Do you sometimes feel playing WoW is like being part of a hidden society? A weird and obscure subculture that the mainstream is unable to decode?
A thread on the forum titled Are you a WOW closet player? is one of many signs that WoW carries a STIGMA, and it wasn’t hard for me to compile a lot of testimonials from players sharing their experiences with it. As you can see, I framed some of them in this post.
My real life friends know I play WoW, but since none of them play themselves, they care very little. Even though I told my best friend that I’ve named a character (one that is close to my heart) after her, shown her how a draenei looks and what it means to be a shaman, it didn’t seem to phase her much. I on the other hand, considered it a great gesture, but WoW doesn’t always seem to be converted easily for non-players.
“Even when in the bus with my friend who plays a little too, I don’t really wanna talk
about WoW because everybody around me starts looking at me like “WTF”
Are you ashamed/embarrassed to tell (new) people that you are into this game or talk about it in public places with other players? “
I knew WoW was not suitable for all circles, but I was dissapointed at the people who didn’t play themselves, but would still display tremendous ignorance and prejudice about it.
Pairing “addiction” with “World of Warcraft” on Google, will give you plenty of reason to believe it’s only horrifyingly bad for you.
I also believe that players amongst themselves will stigmatize each other, using the common phrase that some other player “needs to get a life”. You can often find players over-emphasizing the fact, that they indeed have a life outside of WoW, in case anyone was suspecting them of being a stereotypical wow player, which would be someone lacking “a life”. I see it as an attempt to disconnect with the common negative associations of MMO’s.
In WoW, there’s a fine line between being a top of the chart raider, to being dumped in the addicted category by others, including other players.
So – as a WoW player, you face being regarded as weird and antisocial by other people, namely non-gamers, if you come out of the WoW-closet – and you risk being called a no-lifer by the very people you share this online world with.
I wish that we, the players, could shed this stigma and claim with no fear of judgement, that we play WoW as a hobby.
I wish Blizzard did more to combat a stigma that is probably causing potential players to turn against MMORPG’s, as they don’t want to be considered geeky. Not forgetting their active players who face “the look” from others, when claiming to be affiliated with WoW. That is sad.
I’m not claiming that there are no negative sides to MMORPG’s and that addicts don’t exist, I just don’t believe the ca. 11 million people playing WoW are all crazily addicted losers. I’m annoyed that any mention of an MMO outside of the community, starts at minus.
I’ve only seen little media coverage about the benefits of playing an MMO, as a networking platform, as a tool that can enhance stategic thinking and problem-solving skills – and as a place where we engage in a social world, organize in guilds, form friendships, some of which can be just as meaningful as real life ones.
A study called MMORPG Hours vs- Tv Hours by Nick Yee published on his homepage “The Deadalus Project” is a great argument against people you encounter, who overreact when they learn you’re into MMORPG’s.
“MMORPG gamers spend on average 21.0 hours per week playing the game (N = 1996), and spend on average 7.7 hours per week watching TV (N = 1996). The national average for TV watching per week is around 28, which is what the above averages add up to. In other words, this lends support to the claim that time that was spent watching TV has been displaced by MMORPG playing.” (My emphasis).
In other words: People who play an MMORPG, play on average LESS hours than others spend watching TV. In fact, they spend very close to the same amount of weekly leisure time entertaining themselves through media, as non-gamers.
So this myth about all WoW-players being addicted is fiction, and perhaps the focus of the discussion should really be about which media has the most advantages. TV has both good and bad sides, perhaps the most prominent disadvantage being the passiveness of the viewer. MMO’s are interactive and engaging, but all this is a whole other discussion.
As I went through the posts by WoW-players, thankfully not all of them reported this stigma, and some of the ones who did, said they worked against it by not censoring themselves and instead acting as it was okay and nothing to be ashamed about.
I mentioned the fact I was a WoW-player as well in a job interview once. The two store managers (who were the same age as me) doing the interview, instantly went “yeah…” looked away and started talking about it as if it was a bad habit, kind of like smoking (and they even SOLD World of Warcraft games in their store).
And that’s the usual reaction I get – a reminder of the downsides of MMO’s, the dramatic media-conceived image of addicted players. Should I add, that I, unlike the lucky priest above, did not get the job, although I have no certainty that it was due to the stigma.
Right now the best I can do, is to join the fight against the stigma and treat MMORPG’s as something completely normal, and perhaps one day it won’t be a big deal anymore. The quote from the poster below wraps up my point nicely. Most people seem to have changed their opinion about WoW AFTER they started playing themselves, but that is not neccesarily what I’m after. Rather, I wish for MMO’s to be a casual thing, perceived by friends and family, gamers and non-gamers alike – as a hobby, alongside other hobbies.
At least I hope the poster below is a voice of the future.