The New Blogger Initiative has come and gone once before during this blog's overall lifespan, and yet I just largely ignored it last time, mainly because I couldn't think of anything to say. This time, however, I'm determined to make an actual attempt and come up with something to say. This was supposed to be one of next week's posts, but I feel as if it's in a better place to send out now than what today's post was supposed to be.
This first piece is actually something which I am incapable of in one very particular area: creating comfort-zones in the games you play and using this as an aid to increasing self-confidence. Self-esteem is, after all, hard to gain but comparatively very easy to lose.
In MMOs, it's very easy to feel overwhelmed and that you don't have a 'set' place more than in any other game - NPCs in single-player RPGs cannot judge you to the same extent other players can, after all. This is not so much to do with blogging, but feeling confident in your gaming prowess is a very big plus for any gaming blogger.
This post will take the form of six tips, ranked in no order of particular importance, which will hopefully be of some use to people new and inexperienced with MMOs in general.
Tip the First
Take your time.
MMOs are quite a complex beast to get to grips with at first; there seems to be just so much information to take in, what abilities do what, what your rotation should be, etc. etc. This only really matters if you commit to engaging in group content - be this PvP, Dungeons, or Raids - but until then there is absolutely no reason to rush whilst levelling. Use this long route to study your own class and learn what works best for you, regardless of how different it is from the 'norm'; having any ounce of familiarity of order which you yourself work out makes advanced guides much easier to interpret.
The same is sort-of true for gearing and stats. While levelling, you'll come across gear with a whole bunch of different stats, and whilst you'll of course need to be aware of the nature of the secondary stats (DPS and Healers do not prioritise Resistance, Deflection, or Shield Chance gear, for example), your management of the majority of these stats should not matter until late-game. Provided your armour rating is up to scratch throughout, you'll be absolutely fine.
Demonstrating that you know your stuff because of the time which you personally have spent learning about your class and how various fight mechanics work is ultimately also going to pay off in your favour, as you'll also be able to pick up tips and tricks 'on the fly' in a Dungeon or Raid environment much quicker than someone who hasn't given these aspects much, if any, thought and this will also impress group members.
People love to spout metrics about "this class is objectively the best/worse!" but anyone who knows their class and knows it very well indeed will be able to play competitively. If you're confident and having fun with the class you're playing, you're already very much on the path to becoming a good player.
Tip the Second
Know your limits.
Don't like the responsibilities that you think Tanking or Healing brings? You don't need to roll either of these roles. Don't want to do endgame content? You don't need to get involved, although you'd need to be absolutely sure that you can keep yourself entertained once you reach the highest level.
You are your own person in these games. Don't feel compelled to be the best from the off, but take things as they come. Having fun is ultimately more important than anything else you can do, and rushing yourself off your feet is going to make you miss something somewhere along the line.
Knowing what you're good at and what you're not good at is definitely something which will help you, as notifying people of your inexperience in certain areas will earn at least a couple of sympathetic ears who will be willing to let you practice doing this or that and help you gain confidence.
Tip the Third
Find 'your' place.
While levelling a character, you'll inevitably discover something which makes you enjoy that character or the game just that little bit more. Whether this is simply traversing the in-game maps and climbing into every nook and cranny to find all the secrets, hunting Achievements, your preferred 'style' of Class (Ranged DPS, Melee DPS, Tank, Healer, or Support), or even just chatting with friends and guildies, there's bound to be something which stands out to you. Even if you don't feel fully-confident on that one character, just one other aspect should in all likelihood carry over to all your other characters as well.
What matters is that you've found what makes you happy, and you should stick to that for as long as you deem fit.
If you discover that you aren't enjoying your first chosen class for whatever reason, you're not obligated to keep playing it exclusively. If you feel you'll be happier as another role or even a different class altogether, by all means experiment around and see what sticks. This is what makes SWtOR a very decent starting MMO; its multi-story nature actively encourages you to create new characters, not all of whom can be Ranged, Tank, or Healer, so by all means take full advantage of this and experiment as you see fit.
Tip the Fourth
Join a guild.
A guild is, of course, a group of players come together to enjoy one shared purpose, whether this is progression raiding, PvP, or even just socialising. This is very much a punt in the dark, as there's no guarantee that the guild you perceive as being "cool and awesome" isn't actually like that in practice, but finding a group of players who are just happy to be around with each other is very worthwhile. You'll be able to ask for hints and tips whilst levelling and occasionally get the opportunity to group up with a couple of players for various activities. Never be afraid to ask questions; if there are enough people online, there should be at least one person who'll be able or willing to respond.
It's amazing how much difference doing things with friends makes to various experiences. You get to share a laugh over what you encounter, defeats in PvP become less tedious, and you can just have fun without worrying about being judged. Plus, it also bolsters your confidence about playing in groups and synergising with other players, which is very useful if you then decide to engage in endgame group content.
Of course, should you decide that the guild you joined is not what you thought it was, you're not obligated to stay and nobody who's at least half-decent will chase you for quitting. If you've made some good friends in that guild, quitting shouldn't prevent you from still doing things together.
Tip the Fifth
Generally for most people in an MMO, there is that almost inescapable sensation of judgement. Whilst some instances - see the next point - are far more overt, it's easy to trick yourself into believing that there is such a thing as "passive judgement"; the belief that your friends and guildies will deem you "weird" or "not-worth-talking-to" if you exhibit too much of your natural personality.
Whilst this can occasionally happen, it won't at all stop people who like you from liking you or diminish your chance from being invited along to attend certain events. Heck, some of the people you're grouped with might be being jokingly derided for things even 'weirder' than you perceive your own self to be in their eyes, so ultimately you haven't all that much to be afraid of.
If this "you" is someone who is quite overtly antisocial or who focuses on details people might not, nobody who is at least half-decent is going to force you to change. Everybody's different; that's what makes the world such an interesting place.
The key is not to be obnoxious with who you are, and if you can come to see the funny side of the inevitable good-natured jabs from friends (although nobody would blame you for having your own limits for these) you should be absolutely fine.
Ultimately, you are your own worst critic; other people don't notice aspects which you deem as weird nearly as much as you might think. With all of the other people they've played with over the years, they're used to things which are far, far weirder.
We're all our own little stars on the astrologers' maps; we shine in our element, but we're neither the brightest nor the dullest overall. Most importantly, however, we are never alone.
Tip the Bittersweet Sixth
Criticism is inevitable.
It's an annoying fact of life; the MMO environment is populated with scumbags, some of whom go out of their way to scream at you for every tiny little thing they deem as "wrong". Whether this is as small as referring to something as something else due to personal preference (e.g. calling "Grass" in Alderaan Civil War "West") or an accidental slip-up (hitting the wrong key and missing an interrupt), the wrath of these guys knows no bounds when it's unleashed.
Dealing with them, thus, is a tricky scenario. Admitting a mistake and correcting it the next time will 9/10 times cause them to shut up, but sometimes there isn't an awful lot you can do. Either the perceived mistake was out of your control - your interrupt was still on cooldown and some other guy was supposed to get the one you "missed" instead and you're the scapegoat - or you're just shifted around or even removed as a 'foolproof' way of preventing this from occurring again, which of course doesn't help you in any capacity.
Nobody can learn to correct mistakes without being given the opportunities to do so.
If something like this does happen, it's a bloody nightmare. The best thing you can do in this situation is accept what happened and try to put it behind you. It's also best to put the attacker on your ignore list at the end, as they might keep on whispering and insulting you after the event. If you're really unfortunate and the game you're playing doesn't have account-wide ignores, they might start doing this on their alts as well.
There is sadly no sure-fire way of beating in-game harassment. This isn't even considering insults targeting more than just how you play, and you can't always let your actions outspeak their words in these contexts. You can, of course, report these players but there is no guarantee that this will even get noticed by the powers-that-be.
For all of the (hopefully) useful advice which I've had up my sleeve for inexperienced players, one of these areas is something about which I am vastly insecure and not at all self-confident.
This area is being "myself".
Since my prep-school days (school contingent of up to 13 years old for those who don't know the term), where I essentially was an outcast due to being "the weird one" - just boys being silly boys, of course, but it's annoying how soul-piercing their actions have been - I've been forced into compensating for a subsequent lack of self-confidence.
I tend to "latch" onto people whom I consider good friends, both in-game and in real life. This has been perceived as jealousy or, worse, possessiveness in the past, which I can completely understand. Having been an outcast before, I have a pathological fear of it happening again, and the intense value I have for the friends I do have is thus too high for some people to be truly comfortable with.
As an active example of my lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, I will often ask my friends to tell me to shut up if ever my long ramblings - I can get seriously tedious to listen to if you get me going - get on their nerves. The alternative silence, whilst undeniably polite, only chips away at me even more: I need people to be direct, as otherwise I'll start panicking.
I know that these fears are completely unfounded, but that doesn't stop them from persisting. These insecurities will also cripple me mentally if they get severe enough.
MMOs such as SWtOR provide a very useful distraction from these persistent fears when I do events such as raids and PvP with guildies and friends, so much so that even only 30 minutes of such an activity is enough to boost my self-confidence for the next couple of hours and makes the day's events, regardless of how down I may have felt previously, worthwhile.
I'm only one person out of many that this case applies to, so I'm definitely not special, but I thought that it would be helpful to outline where I stand. Context can be a very useful tool in any situation, and perhaps in this case one of the most useful tools at one's disposal.
This was not intended to be a sob-story to gain sympathy. I wouldn't blame anyone for skipping through it or thinking it worthless. I just included it to show that even people who seem to know what they're doing can greatly suffer from a lack of self-confidence.
The majority of this advice probably sounds like some recycled nonsense, but finding where you are happiest and confident is going to do your gaming experience a world of good.
I'll also take the time now to state that none of this advice was given to me; this is all stuff which I have come to realise over the years, and so I'm making good on my lack of preparation by offering the advice which I would have wanted and needed to receive to others in turn.
Bringing this back to blogging; if you feel that you'd gain more self-confidence from writing your feelings down, by all means go for it. Whilst not everybody will appreciate what you're writing about, you should find more than a few people willing to read through what you have to say and offer friendly advice or say how your perspective has opened their eyes, both of which can immensely help your self-confidence. The blogging community can be absolutely wonderful at spreading its wings, and that's what the NBI is supposed to celebrate and endorse.
Don't be afraid to say what you feel you need to say; let your star shine brighter for your map, even just for a second, and people will turn their telescopes to you.
I wouldn't say that I'm the best person to offer advice of this nature, but I do hope that it at least makes the slightest bit of sense somewere along the line. There are people who can say what I've said far better and are more used to offering general tips and tricks, but I still hope that this makes for a useful read to somebody.