One of the things that amazes and frustrates me is our society’s vendetta against gaming. Of course, this issue has always been at the back of my mind ever since gaming became one of the things that defines me, but it has been particularly magnified ever since I started WoW. There’s a reason for this, and that is that before WoW, I’d been mainly playing single-player games. This will be touched upon later on.
I’ve made the argument for gaming before, and I think with this new insight that WoW and MMORPGs have brought me, it’s time to bring it forth again.
Things have changed
Most of the arguments against gaming stem from its early days, when gaming was Pac Man and arcades. It’s easy to see why gaming was regarded as a waste of time; all you did was make a little yellow circle thing that’s supposed to be a man run around in a dark room eating white dots and running away from ghosts on a TV screen. They were ugly and simple.
Today, games are neither ugly nor simple. While some of it has to do with the advances in technology, one will find that the most successful games use a little something called art. There are a staggering number of examples of art of all kinds littered throughout gaming.
The most obvious form of artistry to distinguish is visual art. One of the most interesting things about gaming is that it shows that technology is not a substitute for art. Take The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, for example. Wind Waker was mocked endlessly when the first details of its distinct visual style was revealed. It was the least realistic looking Zelda game in recent memory and looked like a children’s cartoon. And yet, once gamers started playing it, the most noticeable thing was that, despite its goofy looks, the world inside the game looked organic and very alive.
The other sense that gets used is hearing. The role of music in games pretty much the same as in movies. Music heightens and evokes emotion and is a supplement to what is going on in-game. The most obvious and famous example of gaming music is the work of Nobuo Uematsu, in Final Fantasy. Just about the easiest way to convince someone that gaming music is actually good music is to play pretty much any gaming song’s orchestral arrangement, especially Final Fantasy.
The last portion of artistry that is found in games is the writing. Today, games are judged with much more weight given to its plot than almost anything short of gameplay. For instance, take Starcraft. It’s essentially a science fiction war simulation and some would argue that it is primarily a multiplayer game. Good writing isn’t essential to a good, balanced strategy game. And yet, if you read through the manual, over half of it is devoted to the background of each of the factions and the origins of each piece of technology you can acquire. And in-game, there is a plot, in which you can see the histories outlined in the manual come full circle. One of the most striking things about Starcraft in particular is that it had a cast of characters that was well written. Keep in mind that this is a two-dimensional game played on an isometric grid and not the amazing three-dimensional world of dedicated role-playing games.
The Socially Inept
And here is the second part of society’s problem with gaming. There is this ridiculous belief that gaming is detrimental to a person’s social skills. That is bull. In the case of single-player games, the amount of social isolation that is incurred is about the same as reading a book, as shown above. Unless you claim that reading books is bad because it isn’t a social activity, well, then this argument holds no water.
As for multiplayer games, I can’t even believe this is an issue. What’s more social than a bunch of people playing a game together? I will laugh at you in your face if you even suggest that watching a movie is more of a social activity than gaming. Right in your face. I think it’s clear why.
Oh, but what about gaming over the Internet, you say? And this is where my experience with WoW comes in.
I think the reason why gaming over the Internet is considered isolating is that there’s no physical interaction. I think that that objection is complete bull. For one thing, social interaction is an emotional thing. Am I socially inept if I’m in another country and talking to all of my friends on the phone?
And that’s what guildmates are: they’re friends in other parts of the world, in which you wouldn’t be able to meet or interact with if it weren’t for said game. Friends are those who share common interests. My common interests with my guildmates happen to be WoW, Penny Arcade, and getting hawt epicsssss.
I think the problem is that people forget that people on the Internet are human. We’re so concerned about evil people on the Internet that we demonize it and everyone who takes part in it. Here’s a tip, if you’re not a complete idiot, you can still make friends on the Internet without giving away critical personal information.
Why all of this?
And so here is the thing that provoked this post. I started playing WoW at Christmas of 2006. I joined the Penny Arcade Alliance on Dark Iron. The PAA is a meta-guild of Penny Arcade fans that comprises twelve guilds and three thousand members. WoW and the PAA have been an amazingly enlightening experience. If you hope to be anything near successful at WoW, then you will find that you will need social skills.
In the endgame, there is high-level content accessible only through large group encounters called raids. In the Burning Crusade, these are for groups of twenty-five, but there were encounters for up to forty before the expansion. Coordinating a group of twenty-five to do anything is not an easy task.
But it’s just a game!
I’ve started raiding, and I’ve been getting funny looks from people when I say that I can’t commit to something because I’ve committed to a raid. Based on the preconceptions that people have about gaming that I’ve mentioned above, I can’t really say I blame them. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ll drop all my raids to accommodate people. Why?
The thing to remember is that all raiders, whether they like it or not, are people with lives. Basically, it’s rude. I’ve been in raids where we couldn’t get started because one person was missing. No one likes having their time wasted. Trying to coordinate 25 people is hard enough without people not doing what they’re supposed to before they’ve even started. You wouldn’t not show up to practice for your basketball game on Monday right? Then I won’t not show up at my Magtheridon raid on Tuesday with all of my flasks and potions ready.
I’ve made it a point to fight against sports in my mind, because honestly, the line between gaming and sports is simply the amount of physical interaction. Sure, sports are more physically intensive, but that’s about the only thing that makes them different.
One of the things that really bug me is this belief that sports is unquestionably good. I really disliked the emphasis on the gym whenever we had one in our fellowships. Here’s another tip: sports does not automatically mean great program. Why? Because not everyone is into sports. Shocking, I know. How did I come across this? Well, because I’m one of those people. I’m sure I’m not the only one though, but whenever it’s time to use the gym, I get to sit awkwardly. No, inviting people to play volleyball with you will not make people who aren’t into sports any more comfortable.
The fanaticism that surrounds sports is staggering. I’d say it’s about as bad as people assume gaming to be. Think about it: you’re watching ten guys run around chasing a ball, so they can throw it into a hoop. Yeah, it’s really different from how I’m describing it, I know, but guess what? Everyone does that to gaming. I’m not saying sports are bad, I’m saying think about the worth of sports and think carefully about the worth of gaming.
Essentially what I’d really like people to do more of is thinking.