Sunday, 11 November 2012

MMOs, The Internet and The Perception of Gamers

A post on Wow Insider recently promoted a link a survey asking about addiction to MMORPGs. As I'm not a USA resident I can't answer it, but the comments on the post at WI, were quite revealing.

1. Survey seems to be rather biased and closed
2. 'People' still don't understand that the internet is a tool that can be used for good, not just a procrastination tool or a thing of evil.

Would I say I've been addicted to the internet? Yes. Would I say I've been addicted to Warcraft? Yes. Does it worry me? No. Why not? Well ....

A long long time ago in a dark unhappy place there lived a girl. She was in an unhappy marriage, felt unattractive, had lost her spark and her self confidence.

Over a period of about 9-12 months, through meeting new people in an MMO, she rediscovered her spark. It was always there, it was just struggling a bit to shine and now it burst forward and propelled her through 6 months of massive change and upheaval. More about that can be read here.

I have tried umpteen times to explain to people that WoW isn't about 'being anti-social', 'being a geek', 'avoiding real life' and so on. It is in PART all of those things, but it gives the player so, so much more than that. As does the internet.


For halloween this year I carved out the alliance logo in a pumpkin. I set up this blog on the back of reading other WoW blogs and re-discovering my love of writing. Other people I know draw comics based on WoW, create pictures in digital media and traditional forms, write stories about their characters and use the universe of Warcraft as a muse for their creative talents.

The internet also provides HUGE amounts of inspiration, Deviant Art offers some very exciting artists, taking inspiration from all manner of genre, tv, manga, games, film and their own original ideas. Pinterest allows everyone to 'scrapbook' their favourite online images, for inspiration, fun and hell, just to look at! Even the obligatory Facebook, through pages like "I love Fucking Science" shows thought provoking images featuring natural phenomena, biological wonders and much more. 


Want to challenge yourself? Why not create a spread sheet that works out a fat-arse-truck-load of data for your online game? Perhaps you want to track 25 peoples achievements? (Go Elsen!) Perhaps you'd like to work out how to min-max your character? Maybe it's as simple as seeing just how much you can do in a game. Whatever method of challenge, if you are setting goals and meeting them, you are learning life lessons. You may also be earning some much needed self-esteem and confidence. Perhaps if you're really good at all the number crunching you can write a programme for it and end up being a genre leader like Mr Robot or those math freaks Elitist Jerks. 

Perhaps the maths isn't what rings your bell. What about finding different ways to enjoy the game? Working within some imposed limits, getting creative with the games mechanics so that you can solo content? Working through puzzles that would take 10+ people to work round at one time and now you want to try it on your character alone. Figuring out how the particular mechanics in a fight work and you can get around them.  There are a million of this little puzzles in MMOs, and on the internet, you can challenge yourself every day, think MMOs are for losers? Bet you enjoy Fantasy Football online though right? Or playing CoD? 


The judgements that happen when you tell people that you are a gamer have long been talked about, '
you must be a loner, something must be wrong with you, obviously you're not social, what kind of saddo are you?' and so on. Every day, more and more people sign up to gaming online. Be it WoW, or the disease that is Farmville. Social media and gaming are in-extricably linked now and will only continue in that vein. Cynwise wrote about it much better than I can, but long-story-short, being in a game does not mean you're being anti-social. More often than not, rather than slobbing out in front of the TV, you're interacting with people of all races, cultural backgrounds, geographical locations and interests to work on killing nasty pixels and build team relationships. You are constantly problem solving and learning. Or you might just be playing on your farm with Farmer Yoon and be enjoying the world's best looking chat room. You certainly aren't being anti-social. 

Further to that, the internet (and not just games) offer people who sit on the margins of society, a voice. A presence and a way to interact with people that they might otherwise not have. If you are house bound, if you live in a rather remote place, even if you don't but you're thousands of miles from home in a foreign land, the internet allows you to keep in touch with those you love. It nurtures new friendships and relationships and if offers you a chance to communicate with people, to develop theories, ideas and far more. 

In short, the internet and, in particular online gaming, offer the chance to meet people from all over the world, to share in their joy and pain, to relate to them regardless of age, gender, sexual preference, geography, upbringing or social circumstance. To work with those people to overcome challenges and to achieve goals whilst having fun and then to meet those very people and enjoy hanging out and having some of the best parties you've ever bloody been to. And you, you judgemental so-and-so, you will sit there watching Ken Barlow and Phil Mitchell et al doing the same things over and over and over. 

This post could be a LOT longer, there's all sorts of points I could mention, such as the collaborative nature of the internet, covered very well by Discopriest, how you can search for anything online and expand your mind and knowledge faster and quicker than ever before, how there is SO much culture, art, science, knowledge, creativity and possibility in the Wonderful World Wide Web and that viewing it is a distraction and a hindrance will only hinder your experience of it and give you a much narrower experience of life.  I could say how the internet enabled me to find my little spark and then led to my life changing in ways I never expected but really, unless someone has experienced a similar thing they won't really understand how powerful it is.  I am now, and will always be, grateful for the internet and for online gaming. It's amazing what you find on the internet. 

The next time someone makes a judgement about being a gamer, ask them what they do in the evening or at the weekend and when they reply that they 'chill out in front of the tv' you can be free to judge their lack of imagination.  

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