Every so often a common phrase or a concept enters my life and drives me batty. A few years ago “think out side the box” was a bugaboo for me. I detested that phrase and every time I heard it I wanted to punch someone in the face, and I am not a violent person. It was a phrase that covered up a distinct lack of thinking. I never was in a box thank you very much. But it was like an ill-chosen Christmas gift; a mantra regifted time and time again because in truth no one wants it but everyone is convinced someone else does.
Of all the trite phrases used in the World of Warcraft, the one that annoys me the most is the claim that “it’s just a game.” Every time some cries, or complains, or expresses any unhappiness at all about the game for any reason, someone inevitably hauls it out: “It’s just a game.” As if that explains everything. Sometimes it’s even hauled out to smack someone over the head with if they appear too enthusiastic about said game. It’s as if there is some subtle or unspoken rule that because something is a game, people can’t care, or be passionate, or spend a lot of time and energy on it. And if people do, whatever they have to say is wrong based upon that fact alone.
If you think about it it’s really quite bizarre. Here in America, many of our sports have become year-around pastimes. The coverage of professional sports such as the National Football league is covered in the type of minute detail 24/7/365 that Wow Insider or Wowhead could only fantasize about. I know people involved in fantasy baseball who schedule their family vacations at spring training locations so they can scope out the upcoming players for their company’s league draft in person. Some people spend significant portions of their entire lives involved in such games from the moment they enter little league as a five year old to the time leave senior softball at age 70. Yet never have I heard anyone ever criticize any of these people with the claim that baseball or football (American or European) is “just a game.”
As annoyed as I get at the people who use the phrase “it’s just a game” in an attempt to trivialize other people’s values, I get equally frustrated with the people who capitulate to it. It’s as if there is an unspoken guilt or embarrassment about doing something that others perceive as inconsequential. Who cares what they think. If some people think WoW is just a game, then they simply have no place in the conversation; we should not stand around while people demean us. No serious NFL or Euro Cup fan would allow their pastime to be dismissed so cavalierly. Why should we.
WoW is a game but it’s not just a game. It’s not just a game to Blizzard which is making a mint. It’s not just a game to hundreds of employees who are spending substantial portions of their careers designing, developing, implementing, and maintaining the game. And as the huge outcry over the Martin Fury debacle showed, it’s not just a game to millions of players; it serious business.
Sometimes I think that what the WoW community needs more than anything else is a group of cheerleaders. Some hot gals and guys on the sideline yelling “go team go!” Maybe that will make us feel better about ourselves. Maybe it will stop the angst. If you perceive the need to justify the time or energy or passion you spend on WoW to yourself or to your closest loved ones, fine. But you don’t need to justify it to anyone else. Because truthfully no one else cares. They are too busy checking the latest sports score, wondering who is cheating on who in the soap operas, and reading all about Madonna’s latest adoption.
16 hours ago