Tag Archives: Stigma

If I Had Started Playing in Cataclysm

How much would be (hypothetically) different if you had joined the game later? Would you have made a different main? Picked a different server? Focused on a different aspect of the game? Or would everything be the same, only shinier? Or if you started playing in a later expansion, what would have been different if you started play sooner? Let me know in the comments!

This is the final paragraph in Mishaweha’s post at Me, Myself … And All of Them. She asks for comments, but I decided to reply here as my answer is a little too long.

"Welcome to all new students"

If I had started playing in Cataclysm my entire life would be different in several ways.

Most likely I wouldn’t be actually studying games, which I am right now.

The MMO genre (largely WoW) inspired me to eventually go in the direction of game studies. I had been studying psychology and communication until then, but felt like a change. At that point my education had been very broad, leaving it up to me to direct what specializations I wanted and instead of having a goal in mind, I just had fun with it, making choices out of pure interest. Because I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, I made sure the trip to getting a job eventually would be something I enjoyed, hoping that this would shape up to an equally enjoyable career. I’m not sure life is that generous and straightforward. Now that I’m getting closer and closer to that point, I have to spend some serious time this year figuring out how I can use my game studies background or whether I essentially painted myself in a corner.

It’s silly really, sometimes I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. My parents were nice and supportive when I told them I had enrolled, but they found it difficult to explain to friends and family what it was I actually did and with what purpose. Not that I can easily answer that myself.

"The History of Video Games" by SteveO526 on Deviant Art

What is even more silly is that I’m not even sure how much I identify as a gamer. Looking at the picture above of the excavated GameBoy Color meant to give an impression about the lineage of video games while also reminding us where it all started, for most of us anyways, maybe at least I had some training.

I didn’t own a GameBoy Color, my parents got me the earlier version, a red brick sized early generation Gameboy. Does this earn me at least a little gamer street cred? I loved this machine and cried when the kid of some friends of my parents deleted my saved file in Wario Land. It was embarrasing, the kid was much younger than me and I was too old to cry over something like this, but I had specifically instructed him NOT TO use the BOMB icon (duh) to explode my saved file, and the kid did it anyways, not out of disgruntlement but pure stupidity, so I wept.

Comparing myself to the other students, most of whom have played videogames extensively since forever, I fall horribly short. I knew it would be like this when I started back in August, but I told myself that I would just have to be strong and have some faith in myself and my strengths, easier said than done when my lack of geekyness is often exposed, or when I’m branded as “the WoW-player”. The latter has been impossible for me to escape, even when I’ve made an effort to accentuate my other gaming interests, fx Minecraft. It’s even worse when the WoW label becomes a derogatory and the stigma echoes within the circles that in theory should be the most inclusive and supportive. As they themselves must have had their passion ridiculed and trivialized by the mainstream, you’d think they wouldn’t be so hell-bent on me being the petty WoW-player, but no.

While I can convey my story as a lifetime gamer too if I wanted, I can also be honest and say that gaming isn’t any more interesting to me than say psychology and sociology, studying games just allows me to combine both.

I’ve not been forthcoming with linking this blog to my study mates, in fact I’ve kept it mostly secret, although I’m not sure how long it will remain so given how often gaming nicks are shared between us all. Then again, I’m not sure they would care, but if they did, I fear it would not be for the better as this isn’t an academic blog. Furthermore, the fact that one of my bigger influences in taking the direction I have, is my history with WoW dating back to vanilla, is not something that will legimatize my choice any further nor something tout-worthy amongst my study mates.

If I had started playing in Cataclysm, I would barely have thought of myself as a gamer, I wouldn’t have raided and probably never would either, I would have stayed at an extremely casual level and eventually quit. I would have been studying something completely different, perhaps the other line at my university called Digital Design and Communication, which I originally thought of applying to. When I went to the student advice office about a year ago to talk about the Digital Design and Communication line, I mentioned gaming and MMO’s to the advisor and he caught the moment and told me about the game studies line. He was not enrolled there himself but talked about it without bias and disparage and treated it as a completely valid choice for a master’s education. This was a revelation to me and I felt like my interest in WoW and more broadly social games and game communities were actual options I could pursue, so I went home and mulled about it.

I knew the biggest challenge would be myself and my insecurities, trying to fit in and not be singled out even though I would be walking around with a huge hunter’s mark above my head. A Robin amongst Batmans.

As a happy ending I can say that I’m glad I started playing in vanilla and took the path I did. Despite the fact I’ve probably painted a rather unpleasant picture of the social atmosphere at my univerisity, this is not the case. The people I study with are extremely nice and surprisingly good at initiating and organizing events for everyone, bursting the antisocal gamer stereotype, they are the most social bunch I’ve had the pleasure of studying with.

What Sort of Conversation Did She Expect Us to Have?

Another random, but this time angry, personal post – so consider yourself warned.

Today at work… 

Today at work (I work at a university library) I was in a good mood, the podcast I was listening to was entertaining, everyone had been nice.

I was bringing a book cart up to the 1st floor, when one of the librarians walked past me as I pushed the button to the elevator. She threw a wide smile at me, and I returned it, assuming she was mighty happy as well today. Before she opened to door to the office area, she turned around and said “I’ve always wanted to ask you this…

(Picture by isi-on-guitar on Deviant Art)

She was still smiling, and in this split second my head automatically finished the sentence for her: “What are you studying?” and conjured up a good answer “Oh I….” But I was wrong.

…What is your fighting weight?” she said while still looking bright.

“sorry?”

fighting weight

“I don’t own a scale, so I don’t know, but probably not much…” I answered.

…yeah” she concluded and proceeded through the door.

My elevator came up and I rolled the cart in while trying to process what had just happened. It felt like a slap in the face.

I am skinny, always has been. I’ve had people, friends, family approach me numerous times, often with curiosity towards why on earth I am this thin. One friend insisted that I could confess in her that I was anorexic.

The issue just is – I’m not anorexic nor bulimic. I don’t consider myself fat, I don’t starve myself, I don’t purge. I am not obsessed by dieting, I try to eat reasonably healthily. I love cake – If replacing one daily meal with cake didn’t have any repercussions in terms of health, I’d do it. Food has never had an effect on my weight, in fact, it’s been unfluctuatingly low since I became a teenager. But carrying the stigma of some eating disorder surely brings out the inquisitively insensitive sides of people.

I’ve seen this librarian around, I’ve greeted her, but we’ve never had a personal conversation, I don’t even know her name. Why was it any of her business what I weigh? And what sort of conversation did she expect us to have?

These are the best approximations I could come up with:

  • “Well, I’m asking your fighting weight because I like having my own normalcy relfected in deviant others, and… wanna fight?”
  • “I’ve heard your bones rattling around, could you count the protruding ones for me please?”
  • “Did you just walk out of a freak show and into the library? …I mean, haha, we already have a enough local weirdos hanging out in here”
  •  “Oh, so you weight X amount of kilos, I see …that’s the same as my left boob”
  • “Heeeey, I talk to all kinds of people, I’m open and tolerant like that. As long as I smile while being rude, I’m not only rude any longer, I’m also suspiciously psycho!”
  • “I’m genuinely interested in the state of your body, I note it down in my small brown book. Now we’re at it, how many times have you farted the last 24 hours?”
  • “Don’t mind me asking, I’m just this old grey haired, pear shaped woman who herself would be insistently offended if you asked me the same”
  • “Well, I want to know your weight so I can police you. Didn’t you know bodies with both upper and lower BMI’s are denied access to the public space? Of course unless you let us ridicule you, BEANPOLE!!!”
  • “Let’s measure the difference in centimeters between my waist and yours and multiply with how much I suck and then add the number of times you’ve been approached by rude people asking you this kind of shit”

Like.. what the fuck?

…I’m grapes by the way.

Why do you play WoW? And how do you convey this to others?

Have you ever had someone pull the “say whaaat?” face when you mention you play WoW?

In light of the stigma some feel in admitting they play WoW (I wrote a post about it called: “First rule of WoW, you don’t talk about WoW” – MMO’s and stigma) I tried to cover as much as I could think of, all the reasons people might have for playing, what they get out of it, and word it in a way non-players could understand and maybe even relate to.

I was inspired by Bethany’s post where she asks for her readers advice on how to ease people into knowing that she played WoW. I thought I’d try and make a list of things to say when people question “why on earth you chose to play that game”.

Maybe you can recognize yourself somewhere?

Professor Putricide wants to see you at his "office"

  • I play as an experiment.

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Players > NPC's

  • I find playing against and with other people in online games more rewarding than playing against pre-programmed robots or even watching tv.

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Problem-solving and Efficient Strategies

  • WoW provides stimuli for me to make me think logically to solve different problems. I like finding out the most efficient strategies and will sometimes approach the game as a puzzle that needs solving.

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Being Active by Being Challenged

  • I like being challenged, and to challenge myself, including in games where I can collaborate with others to meet an end goal. It’s sort of a hobby and keeps my mind active.

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Guild Management

  • I’m into guild management and put a lot of effort into dealing with all the circumstances that arise when leading 10 or 25 people towards a common goal, while also being attentive to maintaining the social ties around being part of a guild. It’s almost like Human Resources, just the virtual world version.

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Making New Friends

  • I like tying friendships in online games, it’s fun to play with a diverse group of people. Some are from different cultures and nationalities, some are much older/younger/richer/poorer than I am. And some are just like me.

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Maintaining Friendships

  • I like playing with my offline friends/girlfriend/boyfriend, it’s something active and fun for us to do together. Playing together can work really well in fx a long distance relationships.

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Economist in Training

  • I’m trying out my economical skills at the in game auction house, to see how rich I can get.

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Being Part of the WoW story

  • I like being part of this epic story. Imagine your favourite tv series, and how exciting it is to watch the latest episode, only in my case, I am the main character.

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Exploring New Fantasy Worlds

  • I like to explore this fantasy world. Think of fx the movie Avatar and how beautiful the planet Pandora was, wouldn’t you like to travel around in that world? (Watching Avatar in 3D doesn’t count)

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Competition

  • I’m competitive and I like my skills to be put to the test. In WoW I can fight in the arena or the battlegrounds against other players, and I always play to win. Getting server-firsts is also on my list.

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Decking out the Character

  • I like dressing my characters up. Collecting fancy, good looking clothing and accesories in order to put them together as a set, is part of the fun.

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Completion and Collections

  • I’m a collector, I like finding the rare and hidden “gems” in the game but also completing achievements. The more extravagant and rare the better. What others don’t have, I want.

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Roleplay and Player-driven Narratives

  • I like to roleplay in games. It’s like being part of an act, but there is no script. Instead I have to devise my characters identity, think on my feet and build a story with my fellow roleplayers.

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Unconventional Gameplay

  • I like setting up events in the game. I like arranging parties and making guildmeetings that much more engaging. I’m always trying to find crazy unconventional ways to have fun in the game.

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Griefing and Ganking

  • I like poking fun at people, I find it entertaining to tease and fool around with other players in the game, I laugh when others cry. Some might call me a griefer or ganker.

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Must... play... WoW...

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  • I am just straight out addicted.

I’m sure there’s a million reasons people play WoW or any other MMORPG for that matter. I play for several of the ones above.

Anything you would add to the list?

(Last updated 11/6-11)

“First rule of WoW, you don’t talk about WoW” – MMO’s and stigma

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.

Perhaps this was the experience another player also felt, since he posted the thread “Do you mention WoW in RL conversations?” finishing his post saying:

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 can relate to this guy. I once mentioned playing WoW in a coaching group, and several people reacted very strongly to it, calling it addictive, giving me the “you’re obviously not normal”-look.

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.

This stigma seems to be largely attributed to MMO-players, and not those that play.. say Call of Duty or Halo.

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.

Update (23th September 2010):

I found another post called “In Defence of MMO’s” on the blog “A High Lantency Life” which touches on this subject as well, adding some positives to why playing MMO isn’t neccesarily that bad.