"Guide dog" player and guild embrace sightless guildmate, steer team to victory

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"Guide dog" player and guild embrace sightless guildmate, steer team to victory
Davidian and Hexu
After seeing this guild's victories through the lens of their mutual friendship, you'll never look at the bonds and teamwork among guildmates within Azeroth the same again. Writes our tipster:

My name is Nico and my character is Ignatious on Chamber of Aspects (EU). I'm co-GM/officer in a guild called Die Safe. We are a small (15 to 20 accounts) casual guild whose members like to raid on a couple of nights a week. I'd like to make clear that as a guild we are not hardcore or elitist, and we try to stay out of the realm spotlight as much as possible, so this isn't exactly familiar territory for me.

In our guild, we have a member that raids with us who is completely blind. His name is Ben Shaw, and he currently plays an enhancement shaman called Hexu. Ben used to be a soldier in the British Army and, whilst serving in Iraq, was involved in an incident with a roadside bomb in Basra. As a result of the explosion, Ben suffered multiple shrapnel wounds and had to have both of his eyes surgically removed.

Ben is a strong-willed individual and was not prepared to accept that he could no longer do all the things he previously enjoyed, even if that meant challenging peoples' preconceptions about blindness. Since the incident, he has embarked on numerous activities considered off limits to the visually impaired, some of which have been reported in the international press.

Everyone does their fair share of relaying information to Ben, but none more so than Davidian, our resident death knight.

Davidian is played by a young Scotsman called Owen, and without him I don't think it would be possible for us to make it work. Owen literally operates as Ben's in-game guide dog -- he's just as hairy as one, too! Our Mumble chat is always filled with details of upcoming dangers and the constant scream of 'Follow me, Ben!' and 'Bloodlust, Ben, Bloodlust!!!!'

This guy is genuinely a superstar and deserves the same amount of credit and acknowledgement, if not more. Ever since he took on the role of leading Ben around, he has never once moaned or complained and never considered it a burden. He's always coming up with new and innovative ways to execute the fights, and, honestly, I cannot sing his praises enough.

Introducing Owen, aka Davidian, Ben's in-game guide and friend.

Davidian Main character Davidian
Guild Die Safe
Realm Chamber of Aspects

WoW Insider: Reading the links Nico provided in his news tip makes it easy enough to see the fire and determination that's brought Ben back to playing WoW, but what about you, Owen? How did you come to play World of Warcraft in the first place?

Owen/Davidian: I only started playing WoW in February 2010 after being a very committed console gamer looking for a change. I was a FPS player always playing games that took minimal thought and that you could throw down after a few matches, but my girlfriend told me to try WoW, and I haven't looked back.

And how long have you known Ben?

I was greeted by Ben with a very enthusiastic hello on our guild's Mumble server when I joined in February 2011 and haven't looked back. Unfortunately, I did not know Ben before his deployment and loss of sight, but this did not stop us forming a tight bond in game.

How did that bond evolve?

I came to take on the role of Ben's personal "guide dog" after a few others had tried and failed. Before I joined the guild, Ben was not a consistent raider, as it often relied on ex-members' being in the mood for an extra challenge. Where people were seeing it as a challenge, I see it as a delight to have somebody as committed as Ben to raid beside. Ben and I clicked straight off the bat, and this made it simple to see Ben as a raider not a burden.

Autofollow the leader
So how do you actually guide and facilitate Ben's gameplay?

My role to Ben is that I play as his in-game eyes, using the follow function put into a macro he can tab through the group and target and follow me. ... Every encounter, Ben is using a series of macros (e.g., target of target) to play his way through the game. Everything from boss fights to a simple repair goes through me. An example of this is the drakes in Dragon Soul that take you out to Warlord Zon'ozz and Yor'sahj. I have to first target them for Ben to interact with my target to take the flight out before I can.

Probably one of the most helpful things in the game for me is the addon GTFO, which helps me that little bit extra when there is loads of things going on. That just gives me that clear signal of "OK, I am dying ... That means Ben is as well -- gotta move." Other than that, clear voice communication is probably the best thing to go by. Our Mumble channel is always flying with commands to help Ben, from a simple "Run in, Ben!" from a knockback to a "BLOODLUST, BEN!!!!"

What key changes must the raiding group make to accommodate Ben's gameplay?

The main key changes are the time and preparation that people have to put in to not only learn the fight but learn a completely new way of doing the fight. It's all fair going on YouTube watching a fight, then doing it, but when you have someone who cannot free roam on his own, things have to get mixed up. Our guild needs to be confident with each boss' tactics -- but not only do I also need to be confident with the bosses' tactics, I need to be confident with Ben's positioning too.

A huge thank-you needs to go out to Amy (Kors, GM) and Nico (Ignatious) for their creative tactics and approach to boss encounters, also to everyone else for their input on the encounters.

Hexu DPSWhat was especially tough about getting Ben through Ragnaros, which you've pointed out was a particular struggle for the group?

It wasn't specifically Ben that made the fight difficult. [It] was more my timings and others' were off, but we managed to overcome this when everyone took a step back and just thought about it. Having someone else firing the meteors that were targeted on Ben made it easier than having to get them myself and sending myself into a panic.

Just to add to everything, as of [this week], our guild -- Ben included -- has just downed Deathwing, so on to heroics next week. Can't wait. (Just thought I would send you a picture of the DPS at the end of Deathwing to show that Ben is not carried through and is a solid damage dealer.)

What's been the most difficult aspect of folding Ben into the raiding mix?

I feel the most difficult part of having Ben in the raiding mix was for me having to change the way you play the game. I mean to begin with, guiding Ben through raids was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do in WoW, seeing as I did not have much prior raiding experience anyway. But nowadays, it's second nature to me, and I actually find it harder to raid without Ben now 'cause it's something I am so used to. I remember going into the looking for raid and left-clicking things before right-clicking like I have to with Ben -- it's just an auto-pilot for me.

As a former FPS fan, what is it about WoW that's made an MMO player out of you?

I think it was the fact that you could sit down and learn new things every day. There's only so much you need to learn in an FPS before you can play well. [In] WoW, on the other hand, you have a variety of classes that can be advanced to do different things, and you're always changing to make yourself the best you can be. I don't want to count the gold I have spent on respecs or the amount of time I spend at the training dummies trying new things.

Other than that, the social aspect of WoW is so much more friendlier than what you get on your average FPS, where people are just screaming down the microphone thinking they're better than everyone. That's just annoying.

Davidian and Hexu
Well, your guild sounds like a pretty tight-knit group. Even so, having a raider such as Ben on the team is bound to be a challenge at best and a real roadblock at worst. What's been the overall reaction to including him in raids?

I have to say from my point of view that without Ben hot on my tail, I would just be lost in a raid. Everything I have accomplished and us as a guild, Ben has been there for it. Yes, we all have our off days and things seem to be impossible (e.g. Ragnaros), but it's never held against anyone. There is never a reaction to Ben alone; we don't see that having Ben there makes us more special than other guilds. He's just another one of the guys (and girls).

A huge praise needs to go out to all of the raiders in Die Safe. Without everyone's dedication, this would not be possible.

It sounds like the guild went through a period of struggling to learn how to work around Ben.

Yes, I would say it took some time to get the right group of people together -- but now that we have this committed group, I wouldn't change it for the world.

Davidian and Hexu in action
From Nico's initial letter, it sounds like many of your guildmates may have met on video or face to face.

Some of us have met personally, but I haven't met Ben, although we have spoken about everyone getting together and meeting at some point this year, which would be an awesome adventure.

What's ahead? Do you see you and Ben and the rest of the guild sticking together in WoW and other games in the future?

Hopefully, start progressing through heroics in Dragon Soul and on to bigger things, but nothing will ever take me away from WoW, so you can expect to see me kicking around for a good few years still.

But other than WoW, our guild play loads of games together through Steam and are maybe looking to try out Star Wars. Not looking forward to this. ... I do think Ben and myself will be a solid unit that will continue into the future -- and who knows, maybe try conquer the guide-dog, ranged DPS side of things? But who knows what the future holds?

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from a player battling Alzheimer's disease to Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), gaming industry insider Liz Danforth and El of El's Extreme Anglin'. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.
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