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Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today

MVP Alona's top 5 tips for a better WoW experience
We all know the Blizzard blues -- no, no, not the pre-expansion doldrums (although yeah, we know those too), but rather the fine folks from Blizzard who come out on the official forums to clarify and enlighten with posts highlighted in bright blue text. Supporting them are the greens, best described by Blizzard blue poster Zarhym as "a collection of folks from the community who are embraced by their peers for their knowledge and personality, to the extent that we want to give them official recognition." Most greens shepherd issues in a particular part of the game that's captured their heart -- for instance, green poster Eldacar specializes in PvP.

And then there's green poster Alona. Alona's area of interest is -- well, everything. A self-described "frantic personality," Alona turns up all over the forums to lend a helping hand. With such a broad perspective, you can bet she's developed some rules of the road for making the best of a World of Warcraft experience -- and some insights into what sorts of things detract from that. We've got her top five tips for a good WoW lifestyle, plus her own thoughts on the most challenging issues facing the WoW community and Blizzard itself.

Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today Main character Gloriia (posts on the forums as Alona)
Guild Northrend Commonwealth
Realm Cenarion Circle

WoW Insider: Let's talk about your humble WoW roots, back before you were a green.

Alona: I've been playing WoW since December of '04. I started as an undead mage and had no idea what I was doing for at least the first four years. I still kinda don't. I would describe my current playstyle as more social but also interested in downing content -- just at a slower rate.

I had been a more dedicated raider throughout vanilla, The Burning Crusade, Wrath, and the start of Cata. I reached a point in Cata where I felt I couldn't put in the time to be a full-time raider anymore, but thankfully I've become a part of a wonderful guild, and we still raid one or two nights a week at our own pace. It's a relief, as it allows me to avoid being as dedicated as I used to be but still see the content in a low-stress environment. We're hoping to push ourselves a little to get our Dragon Soul achievement drakes before Mists comes out!

And then somewhere along the way, you became an MVP ...

I became an MVP in November of last year. Honestly? I was shocked.

I've been posting on the WoW forums almost as long as I've had an account, though on different characters ... I had started posting on Alona some time earlier, as I had planned on eventually making her my Cataclysm main. Ultimately I missed healing and went back to my priest, but by that time Alona had over a thousand posts to her name, so I figured I should stick with her as I continued posting. I've stated my main's name many times on the forum, though, so it's not about me trying to hide her. It's just so that I could keep all my posts under a more recognizable name.

Anywho, when I was asked to join the program, it was a little like when your parents hand you the keys to their car for the first time. I was just kind of like, "Really?! For really real? Me? I get to do it? I won't let you down!" And then you drive all slow for the first few hours because you're nervous and scared you're going to let your parents down by hitting a mailbox or something.

Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today
As you know, we profiled PvP forum MVP Eldacar not long ago. What would you consider your specialty? Where do you hang your hat on the forums?

This is an interesting question, because I've found I've had to answer it a large number of times on the forums as well. MVPs come in all different flavors -- the PvP MVPs like Eldacar, the customer service forum MVPs, healing MVPs like Practical, and then the general community MVPs like me, Crepe, and Faizaniel.

I consider general community MVPs to be jacks of all trades, because we typically hang out in the general forum, one of the busiest on the site. The things that get posted to general are varied and eclectic -- that is to say, we get a little of everything. I've answered questions ranging from "What class should I play?" and "What gold making professions should I take?" to "If Garrosh were a flower, what kind of flower would he be?"

It works for me because I have a really frantic personality, so having lots of topics to choose from is great. I really love posting in lore threads because the general forums tend to have the folks that may not have read the books or played the RTS games. So unlike in the story forums where there are experts debating the intricacies of certain lore topics (which I enjoy doing too), I can help people who may not be familiar with, say, the dragon aspects to understand who/what they are. Things like that.

Sounds like you must keep up with an avalanche of game lore and knowledge! How much time would you say you spend on the forums and keeping up with WoW news every day?

In my heyday, I would spend hours on the forums daily. Unfortunately, my posting volume went down over this summer due to real-life obligations. I'm hoping to be more active come Mists.

In terms of keeping up with WoW news, I am all over it like corgis on a cupcake. I read a lot of WoW Insider, MMO-Champion and Curse websites and of course Twitter. Twitter is such an amazing real-time source of news, I've found. Not only can you see a breaking story pop up on your feed immediately, but you can see people's reactions/opinions start popping up as well. Of course, you have to filter through the "Today I ate a sandwich and it had jam" tweets too -- but hey.

With blogs, I tend to gravitate towards blogs written by friends of mine so that I can get a broad view of the opinions of people who play the game. In terms of communities, I stick largely with Twitter, as I consider my Facebook more for networking with coworkers/family. I also hang around on YouTube a lot watching machinima and bad music videos.

Also, I spend a lot of time browsing Wowpedia. Much like Wikipedia, it's a great way to spend some time when I'm not doing anything else. I find myself going for something specific and then being like, "Ooooh, what's this? And this too. Oh, and who is this?" And before you know it, two hours have passed.

Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today
What do you most enjoy about being an involved MVP? Anything you didn't expect?

The thing I most enjoy is helping people. To me, it's always been more about helping people than gaining any sort of prestige. That's why I'd rather make a bunch of posts that answer questions that subsequently fall off the front page and only get seen by the OP that needed help than make a ton of attention-grabbing threads. Maybe not everybody knows my name, but that one person who needed advice does.

When I joined the program I got a lot of, "What, who?" comments. In terms of not expecting things, when I took my posting break, a couple of people mentioned how they missed seeing my posts around and wondered when I came back. That caught me out of left field, because not only did I feel good about being missed, but it made me realize that my posting style was actually appreciated by people.

What's perhaps the most difficult thing you have to face as an MVP?

Much like the blue posters, we are darned if we do, darned if we don't. If we post supporting Blizzard, we get called suck-ups. If we post decrying Blizzard, we get called trolls with green text. Sometimes it's just a lose-lose situation, but really there's nothing that can be done about it. It's hard to get people to understand that even though we have the green text, our posts are not controlled in any way by some Blizzard overlord. We're still allowed to sass as we please, though it's expected that we be general forces for good rather than chaos.

I also find I get called out a lot more and really, that's fine with me. If I'm wrong, I want to know so I can correct the issue.

Being called out -- ugh, forum trolls. That's a level of coping skills all its own! How do you manage to keep a positive attitude and fresh outlook on the game and the playerbase?

It helps to remember that everyone is a human being behind their computer screen. I don't know why people lash out, and I don't presume to psychoanalyze. I prefer to just move on with my day. If someone is dead set on being upset or trolling, it's not worth engaging. I have other things I could be doing, other people I could be helping. I'd rather do that than trade insults over the forum.

Do the things people say sometimes get to me on a personal/emotional level? Yes. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't get upset at being insulted or made fun of. But it really helps to learn to walk things off in a figurative sense. When in doubt, don't even engage. Arguments are like whirlpools -- you stick a toe in and before you know it, you're in over your head and you don't know how to get back out again. Then you drown. Drowning isn't fun.

Having a guild full of wonderful friends and seeing the positive that occasionally comes out of the WoW community definitely helps me keep a positive attitude as well. Where on one side of the forums you see a dark cloud raining down doom and gloom, you can turn right around and see a whole other side with people really enjoying themselves.

Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today
What do you see as the major challenges facing the WoW player community today?

I would hazard a guess that the large majority of WoW's playerbase has been playing this game for years. As much as people think they're special when they polish their vanilla veteran badges on the forums, there's probably hundreds of thousands of us still playing the game. Plus the people who were swept in over the course of the expansions. So to me, the most major challenge facing the WoW player community today is avoiding that huge jaded sense of "been there, done that" that seems to be all over the place in the gaming community at large.

I know this feeling exists because I feel it every time I read the patch notes. I don't envy the developers of this game in having to combat these doldrums by keeping things fresh constantly. As players, I think we don't use the community itself as a resource nearly as much as we should. The reason I've played for so long through Cataclysm is because my guildmates were there to keep me going. I think we turned to each other when we needed things to do and because of that we've kept ourselves going.

If a person is detached from the game and its community it's much easier to be "that guy" in LFR and battlegrounds. You know the one. Spewing insults, purposely trying to wipe groups by pulling bosses, etc. If people feel like they have a reason to play, a reason to contribute to the community, they're more apt to be more interested in the game as well.

What about challenges or concerns facing the game itself?

To be blunt, we need to not be given content that is stretched across the course of up to a year. If a majority of the playerbase is already feeling the, "Yaaaawn, been here, done this" feeling, adding a single content patch and expecting it to last eight-plus months isn't going to help the situation at all. I love this game, and I appreciate what the developers do -- but that is the honest truth.

What issues are you keeping your fingers crossed will be different come Mists of Pandaria?

A week or so ago, I probably would have said content gating, but I guess that's not going to change. I'm not a huge fan of content being roped off to extend its life and playability when it should be the difficulty of the content itself that determines how quickly people get through it.

Besides that, though, I'm hoping that LFR/LFD will continue to be tweaked to encourage people to be less trolltastic when they're in groups with others. It's difficult to police a community, for sure, and other games have tried and failed. Anything that would get people to be a little bit nicer to others would be fantastic. The loot change in LFR is a good start, though.

Oh, and pet battles. And farms. We need more of those. And a corgi pet.

Blizzard green poster Alona on the challenges facing WoW today So when you're up to your teeth in WoW and you need a break, what do you enjoy doing?

I really enjoy drawing, though I'm by no means a professional. I mostly do joke-style pictures that help me blow off steam and occasionally amuse other people. I also enjoy walking with my corgis and furiously vacuuming my house. Sometimes I even leave the house to hang out with friends -- but otherwise, my time is spent huddled in a corner snacking on bits of chocolate wafers like a squirrel. I used to write as well, and I like to believe I've written the greatest WoW story of all time.

And a final batch of wisdom:

Alona's top 5 tips for making the most of your WoW experience
  1. Remember that the game can always be turned off if you need a break.
  2. It's not worth lowering your opinion of yourself to win an argument.
  3. When in doubt, assume they're a dragon in disguise.
  4. Make friends everywhere you go.
  5. Never put up with something that makes you uncomfortable. Remember that you are playing this game for your own enjoyment.

Catch up with Alona on the official forums (of course!) or on Twitter or her personal blog.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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