December 7, 2010

Is It Just a Game?

"A mentally and emotionally healthy adult would not become addicted to an MMORPG"

Recently I have heard the words "it's just a game" being kicked around chat a lot and it's really started me thinking. I mean that's a great phrase to calm yourself with when you're mad about a KS, but the fact is that the social and competitive nature of MMORPGs is what attracts many people to the game. Yes, in fighting a boss, you beat a computer-generated set of parameters, but to many players there's also the fact that you beat another person at a task or a skill, like amount of damage done or healing done.
The very popular add-on, StatRating, lets everyone know who is 'winning' in every fight. For those Type A's out there, this is a vital component of a MMORPG that is missing in an offline game, and it feeds their sense of success, accomplishment, and even, unfortunately, superiority.

As for the social side, if you wanted to play a game by yourself, you would. There are plenty out there. But in ROM you can meet people, talk, laugh, flirt, share stories and jokes and knowledge and adventures, learn more about life, REAL life, from the personalities and anecdotes of your fellow players. Like me, a lot of folks don't discover the social aspect of the game until they enter a guild. Then you quickly realize the benefit of having a group of friends who have your back, who care if you log off, who might even lend you a listening ear when life gets you down.
Of course, you also realize how easily it can disintegrate into petty squabbling, hurt feelings and rage-quits. A ROM guild can be like a family, a mental institution, a fraternity, or an orgy, depending on your guild of course!  :)

So my own personal take on MMORPG addiction and social interaction? The thing is, I do have other hobbies but all of them involve solo pursuits anyway. I like losing myself in a good book. I like going for walks in nature. I like wildlife photography and camping and pondering the universe while staring at the stars.
I'm not a team player. I don't enjoy sports. I don't really even enjoy sitting around in a coffee shop chatting with girlfriends a la Sex in the City. This is not something new. In my childhood I spent my recess in the library stacks devouring books. My first boyfriend was the guy who was sitting in the stack next to me, peeking at me through the bookshelves. We read Shogun together because it was the thickest book we could find. We were ten.

A good friend of mine said to me yesterday: "Hate to break it to you, but you're not going to meet anyone locked in your apartment playing ROM." At first I was slightly offended, but soon I realized that what he said was not necessarily true. I have met lots of people. I have met more people online than I ever would have met in real life. My sister and I joke that I am not socially 'ept'. In real life situations I am quite shy and very rarely have the nerve to talk to strangers or mingle at parties, although my 'butterfly' sister insists on dragging me out to them.

Yet here in ROM we are all free from the social stigmas that prevent easy interaction. There are no visual cues. You can't dismiss someone because of their color, weight, acne, age, bad teeth, or any other of the myriad of insignificant physical details that we judge people by. Personality wins. An intelligent, witty, funny, helpful player in ROM is going to have more friends than that handsome jerk with the six pack abs who wants nothing more than to use you and toss you.

Yes, we are all playing a game, but while we are playing, we are interacting. The feelings that players have are real. People fall in love and get their hearts broken. There is jealousy, rage, lying, cheating and stealing. But there is also kindness, generosity and compassion. The entire range of human emotions is here in Taborea, hiding behind an avatar and a screen name.

I urge you, all of you, don't ever, EVER allow yourself to pretend that these toons are not real people. Every comment that you toss into chat, into Vent, is heard by another human being.

In ROM, your words are all you have, so use them wisely and well, my friends.

4 comments:

  1. Awenspiration/DerrinDecember 7, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    Great article! Well said...but why are you mad about a Kalin's Shrine?

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  2. BTW, the linked quote at the top about addiction is not my opinion in any way. I found the article to be a bit condescending and over-generalized. I linked it as I thought I might provoke discussion and thought.

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  3. lol @ Derrin....I think they meant KS as in Kill Steal, not Kalin's! lol

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  4. Come to Grimdal, where you can nerdrage over dropping gear to a PKer who just ganked you, all while being killstealed! :D

    The myriad of personalities/lifestyles make the possibilities of game-usage nearly (if not entirely) infinite - and so long as it isn't harming anyone, who are we to judge? I believe too much of a good thing is bad, for sure, but I don't think people should always adhere to the social norms placed on every conceivable thing known to man.

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