On Preening

Field_marshal_smallpeaches

I need to remind myself that this is a notebook. Things don’t have to be complete or finished.

I spent time on Durotan tonight, cleaning out my banker’s guild bank, organizing crap. It’s not a bad thing to do, if not terribly interesting. I was trying to stay awake so that I wouldn’t miss a phone call.

The call came in, I was chatting a bit, when I noticed an Ashes flapping around in front of the SW AH. (My normal banking takes place in the Dwarven District, but I moved my banker back to the Trade District because she needed access to the enchanting/inscription trainers.)

I looked at it for a few seconds, noted the similarities to the Dark Phoenix (Ashes of Al’ar is still much nicer looking), then moved on to shuttling some Thick Bronze Necklaces out of the bank and on to the open market. The Trade District has a very different feel from the Dwarven District; busier, with more people rushing about, but also less purposeful. DD is for efficiency. TD is for mingling.

A little while later, I snapped the screenshot of the gnome mage above, AFK on his rated battleground mount wearing T12, his Field Marshall title proudly displayed, goggles on.

Wait a minute. I know goggles, what are those? Is he really wearing Green Tinted Goggles? Wait, no, those aren’t GTG, those are Safety Goggles - that’s a quest reward, looks like it’s another pair of non-engineer goggles.

Wait, the goggles, they’re there for … eye protection? On top of T12? Carefully posed?

AFK preening in front of the AH?

Does it get more cliched than this?

I grinned a little behind the screen and moved on, but I thought about what I’d seen there.

See, I can really respect the effort it takes to get these titles, and these mounts. And the feeling of accomplishment that goes with them is real and valid and the major reason so many people play this game.

But when you AFK in front of the AH, you’re trying too hard. It changes the motivation behind the accomplishment from personal achievement, to seeking the approval of others. Walking around SW with your titles and achievements and mounts is actually different, socially, than picking the highest traffic spot and parking there to let people gawk at them. And while I would extend a “major grats, man!” to someone in the first situation, in the second, I start going… wait, do you really need my approval? Congrats and all that, but you’re being silly. And a little insecure. (It’s okay, we’re all insecure like that.)

I honestly don’t want this to come off like I’m picking on this gnome, or that I’m rabidly jealous and trying to tear him down. I’m not. Well, that’s not true, I probably am a little jealous, I’d like the fancy mount and the RBG experience and be in HM FL, but I also like being married and being a good parent, and for me, right now, these are mutually exclusive propositions. So I’m okay with it, if a little wistful.

But I do think there’s something here, something that I can’t quite let go of yet. It’s … it’s like the achievement point thing. Why is that number important? Why can it be used as a measurement of how “good” a character is, when really it’s a measurement of something very different, and more specific (how good they are at getting achievements). They’re related, but not tied together. Going back and killing Akumai might get you the BFD points, but if you don’t do them at level, they don’t have the same value.

Related: I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with my spouse about mental illnesses, especially anxiety disorders, and involvement in things on the internet. We’ve both seen that a lot of people turn to the internet during periods of mental stress and issues – be it playing a video game, working on a wiki, writing a blog, setting up a website, getting involved in a forum – internet activities can provide a healthy outlet for people with anxiety or depression. It also helps with a lot of PhD students, too. There’s something HUGELY satisfying about working on a wiki page or blog post and being able to complete a task – any task – when you’re depressed. I may have trouble getting out of bed today, but god damnit, I got *something* done. It might have just been leveling JC, but I made progress. I don’t think you need to be depressed, btw, to get that feeling. I got shit done! It might be virtual shit, but the emotions are real.

Sometimes, those small victories are very, very important.

So there are two threads running around my head tonight. Warcraft, and internet stuff in general, allows people to both socially interact in a non-threatening way, as well as provide a set of achievable goals and projects with a solid, reinforcing positive feedback loop.

The other thread is that you can preen in front of the AH and just look… well, you look like you need the approval of other folks.

(I believe this is called stroking the e-peen.)

Why does it matter that we have all the achievements? I say this as someone who struggles with this, mind you – but are the accomplishments meaningful? Were they fun? Or did you do them for the points? And if you did them for the points, why, exactly? Is it for you, or for other people?

I wrestle with this a lot. I’m by no means perfect, or even close. I’d like a higher number. I’d like ALL THE THINGS on Cynwise.

But is that drive for me, or is it to show off to others?

Sobering thought.

I have a feeling that if I look at it too deeply, my desire – for more cheesy points – is really more akin to standing in front of the AH than I might care to admit. That chasing after titles and mounts might make you feel accomplished, but is that for me, or for people’s around you?

I don’t know.

There’s a line here, a line between preening in SW/Org and doing things because they make you feel good (and getting public accolades for them). I don’t know which side I’m even on anymore.

Why do we set the goals we set?

Notebook post. I’m probably going to regret this post in the morning. Night, folks.

9 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

9 responses to “On Preening

  1. Pliers

    I idle outside the bank/AH area, either on railings or rooftops, because that’s where I end up in town. I do it on my alts with no special mounts or titles, or my gladiator chars with Ashes/Alysrazor mounts. I don’t dismount to avoid being seen on it, and I ride whichever mount I am most fond of at the moment. It’s inevitable.I’m sure there’ s an ego aspect to it. Most of what we do is about ego, including blog writing :)The difference between the right and wrong ways of fulfilling that ego is avoiding strutting around, spam linking, acting like an ass when spoken to, or popping giant growth pots/potion of stiffness specifically to draw attention to yourself. While there’s nothing admirable about standing around alongside your newly gotten rewards, there’s nothing wrong with it either imo.

  2. Jason

    Like Pliers, I think there’s a little bit of both to it in most cases. Every now and again I get the bug to do soemthign silly like that; most recently(which is not very recent) it was having the Armored Snowy Griffin for a Paladin, who had had the Snowy Griffin. It’s not a huge deal now, and barely was then, but it was still a couple thousand extra on top of the then-5k for the training itself(it was before the discount). Another good example I think would be all the folks who have the ‘of the Shattered Sun’ title. I actually have it on my main; but it means nothing more than ‘I ground out exalted and paid 1000g’. Ultimately, there’s tons of things that mean little else but ‘I have time’ or ‘I have gold to burn’. But I think that unless you’re sitting AFK in front of a major AH, you’re pretty safe in knowing that you did the thing to do it, not to show it off.

  3. perculia

    Back in vanilla, there was a rogue on my server. He had the Scarab Lord title, was in the top raiding guild, and liked to dps farm-content raids in a White Wedding Dress. Dressed as such, he still topped meters. I thought he was the coolest guy ever and would always be secretly excited when I saw him afking around town.For most of vanilla and BC, I envied him. Not just the raiding/skill aspect, but because he had a sense of levity about the game. The stories of the White Wedding Dress were legendary and it made him seem more approachable, rather than less. The impact he had on me as a player was great–I’d definitely say he was one of my early inspirations to both raid and collect. I think it’s wonderful and all-too-rare in Cata when someone can get a new player hooked on multiple aspects of the game. I personally don’t have a problem with standing around in SW. I do it sometimes, and I’ve had really great conversations as a result. One person asked me to show them my 10 favorite mounts and then wanted to know the stories behind them. Another person was like ‘damn you look like a boss, I’ve never seen anyone dressed like that, you must love the game.’ Others have asked me where they can farm a particular item and later I see them hearth to do so. If a combination of achievements and whimsical gear will inspire others to learn something new, I’m all for it. Now, if I was a jerk and made fun of the people for not knowing where the items were from, or stood on top of the mailbox, then that would be different.The person who has the schedule to dedicate to serious PvP or hardcore raiding will end up with a few more shinies. It requires many additional hours, so the additional rewards make sense–of course, debating grinding field marshall vs taking care of family shouldn’t even be a debate. Which is why I think it’s good that there’s a much wider range of vanity items available now for players of all sorts–but there’s always going to be a few carrots for the hardcore to make the extra grind personally worth it. I’ve even got people commenting on my Wowhead F2P guide suggesting new lists for F2P vanity gear, pets, and mounts. All this for a trial account that has tons of restrictions. But also at the same time, there’s forgotten corners of the game, especially older patches, that have a lot of vanity options to offer. Anything that will get someone excited about the game is cool with me.I agree that sometimes collecting can be an obsession. But the subtleties of collecting aren’t very clear in this post. I’ve tried to present an alternate reading on my recent post about my different collecting styles. I have three alts that have one signature title, one mount, and a handful of gear sets. But I also have my main with a lot of achievements, raid titles, a decent amount of PvP, and those same safety goggles in my bags. I think it’s fun, not rude, to mix up epics with greens both in boss screenshots and when I do have to afk. She doesn’t feel like a chore and she’s the most fun to write about as a character. And I think the enthusiasm behind her outfits has done more harm than good inspiring new players in Stormwind.When it comes to achievements, yes, I have a lot, but I don’t care about the number. Some of the stuff I collect can’t be measured by achievements or Feats of Strength. There will never be anything for my .5 Dungeon set or some of my favorite mounts. If you just looked at the completion date on my glaive feat of strength, it would be hard to tell if I collected it starting at level 80, or just had horrible luck for two years, starting at 70. I collect mounts, but I don’t have a vial of the sand and those 10 points yet. Eventually I’ll get it, because two-seater mounts are cool, but…meh.Also–are the people showing off items any different from us talking about our toons in recent posts? There’s a bit of an intellectual gloss on our stuff, but readers stumbling across our blogs aren’t that different from players inspecting others in Stormwind.So as someone that likes to collect strange gear for faking, but also likes turning it into weekly guides on Wowhead, I’m in a bit of a conundrum. If anyone still reading wants to read even more thoughts, you can read the recent post on Collecting and Identity: http://flavortextlore.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/character-identity-and-collect…(And as for that rogue? Just checked armory–logged out in raiding gear, Thunderfury, and the White Wedding Dress. Good for him, I say.)

  4. perculia

    (Damn my word processor for auto-correcting afking into faking.)

  5. Sunnier

    Back on my old druid, I used to stand around town in my full tier 6 gear. Not because I wanted to impress people, but because that is by far my favorite set, it brings back good memories, and I like seeing the 8/8. But ever since someone called me some mean things and accused me of epeen stroking, I’ve been hesitant to wear that set in public. I really don’t want people to think I’m vain when I’m just trying to make my character pretty and remember old times.

  6. Derevka

    To be cynical and a bit of devils advocate here…Couldn’t you say its preening by blogging about a Level 70 getting a hard to get title?Its not that different than parking yourself in an outfit you like, on your new shiny mount, with your new title.Isn’t it preening by using your Realm First! Titles?Isn’t it preening by recruiting saying Realm #X Guild, or Rank X US?Isn’t WoWProgress just preening?I know I like flying around on my Onyxia Mount, and I’m proud of my achievements. What do many people do with downtime in game… you park in SW/Org. If I do that, am I obligated to put on my “the Patient” title and don my Linen Vest and Wooden Staff? I don’t think so.It just seems unfair to point at this mage, who’s worked for what he has (just like everyone else has worked for their gear, be it Quest Greens, or 391 and Legendary Staves) and say that he shouldn’t park afk. Showing off isn’t inherently bad… this is a game, and some play it for the ‘competition’ of PVP (or PVE, or the AH) and getting that Title/Mount/Gear/Gold Cap is something people work for. It doesnt have to be the “best _____” in the game. I say if you got it… “werk it!”. There’s no shame in it. ps. CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!!!

  7. Rades

    There’s a difference between preening and having fun and preening and seeming desperate for attention. On Drenden – you might see this when you’re playing Horde-side – there is one particular player who is ALWAYS parked in the Tauren area, by the mailbox, on his Time-Lost Proto Drake. The first time I saw him, I was like “Oh hey, that’s cool, the Time-Lost. :)” But then the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth etc times, it was like “…okay buddy, you’re seriously trying too hard.” It’s become a joke, a punchline among people I know. “Hey did you see X a few minutes ago? HE WASN’T ON HIS TL PROTO DRAKE” “WHAT, HOLY CRAP” etc.Wearing RP gear while AFK is fun, but AFKing to show off your RP gear seems a little excessive, to me.

  8. Cynwise of Stormwind

    Hey folks – thanks for all the comments! I don’t know if I made it clear last night – holy crap solo parenting is wiping me out – but I really do see the parallels between certain kinds of blogging and afking in front of the AH in your leet gear. A lot of it is in our intentions behind doing it, and how others interpret it.In fact, I think that’s the point – there really isn’t that much difference between idling in SW/Org and striving for a high score on achievement points. There’s a social convention to prevent it from crossing a line from honest pride to desperation (nice example, Rades) but the root feeling is really the same. You can’t mock the player who achieves and shows off, while still honestly pursuing the same things they achieved them. It’s not fair. But the parallel is that if you sit there and question their motives – are they preening for pride, or approval? – then you must surely question your own.Which is what I’m doing now regarding achievement points.Sorry this wasn’t clearer!

  9. Lycanthrope

    I like achievements because it is a fun way for me to keep track of how much of the game I have weakly conquered and how much I have left. I only obsess the fun ones which for me are about the questing and exploring, followed by professions. I do not obsess over anything not fun, meaning anything pvp. Never been a dungeon person not having active guild to do with so not stressed over those. Specifically the opposite of Mr. Field Marshall gnome there. If it is not fun for me, if I do not enjoy it, then meh. If I am enjoying myself what else do I care?