MMOWTF: Feel The <3
Dan Fortier returns this week to talk about the way that your gaming life can affect your real life and vice versa.
Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.
It’s Monday morning an you stroll into work, late as usual, greet your fellow co-workers and head to your desk. Out of nowhere some guy from a different department you’ve never seen before runs up and starts punching you and is quickly joined by two of his buddies. You’ve been working at your job a lot longer so none of the punches land and you easily kill two of them before the other runs off cursing about how you cheated. You squat over your assailants and do the running man dance and throw in a bit of ‘the Robot’ for good measure to insure that they are suitably humiliated. Before heading off you loot them for whatever office supplies they had on them to sell to some of the new guys.
You head to your boss to get your tasks for today and he hands you a package to deliver to the IT department three floors up and he offers you an extra $25 if you do it in thirty minutes. As usual, someone is in their underwear being a jerk and blocking the elevator door while begging for money. Heading for the stairs, you notice a large pile of bodies just outside of the stairway door. Obviously some campers are taking advantage of the blocked elevator to ply their trade of death. You decide to ditch this mission and take the rest of the day off since the reputation loss is not that bad and you can always join a zerg company if you get fired. Looking outside at the carnage going on in the street below you wonder how many people you’re going to have to kill to get home.
This is a bit of an extreme and exaggerated example, but if people treated each other in real life the way they do in games, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. In games, everyone is an immortal rock star with a personal nickname who is held in awe by the regular, if stationary, populace. Anything you do and say to others has no consequence on your life outside of the game in most cases, although the reverse is not always true. This week I’m going to look at how your virtual life effects your ‘real’ one and vice versa.
Anyone who has sent and IM or read an online forum knows that they are much more likely to say what they think or throw insults when all that others know about them is their character or nickname. Sure, some folks spend years building up online reps and take pride in treating people as if they were standing front of them, but for the most part, the virtual anonymity is intoxicating and brings out the part of ourselves that we kept hidden since childhood for fear of being mocked. Being able to clear your name as easily as rolling an alt or registering another name makes people more likely to show their true colors. Online games are great place to show how great you are at being a vegetable, especially MMOs.
This kind of freedom is also the major reason people play MMOs too, since beating up on a computer opponent by yourself gets boring so matter how great the game is. Whether you’re fighting on the same team in ‘epic’ PvE or testing your ‘skill’ against other players, online games give us a chance to wave our mighty ‘e-peen’ in the faces of friend and foe alike. What other activity outside of a Renaissance Fair can a 90lb weakling become a mighty barbarian who inspires fear in his enemies. No wonder some of the keyboard warriors out there find our genre addicting.
When people create characters in games, they typically choose ones that are similar or polar opposite to their real life persona. Given the vast number of playstyles and character classes that exist in games today it’s impossible to draw hard and fast rules but, in general, the characters we create somewhat embody the way that we want to be perceived. Some folks may choose whichever class gives them the biggest edge in combat, regardless of the style or method, but this also gives insight into their goals. Lots of studies, informal and otherwise, have looked at this from several angles but I still get a kick out of seeing a person at a convention whom I had played with online for several years and realizing I knew just what he would be like.
What effect do your successes or struggles in your game life have on your real life though? Despite all of the reasons just given as to why games are an escape from everyday life, things that only affect your character can have an effect on your real life as well. Everyone lets silly things change their mood for some reason or another and almost everyone has slammed a mouse, kicked a wall or yelled at someone in their house for no reason when things don’t go their way. A lot of emotion can carry over into real life whether it is positive or negative. I’ve seen just as many people walk around in a great mood after getting a great piece of gear as I have watched people sulk after getting griefed. It’s not always easy to draw a line between the two worlds, in fact you can’t fully enjoy either if you do.
MMOs are just like other games in that they can be more fun the more you immerse yourself in them. The difference is that most MMOs actively encourage and reward extreme participation with their design. Some folks even begin to let their fantasy life directly influence their lifestyle through their choice of clothing and speech. We all know a couple of folks at work who wear hoods or tell tall tales about their mastery of archery, arcane arts and swordplay with a straight face. While amusing, this represents the often overlooked influence that game have on all of us to some degree.
Enough of this psudo-psycho babble, I’m off to go dumb myself down some. Feel free to pour out your tiny heart on the subject if you’re in the mood. Back at you in seven.