This is part 1 of my series of blogs for my thesis on videogaming cyber cultures. Please comment, discuss, troll, I welcome it all!
“Besides, interesting things happen along border-transitions-not in the middle where everything is the same. There may be something happening along the border of the browd, back where the lights fad into the shade of the overpass”
Snow Crash p. 122
I first started playing World of Warcraft in November of 2005. I was a sophomore in highschool at the time, playing water polo and swimming in junior varsity, going to the movies with my friends, and spending a large chunk of my days playing videogames. I remember purchasing the game, colloquially referred to now as WoW, because it was the first time I had ever peronsally used a credit card on my own and because three of my best friends had bought it the same week and we all planned to meet up and play together online. It was a new world for us, where we could be brave, where we could lead, where we could harass and talk, trading thoughts on everything from abortion to dances in high school to George W. Bush and our own personal stories of our homes, who we were in our safer digital skins.
I spent a year playing WoW, and remember the exact moment in January, 2006 when I deactivated my account for the final time. It had been an experience, a process of growing up, an addictive escape and a safe haven at the same time. The day I deactivated, however, was a time of relief for me, the culture had become personally intrusive into my life and affected my relationships with friends and family, I even lost a girlfriend because I “played too much”. For almost that entire year and the following, I hardly saw my brother, hardly even talked to him because he was addicted just as bad as I had been, spent, like I did, marathon amounts of time, bordering 15 hours and up on occasion, per day playing the game. To our parents, to my brother’s friends and I, it was clear that WoW was not merely “just a game”, it was literally an indelible part of my life up to that point, with countless hours invested into maintaining an image virtually and interacting with people I never saw in real life but felt that I had personally known. As of October, 2010, there were estimated over 12 million active subscribers to the World of Warcraft gaming servers (http://bit.ly/dl38rl) experiencing everything from fighting alongside or against each other, chatting, maintaining actual businesses, marrying, murdering, loving and hating each other. There is even detailed 3rd party census data on the game’s population, though census-taking is not new in the online gaming world. It is clear that those who play World of Warcraft are investing their time in something that is more than a game to those who play it. With the advent of virally spread Facebook games like FarmVille mobile games available for the IOS (Apple’s operating platform), Nintendo handhelds, and the explosive expansion of the MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game sphere, many millions of people have participated in a virtual culture that, in many ways, both mirrors and enhances the human cultural experience, regardless of which “reality” people prefer to believe in. These gamers are playing videogames and interacting with each other, participating in a major conduit of virtual culture that is, increasingly, bringing global society closer to the blurry intersection between reality and its virtual avatar.