Sep 082014

George_McGovern2About 40 years ago, there was a presidential election. It wasn’t much of a contest; on one side was a popular incumbent who had just signed peace agreements with two other major world powers, while the other had a candidate who barely scraped through his primary. Following the primary, the upstart challenger continued to make several political missteps, dumped his VP candidate for health reasons three days after stating that “he backed him 1000 percent,” and was widely perceived as a lock to lose heavily.

There was no Cinderella story; the challenger did indeed lose the vote by 23 percentage points. That’s not the interesting part. Here’s what is: after the election results were announced, a prominent journalist who supported the challenger was quoted as saying “How could he lose? Everyone I know voted for him!”

The year was 1972; the incumbent was President Richard Nixon, the challenger (pictured here) was George McGovern, and the quote, though more of a paraphrase, is completely real.

(“Alaron, what does an old white guy have to do with an Internet scandal in 2014?” “Shh, I’m expositing.”)


…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. -Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

In case you’ve (wisely) been ignoring the whole thing, the entire gaming world has been rocked by controversy over…dudes behaving badly. Okay, it’s more than that, but that’s basically what’s been going on. Dudes sexually harassing a female game developer after her ex-boyfriend accuses her of sleeping with game journalists for favorable press. Other dudes sexually harassing a female media critic after she posted a video on Youtube criticizing how women are portrayed in games. Another group of dudes calling in bomb threats to ground a plane because the president of SOE was onboard, and temporarily shutting down PSN, Xbox Live, and just because. Someone else, probably a dude, calling in SWAT to raid the house of a popular Youtube streamer.

This has led to counter-dude. Numerous online sites have written tons of editorials criticizing the vicious misogyny and general boorish behavior being shown my those self-identifying as gamers. Several sites took it a step further, however, declaring an “end to gamers,” such as with these editorials on Gamasutra and Ars Technica.

Naturally, the dudes didn’t take this calmly, declaring this wasn’t about misogyny, this was an issue of journalistic ethics and corruption! A guy by the name of InternetArchitect made a few youtube videos making this point, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted out the videos along with the hashtag #Gamergate, and that’s when the Internet exploded.

Dueling Narratives

Here’s the thing. In a lot of these cases, the Gamergate folk have somewhat of a point. (Not the hackers and the SWATters, though, those guys are just assholes.) There’s a legitimate discussion that could be had over whether games journalists are too close to game developers to report ohjectively. Lord knows there’s plenty of examples of game developers crossing the line; from cutting back advertising after receiving a poor review, to a writer being fired for giving a poor review to a title that had prime advertising space; to the 2012 Games Media Awards, where journalists were given free PS3’s, among other things (and subsequent firing of the person who wrote that critical article).

Unfortunately, though, the argument never gets made like that. Gamergate supporters like to complain about a giant “conspiracy.”

The reason many websites have turned off comments, deleted/blocked threads, etc. is not to be gleefully conspiratorial; it’s because the discourse is 80% toxic misogyny. It’s like that Tide commercial; if you have a big stain on your shirt when you get up to speak at the big company presentation, nobody’s going to listen to you, they’re going to sit there and think “Man, if this dude can’t even dress professionally, why should I take his words seriously?”

I’d like to dig a little deeper, though. I think there’s an indictment of our culture to be made here. When insults are your normal discourse, you don’t know what’s professional speech and what’s not, and you don’t know how to have a civilized debate.

Modern Tribalism

Look. I’m in the Army. The attitude, language, and threats that you see people spew online is nothing compared to your average military barracks bay. We (gently) abuse people during basic training deliberately in order to build up a sense of brotherhood. (Or, alternatively, to gauge their level of bullshit tolerance prior to giving them things that go bang bang.) I’m not too far removed from going through a version of that myself, and I see it in my soldiers every day.

What these guys do know, however, is their audience. They give each other shit all the time, but when an officer comes by? “Good evening, sir. What are we talking about? Um, some strategies for doing better at Call of Duty, sir. Roger, sir, we’ll keep it down. Have a good night, sir.” …officer walks away… “Dammit Jones you fu*king faggot you TK’ed me again!” “Haha, pwned you bitch just like I did your mom last week.”

This is not a new thing. I’m sure Roman soldiers pretended their hasta were dicks and poked each other with them too when their superiors weren’t around. They grew up, became those superiors, and similarly got frustrated at their new soldiers who were now pretending their new pila were dicks.

What has changed, however, is the Internet, and how it has connected and divided us at the same time.


That journalist I cited in the introduction lived in an early “echo chamber.” Everyone she interacted with had similar opinions and beliefs, so the opinions and beliefs that diverged from the group consensus were automatically rejected.

What the Internet has done, however, is to narrowly cleave groups into thousands or millions of these chambers. Reddit is the perfect example of this. Fan of something? There’s a discussion group dedicated to it! Others exist that have the same tastes you do! There’s never any reason to go anywhere else!

Unfortunately, living in an echo chamber gives you no skills to respond effectively when something challenges those views. Instead, you respond as the group does; harassing the outsider until they go away, and coming up with crazy stories to justify why those outsiders’ views are wrong. Combine that learned behavior with the assumed anonymity of the Internet and you have the perfect recipe for jackassery.

Is there an easy solution? I don’t think so. We’re conditioned to think in terms of fast, instinctive decisions, which games only accentuate. Friend! Enemy! Fight! Run! Somehow, “well, both sides have valid points, let’s talk this through and find consensus” doesn’t enter the gamer consciousness very often.

Kill ‘em with Kindness

I’m not going to propose some bullshit Synthesis ending here that wraps everything up neatly; if there was an easy solution, it would’ve been done already. (Seriously, ME3, come on.)

Most of you are familiar with John Gabriel (Penny Arcade) and his Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. According to the GIFT, it takes 3 A’s: average person + anonymity + audience = fuckwad.

He’s right, but there’s one term missing: acceptance. Fuckwads act like fuckwads because they get away with it. Want to curb the behavior? Start checking it at every turn.

Now, this doesn’t mean stooping to their level and throwing insults; that’s what they’re used to, and that just confirms that this kind of discourse is effective. (That’s partly why this thing is such a ugly mess, because some of the people criticizing the misogynists for their language are condemning them with their own language. Pot, meet kettle?) Instead, find the lever. It might take some work to do, but it’s always there.

Let me share a quick story. I was putting together a public 25-man raid for Onyxia, back in 2009, when she had just been re-designed and was current content. As was my luck, I got one of those; a decked-out raider who insisted on repeatedly wiping the group by feigning death in the egg piles. Other members of the group started berating him, and he laughed at us, calling us “noobs and casuals.” Did I rage at him? No. I found a lever.

I tabbed out to wow-progress, looked up his guild, and found his guild master’s name. Tabbed back and whispered him “Hey, I know XXX, the leader of <Your Guild>. I’ve been logging your actions and chat, and I’ve got it all typed up to send his way. Want me to send it?” Instantly, he shut up, apologized in /raid, apologized privately to me in a reply, begged me not to tell his guild, and dropped group.

Is that going to work every time? Of course not. Sadly, sometimes you can’t reach the lever, or it’s broken. Sometimes it’s a lot of work to find it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is leave and come back another day, because the griefers own the whole map. Do it. Remember, games are supposed to be fun. Stand up to the boors if you can do so lovingly; otherwise withdraw peacefully. Either way, make the point that you won’t tolerate that kind of behavior around you.

And with that, I’m done with ranting about social issues. Anyone up for a game?

 Posted by at 11:54 am
Jun 052014

Still around and kicking. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been selected for a new position in a different location that requires working with sensitive material. As such, I’ve been keeping things quiet until I get established at my new assignment and get the lay of the land. Don’t think anyone’s’ missed much, since as far as I can tell, WoW’s exactly the same as when I left it.  (I’ll quote Azuriel here and express incredulity that 7 million people are still playing a game that hasn’t seen any content updates since September.)


 Posted by at 4:43 pm
Apr 032014

Shortpost to let those who’ve asked know that I’m fine. I was about 1/4 mile away from where the shooting went down; the alert sounded, we locked the doors, sat down and watched the news like everyone else. Didn’t know the guy or anyone involved.

 Posted by at 10:16 am
Dec 272013

Hearthstone LogoHi, all! For today’s post, I’d…
Hey yourself, brain. I was talking to my readers…
Readers? Pfft. You’re still alive?
Yes, little voice, I’m still alive.
Are you sure?
Yes! No. Maybe? That’s way more metaphysical than I was aiming for with this little intro.
Sorry. Maybe you should explain where you’ve been for the past three months?
Sigh. Fine, little voice, I’ll do that.

The spiral of sadness

Over the past year, my wife’s condition has deteriorated markedly. (I’ll spare you the details; let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to deal with wheelchairs and daily nurse visits at 30.)  In retrospect, I went through the classic stages of grief, starting a year ago with denial. Intellectually, I could see how things were getting bad, but I just pretended they weren’t happening. I signed up for raids all the time, was working on collecting every pet, alted it up. Then, boom. After a few ugly fights, I realized my wife’s condition wasn’t going to get better, and I had to start adjusting to the new reality. I did…but I got mad about it. It wasn’t “fair” that I had to stop raiding, it wasn’t “fair” that I had to take over all the household chores, etc.

Then I started my new job, with a much more…direct…boss. Stress level went to 11 and available free time went to 0. I skipped the bargaining stage and went straight to depression. Depression manifests differently in different people, but to me, it was totally withdrawing from interactions. I retreated to my Steam library of single-player games and stopped posting, stopped Tweeting, hell, even stopped talking to real-life friends. Sleep–Work-Eat-Sleep-Repeat. I stopped playing WoW entirely; I never even finished Siege of Orgrimmar on any difficulty. I considered coming back to write things at some point, maybe some post-Blizzcon thoughts…but what was the point, really? Everyone writes better than I do, so why bother? The more depressed I got, the worse I felt my writing was, which depressed me more, and CYCLE.

So ends the year.

Thankfully, there’s a new one coming up. I’ll save the walls of exposition and just say that I’ve gotten through most of the black clouds, accepted the situation as it is, and am ready to get back to participating in my Internet-life again. :)

Moving on

I likely won’t be writing about WoW for a while. Let’s be honest – if you don’t have an active guild/community to participate in, the parts of WoW that are left are not all that entertaining. Questing is far too easy, crafting is pointless, and gearing up is irrelevant. About the only reason for me to keep pushing was Brawler’s Guild, and I got frustrated with the wait times for those. I’m staying openminded about the new expansion, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’ll be more of the same. Of course, the forums will stay open, so the people who really know what they’re doing can chat, and I’ll update the beginner guides for WoD when that comes out.  

I have, however, been bitten by the Hearthstone bug. (Makes sense; the game is basically lots and lots of numbers in a Warcraft-candy shell.) After the first of the year, I’ll be writing Hearthstone guides and posts primarily, as the game gets closer to open beta. (Sadly, I have no beta keys to give out, though they’re apparently much easier to come by now; also, the open beta will likely occur within the month.) I’ll also be making some updates to the website and forums to support the change, as well as some general maintenance.  As always, feel free to PM me on the forums or send me an email if you’re looking for a personal response. I’m also actively looking for people to chat with in HS, so feel free to send me a friend request at Alaron#1198, and I’ll see you at the tables/realms!


 Posted by at 9:07 pm
Nov 182012

(x-posted on TFD and WoM)

One of the perks of an enforced hiatus to any activity is the ability to gain some perspective. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve logged in or done any writing. I expected to feel compelled to come back; oddly, though, I’ve felt almost relieved at the lack of pressure. Why has WoW (which, y’know, is supposed to be fun) become funless for me?

Well, no matter how I slice it, I keep coming back to the same point: it’s a multiplayer game. (Duh.) While the game offers tons of singleplayer endgame content (and I include things like random 5-mans/LFR as singleplayer, because you’re not really interacting with anyone there at any serious level), let’s face it; most of those experiences are nothing more than time grinds to obtain stuff. Sure, it’s stronger stuff, or prettier stuff, which is nice, but that doesn’t change the fact that the gameplay itself to get there is mostly an exercise in tedium. Repeating content is fun once or twice, but that’s it.

The worst part: it didn’t have to be this way. Unfortunately, in the name of “fairness,” Blizzard has elected to balance single-player progression solely on time invested, and not player skill. Gone are the group quests, soloable by a good, determined player. Gone are the large gold rewards earned from running dungeons solo (yes, AoE looting compensates slightly, but only just). Etc. The only difficult challenge I’ve had this expansion has been rare elites, and their non-scaling nature means the difficulty curve for those drops off quickly as well. I’m holding out hope for Brawler’s Guild, but unless they do a complete 180 on their current stance, I won’t be seeing that content for some time.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m perfectly okay with Blizzard taking this stance, and agree completely that it’s my erratic schedule that’s at fault, not Blizzard, for why I’m not “playing like I’m supposed to.”  I’d love to do a few challenge modes, for example, but I’m still not at the point where I can agree to set aside 1-2 uninterrupted hours to learn and do one. And no, this isn’t an “I quit” post in disguise. I still enjoy racing the clock in scenarios, outDPSing people who outgear me in LFR, and, quixotically, farming. I also think I’m going to take another stab at battlegrounds (now that I have a good connection and a good PC to play on) and probably mess around with pet battles. The things I don’t enjoy, though, such as powerleveling professions on alts, VP capping every week, or random 5-mans; I’m going to stop feeling like I “have” to do them…because I don’t. Seriously. Dailies? Dailies can kiss my human/elven ass. The Shado-Pan can hate me, and I’ll go on hating them right back. (P.S. your monastery sucks too.)

In writing terms: I’ll still be kicking around, writing about what interests me, and I’ll still write the occasional guide post from time to time. My dreams of being the pre-eminent analyst for  druids and monks, though, died next to a hospital bed about six weeks ago, and I’m surprisingly okay with that.  I’m just going to keep on keeping on, probably making things up as I go.

Then again, I’ve been doing that for the past two years and it seems to be working.

 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Nov 032012

(xposted on TFD and WoM)

The good news: my wife has recovered enough to go home. The bad news: there’s still a lot of adjustment we have to do. I didn’t really think it through, but I actually had more free time in the hospital to play/write because the nurses took care of her personal care. Now that she’s home, I’m having to help her with everything (including adjusting to life as an ostomate), so I haven’t touched a keyboard (until now) since we got home a week ago.

I’m still keeping up with goings-on via RSS on my phone…just don’t expect me to say anything meaningful for a while. Hope you guys are having fun in WoW!

 Posted by at 3:20 pm
Oct 062012

(xposted on TFD and WoM)

Warning: Real life trauma ahead. This is not a happy post.

So, in my last post, I mentioned my wife was in the hospital. Well, things got worse.

Originally (last Monday), she was in for a routine intestinal hernia repair. No big deal, everything was great; hell, I brought my laptop in to her room, tethered it to my phone, and got the Realm First mining achievement Tuesday, plus a bunch of monk time. She was feeling great, so they discharged her and we came home.

Well, either during the surgery or sometime following (I’d say around Friday), she suffered an intestinal perforation. Unfortunately, I attributed her lethargy and fever to post-surgical blahs, and didn’t catch on that something else was going on until Tuesday of this week, when she spiked a 102+ fever. I brought her in to the ER, thinking she just needed some antibiotics or something; she was immediately admitted and sent off to emergency surgery. The intestinal perforation had caused contents to leak into the bloodstream, which caused her body to go into sepsis (infection of the blood) and then septic shock.

It’s now five days later. Things were very close for a few days; she’s had three surgeries since Tuesday to find the perforation, repair it, and attempt to fully clean the abdominal cavity of the infection. At this point, she’ll be okay, but she’s likely to be in the ICU for multiple weeks and the hospital for longer. She was airlifted to the Army medical center in San Antonio, so I’ll be living out of the San Antonio Fisher House for a while. I’d like to get back to playing and writing about WoW, so you’ll start seeing some more material here in a few days. (It’s either that, or sit here, stare at the wall, and mentally kick myself for not getting her to the hospital sooner.)

I’ve got about 200 emails/messages to get through, so if you’ve asked me a question, I will get to you, just give me some time. I’m finding it difficult to string higher-level thoughts together at the moment.

Chase (Alaron)

 Posted by at 4:40 pm
Aug 312012

Just a quick C/P from the blue thread so I can find it again when I go looking in a month. :) I’ll try to add other proc rates in here when I find/confirm them. I also went back and updated the table of combat ratings, since apparently it’s the highest search result on Google.

Weapon Enchant Proc Rates:

  • Lord Blastington’s Scope of Doom – 1 PPM, no ICD.
  • River’s Song: 2PPM on melee attacks that land, or are dodged, or parried.
  • Dancing Steel: 1PPM on melee attacks that land.
  • Colossus: 3PPM on melee attacks that land, or are dodged, or parried, with a 3-second cooldown.
  • Elemental Force: 5PPM on melee damage, or non-periodic spell damage/healing, with a 0.1-second cooldown.
  • Jade Spirit: 10% chance on spell damage or healing, 50-second cooldown.
  • Windsong: 1PPM on melee damage, or non-periodic spell damage/healing, with a 1-second cooldown.
Trinket Proc Rates:

— Vision of the Predator – 15% chance on direct/periodic spell damage dealt, 105 sec ICD.
— Carbonic Carbuncle – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 105 sec ICD.
— Windswept Pages – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 65 sec ICD.
— Searing Words – 45% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell crit, 85 sec ICD.
— Light of the Cosmos – 15% chance on periodic damage, 45 sec ICD.
— Essence of Terror – 15% chance on harmful spell landing, 105 sec ICD.
— Terror in the Mists – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 105 sec ICD.
— Darkmist Vortex – 15% chance on direct white/melee/harmful-spell landing, 105 sec ICD.
— Relic of Yulon – 20% chance on direct/periodic spell damage, 50 sec ICD.
— Relic of Xuen (STR) – 20% chance on white/yellow melee landing, 45 sec ICD.
— Relic of Xuen (AGI) – 20% chance on white/yellow/ranged crit, 55 sec ICD.
— Bottle of Infinite Stars – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 45 sec ICD.
— Vial of Dragon’s Blood – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 45 sec ICD.
— Lei Shin’s Final Orders – 15% chance on direct white/melee/ranged/harmful-spell landing, 45 sec ICD.
— Qin-xi’s Polarizing Seal – 15% chance on direct/periodic spell heal, 45 sec ICD.
— Spirits of the Sun – 15% chance on direct/periodic spell heal, 105 sec ICD.


— Killing Machine – 6 PPM on white melee landing, no ICD.
— Sudden Doom – 3 PPM on white melee landing, no ICD.
— Fangs of the Father
—- Assassination: 23.139% chance on white/yellow melee landing, no ICD.
—- Combat: 9.438% chance on white/yellow melee landing, no ICD.
—- Subtlety: 28.223% chance on white/yellow melee landing, no ICD.
—- These chances are multiplied by 0.9 for lvl 89 targets, 0.8 for lvl 90 targets, 0.7 for lvl 91 targets, 0.6 for lvl 92 targets, and 0.5 for lvl 93+ targets.
—- After adding a stack, if you have >30 stacks, you have a [1/(51-stacks)] chance to proc the Fury buff.

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Aug 192012

Hey druid fans, as many of you know, I’m also writing WoW Insider’s monk content, so I’m composing  guides for both classes. As it happens, I finished up the windwalker guide first, so go check it out and let me know what you think! I’ve excerpted the beginning below.


Windwalker monks are a melee DPS class that was newly added to the game for the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Any race, except Worgen and Goblin, can be a monk. (All my pictures are pandaren because, well, that’s all the art at the moment.) Like all monks, they have two resources that must be managed; energy and chi.

Energy regenerates at a constant rate (10/sec), and is used to power several abilities. Windwalkers have a 100-point energy pool. Energy regeneration does scale with haste, and can also be temporarily buffed by Energizing Brew.

In contrast, chi is a static 4-point pool, similar to a paladin’s holy power, that decays when out of combat. To build chi, a windwalker monk will typically use a “chi builder,”  such as Jab, which hits for very little but generates chi. The windwalker monk’s hardest-hitting abilities, or “chi consumers,” use that chi to generate the bulk of the windwalker’s damage. The key difference between chi and other secondary resource systems (such as holy power or combo points) is that all chi consuming abilities have a fixed cost and damage, compared to the others where damage/effect scales based on the amount of secondary resource currently banked.

What does that mean? Well, it opens up your flexibility quite a bit. Rogues, for example, pretty much never use a finisher unless they’re at maximum combo points, because of the way it scales. In contrast, windwalkers have the flexibility to alternate chi builders and consumers for steady damage, or use multiple builders to store chi, and then multiple consumers for extra damage during a burst period.

Every fight against non-trivial enemies will require careful management of both resources. The two primary mistakes you want to avoid are chi dumping and energy capping. Chi dumping is using a chi builder when you are already at full chi (thereby wasting time and energy) whereas energy capping is allowing your energy meter to fill to 100, which causes your energy regeneration to stop. As you get used to the spec, you’ll learn how to weave chi builders and chi consumers together to keep a constant flow going.

Primary Abilities

These are the abilities you’re going to use most often, so know them, love them, hotkey them.

Ability Icon Discussion
Jab 40 energy, no CD. Basic attack. Increases chi by 1 baseline, increased to 2 via Stance of the Fierce Tiger. Can proc a free Tiger Palm/Blackout Kick via the Windwalker’s Mastery, Combo Breaker. Primary chi builder for single-target.
Rising Sun Kick 2 chi, 8s CD. Heavy damage to current target and causes all targets within 8 yds to take 10% additional damage (from the Monk) for 15 sec. Use this on cooldown.
Fists of Fury 3 chi, 25s CD. Unlike the other instant abilities, this is a 4 sec channel that hits 5 times for significant damage. It also stuns enemies during the channel. Downsides: expensive, it’s channeled (can be interrupted, no autoattack during the channel) and it splits damage among targets hit, which makes it not very good for AoE unless the stun works.
Blackout Kick 2 chi, no CD. Hits for good damage, and adds a DoT for 20% of the damage if attacking from behind, or a self-heal for 20% if attacking from the front (Combat Conditioning). Occasionally usable for free due to Combo Breaker.
Tiger Palm 1 chi, no CD. Moderate damage; adds a 10% armor debuff for your damage to the target. The debuff stacks 3x, so 30% armor reduction. (10% armor reduction = 3-4% more damage, roughly.) Occasionally usable for free due to Combo Breaker.
Spinning Crane Kick 40 energy, no CD, generates 1 chi if it hits three or more enemies. Channeled 3 sec AoE that hits 4 times. Primary chi builder for AoE.
Energizing Brew 60s CD. A energy regen cooldown, very similar to a feral druid’s Tiger’s Fury except slower. Like TF, you’ll want to use this as soon as it comes off cooldown and the extra energy isn’t wasted.
Tigereye Brew  This is your “click me for more damage” button. It doesn’t have an actual cooldown, but you’ll want to use it at 10 stacks to maximize the effect, so roughly every 75s-90s, or more if you have to stop attacking a lot.
Zen Sphere Your Level 30 talent. At the moment, things are fluctuating as to whether this (or the other L30 talents) will be used in the rotation, or just for self-healing purposes. More on this in the Talent section.
Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger Your Level 90 talent. The other options appear to be more AoE focused, so we’ll rely on Xuen for the time being.

That’s it! Master those 10, and you’ll be 95% of the way there for single-target DPS situations.

Reminder: Hit this page for the full guide.

 Posted by at 8:22 pm