Joined: Jan. 2006
A discussion about World of Warcraft has, in the last few days, occurred on a few threads. I reckon that it can raise some specific and general areas of interest. Or at least it does for me, and since you dear people have often been my online sounding board, I'll bug you again! I'll kick off with WoW and see where this goes. Apologies for rambling-ness.
I've been playing WoW for a few hours a week for about 7 months now. I only play WoW, I have barely enough time for that, and certainly am not a "gamer" in the sense that I have consoles and play multiple games etc. I freely admit it could be seen to be a massive waste of time, but my shallow, tawdry and entirely transparent self-justification is I play late at night when I can't sleep and I only play this one game. Since I get by on 4 to 5 hours sleep a night at most, it's all good. And given the "young kid in the house" thingy, my social life is....what was the word...oh yes...screwed! I've traded that time for the time I spent watching TV or trying to read something light and brainless to get me to sleep. I still read too much, but my Amazon bill has decreased noticeably! And with no* money going on beer, crack and hookers, I'm good! Enough comedy justification.
Actually, in all seriousness I find the general social attitude to computer games and gaming itself to be rather interesting. When I started playing WoW in February I thought I'd level a character, do a few quests and that would be it, game over, quit, move on. I thought the idea of actually interacting with people online (given various experiences) would be utterly obnoxious, and sometimes it is, but the raiding (forming a group of 10 or 25 people to kill bigger/harder bosses) is actually very engaging.
I have one max level raiding character and one alternative character that is no way near the max level (and I play him about once a month if I'm lucky). Most people I know have several top level characters ready to raid and they have developed these characters over the ~7 years that WoW has been out. The time investment is not insignificant. The attitude I encounter most frequently is that anyone who is "lower" down the scale than you (so lower level, non-raiding, badly equipped, fewer alt characters etc) is a "noob" and anyone "higher" up the scale than you (higher level/many high level alts, raiders, better equipped etc) is a "no-lifer". This attitude extends into the "real world" with people who don't play games generally espousing the (wholly inaccurate) stereotype of the "gamer" (unhealthy, basement dwelling, socially inept etc) as being representative of anyone who games more than they do (from 0 on up!).
Mock me if you must, but I find these attitudes as fascinating as I find other aspects of the game. Where has this hatred, and it is hatred, of enthusiastic gamers/computer users come from? The same stereotype is levelled at people who spend time on any computer based activity that differs from some perceived "norm". Perhaps this is simply a cultural/generational thing, one that varies in the USA, but here in the UK the prevalent attitude I see in the media and talking with friends (I'm a closeted WoW player!) is that anyone who spends more time on the internet, especially in a MMORPG, than they do is somehow suspect.
These attitudes persist even given the popularity and ubiquity of Facebook and other social media. However, I think the link stuff at the link Oldman mentions in the other thread might be a clue as to why. At least partially. The compelling, time intense nature of an MMORPG for example can be disturbing. However, from what I've read, gamers/internet users do not conform to the stereotype given, but actually are perfectly normal folk in general enjoying their chosen hobby. I'm no social scientist, but a quick google turned up this Nielsen survey. I haven't had a chance to critique its methods/findings yet.
Not only that, but my experience in WoW has had some generally very positive social benefits. I ran a guild briefly, before I started raiding, and all of the techniques, tricks, habits etc I use in the day to day management of my real job and team of people apply in the game. It's interesting to play with those management tools in a relatively consequence free zone and see the feedback. It has genuinely improved my real life management (if only by eliminating some of the whackier ideas I've had as being unworkable!). It takes a ferocious amount of organisation to get 25 people to be prepared, on time etc in a game over the internet. Especially that the usual carrots and sticks don't apply. No one's getting paid, the consequences of being "fired" are minimal etc.
Expand it from WoW and gaming. I've been commenting here at AtBC for about 6 years, and at TO before that for a further 7 or so, actually it's probably more than that! I didn't "get into" the internet until I was in my mid 20s, shrugging it off as the (stereotypical) province of people unlike myself and uninteresting! How wrong I was! In that time I have been forced, by virtue of engaging in arguments, to learn a lot more about biology than I originally knew, to learn a bit about economics and social science, to read philosophy and theology and so on and so forth. Between the age of 26 and 36, i.e. this last decade, my politics have changed from vaguely unthinking UK conservative to what can only be termed by even UK standards "extremely liberal left" (by USA standards I probably a combination of Satan, Stalin and something you've never heard of ;-) ). I've challenged my own culturally inherited homophobia, misogyny and other prejudices, all because the internet has expanded, rather than ossified, my intellectual horizons. In other words, for me, whatever negatives there are, my internet usage (gaming included) has been a massive net benefit.
I strongly suspect that gaming/internet usage is, in all seriousness, like any other hobby: harmless to a point. If you're spending an affordable portion of your time and resources on this hobby, and it harms no one in any significant way, then go to it. Like any thing from alcohol to zither playing, engaging in a sensible manner, balanced with the rest of one's life, seems to be the main way to assuage the more hysterical, media whipped hysteria surrounding these things. But hey, if any of you wise folk know better, let me know!
a) Anecdotally at least, there appears to be a moderate social stigma around computer gaming/based activity (even though it can be a very productive, social activity) which centres around themes of the antisocial nature of the players, various undesirable attributes claimed for the players (themed on laziness, indolence, poor health consequences etc). That stigma has been to some degree internalised into gaming/online attitudes as some form of hierarchy.
b) The demographics of gaming/internet usage appear (at least initially) to contradict the stereotype.
c) Anecdotally at least, it is possible to get great positive benefit from gaming/internet usage, above and beyond the mere hobby derived enjoyment of the pursuit.
*Okay, almost no money. Well, very little money. Not so much as you'd notice. Barely 90% of my salary. A pittance.