Tuesday, June 27, 2006

World of Warcraft

As you all know by now, I love science fiction, fantasy, and video games. It should come as no surprise, then, that I am an avid fan of the Massively Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Game (MMORPG) phenom known as World of Warcraft. (Commonly abbreviated as simply, WoW) I could wax poetic about the game-play, the depth and beauty of the world, the intricacies of the background lore and the plot of the stories currently being told. But honestly, none of those are the reason I'm writing about WoW. What's really been striking me lately is the sense of community. WoW literally hosts thousands of players in their world (or worlds, if you want to get all techincal about the different servers and so on)--and even more than that, the game itself is set up to facilitate and even encourage communication and cooperation with the other people inhabiting the world with you. I've been discovering a lot about what that means to the game.

Even though most of us will tell you that we play to relax, that we immerse ourselves in this fantasy world as an escape from
the real one... it turns out there is no escape. Of course, some of us immerse ourselves more deeply and for much, much more time than others, but even if you were to completely loose yourself in a psychotic and unhealthy World of Warcraft bender... there's still no escape from reality. You see, WoW bares all the marks of every other kind of community, if you look at it. I'm sure that some college, or graduate student somewhere is doing a paper on the WoW society. It has it's own language, it's own slang, it's own social rules, heck, it has it's own economy. And of course all of these things are impacted by the rules inherent to the game, but the rules of the game are certainly not the whole, here. There's even some religion, if you're looking for it. For the most part priests are little more than glorified doctors, but still... it's in there.

There are organized groups of players, called Guilds, each of which has it's own philosphy or outlook, complete with politics
and pariahs. And again, the structure of the game impacts all this. After all, there are goals in-game that can only be accomplished by groups of 5, 20, or even 40 players working together. You don't have to be a member of a guild, but it helps. And besides which, guilds are often recruiting, and if you're un-guilded, they aren't afraid to harass you into joining!

But my point is this... that all the guilds and groups and societal structures are made up of people like you and me who have the time and the money to play the game. There are sweethearts and @$$%^&es, heartbroken and heartless, mourning and joyful, couples, singles, bigots and social activists, just normal, fallible people.

And the funny thing is that as much as I try to relax when I'm on-line playing WoW, I still end up being the pastor. Next to no-one in that world knows my real name or what I do to bring home the bacon, and yet I end up providing the listening ear, or the shoulder to cry on. If I wanted to, I could say that I'm a 12 year old girl in Minnesota, but in the end you can't really hide who you are. Your real self shines through.

There is no escape.

And I think that's probably a good thing.

God loves you,
Be good to each other,
Rev Josh

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