Just a game?

As this is a gaming blog, and more specificaly a blog mostly about WoW, I’m sure most of you have heard those four infamous words before: “It’s just a game.” For a lot of individual titles I’d even say it’s true, but the MMORPG genre is the most notable example of how a game can become much more than that. Azeroth is not just a series of linear chapters through which you must advance to ‘complete’ WoW, it’s a living, breathing world in which real people come together, perform fully-animated social interactions and form little virtual sub-lives. The degree to which this is healthy and acceptable is discussion enough for a whole series of posts, but the fact that it is true is simple and undeniable.

Surely this is MMO 101 though? Something all new MMO players learn early on? It is, and it’s something I’ve known for years now. However I was inspired to write this post while hovering around in Stormwind this morning (well, since it’s 3am now I suppose it was yesterday morning) when the real world broke into Azeroth in a much more touching and genuine fashion than usual.

If you’re not aware, there were two tragedies in Norway on Friday; a bomb in Oslo and a killing spree at a youth camp. When I last checked, the combined casualty count was 92. I know a number of people with family or friends in Norway, so I was well aware of the real-world reactions and emotions which followed. What I completely forgot however, is that there is a large population of northern Europeans on my WoW realm, including Norwegians, so the reactions in-game were surprisingly similar and genuinely heartfelt. A few people gathered in Stormwind Cathedral, and I couldn’t tell you what was in the minds of the other individuals around me; mourning, prayer or quiet contemplation, but we gathered as many people do in real-life spiritual hubs during such times, and even though the two people next to me were actually in Norway, others were in different European countries and I was sat here in England, it genuinely felt like we were all together in one place as people, not characters or pixels.

A real moment of emotion in a fake world.

I’m sure there are people, some of whom even play MMORPGs themselves, who would call such in-game displays of real-life emotion a step too far in the direction of having no life, or trivialising a real tragedy. As you can tell from this post, I found it to be a poignant reminder of the nature of this world we ‘play’ in and its strong ties to the real world. Many people don’t just log onto WoW to run instances, fight in battlegrounds or complete quests; they also come to Azeroth to socialise, to relax and, to a limited extent, to live.

Ultimately I wanted to share this simply because I thought it was a beautiful moment, although one built on sadness. Please do share your own thoughts in the comments.

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~ by caelcraft on July 24, 2011.

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