On Vanity, Gear, and the Appearance of Competence

All things are vanity, says my favorite book of the bible, and toons are no different.

I spent some time tonight cleaning up my warrior – moving gear sets into the bank, getting new gear sets crafted, picking out just the right tabard to go with the new gear, getting enchants, packing stuff out of the bank to vendor; the usual stuff.

I realized that I want to twink her a little bit, which is why I’m putting effort into her now. It’s been 20 levels since my last pause, and I want to spend some time in both dungeons and PvP to catch up. This isn’t a permanent stop, I don’t think – I’m not going to repeatedly level Engineering to 450 for a chance at Synapse Springs, for instance – but I want to get my PvE and PvP setups straight, get my skills straightened out, and then move on.

I digress.

I spent a fair amount of time considering the appearance of my characters tonight, and why appearance matters. Not physical attractiveness, mind you – but how gear influences how I perceive the toon. If they look put together, I am inclined to think that they’re competent and good. If they don’t match, if their gear is a mishmash of different styles, I think less of them.

Now the interesting thing is that I think this is cyclical, not causal, and that while looking put-together helps me feel better about a toon, it’s probably a symptom of actual competence and care for the toon, not the cause of it. If I feel like I’m doing well with someone, I’ll take the time to keep them organized and neat. Action bars will be pruned, glyphs chosen, all specs fleshed out, professions maxed – and gear tidied up.

While this is generally a positive feedback loop, sometimes it turns ugly. When there’s no good looking gear available, I start avoiding them on the selection screen. I look at my DK in his collection of vaguely conquistadorian Cata greens and blues and go… That looks awful. You look awful. I’ll go play someone else.

The outfit doesn’t encourage me to play. I could go and fix it by leveling, but let’s face it – it’s all downhill once you leave Light’s Hope on a DK.

Actually, that’s an interesting point. Starter area clothes are usually attractive, if simple. Some are downright gorgeous! When you roll a new toon, you look good.

It’s only later when your outfit falls apart.

I’ve noticed this on Cynwise, too. I get disturbed when she doesn’t visually match. Upgrading from Bloodthirsty to Vicious last season was painful – I tried to make sure the visual disruption in gear was limited, and when it started (blue shoulders, green robe, how does it work?) I replaced the offending visual elements first.

I hate not looking neat and put together.

Cynderblock is an interesting case. She’s a hodgepodge of gear, but finding the right outfit to quest in (not her BiS gear) made it much more enjoyable. (She quests in a Brewfest Dress and Lucky Fishing Hat.)

This isn’t very deep – in fact, it’s about as shallow as you can get, judging a character by how their clothes look – but in looking at my toons, I think it’s important to acknowledge. It’s also important to realize you might just need a new look to revitalize interest in a toon.

I’m okay with how the Brutal gear looks on Ash now – the Darnassus Tabard pulled the outfit together.

But I really hope I get Cynwulf, my DK, to 85 so he can have some better clothing options. There’s just not a lot at 84 worth wearing. :(

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On Vanity, Gear, and the Appearance of Competence

  1. Syl

    The answer: cosmetic gear for WoW. I have been known to run around in lvl 60 shiny gear at level 85. not in raids of course, but otherwise yes – I’d usually swap gear like that (outfitter <3).

  2. Cynwise of Stormwind

    I thought about doing that, especially on my DK. But then I fall into the trap I have on my rogue banker – her heirloom gear looks terrible, so I leave her in a nice red dress with Ruby Shades all the time. When I want to actually try leveling her, I’m so shocked at how bad her outfit looks (especially since I can see her eyes!) that I am like… WHO ARE YOU, STRANGE PERSON?It might work with my DK. I played him as a level 59 twink for a long time in that outfit. That might work, indeed.

  3. zwinglisblog

    When I first started playing WoW, I sooooo wanted an rp outfit. I wanted some cool armor to run around in. I wanted everything matching, looking tight. It was a hold over from my D&D days; where a lot was put into how our characters looked. Imagine my surprise when some of the best outfits were 1) raid gear, and 2) not hunter gear. Oh, how I /cried… Ok, I just whined, but I wanted to /cry. Well, I’m a big boy now…which means I pretend to not care while I continue to look for the ultimate look for my characters.Zwingli

  4. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @zwingli: I remember feeling that way, too. My first outfit that actually looked decent was at level 80. Even then, it was just together, not flashy. I keep all of them. ALL THE CLOTHES I KEEP. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a packrat when it comes to outfits that no longer serve any purpose. :-)