Are You Ashamed Of Playing MMOs?
Last year I watched a fascinating documentary called Race to World’s First which followed the struggles of an American World of Warcraft guild called Blood Legion in their attempts to becoming, surprise, surprise, the world’s first guild to down raid bosses in WoW. I don’t know the exact details of how the rankings work but, essentially, you get scored on how quickly you progress through the raid system, all in attempt to be the first guild in the world to take down new bosses as they are made available. I guess it’s like a high level macro game that makes the raid component of WoW far more competitive, all with the top guilds in the world battling for that special number one position.
The documentary is very good and I’d definitely recommend shelling out the three bucks it costs to watch it as it not only offers a real insight into the types of people that get sucked into this ultra competitive sub-world of WoW raiding but it shows a lot of the human side to it all. Just like some of the best documentaries out there, it doesn’t labour too much on the mechanics of the game but instead takes a detailed look at the people who play it and how it affects their lives.
Strangely enough, the film both reinforces and negates in equal measure many of the stereotypes that we associate with hardcore MMO gaming. For instance, it came as no surprise to me that a fair number of the individuals seen in the documentary to some degree embodied the negative assumptions we place upon gamers, such as being unemployed or living at home with their parents or being physically unhealthy etc (for the record, I’m not here to judge and I couldn’t give two hoots about someone else’s lifestyle). Surprisingly though – or maybe not so much, depending on your perspective – there were also plenty of positive images reflected as well, such as the friendship, camaraderie, and general social benefits that playing MMORPGs can bring. Likewise, the stereotypical myth that only single, overweight, unattractive men play video games was totally destroyed by the presence of plenty intelligent, attractive and socially mobile males and females.
Perhaps the most interesting thing of all though was how these players were perceived by their friends and family and the lengths to which some people either had to justify their hobby, defend it or completely hide it. Now, I’m not saying locking yourself in your bedroom for 12 hours a day playing video games is healthy but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the activity itself is still regarded very negatively by a lot of the Western world. Frankly, I think it rather odd that someone who, for instance, was obsessed with golf or football or knitting is regarded as perfectly normal yet those who enjoy anything related to computers are still ostracized. I’ll caveat that by saying that really any hobby should be enjoyed in moderation and not obsessively to the point of impacting other parts of ones life.
However, it seems that even in this day and age, many of us are still ashamed by our MMO hobby. Something that really stood out for me in the Race to World’s First documentary was the particular case of one of Blood Legion’s members (a Paladin who I’ve completely forgotten the name off) who told no one, not even his closet friends and family, that he played WoW. He was also the furthest thing from any type of gamer stereotype, a well-balanced, physically fit and highly social individual who somehow (I’m guessing he didn’t sleep much) managed to squeeze a hardcore raiding schedule into his demanding life as a law student at a good university. He was the epitome of a closet gamer and didn’t want anyone to know that he did it.
I understand completely where he’s coming from. It’s not that I’ve ever gone to great lengths to hide my interest in MMORPGs but, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I don’t exactly make a big deal out of the fact that I’ve being playing them constantly for 13 years either. They are a big part of my life and yet, upon reflection, I suppose it is a little sad that I’m not more proud of it. Somehow, regardless of how open and enlightened the modern world is today, and even how much the term ‘geek’ is becoming a positive rather than a negative, I still feel there’s something decidedly embarrassing about admitting that you play online RPG video games.
See, even there I just used the term ‘admitting’ as if acknowledging the hobby is ‘wrong’.
Although video gaming itself is slowly becoming more accepted, there still seems to be something about the MMO genre in particular (maybe something to do with the Dungeons & Dragon RPG aspect or the time requirements factor perhaps) but somehow it still just feels… odd… to come out and talk about it with non-gamers. Ironically enough, I’ve never been judged or criticised for my interest in it at all yet, no matter how much I know that there’s nothing embarrassing about playing MMOs, I can’t quite bring myself to being confident about it in discussing it openly with anyone or everyone I meet. If someone asks me what I’m into it, MMOs are probably the last thing I’m going to tell them about.
So, am I ashamed of playing MMOs? If I’m being completely honest, yes, maybe just a little, something that is fundamentally wrong because I shouldn’t have to feel that way. I’m a well balanced individual with a good family life, a good career, and staggeringly handsome to boot. I shouldn’t have to feel even remotely the slightest bit ashamed of loving MMOs. And neither should you.