Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are we running away or towards? And does it really matter?

I've become facinated with the WoW phenomenon. In case you have been stuck under a rock in the gaming world, that's "World of Warcraft", and it's apparently more addictive than cocaine. It's a MMORPG which is a 'massively multiplayer online role-playing game'. No joke. It's huger than huge. I've heard tales of it ruining people's lives, causing divorce, careers sufferning, and health problems all because of this addiction. It's certainly changing people's lives, and our society. For better or for worse. Here's how it works: You subscribe to the game, you don't buy it. You can choose which kind of gameplay you want, which society you belong to, and what class you will be. Right there, it's better than life. In life, you're born into these things, and changing your lot in life takes a huge effort. In WoW, you just pay a fee if you want to try something new. There is a whole world in there. Your character can gain knowledge, skills, talents, and become more developed. You go on quests. You can trade things. You can make money. And to get the more complicated gameplay, you can team up with a group, and everyone's class works together to achieve a goal. It's brilliant. It's progressive and it's rewarding. Unlike life a lot of the time. I can see why this has become such an international craze. China seems to be the most addicted, as a nation. I'm sure that says something about the quality of life in WoW, vs the quality of life in China. And people are making money for real, in the real world, by being good in the game, or at least playing it so much, that they can't help but get things that other people want. Desperately. Or so I've heard.

Then I read a quote from a comment on John August's site, who btw, has a post that had me in stitches, but was quite illuminating, as he's known to do. http://johnaugust.com/archives/2007/seven-things-warcraft "Seven things I learned from World of Warcraft. The quote was from Sean William Menzies and he said "We live in a society so rich that grown men can afford to stay boys much longer than they should."

Now I don't know about you, but all this kind of saddens me in a way. Should grown men not be allowed to stay boys if they can? I supposed if they have responsibilities that they're shirking, like children or dogs, then sure. But I was all for Peter Pan never growing up. He had a lovely life, flying around and fighting with pirates. Is society as we know it, stifling our playful side? The mundane must do's, the people pleasing and the struggle to carve out a niche for yourself, one that most people aren't satisfied with, can get a bit tedious after a while. Is this why so many people have become addicted to a world where you can actually be someone you want to be, and get someplace you want to go while having fun doing it? Are we that unsatisfied with our real lives? And if we are, then why do so few people do anything about changing it? Why can we put massive efforts into our avatar's lives, but not our own? It is because we don't have to actually get our asses off a chair in WoW? Is it because we don't actually have to really learn how to do things? It's certainly a quicker route to success. Have we really become the instant-satisfaction-pill-poppers that don't need the satisfaction of true knowledge, or true discovery, or real experiences? Are the rewards no longer sufficient for the effort required? Are we burned out on trying so damn hard and not getting anywhere? Have our expectations for what we think we should be getting out of life, exceeded what's realistic and available, and so we seek it in a place where there's an unlimited supply of potential success, even if it's just a game? Have our real lives become that unsatisfying?

BUT the need for escapism hasn't changed. People have always loved books, movies, and soap operas. We all escape from our lives in different ways. Perhaps writing is a way as well. I escape into worlds I've created, with people that I love, but aren't real. Is that so different? I don't think so.

So, what's changed? Technology. And this is just the beginning of what will become available. With the wild success of WoW, and technology racing into the future faster than we can keep up, what is around the corner to take us away from it all? Will our world become fragmented into two places? The real world, and the virtual world. Escapism will be taken to new highs. Which do you think will be a better place to live?


  1. Hi Lyse,

    Interesting post!

    I'm all for people not 'growing up', in the sense that I don't think people should ever give up the things they find joy in. (That said, if your tastes change as you grow, then move with them.)

    I've had addictive spells with video games, so I'm very wary now of anything like WoW. Video game addiction was pretty bad for my self-esteem, so I'm glad I'm kicked the habit.

    Plus I feel I have better things to do with my time trying to further my stuff in the 'real world'. But that's my call, so I don't write off video games totally...

  2. Thanks Sean. I find the video game phenomenon fascinating, certainly when it affects a person's life or psyche. And good for you for choosing the real world. We in the real world are very happy you did.:)

  3. I'm in AWE...
    That those of you in this Never Never land of Virtu-Reality even think of such ideas - let alone figure out how to cope and live with them!
    Personally, I just step around the edges of this New World and then hop right back into the one I've become familiar and somewhat confortable with, breathing a huge sigh of relief that I was born such a long time ago,
    before I'd have to get with all this stuff or be a dimwit.

    But then, I'm only your mother, and a Raving Fan, so does my opinion count anyway? :)

    Your Raving Fan

  4. Hi Mom, though tainted with a mother's brush, your opinion ALWAYS counts! Where would I be without my fan base of one?! ;) xo

  5. "Shirking responsibilities" is what I meant. Staying Young-at-Heart is a good thing; staying Young-at-HEAD is a disaster.

    Ultimately, it is up to the individual to develope the discipline on how much gaming he or she does, but when there is fast food within arms reach, and parents to pay the rent, and no job to trouble one the next morning when the sun comes up after a long night of jerking joysticks with each other, most will not get off their fat asses to make the world they complain about a better place. THIS world of humans, not a cartoon world of elves and fairies.

  6. Hi vilgodizal/Sean? Thanks for the post!

    When I read your comment, I understood this to be what you meant. And I agreed with you, and still do. But as always when I think about this topic, I felt a little sad. So I did what I do when something strikes a cord with me. I write about it. What was it that made me sad? Was it that Peter Pan has to grow up and leave Neverland? Or is it that the real world is so much more difficult and disatisfying to so many people that they'd rather live in a work of elves and fairies? Or perhaps it's that people have grown so lazy and spoiled with instant gratification that putting in a real effort for real rewards has lost it's appeal.

    I find that if we think about WHY this has happened (fast food, confused parents and a sinfully easy life being part of it!) then perhaps we can somehow brace ourselves for the onslaught that's thundering towards us with new technology that will make an alternate reality even more tempting than it already is.