Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Reality

MMOs, Virtual Reality, Addiction, Avatars

This week I'd seen and read all of the assignments in the past although I enjoyed revisiting them. Specifically because of the common theme of identity in a virtual world and distinguishing actual reality from virtual reality. This has a special meaning to me because while I was stationed overseas with the military I was a high-end raid/guild leader in World of Warcraft, logging at least 6 hours a day, 7 days a week in the name of bleeding edge progression.

I eventually quit the summer before I came to Princeton, but when a new expansion to the game comes out I still feel compelled to log back into the game and at least see what's new. I've invested too much time and effort into my Avatar "James" to not keep him current.

It's interesting what draws different people to MMOs like WoW. According to the Daedulus Gateway (, a site dedicated to studying the phenomenon of MMOs, "It is easy to dismiss video games as pointless activities that only teenagers indulge in. The truth is that the average age of MMORPG players is around 26. In fact, only 25% of MMORPG players are teenagers. About 50% of MMORPG players work full-time. About 36% of players are married, and 22% have children."

So there's no specific demographic that is particularly effected in terms of age. In terms of gender there is a noticeable split, 85% of MMO players are men. However, according to Amy Bruckman, author of Gender Identity on the Internet, Men are 3-5 times more likely than women to create an avatar of the opposite gender, particularly men over the age of 25.

Another interesting disparity noted by the Daedalus Gateway "is the difference in emphasis on character customization between Asian and Western MMORPGs. Asian MMORPGs typically have pre-defined character appearances while Western MMORPGs give the user the ability to customize many physical features. While this at first appears as if Western gamers care more about their appearances and individualism compared with Asian gamers, something more intriguing is happening. Full-fledged character creation systems frustrate Asian gamers because they do not like the fact that more skilled users can create avatars that are more attractive and appealing than theirs. Instead of individualism, the underlying issue is two very different views of egalitarianism."

For me personally, I was drawn to the leadership and competitive aspects of the game. My identity was more tied up in leading a guild and organizing 40-man raids than it was in being a rogue or a male, although those things were certainly true. But in the game I had the thrill of leading a large team to overcome initially insurmountable-seeming obstacles and the rush of defeating a boss for the first time through teamwork remains one of the strongest thrills I've felt in my life.


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