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This Great Community | Part 3: The sexism starts early

A cautionary tale of sexism, elitism, lies, deceit, crisis, assault, and power abuse.

We’ll end this series with the beginning. My journey in Eorzea began back in October of 2015, a bit before patch 3.1 of Heavensward. I picked up the game with one real purpose: to fill the social hole in my life. Like many, my off-the-web circle was and is tiny, and I had met my at the time boyfriend and a handful of friends through a previous MMORPG I used to play. I picked up the game hoping I could make new friends. Real ones. The kind that reach beyond the screen to touch your heart. Apparently, also the kind that can rip it to pieces.

And let’s face it, you know this crappy community loves its Balance drama.

Eventually, I got into the raid scene, which was blissfully tiny back then. It was in the second half of the Midas raid tier, and cross world party finder didn’t exist yet. Notably, neither did resources like this website, or The Balance. There wasn’t a collection of vetted and accurate guides on how to play. The closest we had were tools like ACT and FFLogs to give players some analysis capabilities — but that was only helpful if you knew what to look at. And a scattered guide by someone well meaning but misinformed here and there.

I also faced struggles, immediately, because of my gender. 

Before I started picking up Savage raids, a friend I had been chatty with said something to me along the lines that I wasn’t “cut out” for raiding, because I was a girl. Well, I wasn’t about to stand for that. So, I sought out to prove him wrong. Not with the intention of going back and rubbing it in his face — just to prove that I could do it.

I found my first Static, a group of players that meets regularly to do content together, on Facebook of all places. The scholar in the group played how “old scholars” did: as a DPS, which was wrong even back then. In contrast, I was a talkative girl, and I was on White Mage. I even started out as the stereotypical “pure healer” because that’s what the subreddit and previous games had taught me to do. And I was quite bad. I very much filled a lot of the “girl playing White Mage” tropes that are prevalent even to this day. Which also meant the burden of healing fell to me — frankly, it was patch 3.2 and none of us knew what we were doing. But I started reading more, learning more, and understanding more. Eventually I was stance dancing (with the old Cleric Stance that locked you out of heals while applied) with the best of them. I realized the scholar wasn’t pulling any weight with any of the heals, even free fairy ones, but I kept it to myself. I didn’t want to create drama with my new group, we were becoming fast friends, I thought.

We cleared A5S after some difficulty, but we struggled on A6S. I had an availability conflict one night and had to miss one of our scheduled days, and they got a rep for the night. When I checked in the next day, nearly half of the group had quit. I had found out that there had been an ongoing sentiment from those folks that I was the cause of our progression issues, and they didn’t want to deal with me anymore. Those who were staying, actually told me they were staying because they liked me as a person — which is to say, they immediately bought into the claims that I was a bad player. And by that point, I wasn’t.

No one had mentioned issues to me beforehand. No one had approached me about solutions or what needed to be improved. It oozed and reeked of pigeonholing me as the stereotypical female White Mage — a girl gamer — and I was an easy excuse and an easy out. I was dumbstruck. Especially so because they had it all backwards, and I had the logs to prove it. With those that remained in the group I pulled up the FFLogs uploads I had been making every night. Showed them the scholar who did zero heals, the tanks who never pushed any of their cool downs, or pushed them way too late. Pointed to how I was contributing damage where I could on top of solo healing. Pointed to the causes of the wipes that the logs clearly showed.

The damage was done, however. But I vowed two things: 

  1. I wouldn’t stay silent again; I needed to learn to advocate for myself. And,
  2. I wanted to try and carve a path where other female gamers could follow without facing the scrutiny I was up against.

And boy was that just the start of the scrutiny.

After a year or so of raiding with those friends from the first static, some lost interest, some left the group because of availability conflicts, etc. and I was left as the leader. That held for a tier, and then into the next it became clear the group wasn’t getting anywhere and couldn’t fill our last slots — so I dissolved it.

On my own, it was more crucial than ever to be good at what I was doing if I wanted a group to take me. Not only was my play going to be scrutinized, honestly I was at odds because of my gender. Not by every group, of course, but there were plenty.

Those resources didn’t exist though. All I had was FFLogs to look at and learn from. So I did. I taught myself everything I needed to know to heal and DPS well on White Mage. Learned how to roll my GCD, proper weaving, how to maximize {!Aero I} uses for minimal loss, proper openers, how to heal efficiently without overhealing, the works. Armed with this knowledge, and with plenty of Party Finder runs for practice and experience, I hit the recruitment channels.

Trialing for new groups terrified me. I hate tryouts. But what made it worse was the additional scrutiny I’d face once I hopped into a voice chat and spoke. Some groups I could tell only wanted me because I was a girl. Other groups I could tell specifically didn’t want me because I was a girl. Both were for the wrong reasons. I “joined” one group for a couple of weeks where three of the members were in a love triangle which unsurprisingly blew up. I joined another where the raid leader actually had an explicit issue with taking on another girl into the group. I was their last choice – they were desperate. And she tried to find EVERY reason under the sun to point out how awful I was to the others. I didn’t stay there very long either. One try outl even led to a raid leader promising me he’d “go down on me if that’s what it takes to get me to join, and treat me like the princess I am.”

I nearly quit the game over that one. I guess looking back, maybe I wish I had.

Eventually I trialed for one more group, whom I ended up sticking with. It was led by Ramza Beoulve’ whom I would come to call by his name, Blake, and I had no idea for the whirlwind I was in for. But that’s covered in the first post.

The Balance’s Imbalance

To sidebar for a bit, I don’t remember exactly the date the Balance first came into existence, but it was around this time that I started posting there actively. With what I had gleaned and learned on my own, I wanted to share it. I have an annoying desire to constantly help others. It’s what got me into my current mess. But I knew if I wanted to carve a path for other players, and other girls, to not face the same scrutiny and hurdles I had so far, that the best way to do so was to share the resources and knowledge of gameplay so they could be readily equipped with the information I had to hunt and discover. If there was an accurate resource they could point to about their play, it would be a lot harder to scrutinize what they were doing under any other rationale – even their gender.

Frankly though, I liked helping. Growing up my “what do you want to be when you grow up” job answer was always a teacher. I ended up both knowing I’d be unable to pay my loans if I pursued that, and eventually realized my social anxiety would be way too crippling to pursue it as a career. But teaching over a chat program? Sign me up. I wasn’t out for the pink name. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t care about it. I would’ve kept doing what I was doing regardless of the role. I just wanted to help players avoid what I went through. Ey, there’s a plot trend for you.

Apparently I was nominated once or twice as a mentor before finally being added to the team. Ahri thought I was too steadfast in my opinions at first. I later learned a collection of some of the other mentors had made comments like “she can’t be a mentor, girls can’t theorycraft,” and the like. The Balance was also considerably more toxic back then. People were outwardly sexist even on the staff. I remember Bevin, a former bard mentor and I believe also a moderator at one point, who was actively against my presence. Through a ton of convincing the closest I got him to acknowledging me was that I was “like a football team coach; I couldn’t play as well as the players on the team, but I could teach them.” Talk about knocking the wind out of your sails.

There were plenty more conversations in the mentor lounge too that would make your eyes bleed. Unfortunately I can’t go digging as I no longer have access to the channel. Suffice to say the perception of the Balance back then was decidedly accurate. 

And I took on the job even still, knowing I’d become the punching bag. That if I could take all these hits, maybe others could follow after who wouldn’t have to take them. To be fully transparent, I wasn’t always the only female member on the staff, but I was the one with the biggest mouth. Usually the other girls, when there were any of the retired ones, would just duck and cover when some bullshit was brewing. I did not. I was by far the longest standing consistently accurate female member of the staff. It might actually be back to all male mentors now that I’m gone.

I was not exactly anyone’s favorite on the team.

There were some hot ticket items that stick out to me that should help demonstrate some of the issues with the server. Some of these are older, some more recent:

  • The #Hall_of_Shame channel: exactly what it sounds like, Skye and Co. thought it would be fun to have this channel to post screencaps of the really dumb shit people say or do in the server. To collectively laugh at them. I was disgusted. I think that one I actually threatened to quit over if they didn’t remove it. The worst part is, after the extremely long debate, do you know what the reason used to justify why it was removed was? That people using the Better Discord mod could see the channel name.
    That’s it. They didn’t care about the fact that we literally had a shitlist channel. They just didn’t want to get caught.

  • Everything to do with the Balance’s Patreon. I had to put my foot down when people started making the association that SaltedXIV was getting funds from it. I most certainly do not. 

  • The severe lack of activity of the administration

  • The lack of transparency between moderation and mentors

  • Suicide jokes, and why they “should be allowed” and similar toxic “jokes” – sorry not sorry for helping to get :blobhung: and :feelschromosomeman: removed

  • People defending Old Bear when all his victims came forward

  • Lack of consideration for off-server decorum and behaviors (see: second post)

  • Simultaneous use of off-server decorum and behaviors to justify moderation action when it suited their wants (see: first post)

  • Outwardly degrading server members in the lounge well past the point of frustrated venting where it was clearly just a shitfest. 

The list goes on. I’m a vocal one. I see shit, I point it out. That’s not how women are expected, or supposed to act. When a man does it, they’re just doing their job. When a woman points out a criticism, she’s a “bitch,” “difficult to work with,” etc. If you’ve ever taken any workplace sexism courses, you’ll know the trends I’m referring to — it’s well documented. But this wasn’t a workplace, and I shouldn’t have had to deal with it here.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m past the point about worry about the repercussions of me telling my story here.

There would soon be another wrench to the scrutiny I faced though. Thus enters chief community figure, Nemekh. [post link]

But let’s focus on the Balance here and talk about some of the staff:

Current Head Admins

  • Skye

  • Lyra Rose (aka Eiryla, or ‘Toad Lyra’)

  • Zyrk

  • Lyra (AnAnime)

  • Bongo

Skye means well, but is crippled both by her “irl” sitaution. 
However Skye is also really bad at delegating and relinquishing power where it’s needed. This honestly just means stuff never gets done. It’s why the Balance website is in its current state of dilapidation. It’s why her discord bot is always unfinished. It’s why her server contributions are actually quite minimal and why her Patreon is so contentious. And it’s why the staff often struggles to make big changes. I don’t dislike Skye, but she’s a poor server admin and owner. She also will occasionally go “off book” in some of her actions – creating more chaos and issues for the staff with the inconsistencies.

Lyra Rose is, honestly, useless as a Balance Admin. They do, quite literally, nothing as far as administration on the Balance is concerned, and from what I’ve been told they sit out of most moderation issues as well. That said, Lyra Rose has been instrumental when it comes to SaltedXIV’s success and its content. They’re the writer behind all of the encounter guides you see posted here, as well as the new player FAQ, and the gearing and unlock guide. So, in short, useless when it comes to the Balance, but pivotal for SaltedXIV.

Zyrk is notoriously the absentee admin. He will disappear for months at a time, then come back and take on 10 projects at once and knock them out, then disappear into the realm of inactivity again. Basically, helpful when he’s around, but everyone is left scrambling to cover for him when he spontaneously disappears. I think he’s on hiatus of late because of the stress I’ve caused from the “current” situation.

Lyra, the other one, is a somewhat newer add to the team. He does genuinely care about the server. But he’s powertrippy at some points, and then overcompensates for his proclivity to act too severely in other turns. Meaning sometimes he goes too far, sometimes he’s too scared to go far enough. I thought he was a friend I could lean on, and let him lean on me. That was apparently only a one-way street.

Finally Bongo, who is very fresh to the admin team. He also genuinely cares about the server, but is also new to the role and from what I’ve seen, still trying to get his bearings on when it is and isn’t appropriate for him to act. 

As for the moderation team – despite the list being not that short, most are extremely inactive. The process to add new ones is difficult – not just on the inside, frankly I know from my own experience it’s hard to find people willing to take on the thankless job. However this does often leave the server in a state of disarray when shit hits the fan.

And it was certainly going to.

As for the structure of the mentor-viewable staff channels, from what I remember (there were a lot, and we couldn’t see the moderation channels):
Please also note I’m unable to see any of the following channels anymore:

  • General “Mentor Lounge” – with the latest meme name of the moment which was in truth actually a staff lounge that all staff could see, including “retired mentors.” There were many shit posts, and often venting about issue users on the server. Notably, I’m not included here after my forced retirement.

  • Srs Staff Room – this was where important server conversations were had that affected us. Major issues, channel renames, rearrangements of channels, you name it, it was probably discussed there. Also importantly, nothing is supposed to be leaked from this channel.

  • Projects – a dead channel that I had most of the posts in

  • Website – (there was an older version of this channel that only selected people with the website role could view) this new iteration was made for discussions about the SaltedXIV once we had officially entered into a partnership. I’d occasionally post updates or people would ask me questions about posting in there

  • Mentor_bot_spam – exactly what it sounds like, they have our own private bot channel for obvious reasons, plus here’s where mentors primarily made/edit Kupo bot FAQ commands

  • Mentor Appointment Room – the nomination room. Last year when they formalized the process for electing new members, this became the permanent stand in. Someone is nominated, issues about them are discussed for 72 hours, a poll is put up for 72 hours, and then depending on the results they are or are not made a mentor (the timing of those is subject to change). The channel is completely purged after each nomination and nominees aren’t supposed to be privy of any of the conversations that transpired here.

  • There were a few other channels like the trello announcement one which had a webhook to the staff trello board, a srs_tl;dr where recaps of length discussions in the srs room were sometimes put, and I think a couple of others I’m forgetting.

But I want to talk about the #srs_staff_room for a bit. Obviously this is the channel I shot my loud mouth off in the most whenever I saw something crappy going on. I have also been framed for leaking from the channel, with the repercussion that, if found I was doing so, my role would be revoked. Remember, target, right? Look at this quality moderation tactic:

The ironic context here is twofold though. First, because of the reason I was talking to Tobio that night. Tobio was stirring the pot in the summoner channels. And even though Nemekh hated my guts at that point, I didn’t hate his, and was trying to help from behind the scenes. I had enough of a rapport with Tobio that I struck up a conversation with him to help diffuse the pot stirring. Splitting his attention and sucking out some of the energy he had. One topic I used for this was talking about other communities that hate us. Which included Nemekh’s. And one community, Emiin’s, came up. It’s a public server that’s free to join, so Tobio hopped in it to see what had been said about him. And quickly found a comment from Zack, someone who notably has also had a bone to pick with me. It was something along the lines of Zack implying tobio was “butthurt” about not being made a Scholar Mentor after writing the guide for it. 

So, Tobio being Tobio, confronted him about the rather old comment. Zack, in response was ADAMANT the only place he had ever made such a comment was in the srs staff room. Therefore, someone leaked it to him. And, “oh hey, doesn’t Levi talk to Tobio?”

Everything there after was a game of guilty until proven innocent. I’m explaining this event because I want people to understand the dance I was so routinely put through to dodge the bullets being lodged at me. I knew if I came right out and said I was talking to Tobio but didn’t leak anything, the staff would just assume I was lying about the second half, deleted whatever I leaked, and they’d have my ass for it. But if I said nothing they’d take Zack for his word and also have my ass. Zack literally bought his way into the role, afterall.

Now let’s dial it back. This is a discord server. For a video game. It’s often said the server takes itself way too seriously, and boy if this was ever a case of it. I played my part in that too, I know. But I also wanted to keep helping the community, and the best place for me to do that was to be part of the Balance, not excommunicated from it. 

So I danced the dance. I asked for what message was leaked, so we could confirm something actually was. That I had tried searching for messages from Zack that mentioned Tobio or the topic we “knew” was leaked in any way and there was actually no message matching. So I pressed the moderation team to find the message that was supposedly leaked. Responses were along the lines of “we’re working on it.” Which was amusing, because you know, it didn’t exist.

The heat was on though, and so was the heat in the discussion. Skye was out for blood and ready to make the head roll of whomever the leaker was. Egged on by Nemekh, of course. 

I pressed, again, for them to provide the message that was leaked. Or to confront Tobio and see what information they could get from him. I was hoping they’d ask Tobio, and Tobio would say “it wasn’t a leak, it’s right here in Emiin’s server” — but they wouldn’t talk to him. Or if they did, they didn’t act on it.

When Despair, the moderator from the above screenshot, finally pulled his game in my DMs, I shared the context I had from mine with Tobio:

And asked, again, for them to verify the message that was leaked. And with this context, pushed them to join Emiin’s server and find the message in question for themselves.

They dragged their feet, I think eventually Nethar stepped up and found the offending message publicly available in the server, as I said it was.

Crisis averted? But another hit to the reputation. I would keep taking a lot of those.

Don’t Leak?

What’s amusing to me though, is how quick my head was to be chopped for leaks I hadn’t participated in, meanwhile half of the staff actively does leak from the srs room.

Dook, the newest staff add as a Machinist mentor, on his server has a “no_leaks” channel that includes: Lyra (not the toad one), Head Admin; Hinoka, RDM/MCH Mentor; Lana, RDM Mentor; Charles, Balance Moderator; several other non-balance-staff friends of his, and sometime last year myself and Blake were added. In this channel they talk about Balance drama All. The. Time. Shit is leaked as if it was being held by a sieve. For my part I participated too, I won’t deny that. It’s been around from what I could see for a very long time, notably before Ramza or Dook were staff, so the context of information being leaked to non-balance folk was more of note at that time. But things that were expressly meant to be kept private: 

  • Discussions about a mentor nominee’s candidacy. Both Ramza’s and Dook’s candidacy for mentorship were discussed and leaked at length in the channel, including other staff’s supposedly private opinions on the nominee
  • Occasionally we had leaks from the admin/moderator channels that the mentors can’t see
  • Any sort of heated topic that was ongoing in the srs room, how “this person was dumb for saying X” and giving the screenshot for it. 
  • Etc.

Plus any topics from other staff channels like the staff lounge were fair game to be shared.

And while I wasn’t privy to it, from my understanding Hinoka hosts his own similar no leak channel on his server which includes Bongo, the recently promoted Head Admin, and non-staff members like Meru, and used to have members like Mugi and Nemekh.

And to be honest, I’d probably believe several other channels exist by other staff. 

My point is the hypocrisy and the duplicity of it. The target on my back was so much larger than others. I’m posting this publicly now, because I’m leaving the community so I honestly don’t give a flying fuck what the fallout is. 

But with that many staff leaking to non staff, I’d bet your ass you’ll get a big whopping “nothing we can do” about it. Their heads won’t roll like mine would’ve.

Haters really fucking hate

I have gathered my share of haters over the years. Honestly, everyone does. But at least in my perception (which is of course biased) I had the biggest amount of animosity spread of any of the staff – and spread out among more circles, too. Here’s a gem Rin shared once:

Apparently I’m a joke and my performance is too. Now, I am FAR from remotely the best White Mage there is. But if you want metrics my ranks are considerably higher than a majority of the mentor team. Mostly 99s with a some oranges here and there – all from doing only weeklies, occasionally a practice run but not of every fight. Feel free to snoop: https://www.fflogs.com/character/id/8514475 and compare with other mentors. I’m right on par.

But these kinds of comments are frequent – but only targeted at me. Because I’m a girl. Because girls can’t play video games well. Because I have to be doing something wrong to fit their narrative. Because I don’t keep my mouth shut when I have an opinion or think someone needs standing up for. Because my hater following is large and spurred on by another prominent community member.

I’m not saying this for sympathy. I just want to articulate the extra scrutiny I put up with. That people knew about and blamed me for. 

I did my best to keep my head up out of the smear campaign and the shit flinging. Up until this and the preceding post I have kept my comments and the situation about Nemekh to private and need-to-know channels only. Even my own moderator hadn’t a clue until a couple of months ago when they were approached about making an infographic and asked for clarification. Because it wasn’t their problem, so why would I purposely encourage the drama mongering? 

But the blows were heavy and hard. I was proud, finally, when I was asked to be on MogTalk last fall. Because it was something I had pointed out years ago that demonstrated the lack of female representation in the raid scene, and here I was finally getting to challenge that. 

It is with some guilt and disdain that I feel like I’m letting those other girls down by walking away. But I want people reading this to understand that the scrutiny isn’t implicit. It’s not direct. It’s sometimes subtle and sometimes not. 

This “great community, btw” that’s so oft touted for being open and welcome, almost assuredly still isn’t at all in many of the fundamental ways. 

Fix your shit.

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