Friday, September 28, 2012

Dear Blizzard

Dear Blizzard,

A server is its own community.  Each one has its own flavor, its own pace, its own rhythms.  Once you make a server your home, you get used to seeing the same guild names.  You become familiar with the tone of /trade.  You might learn some server history.  You start seeing the same people around the mailbox.

Being on a familiar server is like shopping at the neighborhood grocery store.  If you're there often enough, you start to recognize the regulars, like the cashiers, and they start to recognize you, too.  You might not know everyone in the aisles, but you assume that they live or work nearby.  You might run into them again.  You may have acquaintances in common.  You deal with many of the same idiosyncrasies of that particular neighborhood.

Enter cross-realm zones.  Suddenly I feel as if my local grocery store is gone and I'm shopping at the airport.  Who are these people?  Will I ever see them again?  There's no sense of community.  Internet anonymity is back in full force.

I settled onto a particular server after some research as well as some trial and error.  The server I escaped from was an unpleasant place to be, and I was thrilled to find a great realm like my current one.  I'm very happy with the community here, and I've done my small part to keep it a good, welcoming, positive place.  I don't want that sense of community to become fractured.  I don't want to start thinking of the toons around me as anonymous strangers in an airport.

The bonds of friendship we form with other players are a large part of what keeps many of us tethered to WOW.  That sense of community we build with each other encourages us to log in.  The sense of community and accountability is something many players have been trying to cling to in this post-LFD game.  Now it feels as if the anonymity of the dungeon finder is in almost every aspect of the game, from questing to doing dailies to standing at the mailbox.  It's bad enough to lose a quest mob or a node to someone on my server, but a complete stranger I've never heard of and will never see again?  When someone from my server does something irritating, I can look at the guild name and roll my eyes and think, "Oh, right.  That figures."  There's no opportunity for that moment of community with some random nobody from another server.  At this point, I just get a moment of frustration, instead.  People from other servers aren't community.  They're competition.  And they're cementing that sense of anonymity that I came to this realm to get away from.

I don't want a game full of complete strangers.  I don't want to disregard other players as anonymous blobs of pixels.  For me, CRZ makes WOW feel more like a single-player game, because I'm less interested in interaction with the changing parade of strangers around me.  Without CRZ, I'm more interested in the toons around me, and which guilds they're in, and whose alts they might be.  I'm more likely to be friendly and helpful.  I'm more likely to be tolerant and patient.  I'm more emotionally engaged.  With CRZ, I don't know them and they don't know me, we'll probably never encounter each other again, and I care less.  I'm less engaged.

With LFD and LFR, the convenience of the change in gameplay outweighs the impact on community.  The sacrifice is worth it.  With CRZ, it's not worth it.

With love,
Frank Lee

P.S. On another note, I'd assumed that as you merged RP realms with RP realms, you would merge EST realms with EST realms.  I expected you to match up PVP-PST realms, and PVE-CST realms, and so forth.  I don't know why you're mixing up the time zones, but please reconsider.  It affects the fishing tournaments, the Darkmoon Faire, and the coordination of events.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dear Airline Industry and TSA

Dear Airline Industry and TSA,

I remember when fear of flying was the most prevalent concern air travelers had.  Remember those days?  I was never afraid to fly, myself, so the biggest concern I had was whether or not my ears would pop correctly during the final descent.  I'd heard stories of people spending their vacations having trouble hearing anything, so I'd pack gum and yawn to make sure that everything was okay.

Now, I wish that were my main concern.  Now I worry about my privacy being violated.  I worry about being touched in places I don't want a stranger's hands on me.  I worry about being charged hundreds of dollars for another seat or kicked off of a flight for being considered too fat.

The worst part of it is that most of what I listed above comes from arbitrary and unnecessary policies.  My ears popping is a matter of biology and physics.  Your security theater has been displayed as a sham by people more informed than I am.  Your anti-fat measures are applied at the whim of whoever happens to be working that day and are used at the airline's convenience to solve issues you cause to begin with.  Flight overbooked?  Just search the plane for someone who looks fat, threaten to charge for a second seat, and hope that they'll be unable to pay so you can shove two more people onto the plane.

The next time I fly, will I be molested?  Will images of my body be displayed?  Will I be harassed and threatened and overcharged?  Will I be ejected from the plane?  I'm not worried about the plane crashing; I'm worried about what you'll do to me on the way to the plane.

I miss the days when chewing some gum would solve my problems.

With love,
Frank Lee

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dear Apathetic People

Dear Apathetic People,

I keep coming across the same mentality in different spheres of life.  People will converse, someone will posit an opinion, and you'll respond with something along the lines of, "Why do you care?  It doesn't affect you in any way."

The more I see you say that, the more disgusted I become, and the more I wonder if other people will pick up on your ideas.  Let's clear it all up now before it spreads.

Here's why you're wrong: We don't live in a void.  No man is an island.  It takes a village.  I can throw overused phrases at you all day, and they'll continue to be true.  I don't live in my own private society of one, and neither do you.  What we do affects each other, sometimes in huge and devastating ways, sometimes in minor and barely perceptible ways.

How other people live affects me.  Their quality of life, their happiness, their health and success and lack thereof, affect me.  Maybe not directly, in that if my neighbor stubs his toe my feet continue to feel just fine.  But let's say that his house burns down.  How does this affect me?
  • If the fire spreads, my house might suddenly be on fire, too.
  • I now live next to a charred ruin.  It's both an eyesore and a reminder of the ever-present threat of tragedy and loss.
  • Maybe he'll rebuild.  If so, I'll live next door to a construction site.  That means loud noises at any hour of the day, trucks and other vehicles in my normal route of navigation, debris, etc.
  • Maybe someone else will move in next door.  New neighbors: are they pleasant to live near?  Maybe we'll become friends.  Maybe we'll barely speak to each other.  Maybe they'll throw loud parties or play basketball at two in the morning or let their dog defecate on my lawn.
All of that ignores the basic human component.  It goes something like this: My neighbor's house burns down.  My neighbor is a fellow human being who's just suffered a great loss.  He now has a personal tragedy to deal with and recover from.  That touches me because I possess empathy.  Maybe I'll reach out to him directly and offer him material support in the form of money or a place to stay.  Maybe I'll offer him emotional support and advice.  Maybe I'll just worry about him and wish him well.  Maybe I'll find out what caused the fire and double-check my own habits to prevent his fate from befalling me.

I don't have to be on fire, myself, to care that someone else is on fire.

I care about the happiness of people around me.  I care about the quality of life of people around me.  Even the people I don't know.  We all bump into each other, at work or around town or on-line.  We're all members of intersecting communities.  If I hear that someone's going around spitting on left-handed people, I don't shrug it off with a careless, "I'm not right-handed, it doesn't affect me, whatever."  The fact remains (in this scenario, although I hope not in actuality) that someone's going around spitting on people.  That's ridiculous and unwarranted and needs to stop.  Why would I not have an opinion on it?  Why would I not speak up about it?  Why would I not commiserate with the people even more directly affected by it than I am?

"I don't care because it doesn't affect me in any way" is bullshit, because it does affect you in some way, even a very minor, many degrees removed way.

"I don't care because it doesn't affect me" also suggests a narcissistic, self-absorbed, antisocial mentality.  Your self-interested lack of empathy is disgusting.  Discouraging other people from caring is even worse and somewhat contradictory.  Why do you care if they care?

Even if you lack empathy, you must understand that what other people do affects you.  It makes sense on a larger scale.  The economy, for instance.  The environment.  What other people do all around you has an impact on your life.  If you live in the USA's culture of violence, you may be aware that there have been a number of public shootings over the last few weeks.  Other people may affect you whether you see it coming or not.  If you understand it on a larger scale, try to see that it works on a smaller scale, too.  Even in minor ways.  When some members of a community are scared or angry or confused or anything else, it affects other members of the community.  Since you don't live on a solitary island within a void, you're a member of a community.  You're a member of a society.  What other people do affects you.  What you do affects them.  One way or another.

I want to be a member of a vibrant, healthy society.  I want the communities I'm involved in to flourish.  I want the people around me to be happy.  Your self-absorbed, me-first, apathetic mentality is fucking that up.  Please reconsider.

With love,
Frank Lee

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dear WOW Players

Dear WOW Players,

Over many months now, we've talked a lot about Pandaland.  One of the comments I've heard over and over again is that Blizzard is "catering to Asians" with the upcoming Asian-influenced zones.  You frequently imply that only people of Asian heritage would be interested in anything inspired by Asian geography, Chinese culture, and so on.

It is very, very limited thinking to believe that something Asian or Asian-influenced would only appeal to Asian people.  "Asian things are for Asian people" is so xenophobic and racist as to be nonsensical.  It brings to mind the gender essentialism of, "Boy things are for boys!  Girl things are for girls!  Only boys can be doctors!  Only girls like pink!"

Do you expect that only Korean players roll night elves?  Do you expect that only Eastern European players roll draenei?  Only heavy drinkers roll dwarves?  While you're leveling, do you skip the entire zone of Uldum because you think that only ancient Egyptians play there?

Are you confused when you see non-Italians eat pizza?  Does it irk you to see non-Mexicans eat tacos?  How do you feel about people who aren't Japanese eating sushi?  Are you completely baffled to see someone who's Irish-American order a Greek salad?

Many people enjoy traveling to new places, learning other languages, studying the history of other cultures, getting to know a variety of people, and so on.  For many people, it's fun to dip into another culture.  The tourism industry is devoted to it.

In related news, you may be interested to know that there's no rule that an Asian person seeing something Asian-influenced will suddenly perk up with interest.

If you want to complain about an Asian-inspired expansion, complain that Blizzard isn't being creative enough.  Complain about cultural appropriation.  Complain about cultural and racist stereotypes.  There's plenty to be discussed there.

But complaining that you can't relate to an entire expansion because the new zones remind you of Asia and you aren't Asian is bizarre.  The only way it makes sense is if you're being racist.  The geography in WOW is so varied that I'd imagine that very little, if anything at all, looks like the view from your bedroom window.  Therefore, unless you're upset that you can't relate to Blade's Edge Mountains and you refuse to quest in Zangarmarsh because it's foreign to you, consider why Asian-influenced zones, specifically, bother you so much.

With love,
Frank Lee

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dear Conservatives

Passing references to forced birth and rape culture ahead.

Dear Conservatives,

You know how sometimes you say something innocuous or well-meaning or perfectly ordinary, but it's poorly worded?  And all of a sudden someone takes offense and word spreads and people start jumping all over you, hounding you for a slip-up and twisting your words around and making it seem as if you're a hideous, woman-hating monster of a person when you were really just trying to explain a fairly common political position?  You hate that, right?

Here's why that happens: You've torn your drawers.  You're past the point where we can extend the benefit of the doubt.  When you speak, your words join all of the words of all of the other members of your party and leaders of your party who've voted against women, spoken against women, fought against women's rights, worked to limit reproductive freedom, and on, and on, and on.

Maybe you didn't really mean to say anything harmful or disgusting at all.  Maybe it really was a slip of the tongue.  But it's just as possible that you meant every word that you said.  It's just as possible that your beliefs and your votes and your political efforts are devoted to hateful, garbage ideas.  We've heard from too many people who say those things and genuinely mean them.  They're people in your party, your colleagues, your associates.

No, you say, those people aren't like me!  They don't represent me!  That's good, but then it falls to you to make that distinction.  You have to fight against their ideas and push back.

For example, there are plenty of people who call themselves feminists who say terrible things.  Therefore, I make an effort not to say those things and (this next step is important) to speak up and fight against those things.  That way, if I say something that sounds *ist when what I meant was something else entirely, when someone says, "Ugh, that was really gross, I can't stand feminists who think that way," I can say, "I know, I'm so sorry, that wasn't what I meant at all, I'm sorry that I phrased that so poorly.  I've been working to fight those attitudes, myself."  Then maybe the conversation can continue and we'll have a chance to work through the misunderstanding.

If I hear that a conservative Republican has spouted off about how anyone who gets pregnant should be forced to give birth and women don't deserve to be paid or hired or promoted the same ways that men do because they'll just run off and get pregnant anyway and rape is only really bad under a certain set of very specific conditions, I'm not going to assume that the remarks were taken out of context.  I'm not going to assume that it's all a misunderstanding, all a slip of the tongue.  I'm not going to take the time to contact him personally to find out what he really believes.  I'm going to think, "More of the same," because I've heard all of those things from many, many conservative Republicans before.

But all is not lost!  There is good news!  If you want to buy the benefit of the doubt back and garner some good will so that I can take "I misspoke" more seriously as a defense, there are several strategies you might employ!  If you don't want people to associate you and your party with *ist attitudes, you can speak up privately and publicly against *ist attitudes, behavior, and discrimination.  You can make your voting record reflect your stance.  You can draft and support relevant legislation.  You can donate time and effort to related causes.

That way, instead of the typical "More of the same" response of disgust at your hateful slip of the tongue, I might instead say, "Oh, [Name] said that?  That's a real surprise, he's typically great when it comes to that issue.  Let me delve a little deeper and see what's really going on here."

You'll get the benefit of the doubt back once you've earned it.  It'll take a lot of work, because the rest of your party makes you look worse every day, but it's worth it.

With love,
Frank Lee