Updated: Aug 27
This article is the first in what we hope will be a weekly series featuring non-male identifying players, content creators, and those behind-the-scenes movers and shakers of World of Warcraft. The goal is to elevate and promote these amazing people, but also to hopefully give the community a better look into who they are and what they do.
Our first feature is the incredibly passionate and talented SHINE! A long time player, ex-Blizzard employee and one of the brilliant minds behind the Keystone Masters community organization!
Shine, or Mary to her friends and colleagues, has been a fixture of the World of Warcraft community for a very long time. Most of her work and accomplishments have been behind the scenes, but her passion and commitment to the game, and esports, is undeniable.
Shine began playing World of Warcraft during the beta for the original launch of the game. She primarily spent time with a group of friends that were heavily into the Warcraft RTS, Starcraft, and Halo. Through whatever connections this group had at Blizzard, all of them got beta access for World of Warcraft. However, Shine was not a big fan of the game when she first tried it!
Her very first, and only, character that she made on the vanilla launch beta was a gnome rogue named Pony.
Shine went out into the world, killed a wolf, and decided the game was not for her. Initially she was intimidated by the multiplayer aspect of WoW, having typically played solo games up until that point.
However, come late-Burning Crusade she decided to give WoW another try, and started leveling and playing, and found she did enjoy the game after all. At first she played casually, but by Wrath of the Lich King she started ramping. By the end of WotLK she was clearing all raid content. She was Shine, Light of Dawn, and damn proud of it!
Shine continued playing WoW and found her niche in raiding. She enjoyed dungeons, did a lot of dailies, and farmed achievements, but mostly those were all means to an end to make her a better raider. Raiding hooked her into the game because it was difficult content with a group of people that she enjoyed being around. The multiplayer aspect of the game, which was so intimidating at the beginning, eventually became her favourite part of it. WoW ended up being a very important scaffold for Shine in learning and developing appropriate social interaction. Through playing with other people, with a common goal, she learned how to develop relationships, something she has struggled with throughout her life. Having a social environment like WoW where she could control her levels of interaction ended up being the building blocks for her to develop the skills to collaborate and build relationships in other areas of her life, both personal and professional.
Working at Blizzard
Having grown up in Orange County, many of those old LAN friends that Shine had ended up working at Blizzard. Due to her love of WoW, these friends informed her when there was an entry-level job opening at the company for a Game Master. Prior to this, Shine admits that she had struggled holding a job; she doubted her ability to be successful in a professional context. In 2016, she was hired by Blizzard to be a Game Master in Austin, Texas, and that became a turning point in her life. She wasn’t just capable, she excelled at the position.
During her tenure at Blizzard, Shine became involved in esports. The company offers employees in entry-level positions a few opportunities to try out roles in other departments. Esports is one of these departments, and when temporary assignments became available, Shine jumped at the chance to try her hand at another aspect of the game. She worked as a Referee in the Overwatch League, she worked at the Hearthstone Collegiate Tournament, and finally in 2018 she was the Esports Coordinator of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational (later named to International).
The Origins of Keystone Masters
After working at the 2018 MDI, Shine instantly fell in love with the competitive aspect of WoW, and competitive dungeon speed-running in particular. One of the competitors (and winners) of the 2018 MDI, Cirra, recognized her passion, and reached out to Shine after the LAN. Cirra wanted there to be more competitive dungeon tournaments within the WoW community, and asked Shine if she would be willing to help him. The two of them came together and shared their ideas and visions, and Keystone Masters was born!
Keystone Masters (KSM) is a community organization that organizes and hosts Mythic + dungeon tournaments, similar to the MDI. Cirra and Shine wanted to give players more opportunities to grow their skills as well as their brands as professional players. Unlike being able to practice on the in-game arena ladder for competitive arena teams, there is no ‘practice’ that recreates MDI conditions for dungeon players. KSM wanted to fill that void by putting on tournaments to give players more exposure to the competitive environment. Additionally, entering the MDI can be intimidating, with teams that have been playing together for many years and with a steep learning curve; KSM aimed to provide a more entry-level environment to competitive dungeons so more players could try their hand at the esport.
For Shine specifically, creating KSM allowed her to really focus on the aspects of the game she is the most passionate about, and gave her more creative control. Shine strongly believes that community esport organizations are a key aspect to a vibrant and successful professional esport. The benefits of a thriving community arm to an esport are vast; the most essential being the ability to try new things. KSM is able to provide a trial and error environment for new formats, new concepts, new rules, that the MDI would not be able to do. They can test how these new ideas work for players, administration, as well as how they impact viewership.
The upcoming KSM tournament takes place on September 19 and 20 of this year, and will be implementing some new format changes where players are unable to play the same specialization of a class more than once per 3 game series. This has potential to really shake up the ‘meta’ and will certainly favour players who are multi-class or multi-role players. Many of the top teams in competitive dungeon play are “ultra-specialists” and it will be interesting to see if we end up seeing some new names and faces in the top ranks of this KSM tournament as a result of this creative change.
Shine left Blizzard for an exciting opportunity at a tech company in 2019, so you will no longer see her name on any responses to tickets, but she is still working hard to grow WoW esports by applying her passion and hard work to making KSM an integral part of the competitive dungeon scene. Keep an eye on this girl, her already amazing impact on WoW esports is only going to grow!
Being a Woman in World of Warcraft
As a woman, and a longtime player of World of Warcraft and other games, I asked Shine about her experiences in gaming with misogyny and toxicity. She had some insights and responses that were eye-opening and powerful.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in gaming due to being a woman?
“I’m going to provide a Meta answer: because I am a self-described feminist, there are certain things that I will put my foot down about and not accept, and that hinders me socially. There is a strong contingent of competitive WoW players that are misogynistic or discriminatory in other ways, and don't respond well when that is called into question.
I was able to get around that as a “Blue”, but now that I am no longer a Blizzard employee, it is hard for me to socially find my way when I don't let ignorant or exclusionary comments slide. It makes it hard to feel like I fit in, within competitive gaming, because I am a “woke” woman. I feel it is not so much because I am a woman that I feel excluded, but because I am a woman who absolutely will not tolerate misogynistic behaviour.”
Do you have any strategies you use to deal with toxic behaviour and misogyny?
“One strategy I have that helps me in life, not just gaming, is miraculous empathy. I will not tolerate it if people are behaving inappropriately, but if the person is genuine and sincere, and do not understand the way their ignorance can be harmful, my strategy is to empathise with that position. I think about the times in the past that I hurt people and didn’t know I was being hurtful, and I think about what kind of story would have impacted my behaviour.
“There is an article I often refer to that encapsulates many of my strategies when encountering misogyny, about being an ally. I learned from it not to be confrontational, but to try and reach the humanity that many of these gamers are trying to hide. I try to communicate with radical patience and radical empathy. I will give someone a million chances to try to learn and improve. I will never blacklist a person who is not intentionally being hurtful, but I will not let them off the hook either...there will be a conversation every time.” *The article can be found here: https://medium.com/progressively-speaking/message-to-white-allies-from-a-black-racial-dialogue-expert-youre-doing-it-wrong-39c09b3908a5
Have you ever had other women treat you with toxicity and/or misogyny?
“I have actually been that person in the past. I have been a perpetrator of misogyny and destructive to the community. I have harmed fellow females due to my internalized misogyny. I was resistant to changing my behaviour for something that I did not understand. It takes a kind of humility to say I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but I’m going to change based on you asking me to...that’s hard to do with any kind of ego.
Back in MoP, I was in a guild that had a small group of people who began to use the word Rape as a substitute for cool. Beyond common gaming verbiage of “we raped that boss,” but to the point of “I got some sick loot, that’s Rape”. A group of people in the guild disagreed with this use of the word, and I regret to say that I was on the wrong side of this argument. I did not understand why we should police what other people were saying. At the time, I did not really understand what kind of images and experiences can be attached to a word, and/or I just really wanted to fit in with those guys.
I regret it. My point of view on these issues gradually changed. Being around other women that I respected who indicated that they didn’t approve of this kind of behaviour, such as using the word Rape frivolously. I learned and with self-reflection came to understand how harmful using the word in a frivolous manner can be. There is no excuse for it. The way those guys in my guild used it was misogynistic at its very core, which I did not realize at the time. It was about being harmful to women, it was about making someone who had been raped remember it. Otherwise, why would you not just choose another word, if someone told you that it hurt them?”
[Author’s note: I could tell that Shine told me this story with difficulty, but her honesty and ability to self-reflect, learn, and break away from her internalized misogyny is inspiring. She is now a strong and powerful woman who works hard to support and elevate other women in gaming and in her life.]
To wrap up my interview with Shine, I asked her what was next? Going forward, where is she hoping to go with her life and her work in WoW? She told me she has a lot of work that she’s doing, but right now she doesn’t know what the end goal is, just that there’s a lot of projects she wants to explore. She loves her current job in tech, and it is hard to consider going back to a career in esports or gaming. Luckily, her amazing work as one of the founders of KSM gives her an outlet for her passion and creativity for WoW esports. But she summed it up pretty well at the end: “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!”
It was a pleasure and a privilege to talk to Shine about her experiences and history with WoW and gaming. From Blizzard to being a founding member of KSM, Shine has had an incredible impact on WoW esports. There’s only more to come!
If you want to connect with Shine, or learn more about Keystone Masters:
Keystone Masters: @keystonemasters