Trade Chats: Interview With Larisa

I’m reliably informed it’s Saturday. Technically not a post day for us but we had a special post arrive in our email yesterday and I just ran out of time to put it up. So why not now? A quiet five minutes over the weekend is a great time for you to read our latest Trade Chats victim. It’s been a while since we ran some interviews with bloggers and gamers like

Tobold, Raven, Tamarind and Big Bear Butt – but we’re back for round 2, and we’ve got a special WoW blogger kicking us off: Larisa from the Pink Pigtail Inn.

She’s one of the most respected bloggers around. Her website and writings are modelled on the lovely idea that blogging is a conversation between her and us, the reader, over a small beer by a crackling fire. But the best things about her? She’s not afraid to say what she thinks and sticks to her guns, and has a knack for covering a wide range of topics and making them feel fresh. Oh – and her pink pigtails are the stuff of legend.

Larisa was kind enough to sit us down with a pint and answer our questions. So pull up a chair, grab a beverage and have a read to hear her thoughts on raid sizes, in-game special rewards, link-love and responsibility in the blgoosphere.

Q: Recently you said that we should all just let the long-unobtainable Amani War Bear rest in peace and there are other special rewards to turn our attention to in the current incarnation of the game. What special rewards are dear to you, or are you hankering after, from any area of WoW?

Larisa: Special rewards to me aren’t actually so much about their grade of exclusivity and the amount of bragging rights they come with. The special rewards I care most about are those that have some kind of story from my own gaming experiences connected to them. They remind me of something that was tough, fun or special in some other way. To be honest I haven’t got a clear picture of the special awards that have been added in Cataclysm. There surely must be some mount reward for meta-raiding achievements? I haven’t checked it up, since we’re in the middle of clearing the normal modes, and they’re challenging enough for me.

By the way, I’m not entirely sure about exactly what constitutes a special award. What about my Winterspring mount? I love it, not for exclusivity – because it isn’t that rare anymore, but because of the looks and because it reminds me of Winterspring, which I always considered one of the most beautiful zones in the game.

I could also mention my Frostbrood Vanquisher mount, which is a reward for doing a huge amount of achievements in ICC. Admittedly I don’t use it anymore; it’s too huge to be practical, so currently I’ll rather fly on my smooth and handy Cenarion War Hippogryph. But I’m still fond of it because it symbolizes a huge common effort from our guild, where we kept running ICC over and over again through some very long summer months until everyone who wanted it had succeeded. Towards the end we didn’t want to see Sindragosa again ever. But we stuck to our promises and helped each other out. That’s something quite special.

Q: …And do you think these special rewards – like the Amani Bear – are actually special and worthy of praise on the part of onlookers and pride on the part of their owners? Or are they all just special ‘snowflake’ gimmicks because the game’s transient and the relevance of one special reward gets supplanted by a new one come the next patch/expansion?

Larisa: Some of those rewards are certainly signs of a huge effort. But you can’t really know, can you? Some of us got our Sarth+3d drakes when we were at the appropriate gear level and after wiping for a number of nights. That drake really meant something. However there’s no way whatsoever to distinguish it from a mount that you got two years later in a completely overpowered pug group. If you hope for recognition, respect or even some envy from other players, I think you might get disappointed. Especially so since I think players recognize far fewer special rewards than we might imagine. I for one can’t tell one meta-achievement drake from another, well possibly apart from the pink dragon from the seasonal quests, which stood out a bit, not necessarily in a good way though.

In the end I suspect that the owners of some of those rewards might take huge pride in them – rightfully in some cases – but that they can’t be expected for other players to fall in trance as they show their trophies off in the major cities out from pure admiration. If there ever were times like that in WoW, they’re gone. For the beholder the special rewards are definitely more of snowflake gimmicks than anything else. I think the sheer amount of available rewards contributes to this, especially since they seem to be reluctant to remove them from the game these days and if they do – they’re quick to reintroduce them in a brushed-up form.

Q: You’re one of the pillars of the blogosphere and have been for some time. We’ve lost a lot of good bloggers (careless of us!) over the past few weeks. Do you think we as bloggers have a “responsibility” to help the community grow, or do we help it flourish simply by being a part of it?

Larisa: I’m sorry if I disappoint you, but I don’t feel any responsibility at all to help the community grow or whatever. [editor’s note: of course we’re not disappointed Larisa. Wasn’t suggesting you, or any of us, definitely do have :)]. I don’t blog for a living; I don’t blog to spread a message, a political or religious idea. And while I enjoy blogging and enjoy being a part of the WoW related blogosphere, I don’t have any mission to make the community grow or flourish. If people want to join and find pleasure in blogging and blog reading, the better! I’ve always tried to welcome newcomers as much as I can, even though there are too many to get in touch with everyone. I’ve often given new bloggers a nod in form of a comment, remembering how much it meant to me to get those first comments from already-established bloggers. And I answer to every letter I get, touched and honoured by the attention I get. However, I do all this because it feels like a natural thing to do rather than out of some sort of responsibility.

God knows that it’s easy to slip into some sort of performance oriented mindset, where the blogging almost becomes a second job, with duties and obligations. But whenever I recognize that kind of thinking within myself, I try to get away from it. My blog is a hobby that I run for fun and I answer to no one but myself (although I admittedly can be a bit of a pain in the ass to have as a boss, but that’s another story.)

Q: You had your three-year blogiversary at the beginning of the month – gratz btw! In your celebratory post you linked some of your older posts – posts that you’re either proud of or have special memories attached. You’ve chosen a wide selection of tones too – there are some really sad but uplifting ones there, and some cheery ones – not to mention you pondering about sandcastles. So, what are your two, utmost favourite posts on that list – and why?

Larisa: Ugh, that’s a tough question. Actually I’ll cheat a bit and pick three, but I’ll keep it brief to get away with it. The first one is the mentioned sandcastle post.

It pretty much wraps up how I look at my time in Azeroth and everything else around it, including the act of blogging. I even managed to get my favourite scene from Blade Runner into it. That alone makes it memorable.

My second pick will be In the Shade of Deathwing on the topic of suicide.

I’m not sure it’s one of the best posts I’ve ever written, but it was definitely one of the hardest. I cried as I wrote it but it felt as if it needed to be said.

And finally something more upbeat, the post where I talked about being an older player and how I choose to be open about it:

Judging from the comments, the WoW players are way older than you could imagine. There were high-fives coming from 40+ players from everywhere. Or as one of the commenters said: “Good for you. But you are still just a kid from my 59 year old perspective.”

Q: Recently you got some link-love – and a troll – from WoW Insider. Your repsonse to the troll is a good example of how to deal with them but I was wondering if you’ve got any wider thoughts on how being linked by a big site like WoW Insider can affect a blogger – especially new ones?

Larisa: While there might be bloggers who don’t want to get any attention to their blog, I think that most new bloggers will be immensely delighted when they’re linked from WI for the first time. It’s a sign of recognition. After months and months of blogging with few, if any comments, making you wonder if you’re only shouting out in a dark void, suddenly you get the evidence. Someone has noticed you! Someone reads your stuff and thinks it’s so good that it’s worth linking to! Of course it’s exciting and flattering, and if you have a visitor counter you’ll most likely notice a huge spike.

However, what new bloggers should bear in mind is that those 15 minutes are very temporary. You can’t expect to get more than a handful of new subscribers to your blog and before you know it you’ll be back at what now feels like the backyard of the blogosphere. A far distant corner which rarely gets much attention.

The best way to become involved in the blogosphere isn’t to hope for link love from WI. You don’t’ get a readership overnight. You get it by keep blogging constantly week after week, month after month, year after year, maintaining a high standard in your posts and connecting to other blogs by linking to them and commenting on them. WI linkage is at the best a nice bonus, nothing more. And sometimes it will lead to some trolling, which you also should be prepared to handle.

Q: And leading on from that – you mentioned that being linked by WoW Insider is a double-edged sword. A lot of blogs/sites have columns/features/models where they link to other blogs out there. Do you have any thoughts on the pros and cons link-love itself has on the community?

Larisa: Without linking there wouldn’t be any community, would there? The linking and the commenting is what makes the blogosphere into a living breathing network, a living organism rather than a collection of stand-along diaries. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by being generous with link love on your blogs. Of course you should give proper credits and follow the basic rules of quoting and paying attention to copyright like in any other area. But linking is about so much more. It adds content and value to your own blog, as you’re helping your readers to find the gems in a blogosphere that sometimes can be a bit overwhelming. And it also helps driving traffic to your own website, if that is one of your goals. Bloggers are curious creatures and if you find out that someone has visited your blog after linkage, you definitely want to check out the blog that linked to you.

Are there any cons of the linking? Well, I can see two. One is that I sometimes see a shortage of new ideas. Bloggers link to other blogs without adding all that much of their own thoughts. Too much of link posts and too little of original works will eventually lead to less interesting thoughts bouncing around. The second disadvantage I can see is that there sometimes are tendencies to clique shaping in the blogosphere. There is a bit of backscratching going on, where we – most likely unintentionally – link to the blogs that link to our own blog, promoting our “blogging friends” and not really paying much attention to those who are outside of our own little circle, the new kids on the block who want to join the party but maybe not always feel invited or noticed. But the recipe to counter this isn’t to link less. It’s to link more!

Q: You’re a staunch 25 man raider but you’ve said recently that Cata’s hit 25 man raiding pretty hard. Do you think we’re going to see the 10 man and 25 man raiding models duke it out againt each other until only one is left, and what effect do you think that’s going to have on WoW?

Larisa: I am pretty worried about the state of the 25 man raids and from what I’ve seen recently in the blogosphere, this isn’t just something that affects my own guild. The 25 man guilds are in a tough position, those that still remain. If this goes on, I have my doubts that they will keep tendering to two formats in the next expansion. Recently I saw some suggestion that they’ll find a “middle way” introducing 15 man raiding, that would feel slightly more “epic” than the 10 man raiding but still would be far less demanding to organize than 25 man raiding. It might happen. Or they might just skip the 25 mans altogether.

I wonder how this will play out for players who are new to the scene, who haven’t been playing since vanilla and don’t have any real life friends in the game. How easy is it to break your way into an established tightly knit 10 man guild? Maybe it was easier to start your career as a raider in a 40 man or 25 man guild looking for a “warm body”? Who will take the risk to bring a newcomer to a tightly balanced 10 man raid encounter where one single screw-up will lead to a wipe?

When we first heard about the changes to raiding, where the loot in 10 mans would be put on par with 25 mans, I think many of us thought that this would help out the more casual players. But as I see it now, I’m not so convinced about that anymore.

That’ll be all from Larisa for now – what about you? Are there any questions you would’ve asked her that we’ve not covered or do you have thoughts to pitch in on these topics?