In Which Kia Ponders Labels

This morning, I got this brainstorm.

Kia:  You and I should guest-post for each other.
Achloryn:  Okay.  I’m cool with that.

So I started poking around Achloryn’s blog again.  Obviously I follow it, but I thought, why not go back and read over it again?

Kia:  /sneezes
Kia’s Brain:  Yeah, it’s kinda dusty in there.
Kia:  Well, he IS a guy.
Kia’s Brain:  Also, there’s a whole lot of… melee.
Kia’s Brain:  …and they were staring at us.
Kia:  He’s our pocket tank.  Of course there are melee.  We love his melee.  He LIKES getting hit in the face by the boss, remember?  And we like NOT getting hit in the face by the boss and shooting them in the face with our Deadly Arrows instead.  This is a win-win scenario.  This is part of the reason we keep him around.  Also cause he’s cute.  Stop stressing about all the melee.
Kia’s Brain:  Okay, but what about that other hunter over there?  The little one?  Looked like he was abandoned like fifteen levels ago?
Kia:  Well, he WAS abandoned like fifteen levels ago.
Kia’s Brain:  He looked sort of… feral.
Kia: You’re getting him confused with the big beefy druid.  Y’know, the giant bear?
Kia’s Brain:  Well, no, I meant… oh, shut up and get on with the post.

Then I was suddenly struck by my own Deadly Arrow of a thought… what on EARTH will I post about on a tank blog?1

Which got me to wondering… when did I ever start to think about his blog as a tank blog?  It’s not a tank blog, not really.  Yeah, Achloryn talks a lot about tanking… but he also posts a lot about DKs, being a raid leader, playing Diablo III, and so on and so on.  He doesn’t specifically identify his blog as a tank blog, even though he talks about tanking all the time.  So why do I think of it as a tank blog, I wonder?

Kia’s Brain:  It’s because you think of Achloryn as a Tank.
Kia: … I do?
Kia’s Brain:  /eyebrow raise
Kia:  …oh my gosh.  I do.  Do I do that to everybody I play with?
Kia’s Brain:  Yes.  But take comfort in the fact that probably everyone else does it, too.

My labels don’t look much like Richard Bartle’s, even though his are probably more accurate and definitely more scientific.  Mine are just the association I have with the person, and it usually breaks down into one of three areas:

By their Class:  I am my own best example.  I’m a hunter.  I’ve always been a hunter, I’ll always be a hunter.  I may occasionally play something different (that poor shaman hasn’t done ANYTHING since she hit 85 except make a few potions), but it never lasts very long.  My guildie Rae gets that label, too.  Kat USED to be A Hunter in my head, until she turned into the ultimate Queen of Transmog.  Es is a paladin (and I LOVE HER PALADIN HEALS PLEASE DON’T STOP HEALING ME PLEASE). There are lots of people who get irrevocably tied to a class in my head, even if they haven’t played that particular class in years and years.

By their Role:  Achloryn will always be a Tank in my head.  He’s got a shaman healer he likes, he’s PvPed on this one rogue, but it doesn’t matter.  He’s a tank.  In fact, the tankiness of Achloryn is so high in my head that I often inadvertently Misdirect to him even when he is in his kitty spec and the fact that someone ELSE is tanking a particular boss has been explicitly stated.  Even when he isn’t even playing his bear and has been dpsing on his DK all night.  I can’t help it.  I’m so used to following him around and making sure the Big Nasties beat up on HIM instead of ME (or the healer) that I just cannot seem to come to terms with the idea that Achloryn is not the tank.  Of course he is!  He’s a Tank!  Funnily enough, Jen gets pigeonholed into the Role thing, too.  She plays like forty-seven alts.  In fact, we play this game when she starts toon-hopping where she logs off and then I type a guess as to which alt she’ll reappear on in guild chat.  (I usually lose.)  Even though she’s got a thousand alts, Jen has ALWAYS been a healer in my head.  Always.  It’s probably because she’s a REALLY FREAKING GOOD healer.  I’m gonna go with that.

By Their Game:  Amber, for instance, is an RPer.  She raids with us, she goes achievement-hunting, but when I think “Amber”, I think “RP”.  We have some PvPers in our guild who are inextricably tied to PvP.  In fact, I will call them “the PvPers” as if that is their job.  They’re really good at it, I hear (I wouldn’t know – PvP is TERRIFYING) and they love it.  It’s what they do, and somehow they’ve been stuck with it as a label as if it says anything about who they are.

In fact, none of it says anything about the player.  It’s a terrible system.  While labels help us categorize and process the unimaginably massive amounts of information that assails us everyday, the danger of looking at someone and seeing only the label that you have haphazardly slapped on is significant.  Sociology says that we really can’t stop labelling people.  It’s sort of how our brains work, and it’s tremendously hard to overcome.2

Those people that PvP?  They do lots of other things, too.  And they have lives and families and jobs and other interests and possibly pets (KITTIES!) and it isn’t fair for me to pigeonhole them based solely on the fact that they PvP, or play a bear, or like to heal.

So why do I do it?  And more importantly, what do you do to stop doing it?

Kia’s Brain: It is getting awfully serious around here.
Kia: I can’t be funny all the time.
Kia’s Brain: Who made up that rule?

I am not a sociologist, biologist, pyschologist, or any other kind of -ologist, so I realize that my opinion probably doesn’t carry any kind of gravitas whatsoever, but here’s how I think you can stop:

1) Realize you’re doing it and that it’s not the best way to build relationships with people.  I am hardly a rosy-glasses sort.  I am keenly aware that you are not going to be friends with everyone all the time, or even part of the time.  Or even some of the people some of the time.  At best, we hold a few people close, a few more slightly farther away, a lot more at arm’s-length, and a huge number at spitting distance.  Nobody expects you to put everyone you meet on the same intimacy level.  That would be emotionally impossible, not to mention more than a little creepy.  However, understanding the fact that even though you think of Amber as an RPer it doesn’t mean that is all she is will help to keep the label from being destructive and alienating.

2) Try on the label for yourself.  I’m so guilty of this.  As I’ve said over and over and over again (even once in this very post already!) – I really hate PvP.  It scares me.  I don’t like dying.  I really don’t like killing other players.  It actually bothers me and I avoid it whenever I can.  Unfortunately for me, I play on a PvP server so sometimes I have to in order to keep myself alive, but generally speaking I usually just stand there and let the Horde player kill me.  However, I did try it this week.  I went into BGs for the SoHK achievement and legitimately tried to PvP.  I still didn’t like it.  However, it did give me a better idea of why players who do enjoy PvP like it.  I won’t be PvPing as a pastime.  However, I hopefully can prevent myself from going down the road of thinking negatively about people who do.

3) Remember that you are being labelled too… and that your label is not superior.  I was in LFR the other night and found myself guilty of Raider Elitism.  I found myself looking down condescendingly on a dps that was doing about 20k on Madness and thought, “What a schmuck”.  Then I remembered the days when I only did 20k on Madness and immediately felt guilty.  That dps (honestly can’t even remember what class it was) is not a schmuck.  Perhaps he or she is someone who only plays an hour a week and isn’t geared.  Or is just starting out in their class and doesn’t have the mechanics down yet.  Or spends the majority of their time levelling alts and is new to the raiding game.  Or any number of other scenarios.  Meanwhile, the 20k dps may (obviously, I don’t have any idea) have been looking at me with my 44k dps and thinking, “What a schmuck.  Thinks she can come in here and stomp all over my playground like the Elitist Raider that she is”.  I never said a word in raid chat.  I didn’t roll on any loot.  I wanted the VP, went in, helped kill the bosses, and got out.  That doesn’t mean that one of the people I was raiding with didn’t label me in their heads based solely on the numbers I was putting out.  After all, the 20k dps didn’t say anything either, and I labelled them.

4) Work on making the person fuzzy.  I don’t mean like a peach.  Or like an unfocused picture.  Well, actually… YES.  Like an unfocused picture, in the sense that there is no clear definition.  In my experience, the better I’ve gotten to know someone, the less able I am to put a label on them.  The lines are blurred.  I can’t encapsulate them in one word anymore.  You don’t have to go pick out curtains together, but finding out very basic details about someone suddenly makes it harder to make a label stick.  Now, instead of “that girl that RPs”, your guildie is Amber who lives in Chicago with her hubby and loves ponies and works as a receptionist and likes to RP when she plays WoW.  Now, suddenly, Amber doesn’t fit into a box that’s only big enough to hold “a girl who RPs”.  There’s too much to her.  Her lines are not clear-cut anymore.  She’s fuzzy.  And when Achloryn stopped being Achloryn and started to be Chris, he got REALLY fuzzy.  Not to be confused with Fuzz, which is what the rest of the guild calls him.

It’s a hard thing to realize you’ve been doin it rong for awhile now, and I can’t promise that I am going to be instantly good at not-labeling people.  However, when I run into you in LFR and you’re doing 20k on Madness, I’m going to stop thinking about you as a schmuck and put myself in your shoes.  And maybe you or I will say something that breaches the social divide of silent anonymity and you will stop being A Shaman or A Healer and there will be some kind of bond, even if it is nothing more than to agree not to shelve each other into spaces that we don’t fit into.  And that is an excellent thing to put on our Cataclysm Bucket Lists, isn’t it?

Kia’s Brain:  Man, that was dull.  Can we go back to being funny now?

Kia:  You have all the depth of a sidewalk puddle.

Kia’s Brain:  …

Kia’s Brain:  …That will work for the moment.

1 It was going to be this post, but then I spent hours and hours writing it and selfishly decided to keep it for myself.  Achloryn will just have to wait for the next one.

2 Check out this article for some concrete examples.

This entry was posted in ACTUALLY Serious, Boyfriend, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to In Which Kia Ponders Labels

  1. Pingback: Have I been labeled? « Warcraft Of The Worlds

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