Tuesday, 13 July 2010

What have I learnt? That the headgear don't make the player.

Blog Azeroth's shared topic this week asks us to look at what our hours (days, months, years...?) spent in Azeroth have taught us. Much as I'd love to write something lofty about learning how to make £££s IRL via goblin-ish AH ways, or tell you that I'm a much better manager having raid-led, it wouldn't be true.

What WoW has taught me is hard to define, but I'm going to give it a try, at least.

Waaaaay back along, when I started playing, I was completely new to gaming. I had no idea what an MMO was and it took me quite a long time to wrap my head around the fact that all these other characters running around, duelling, questing, talking and things were, in fact, other people. I'm trying to remember, through the mists of time, quite how enthralled and charmed I was by this concept. But I had no desire to partake in it really. I mean, I understood (eventually) the concept of guilds, but still, I didn't really want to be a part of one. Fortunately for me, husband the second had also taken a shine to the game and had bought himself a copy so we kinda moodled around together. And yes, eventually we joined a guild, and then left, with a few others to form our own one, then... stuff happened and hubby the second became ex-hubby the second and eventually I joined another guild which had people in it who raided. And this was a big scary concept - raiding. It was something the elite few did and there was obviously no way I was going to do that. Ever. And the rest, as they say is history...

But back on topic - kinda. I'm a trusting soul, in the main, someone who takes people at face value, even on the big scary interwebz. Which obviously is utterly insane isn't it? Because online, no-one is who and what they say there are, are they? It's the first rule of the web. Everyone knows that - doh! You know what WoW has taught me? Actually, many, many people ARE who and what they say they are. Not that they're blood/night elves, obviously. But that what you 'see' is what you get. Only you don't see them do you? What you get instead is their personality, their shine, their sparkle. I accept that fact that many people... 'edit' themselves online. Which might seem like an odd way of putting it - but when I say 'edit' I don't mean that they wilfully and deliberately mis-lead, rather that they heighten certain parts of themselves and lessen others.

The person I am online isn't 100% who I am in real life, but that's got a lot less to do with mis-leading people then it has to do with being... free. We all wear 'hats' - work hats, family hats, relationship hats, friendships hats. I'm a certain person at work, a certain person with my kids, a certain person with my parents, my sister, my wider family - not that the differences are big by a long way, but there's subtle stuff going on, I think there is with most people. When I'm in Azeroth (and putting RP aside for the moment) I'm just being who I want to be, unshackled from the expectations that people have in the real world. Himself has a friend who he refers to as the 'drunken philosopher' who argues that personality isn't intrinsic - that we are shaped by our interactions with others and the reactions we get from people. The first time Himself expounded on this theory I scoffed but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. When was the last time you felt 100% free? When you didn't have to bite your tongue, placate someone, support someone even though you're shattered yourself (because that's what you do, isn't it, for your friends?), when you didn't tell a white lie to behave in a socially acceptable manner?

But I digress again. What I'm trying (and failing, I think) to explain is that what I've learnt is that the majority of people in Azeroth are just getting on with their fun, their gaming, their socialising and being themselves. Do we really want to wear another 'hat' in our gaming life? Or do we just want to shrug off the expectations and get on with it? That's not to say people don't choose carefully who they 'share' themselves with - I'm not referring, in this post, to the random person that you PuG'd with once, but rather the guildies that you hang out on vent with. I've gamed with students, housewives, bankers, scientists, teachers, professional poker players, policemen and army types. And these are basically the 'verifiable' people who I've carried into RL 'friendships'. I haven't come across anyone who really, intentionally lied about who and what they are, with malicious intent. I've gamed with girls who play male characters to lessen the 'hassle factor' of being a female gamer. I've played with at least one 'genderless' person, for over a year in fact, in raids 3 or 4 times a week and it was never a big deal. Mischief was just 'Mis', a really decent, intelligent, witty person. They were deliberately genderless (gender free?) because it was how they felt most comfortable - more power to them.

In summary: what has WoW taught me? That whilst not everyone online is who they portray themselves to be, a lot of people in Azeroth are.


  1. I think you have a very good point there. Because the trolls, bigots and other miscreants are so intrusive, it's tempting to think of them as representing the majority of the player base, whereas the opposite is the case. Most people playing WOW are perfectly decent, civil folks who've come on line for an hour or so's relaxation.

  2. @ Sven - thank you. I'm glad that I'm not getting laughed off the page for my views (yet!)

    And you realise that this means that we're agreeing on something don't you...!

  3. in my first guild there was a warlock who told us they were a woman, and that her voice was so deep and rough because she'd had cancer of the throat. she got friends with our guild leader (a girl herself) and they got close friends and shared a lot of personal stories (about miscarriages, kids, husbands, stuff like that).

    after months we learned that it had all been a lie, because another trusted guild member got to know them IRL. What had sounded like a mans voice on vent had indeed been one ;-) i still sometimes wonder why he lied (he didn't try to lure a girl to meet him).

    ah well, i don't know if this incident taught me anything... maybe just that there are jerks in disguise too ^^

  4. @ Kao - yeah I guess that there will always be people who, for whatever reason, feel the need to mislead others. And the warlock you talk about presumabably had some stuff going on that he felt the need to spin such a web of lies through his online life.

    I just feel that on the whole, people tend to focus on the bad apples and not on the genuine ones - like Sven says above. And because I'm *such* a carebear I want to view the world as being full of bunnies and rainbows and sparkles :)

  5. Agree 100%. Most of the people I've met in WoW (PuGs aside) have been genuinely nice. I met several of them IRL and they were even nicer! I wouldn't be playing this game if it wasn't for the people, and I'm actually a bit worried, since my best WoW-friend and her boyfriend might be moving abroad (different continent, different WoW region).

    I never did get the impression people focus on the bad experiences, honestly. There are some forum trolls who make it sound like WoW is a hellhole of rudeness, but in my experience it's... well, not.