Friday, May 23, 2008

Social WoW

"You blog is too technical. That's boring. You should write about the social side of WoW. That's what people really want to read about".

It came from my sister, the only RL friend or relative who knows about this blog. (Being a former WoW player I thought she could get something out of reading it, to anyone else I know it would be just as alien and nerd classified as anything else related to the game, so I keep it for myself and my WoW friends).

"Technical? She must be joking," I thought. In my world Larísas corner is anything but technical. It's completely void of boss strategies - there are so many websites out there doing it much better than I ever could, so why should I even try? And there are no in-depth analyses, like comparing the value of spell haste and intelligence for arcane mages.... At my current level of knowledge I'm a reader and user of Elitistjerks - but definitely not a provider.

I'm just writing a blog to share my perspective of the game, which actually is pretty much a social one. If it wasn't for the social side of the game I would have left it long time ago.
I'm fascinated by guild life - by the birth and deaths of guilds. I've seen guilds born out of rage, not lasting even one day (pretty much like any Las Vegas marriage I guess, although they're probably arranged out of lust rather than out of fury). Others keep going for years and will probably still be around until Blizzard one day shuts down the last server in a distant future (sob). Or rather: they'll probably be around even then, just moving over to another game. And there are all those shades of grey in between. Many guilds seem to be doing pretty well for half a year or so - until the members find out that they obviously don't share the same goals anymore and decide to move on. Guilds flourish - and perish. What causes it? How do you deal with it?Those questions keep nagging me. What's the key to successful guild management? How do you make people happy, how do you make it all work?

Guild life isn't the only social aspect though. If you think about it every single PUG you run is sort of a mini guild. It's started out of a common goal (clear an instance), you agree on the terms - who'll be doing which task, how should loot be shared etc). You try to establish an effective cooperation and atmosphere in the group - the first few pulls usually tell you whether it will work or if you just can't stand each other. And in the end, mission completed, you break up - most of the times never to see each other again. Sometimes the farewell is kind of reluctant - there are PUGs which are so successful that you'd rather keep it forever.

I think what makes the social side of the game so intriguing is that it partly reflects the real world - but only partly. You make and lose friends just the same way - you build and run networks, you apply for jobs and make a career - or get sacked. You win and you lose - and things are unfair from time to time - just as in RL. No matter how much you hate it - you'll find yourself measured and placed in a hierarchy. Status matters in Azeroth - like it or not - it's just given out of other aspects than you're used to. And sadly enough you'll encounter just the same amount of idiots and assholes as you do in RL. No less, no more.

Still there are a few things which make the social life of WoW slightly different. The anonymity is one thing. You can't be really sure about anything, unless you actually meet your guildies in RL, and that doesn't happen too often. But this lack of knowledge doesn't mean you don't trust people. As a matter of fact the anonymity is quite relieving in one way. Since you don't see those people in RL you can show sides of yourself which you haven't showed anyone else. And I'm not talking about playing nude in front of the computer, although I know there are gamers who actually do that...(I'm always dressed myself, just so that you know). I'm talking about the inside. I've met people online who I've confided myself to much more than I've done to any of my RL friends. Strange? Maybe. But it certailny helps me to cope with my life.

Another thing, connected to the anonymity, is that you actually don't see people, which is a great help for overcoming prejudices and barriers between sexes, classes and ages. One of the players I miss a bit since changing server and guild was a 15 year old boy, a mage fellow who made me laugh with all his pranks and insane ideas. We really went on well together - although I had to be careful not to slip into parenting him. (Being mother in RL is enough, I don't want to babysit teenagers in the game as well. When I play with them we're colleagues and teammates - nothing else).

There's something very liberating about the game. Nobody cares about if I'm childish in comparison to the greyness of my hair, nobody watches the size of my tits, my under- or overweight. I get to know people pretty well spending so much time together online - I know their voices, their behaviour, know their moods, their strong sides and their weaknesses. We're building trust. And I'm pretty sure that if we'll meet one day we'll be able to look beyond the surface. We've established a friendship that goes further. The passion for the game unites us. I get to know people I'm dead sure I'd never ever speak to in RL - out of circumstances, living different kinds of life in different worlds.

The tears I cried last summer when a game friend left the game with just an in game mail and all his savings as a last goodbye were real tears. The pain was real pain. Which probably is pretty hard to understand for anyone outside the WoW community.

Still there's something which hold me back when it comes to blogging about social stuff. I just don't want to leave out other people. They haven't asked to be mentioned publicly in Larísas Corner. They're perfectly entitled to their anonymity just like everyone else. I'm trying to run a blog which is personal, but not too private. Sometimes I fail, but that's my intention. But of course a blogger should listen to the audience (even though the reader happens to be the blogger's sister). So: dear sister of mine, here was a post about social sides of the game, I hope you enjoyed it. I'm sure more will follow in time.

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