into a full-blown yelling and screaming match because he left a soggy, balled-up dishtowel on the kitchen counter.

All the enforced niceness that I have to undergo in guild (and at work too!) is an act, something that I – and all of us at times – must perform in order to keep our teams and our guilds and our society moving along properly. What that doesn’t do, however, is give me the excuse when I’m ‘offstage’as it were to act like a raging prima donna. Dealing with life’s frustrations without taking it out on the people around you is not a skill that comes easy to me, and it’s certainlysomething I need to work on. I need to be much more aware of when I’m letting guild issues put me under too much pressure and I need to be much much more aware of where and how I’m releasing that pressure.

Even I need to find time to take a deep breath, step back, rez, regroup and try the boss again.

Ennui and manifestations of guilt.

So I didn’t get very much done yesterday in the old Core Temple. I’d like to start by pointing out that it is approaching Fall here in northern Alberta and this means it is *very* cold in the mornings, and that cup of coffee that used to get me going needs a friend or two to stoke the old internal fires before I’m coherant. And it needs a full party wagon of buddies before I’m human, but that’s another story for another day.

 After a sluggish “why oh god why” sort of start to my day, I attacked my work with a vigour and managed to get a few tasks accomplished. However, as the workday went on and my attention wandered, I found myself with one very poorly spent day and one very large pile of not-done work. And let me tell you, when your work is made of rock, it’s a big bloody pile indeed.

And so, enter the Guiltmonster.

Now, raid monsters I can deal with. Shattrath Lagmonster, likewise. But when the Guiltmonster rolls into town, he’s here to stay and his Guilt Trip aura infects everything in my life. So, I’m already feeling guilty about not accomplishing the work I set out for myself and then I start feeling guilty about why exactly I didn’t get that work done. And there is a simple answer to that, of course, and it is “because I was too busy trawling the beta forums and the beta wiki for information to post on my guild’s forums.” And here is where it gets really interesting: Why would I be doing that during the day, instead of in the evening, like a good little worker bee? And the answer to that would be “because I don’t get enough face time in with my guild, so I wanted to make it look like I’m alive and participating, and because I’m not going to log on my main this evening, I’m going to log on a random alt and spend time with my better half.”

Do you see where this is going?

This is my Magical Circle of Guilt: Abandon my (long suffering) partner to play some WoW. Feel bad. Abandon my Guild to leave town and get some work done. Feel bad. Abandon my work to spend some time with my family. Feel bad. It’s pretty special.

Now I can already hear the cries of more sensible folks (is that you, Mom?) telling me that it’s “just a video game” and that I should be focusing on the important things in my “real life.” But I would like to point out that the time I spend with my guild is very real. It is no less real than the time anyone would spend with a beer-league softball team. Or a group of buddies that gets together to play golf onthe weekends. Or any other social interaction. Because, when all is said and done, the reason I have lost sleep, shed tears, torn my throat with screaming in both frustration and extreme joy is because my guild matters to me on an interpersonal level. There are real people there at the other end of that series of tubes and I care very much about them. I would walk through fire for some of them, and I know that feeling is reciprocated.

And what I truly believe is that I can find a balance between the things that make up my life. I know this balance exists, because without any one of these three things – work, guild, family – my life is not compete.  So I rob from Peter to pay Paul and struggle to stay ahead of the Guiltmonster.

I’m staying off my forums today, and I’ve managed to get another well described, so I feel damn good about that. I will likely spend time online with my better half tonight, and then stress about my guild. I know they are getting along fine without me while I’m up here in the frozen north but I still worry. I love my guild and I want to be there. I want to share in their experiences, I want to laugh and cry with them;  I want to exult and commiserate and do all those things you do with the people you care for. 

And I will. Tomorrow.