Trade Chats: Interview With Raven

Recently we started grabbing folks from around the blogosphere and asking them questions about their gaming habits before they can run away. This week I have a fresh victim peep to introduce you to, and I do mean fresh. Our guest today is one of the newest bloggers to materialise in the WoW blogosphere.

He’s clearly intelligent and relishes WoW, even now in the pre-expansion lull. Both his smart wit and enthusiasm come out in his posts and he’s gifted at playing with his writing voice, using different tones between solemn and mischievous to suit what he’s talking about. That’s a useful – and impressive – skill for a new blogger to settle into.

Sound interesting? Who is it? Without further fiddle-faddle from me allow me to introduce you to Raven of Currents Turn Awry.

Q: So you’ve started a new WoW blog in the pre-expansion lull. That’s brave! Seems to be going well though – why did you choose to start writing in the lull before the Cataclysm?

Raven: As part of my re-invigoration of WoW, I’ve been trying to expand my horizons.  I’ve been a long time reader of WoW blogs, so I just sat down one day and just started writing, to see if there was anything in my head that I could put onto paper.  Before I knew it, I had a half dozen raw posts.  So I worked on some of them a bit and realized that I was actually enjoying it, and that it might be worth it to just do it.

Q: “Currents Turn Awry” – interesting blog name, but what’s the inspiration behind it?

Raven: I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare.  The “currents turn awry” line is from my favorite soliloquy in Hamlet, and it describes how a plan of action with a singular and linear focus can easily turn into a chaotic jumbled mess.  My train of thought very often follows similar patterns.  I can be very logical, but my logic can easily run along tangents until the tangent is my focus.  Personally, I think this can be incredibly beneficial.  All too often, in games, even in life in general, we get so focused on a single path that we don’t step outside the path, even though a different path may be more rewarding, more pleasing, and more true to ourselves.

Q: In your about section you say you’re quite privacy conscious. Can you explain that a bit, and what drew you to blogging despite that?

Raven: I believe that critical thinking is one of the most precious skills we as humans can develop in our lifetime.  Part of this is being able to examine and evaluate a person’s communications from an objective basis.  Yet all too often, what we believe is based not upon what is said, but upon who said it.  It shouldn’t matter if the speaker is male, female, old, young, a famous celebrity, a professional athlete, a rock star, or a politician.  We should evaluate their statements based purely upon what they communicate.

Anonymity goes a long ways toward promoting this.  If you don’t know who is speaking, and you don’t know their background, then all you have to evaluate their statement, is the statement itself.  Now this doesn’t completely exclude the validity of experts or of the need to establish credibility when discussing certain topics.  But within the realm of video games, I personally don’t care about knowing anyone’s real name, or for them to know mine.  Of course, people argue that anonymity encourages trolling and flaming.  Although this might be true, the opposite is not necessarily true.  I know people who troll and flame in real life too, regardless of who knows who they are.  Also, if we’re using our critical thinking abilities, we should be able to identify and dismiss these statements easily.

I chose to blog from an anonymous stance because, if anyone reads my posts, I want them to evaluate them based upon what I say and not based upon who I am or what categories I fall into as a person.

Q: You talked recently about tanking, DPSing and healing, and said on each that “it’s all about control.” But you described them all as a very unique flavour of control. What’s the best role for you, and what happens for you when something goes wrong?

Raven: Probably my best role is that of a healer.  When I’m “in the zone” healing, it feels completely natural.  Even when things start to turn chaotic and people are dying, I still know what I need to prioritize and I know what tools I have to combat those.  When I’m tanking, I get a lot more stressed out when things go bad.  If I start to lose aggro, can’t pick up the adds, can’t get everything positioned right, I can feel my blood pressure rise.  When I’m dps’ing, I can stay totally cool when things go bad, because I know there are only a few things I can do to bring things back into control, and I can do those nearly on autopilot.

Q: You’ve talked about what classes and roles you love, and why. Is there anything along those lines you hate or dislike, and whyso?

Raven: Probably the role I dislike the most is melee dps in a group setting, and it’s really an issue of visibility.  Part of this is because in small groups like random heroics, everything is so dynamic and fast that I’m constantly trying to get into the right position and still be able to see everything that’s going on.  This leads to a lot of camera manipulation that feels excessive just so I can make sure I’m behind a mob that’s only going to live for about 3 seconds of combat.  In raids, I’m usually so stacked up with other melee, that I can’t even see my own toon clearly.  So then it becomes more of a focus on just mashing my buttons harder, rather than really trying to retain situational awareness.

Q: Your “why I love X class” posts all have a different tone about them, like you’re getting into the class’ mindset – for example discy priests going “I like you, so you can have a bubble.” Do you think/talk that when you’re actually playing, too?

Raven: I’ll admit, yes, I sometimes do this.  Most of the time it’s when I’m playing solo or raiding with my guild because things seem more relaxed and controlled in these environments, so I’ve got the spare brainpower to waste on my own dialogue with the game.

Q: You’ve played WoW and Guild Wars – what are your thoughts on any other MMOs that catch your eye? Have you tried any of them, and what did you think?

Raven: I played Guild Wars until burnout, and am looking forward to Guild Wars 2.  I’m particularly interested in the dynamic events and the concept that you can assist with a group objective without having to actually join a structured group.  I always felt in MMOs that the grouping felt unnatural.  If there are really this many adventurers running around, why can’t a wandering hero just see someone who needs help, help them out, and then continue on their way?  Just think about random acts of kindness out in real life.  You don’t have to share contact information, backgrounds, and life stories just to hold the door open for someone.

I’ve also dabbled in Allods.  The extreme quantities of gold selling spam almost made me quit before I even did a single quest, especially since you couldn’t ignore someone as easily as I wanted to.  In the end, the biggest turn off for me was that it felt like I spent more time running back and forth between npc’s and locations than actually playing the game.  If I want to play a running game, I’ll do that in real life outside.  I tried Champions Online, which was fun to make your own superheroes.  However, it seemed that no matter what type of build I tried to put together, it all came down to optimizing one skill/spell and then just using that as much as possible, which got pretty boring.

SWTOR of course, also has the potential to completely overpower me in awesomeness. I was a huge fan of the KOTOR games, and hope that this game is everything we hope it will be (I’m hoping for the combat stylings of The Force Unleashed, but in a group environment).  Of course, I’ve also got this nasty little voice in my head that tells me that it won’t be perfect, and may just be another flavor of things that I’ve already seen and done before.

How about you, readers – what do you think of our new friend’s answers and are there any details you’d like to follow up on with him?

And who would you like us to prod next? Candidates from both the blogosphere and the collatoral MMO gaming world will be considered.