Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

“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.

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

  1. Pingback: So, why do you play WoW? And how do you convey this to others? | Read Between The Lines

  2. Livae
    December 24, 2010

    I’ve been playing WoW since I was thirteen (6 years now). My parents and my brother play as well. We talk about it alot, and I mention it to my non-gaming friends. We talk about it in restaurants and such, but I only get embarassed when we’re at a restaurant and the server comes up and all he hears is a bunch of random garble. But I know he’s probably heard worse. I used to be more embarassed by being a WoW player but it’s now become something to embrace.

  3. Pingback: Spending New Years Eve in WoW | Ironyca Stood in the Fire

  4. Pingback: If I Had Started Playing in Cataclysm | Ironyca Stood in the Fire

  5. logtar (@logtar)
    February 14, 2012

    MMO>TV! :) Great Post, wish I would have read it a while back, could have linked back to this a bunch of times.

    • ironyca
      February 14, 2012

      Thanks Logtar!
      I’m currently wondering whether anything has changed between now and when I wrote this – probably not, haha!

  6. Raichu
    March 21, 2012

    I’m a WoW player with 3 85’s (soon to be 4), I’ve been playing since the end of vanilla, and I’m a girl. I’m also in band, will be majoring in either music ed. or therapy (haven’t decided yet) in college. I seem like a “lifeless” fellow to most people since I have a double whammy going, but I’m not afraid to admit that I play WoW. In fact, people think that WoW is the last thing in the world I would play. My best friends (mostly male) play WoW too and we geek out all of the time when we’re together. I used to be embarrassed by the fact that I play WoW, and I thought I was never going to get a boyfriend because of that, but I was wrong. Life’s pretty great right now as a WoW player. Can’t wait till MoP. (Because I’m getting a little tired of Cata) X3

    • ironyca
      March 22, 2012

      “I used to be embarrassed by the fact that I play WoW, and I thought I was never going to get a boyfriend because of that, but I was wrong.”

      Aaw, I’m glad things turned around for the better! And actually, it’s my impression that a lot of guys love having a girlfriend that understands WoW. It’s my knowledge that most girls are actually introduced to the game by a male acquaintance, whether it’s the brother or the boyfriend, the guys are eager to play with us, which is great!

  7. somakitsune
    September 20, 2012

    I’m relatively new to WoW and even before I started playing it, I never understood the social stigma people attach to it; viewing it in roughly the same light as that first quote. Generally, I’m honest with people about what I do- I don’t see what’s so bad about playing a game in which you actively mix with, team up with, and even form friendships with people. When compared to the anonymous, temporary mingling seen in more mainstream games, it’s definitely what I’d rather be doing.

    • Ironyca
      September 21, 2012

      It’s cool to hear you had a positive and open attitude to WoW before playing it. Because it’s such a mainstream game, everyone has an opinion about it, even the ones who really have no clue (i.e. media!).

  8. Pipet
    February 6, 2013

    I used to be one of those people. being a player of runescape most of my life, i always saw wow as a rival game to RS, and my friend, who plays RS casually suggested we try wow. I replied with “ew, and ve virgins forever? No thanks dude.” however i soon gave in after another friend compared me to a dwarf from LOTR. and made my dwarven hunter, aylwin.
    it’s been over a year now, and i regret hating the game without reason for so long, aylwin has since been left on the dead realm he was created on(i will come back for you, old friend) and i know play a female gnome monk called pipet as my main character. my friend and i play together daily, and although we have both since left school and havent seen eachother in months, i see his toon gilderen everyday, like he is my characters friend, i no longer see him as my friend. anyway i’ve trailed off, sorry for the long story. great reading all of your work, ironi

    • Ironyca
      February 11, 2013

      Thanks Pipet, and thanks for your short story about becoming a WoW-convert ;)

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2010 by in Opinion and Discussion and tagged , , , , , , .


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