When I received a news tip from from Rainnajax of US Uldaman-H about being an "older female gamer," I admit that I rolled my eyes. Please, not another one who thinks having two X chromosomes makes her the most special snowflake ... Not another one who thinks being over 30 years old qualifies her as one of the Ancients ... When I read her entire email, though, I realized Rainnajax's experience was actually intriguing – but not for the reasons she thought.
While Rainnajax may perceive herself as something still a little unusual among WoW players, I see her as the type of player who's becoming the new norm. She's less remarkable for being female or "older" – or even for belonging to a well known gay and bi-friendly guild -- than she is for being among the new wave of players who'd never imagined themselves playing a video game ... until they tried WoW. MMORPGs are no longer the province of a single type of player anymore. Rainnajax is here as an example of today's new-to-gaming, non-gender- or age-specific player.
Rainnajax: I came to the game about a year and a half ago (right around TBC). My partner got the game for a birthday and was really getting into it and wanted to keep sharing things with me that I had no clue about. My experiences with computer games involved Slingo, Tetris, Bejeweled and poker/card games. I am 38 years old and a woman -- not your typical WoW player ... /smile
I started out with a Tauren Hunter right before we got TBC. Played her up to Tarren Mill level (20ish) and then we got TBC. I immediately rolled a BElf Hunter, because hunters were what I knew at the time and all of the other classes intimidated me. My partner was also a Hunter so was able to help me learn the ropes. Because I am a curious person in general, once I figured out that I could have multiple 'toons on one account and had found a guild that I really enjoyed, Savage Maidens on Uldaman realm, I rolled a Paladin -- my main.
I had never played D&D and had only dabbled in Magic the Gathering but lived in such a small town at the time that I had no idea if I was even playing correctly. I loved Renaissance and medieval history, so I liked that feel to the game. (I still love Kara for that reason; it's the whole gothic castle thing. I tend to avoid Netherstorm because it's just too sci-fi for me most of the time.)
Up until level 40, I hate to imagine what my Paladin's talents and gear looked like. I started understanding game mechanics at about level 40-50 and began to really grasp the game around level 50. I was terrified of instancing up until level 50 and didn't run any instances without being run through by my guild members or partner until I hit Outland. I was pretty shy and thought that any person I grouped with would figure out that I was a complete noob and would be mean to me. I found just the opposite.
At level 60, I had levelled up my Paladin prot, because that was what I was told was best, but my guild needed a healer. And so being a friendly and generous person, I said "Sure, I will do that," not knowing anything about healing. (When I went back to my original BElf Hunter recently, I found Golden Fish Sticks in her bag for buff food, because at that time I thought they would help me stay alive ... LOL) So, I did what I do best and I researched and went to web forums and read everything I could get my hands on about the game and healing as a paladin. Luckily for me, I had a very knowledgeable guildmate who helped me figure it out, and to this day I totally respect his opinion and will go to him first with questions. I started reading WoW Insider daily, and that helped me understand the game, too. I now listen to the podcasts religiously.
Now, I am a confident level 70 Pally tank healer who adores raiding and has done Kara, ZA and Mags. I love instancing and raiding and have my trade skills and cooking/fishing maxed. I work very hard on my 'toon and I truly love raid healing. I would rather raid or instance than do dailies or anything else in the game.
I think too often, the image is that only kids or people in their 20s play video games and that WoW is fast becoming the game that breaks that barrier. I know people of all ages (from 14 on up to 65) who play the game.
What was your perception of gaming before you tried WoW for yourself?
To be perfectly honest, I had no clue there even was a game called World of Warcraft prior to my partner telling me about it. My partner's game of choice prior was Runescape.
Did you have any ideas about what gaming or gamers were like?
I think my general perception was teenagers or computer programmers. I have a friend in IT who played games like WoW and a couple I was friends with are rabid about that other game, EQ (which I did try but came back to WoW).
Has playing WoW yourself burst any of those ideas?
Totally and completely! I have met people ranging in age from 14 to 58, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, couples, singles, gay, straight, from other countries, people who are silly in game (Runewyn, this one is for you!) and people who are very serious and really learn their theorycraft (Karis, this one is for you!). I think that WoW has a very diverse population that goes relatively unnoticed, because everyone has those underlying assumptions that all of the 'toons have teenage boys behind them. I was lucky to find a guild that fostered diversity and welcomes non-traditional players.
Do you still play primarily with your partner, or have you since pursued separate in-game interests?
My partner (Athenae/Thunderr) and I have very different play styles. I really love endgame along with instancing and raiding. I want to see my guild head into more of the raid content and we are getting there slowly. My partner is content to level up 'toons, craft and farm and participate in guild raids and instances but gets bored very easily with running Kara every week (unlike me, who would run it every day if it didn't have a reset timer!).
My partner and I still come together to help each other with group quests or farming that requires killing elites. We don't often level 'toons together because we approach the game differently, even from the combat standpoint -- and I am really bad at combat! My partner has gotten into battlegrounds more lately. I like Arathi Basin but really don't care for the other ones all that much. I have another friend who is a big PvP player who I like to BG with when he is around.
What do your RL friends and family think about your (not-so-) new interest in gaming?
I am 38 years old, so most of them think I am nuts -- but they knew that I was nuts before WoW! I have always been into technology, so it isn't surprising for them that I spend as much time as I do at a computer. My mother was here last weekend and spent about an hour watching me while our guild raided Kara (including a point where I announced she was watching and everyone waved and danced at her). She is pretty scared of technology, so it is hard to get her involved in something like WoW, but for people like her who have a good internet connection and lots of free time (she is retired and lives on a really rural farm – the nearest town is about 20 miles), it would seem to me to be a great social outlet.
What are your favorite online sources of WoW information?
I read WoW Insider every day and listen to the podcast. I also like the Casually Hardcore podcast on wcradio because at my job, I can listen to music on headphones, so I take my laptop and listen to the mp3 when it is available for download. I also like Wowhead because it is easy to navigate especially when I am putting together mats for something new. I just recently made the Redeemer's Alchemist Stone (for exalted SSO rep) which is an amazing healing trinket for healer alchemists (I have been told one of the best in the game) and so I made sure to check all the mats I needed on wowhead. When I first ventured out on my own and away from my partner's watchful eyes, I would go to Allakhazam, but now I go to Wowhead or Wowwiki first. I also view videos of boss encounters on YouTube before I go to new raid content so that I can get a feel for what to expect.
How much time do you spend on WoW on a regular basis?
I play most evening after work from about 10 server time until bedtime (2 server time) and often quite a bit during the days on weekends. When I am home sick, I play most of the day and get caught up on fishing for Golden Darter or farming primals and doing as many dailies as I can, because I am saving for my epic flyer.
Would you consider WoW a new hobby? Has it replaced anything you used to spend a lot of time on?
WoW has definitely become a big hobby for me. I used to knit and do Native American beadwork, but after some broken fingers and a broken wrist, I just don't have the manual dexterity for those things anymore. In a way, I think that using my mouse and computer more has helped me gain back some strength in my hands and wrists, and that is one of the main reasons I don't want to PvP as much or tank on my paladin, because those things require much more 'toon movement than I am capable of. Healing, for the most part, I stand back and heal and move when I have to (void zones, etc.), but as a healer I can follow the fight more closely and am able to see some of the mistakes that sometimes will wipe a group. I am getting better at movement.
Savage Maidens rocks! We are a relatively small guild with enough 70s to run 10-mans and are starting to work with other guilds to move to 25-mans (we are going on our first encounter to Gruul's tonight!). We are have a nice split of male and female, but all 'toons must be female to be a guild member. Ages range from 16 to 58. We don't care about what spec someone is and actually have a reputation of taking on unconventional players and finding unconventional solutions to raid boss strategies. We all contribute to a guild bank and work together to help each other. When I needed primals and transmutes for my trinket I just made, I was given many of the mats I needed and when someone else needs something we all pitch in. We are like a family and all stay connected through our very active forums. Many of us exchange phone numbers and text message to each other.
We have guild events called Panty Raids where we go to Alliance towns in dresses wielding pitchforks, shovels, etc., just for the fun of it. When we throw a party in Orgrimmar, it always drums up recruits and a great time is had by all! We also have a reputation as the "bad girls" of Uldaman (and Vent) -- but among most of the prominent guilds, we have a place of respect. It's common when PuGging someone for an instance or raid for them to remark that they have heard of us and we are great! We do have a brother guild, Everlasting Goblinstompers. Most guild decisions are made by the guild community, and we have a core group of dedicated officers (myself included) that help Lobotomy and Merage fulfill their vision of what they want Savage Maidens to be.
Our GL, Lobotomy and her partner Merage put it best (quoted from our website):
Savage Maidens was founded on August 19, 2006, making us one of the older guilds of Uldaman and part of the original core that made up the Horde on this server. We had an idea for a foundation of strong females running a guild, working hard with each other to make something different. We started meeting lots of angry, disenchanted folk, people that were being run out Warcraft because they were different. Ever defiant, we started Savage Maidens and openly posted our guild as GLBT friendly. You'd be surprised how many gay and bi people are awesome at PvP and were sick of having to try to play straight. Some of them are still guild leaders to this day. We started by shutting up the bigger bullies on this server, people who were openly abusive towards women and homosexuals. We struck down racists and religious zealots, until they bit their tongues. We called out the ninjas and jerks, whenever they popped up, and to this day we still do. We don't back off or down, and we protect our sisters like rabid pit bulls.
Why female 'toons?
1. You underestimate pretty little things. Some of the deadliest things in this world come in the prettiest packages.
2. It tends to attract quality players over the masses of players who are trying to smack everyone with their e-peen ("RAW, big sword, raw Big me, Raw raw Rawr!"). Usually the guy who wears the dress to a concert, or a kilt, will never have confidence problems or need a fancy sports car.
3. I like pwning people while wearing a dress.
As far as guild events, we have been very focused on raiding lately. This last week, we got a nice three-guild group (Savage Maidens, Nightmare and Everlasting Goblinstompers) to run a very successful Gruul's run. We have been raiding every weekend for about the last three to four months, have Kara on farm as a guild and are working our way through ZA. We are getting to the point where we are viably able to move into 25-man content with the help of special friends and other guilds.
It is that time of year when we have not had time for a lot of guild events, but we try to do things together -- lots of heroic and instance runs. We are trying to start doing a "Gratz! You are 70" birthday party once a month, since we have several guildies who will be breaking 70 very soon. Our last party was a birthday party for a longtime officer (and my partner) where we gathered in Orgrimmar and all pulled out our fun toys, pets, outfits, special trinkets and items that are fun to play with, along with a few Brewfest Pony Kegs and had a nice hour of mayhem by the Orgrimmar bank. As a guild with many working people and older adults with college, family and work responsibilities, we don't get many opportunities to get together for guild events, but when we do, they are memorable and very fun!
Rainnajax e-mailed us a few days after our interview with this update:
Last night Savage Maidens went on a very successful raid on Gruul's Lair, our very first 25-man raid as a guild. Two of us had been to Mags, but nobody else. It was a raid with another Uldaman guild, Nightmare. It was awesome. We worked hard. Tonight, Lobotomy and Merage promoted me to co-GM of Savage Maidens.
Congrats on your promotion, Rainnajax, and here's to more successful raids to come!