Monday, February 26, 2007

For those who don't know...

I am Troldann. Well, I'm not actually, but I once played the character of Troldann in the wildly popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) World of Warcraft (or WoW). That's him there on the left. You'll note that the text behind his head is "Retired." That's the polite way of saying that he's dead.


Yeah, well, he sort of has this habit of dying a lot. It's a bit of a joke. So we couldn't just say "deceased" or something like that because it wasn't as meaningful. He'd just get up again anyway. Regardless, my point is that I no longer play him and I thought that maybe I'd take a few moments to talk about it. If you're hoping that this is going to be one of those posts that comes down on the evils of MMOs or talks about how horrible video games are at sucking your life, then you're going to be disappointed. MMOs aren't any more evil than ink pens or scissors or baseball bats or guns. They are generally more addictive than any of those 4 things, but that doesn't make them evil - merely something that one needs to learn how to control.

Some people don't know how to control their addictions. I'm one of those people. That is why Troldann retired (permanently. He's been deleted from the server, irrecoverably lost). I have a highly addictive personality. When I find something I enjoy, I sink all of my energy into it and I don't look back. Unfortunately, I don't enjoy school and I did (do) enjoy World of Warcraft. That meant that all of my time was being poured into the virtual world of WoW (which does contain a lot of very nice, neat, interesting, fascinating, fun, and very very real people) and none was being poured into things of slightly more immediate consequence. Like grades.

It was so bad that there was only one event which could be guaranteed to pull me away from the game and that one event happened about 4 times in the last semester. I don't expect it to ever happen again. What was that one thing? A phone call from a certain person, but that's not important. What is important is that I had a moment of clarity where I realized that I was running from life and I was using a video game to do it. I needed to stop running, so I did the most sensible thing possible which was to turn the game off. 5 years from now, it won't matter that I got Troldann to level 60 with the full Virtuous set. It won't matter that I also got another priest to level 60 or that I cleared Molten Core as a healing priest twice a week with two different groups.

Yeah, I'm insane. I told you that when I find something I enjoy, I pour all of my energy into it.

Anyway, if those things won't matter in 5 years when World of Warcraft is old news (or maybe it'll take 7 or 8 or whatever before the game is replaced by its sequel or successor), then they probably don't really matter all that much right now. That is why I could delete the characters and not look back. They don't matter.

That isn't to say that I think the game is worthless or evil. Quite the contrary, it provides something to many people that they otherwise couldn't get. Many people have an ability which I strongly envy. That is the ability to indulge in pleasures with moderation. They can find something they like and partake of it when it's appropriate. I tend to invent new moments of appropriateness and supplement those with the old moments of appropriateness and soon there are no moments of inappropriateness. These people will indulge in an hour or three in an evening of playing a game with a group of people that they've cultivated a relationship online with.

Now, think about what they would have been doing with that time 5 years ago before World of Warcraft existed. Well, my parents don't play video games, so I'll use them as a comparison. They go out to eat (either at a friend's house or at a restaurant) or invite someone else over to eat maybe once a week. Two or three nights a week are dedicated to church functions. The other 3 or 4 days a week, they watch TV for one to three hours in the evening. Sometimes they watch TV on the days when they did other stuff also, since my parents will frequently stay up until about 10pm watching TV, but rarely will they be socially engaged past 8pm.

So, instead of spending a couple of hours watching TV as husband and wife, imagine if the two of them got online and spent a couple of hours working together to tackle some fictional obstacle with a couple in Kentucky that they'd never have met without the random matchmaking that exists within the realm of online gaming. What's that, you say? That's not a real relationship because they never meet face-to-face (or F2F)? Well, perhaps it's not the sort of relationship where these would be the first people that my mother would call if my dad was in a car wreck, but it's no less of a relationship built upon a common interest. Sometimes, given enough time (and sufficient maturity among all parties), the relationships can develop to a friendship stronger than a simple, "See you online next week." I'm far from advocating abandoning so-called "real-life" friendships for online substitutes, but when one can successfully supplement one's close-range relationships with some online ones, where's the harm?

All of these things presuppose a few basics, though. First, one should have a strong network of close-range ties which one does not abandon, neglect, or preempt for the online ones. Second, one needs the strength of will and/or character necessary to know when a good time to play is and to stop when that time has passed (that there was/is my weakness). Third, you need the maturity to recognize that these digital textured polygon meshes you see on-screen represent actual human beings which are no less complicated, interesting, and unique than you are. All too often immature players (maturity and age do not necessarily go together, by the way. I've seen a broad range of maturity across all ages) will treat people they meet online as though they were no different than the Combine forces. (For the record, those of the Combine are controlled by algorithms and calculations performed inside the computer, not by other people.)

Well, this has been yet another rambly long-winded preachy post by me, but I guess the point I'm trying to make is this: there is a lot of good possible within the realms so commonly labeled as "evil," "addictive," "pointless," and "childish." It's not for everybody, and many people will never understand how it's possible to develop a friendship with somebody you've never met and possibly never even heard the voice of, but it happens every day. To those capable of gaming responsibly, enjoy that world which is opened to you. Since I had to choose one or the other, I decided to go with the one that had better graphics, more tangible progression, and fewer clipping glitches. Were I able to sample both worlds, that would be fantastic, but it's not for me.

Enjoy your worlds. I'll just hang out here where the written word can serve as my new outlet.


JadeGordon said...

It is too bad that it was a problem for you. I've seen it happen before - people who play and avoid things and then life starts to unravel. I've never really played like they do, I don't typically care about the game. I care about the people. I have met many incredible and awesome people with it as simply a communication tool. That I get to spend time around cool people and do something fun is pretty neat.

Sometimes, the world is small, sometimes it's big, sometimes it's online.

I think while it can be frustrating to have access to a community where you can just pop right over to a friend's house, it can be amazingly awesome to have this tool where we can communicate with people anywhere in the world who get us. As soon as they develop transporter technology, I'm so in! But WoW is not the only form of communication available to interact with people who just happen to live pretty far away.

::catches the flung banana::

Winterson said...

If you refuse to leave this world of "the written word," we'll just have to bring the party to you.

Hit it!

oog-ts oog-ts oog-ts oog-ts
Bah-bah-bah, bah-doo-waa, waa
Bah-bah-bah, bah-doo-waa, waa

Everybody do the comment dance!

Write something pretty!
Say something witty!
Or turn the post into a disco ditty!

Everybody do the comment dance!

*boogies down*

-- Winterson, inventor of the blog-comment-dance-party

JadeGordon said...

I am not as celever as Winterson, I'll have to just boogie to an existing tune...

"What kind of magic spell to use
Slime and snails
Or puppy dogs tails
Thunder or lightning
Then baby said
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Put that baby spell on me
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Put that magic jump on me
Slap that baby, make him free
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)
Put that baby spell on me (ooh)"

Winterson said...


TurboNed said...

I've got the power.

Lori Ann said...

The game is fun, but the people are what you miss when you head off to Florida for vacation.
The good thing about friends made in Azeroth is that you can still keep in contact with them in RL in so many ways. And I hope we all will once Azeroth is dead and gone and obsolete.

Oh, dance party?

Pop! Goes my heart!

(Yes, I loved the music of Music & Lyrics!)

Sol said...

So you replaced a WoW addiction with a blog addiction? I totally don't get you!



JadeGordon said...

See? It's the BEST compliment ever, Weirdo!

Weirdo! <3