Sandyclaws; or, of crabs, turkeys, thanks and another year of awesome

The man, the myth, the legend.

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Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street.

Well unless you’ve been drifting around Earth’s orbit avoiding satellite debris, then by now you’ve heard the rather shocking news of the recently announced departure of Ghostcrawler from the hallowed halls of Blizzard Entertainment, which was followed up with a gracious forum post by the man himself. As lead designer he was the man behind the infamous crusade to nerf plate classes, boost mages, and harbored a secret love affair with Holy Priests. For six years he changed the way Blizzard did business in harboring direct line communication with World of Warcraft‘s playerbase, a responsibility which up until the advent of Twitter rested solely upon the shoulders of Blizzard’s highly communicative community managers.

Depending on who you talked to as well as the particular development cycle, you either really loved the guy, or loathed the guy. Sad that you can turn to /r/wow to see the barrage of “Ding, dong…”‘s that resounded and were echoed on the official forums, but so be it.

Say what you will. This man changed the way developers interacted with their playerbase by, you know, ACTUALLY INTERACTING with them — on a daily basis, no less. WoW trolls often took this for granted without realizing that he was giving them something very few, and I mean VERY FEW AAA title teams give their players: transparency in system design between maker and consumer. For this, I am eternally grateful because to me, it wasn’t simply playing a game. It was understanding what was truly encompassed in making it great and the hard decisions that had to be made to keep it that way.

So as his departure comes to us on the eve of one of our greatest American holidays, I choose to think of the man I met at BlizzCon as the somewhat reserved, though still awesome to converse with guy who wore some AMAZING collared shirts (no, seriously…fashionably sensible this guy), and was willing to talk with just about anyone. I was in the enviable position of spending nearly every night in Anaheim with him and a few of the developers, and I found most engaging some of the things I was able to discuss with him that was NOT related to Warcraft.

blizzcongatherings1“These chips. I love them. I love these chips.”

For me, my one curiosity that he entertained was how a man with a PhD and a background in marine biology made the switch to lead systems designer for one of the largest MMOs in the world.

“The unique aspect I found common in both worlds was that they both catered to my desire to simply observe.”

I remember this because it struck to the very heart of my nature as a Navy photojournalist. One of my natural talents is one where I remain off to the side, often with a camera, and observe human interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy attention as well. But I also enjoy the simple of art of people watching. Have you ever just stepped aside to enjoy the moment, looked around at the people in your company and just, observed?

So as sort of a hero of mine, my reasons for looking up to him were simply that he wasn’t afraid of change in making a drastic career shift. A strength I look to achieve myself on the precipice of one the biggest decisions I’ve had to make in a long time — ending my contract with the Navy after ten years and moving on to something else. I wish him the best in his next endeavors, whatever they may be.

Which makes for a great segue into my annual reflective musings.

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See, a lot of people get nostalgic, hopeful and reflective around New Years. But I’ve always tended to be that way around Thanksgiving, if only because my birthday is normally just days before the holiday and between the two days, I think about my next year on this planet and what I hope to achieve.

This is a BIG year for me…and I’m fucking scared. Yes, the profanity is meant for dramatic emphasis, but also because it exudes the exact level of fear that is coursing through my body and soul as I face the forthcoming changes.

I know the end result will be me exiting the Navy a much smarter, stronger, and better person than when I entered it.

Ten years ago this week, I reported to my first ship, the recently decommissioned USS Ford (FFG 54). It’s crest motto was one that has stuck with me to this day. A single word etched into my soul that drove my success in nearly every venture with the Navy: “Tenacious.”

For ten years I had lofty goals of progressing, completing media projects and making written and visual products that would impact the lives of those around me.

But I also had important life goals that included cleaning up my unfortunate first (mis)steps into college and then begin coursework to complete my Bachelor’s. I served time in Afghanistan to achieve the former, while I did time in Bahrain to begin achieving the latter.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a journey in the Navy that has brought some of the most amazing people in life, and brought me closer to the people who knew me BEFORE the Navy. Every single person has touched me and influenced me in only the best way possible. I wouldn’t even dream of departing if I didn’t feel confident enough in my ability to succeed and that confidence comes in large part to the many influencers I’ve had and continue to have in my life.

I am thankful for:

  • My family: doting, loving and sweetest ever Mom, and two brothers who have grown into two level-headed men.
  • My own Williams sisters: Stormy and Taryn. Thanks to one Cuervo-fueled argument with Taryn, whom I consider my sister, I find myself in a place I never would have imagined possible. She kicked me onto the good path and knew I was going to succeed.
  • My two Jeffs: Darcy & Hopkins. Twice in my Naval career I managed to meet two really great guys that accepted me for who I was, never judging me, and always reaching out to me when I needed it most.
  • My second family: The Masseys. Since leaving Mississippi, I’ve missed greatly two awesome friends, Gil and Ariel, and their amazing parents (Greg and Karen) who, also, never once judged me (a surprising find in the great South).
  • My fairy gaybrother: the good Dr. Cortese. Since meeting him in Austin 14 years ago, Danny has been a truly great friend always encouraging me to push myself in completing my education, while also teaching me to know when to just step back and enjoy life. His husband Abel came years later and between the two of them, I find myself never wanting for hilarious conversations or a good ass-whooping in Words with Friends.

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  • My San Diego crew: Adam, Eric, Moose, Matthew, Chris and David. This year was particularly hard and grueling but you guys keep me from going off the deep end of reclusivity, and I can’t be more thankful.

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  • My Navy mentors: NCC McNairy, MCCS Hopper, Cmdr. Stewart, and LT Wade. I wouldn’t even be in a position with so many great options to weigh had it not been for the amazing advice and opportunities you have afforded me or encouraged me to take over the last few years.
  • My professional mentors (and great friends): Laura and Wayneston. You two have stepped into my life as forces of awesome and the hands you’ve extended to me to ensure I face my decisions in the coming year with confidence are both appreciated and unmatched. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have two selfless people such as yourselves in my life, but as Laura says, “Like attracts like, and awesome attracts awesome.”

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What’s a single guy who is the male equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw (yes, I even have the Apple powerbook…er, Macbook) without a mention to the many great lovers over the years. Again, I’ve been blessed enough to have met and maintained good friendships with nearly every guy because even though a relationship didn’t work between us, we never let it get in the way of the friendship. Again, I am grateful.

And lastly, what’s a post of thanks from a servicemember without a shout out to all my brothers and sisters in arms serving abroad, deployed in dangerous places, and unable to share this day with their families and friends. Remember to raise your glass to them:

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So my goals this year are to find a great place to work in PR, be it Blizzard (*notsosubtlewink*), or any other cool gaming company or gaming-focused PR firm. I also want to become more active in the PRSA. I joined the society over the summer and I really want to feel apart of that community. Especially since I have a new goal of getting APR certified (which is the PR equivalent to the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist program — lots of studying, and more studying, and did I mention studying?). A new road on my journey and I look forward to the travel.

I suppose it’s time to mosey into the kitchen to begin work on the overnight side dishes.

HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

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