Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Curse the Game that I Enjoy Playing

PopMatters has an article by Elizabeth Cho on playing World of Warcraft. Let me note at the beginning that it's pretty well written. But it's another article complaining about how bad it is for Blizzard to make a game that you enjoy and want to play. Sometimes her prose gets pretty purple.
Is ‘Once an addict, always an addict’ true, I wondered? Is Warcraft madness a manifestation of addictive personalities or is it a natural consequence of coming into contact with something so addictive? Perhaps certain people are more prone to addiction, because their lives lack something not even a puppy can fulfill. Are Warcraft players lonely, disconnected people who become dependent on the social matrix and virtual life that Warcraft offers? That’s the reigning stereotype of Warcraft player and I’m its counterexample. I’m a happy girl in my 20s with many friends, diverse interests and a successful career. I have never had other common addictions—caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, recreational drugs, etc. So why was I so helplessly addicted to Warcraft?
I have a dog, I'd like to point out. Actually everybody I know who has World of Warcraft (my Brother, Caleb) has a dog. So maybe that's the connecting tissue.

But the truth is this kind of article is annoying to me because it dramatizes a pretty simple problem with life. Sometimes things you enjoy take you away from other things you enjoy. Sometimes you take pleasure over meaning. But the thing is World of Warcraft is no more to blame than Harry Potter books or Grindhouse Cinema. It's just the way people are. Is it any more noble at the end of a weekend when you didn't do anything to say "Well I watched TV" over "Well, I played World of Warcraft."

Instead you just make what is, at base, a pretty simple choice. What do I want to do? If it's World of Warcraft, there's nothing particularly wrong with that, just don't bitch when that novel you want to write doesn't get written. It's your call, not the games.

Cho seems to come to a pretty similar conclusion at the end of her article, but not quite.
There is tremendous excitement at immersing myself in Burning Crusade this new, improved world of Warcrack. Yet there’s a profound sadness creeping up on me, too. I’m realizing that I don’t have the time to start a new character, as I would want to, from level 1. In the end, it depends on which world one prefers to invest in; the real one or in the virtual one. I chose the “real world”, even if “real” is a debatable concept, since how much you invest in time and Warcraft money, and invest in creating your character, friendships, etc., makes a world seeming more real than the real one, and gives the Warcraft world visceral dimension. That’s the beauty and complexity of Warcraft; it’s a social organism. As any half-serious World of Warcraft player will tell you: it’s not just a game, it’s a way of life.
No, actually, it's not a way of life. It's a game. A fun game. But your way of life is your way of life.

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