Monday, January 28, 2013

She Blinded Me with Science

Instant discussion. Just add opinion.

I love how a random comment can start something thought-provoking in my brain.

I had this 'conversation' on a Saturday night with someone I don't know. I still know very little about them, truth be told (am hoping that will change), but when someone asks a question in this kind of context, I sit up and take notice. This isn't looking at Warcraft simply as something to be enjoyed and experienced, this is making the game something else entirely. This makes the game something rather more sobering.

I have spoken before about addiction, and obsession, and that the 'gaming environment' is just another of a myriad of places, substances or attitudes that could lead to long term issues. I've become conscious as I've aged about throwing labels at other people: however, I can sit here and happily acknowledge that as someone with a predisposition to indulgence, gaming's just as dangerous as alcohol or gambling, perhaps more so. Knowing why people become addicted to begin with is therefore useful in understanding how to prevent it: however, with something as complex as Warcraft there are many external factors that also need to be considered. I don't know if the question was posed on the back of such discussions, but I do know it made me think about what makes people come back long after the lure of accomplishment and entitlement have faded. After all, there are very few 'Game Over' signposts on Azeroth, and you're 'technically' never at the Really End Game until the franchise  finally closes its doors.

We had some Drama (TM) in Guild last week, which led me to ask one of my Officers why he kept coming back to play, even when there were attractive alternatives to Azeroth. His answer was similar to a great many people's, mine included. I increasingly don't play for the game any more, I play for the people I know, and that has more relevance to me (on many days) than the actual content. For instance, last night I'd expected to have a quiet night faffing on my baby Monk but instead took four bosses in MSV in possible the most relaxed of atmospheres I've experienced since the Expansion launched. It really wasn't about anything but doing the run for me: if I hadn't have come nine other people wouldn't have been able to play. That's nothing to do with any of the factors that I mention in my Twitter exchange, its all about being helpful and accommodating. Ironically I have two upgrades from my travels, but I certainly don't feel I should have got them as payment or that they should be the least I should receive for the time.

It is easy to forget the complexity involved when making choices online: often it is simply about what you want, when you want it, with scant regard for others if there is minimal interaction. Warcraft as an experience can easily be played alone, something I do perhaps more than I should. Being forced into situations where both interaction and respect are required (lets say LFR as a contentious example) can have some interesting consequences. It is no wonder that various people have conducted studies into the likes of online personas and how actions in gaming situations often have no bearing on the players true personality. I suspect there are many groups who look at online communities of this size for many reasons not simply wrapped up in interactivity and immersion. There are many, many studies ripe for instigation. I often feel that this kind of 'community' is a signpost of what we could become in the future, not simply online, and that many more questions should be asked as to accountability and responsibility to those involved.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of things both wrong and right with Warcraft, and I'm not just talking about the fact that I STILL DON'T HAVE A MOOSE. [*] I wish I was qualified to be able to write an in depth and relevant answer to the question of how people engage content in game, and why. If someone's out there and reading this who is capable, I'd be really interested to see what you'd come up with, because I do think that there are so many factors at work in game (not simply age and peer groups) that it would be really hard to narrow it down to a definitive answer. This is the moment where I realise my interest in the academic side of these subjects invariably comes to a grinding halt when I grasp my own incapability in explaining anything more intellectual than where I left my glasses, and that it is better to leave such things to those who know best. Needless to say, I think it's worth pursuing, just not with the abilities I have at my disposal.

This is however proof positive that if you're not on Twitter, you are missing out on some FABULOUS potential stimulation for your braincells. What are you waiting for?

[*] This is a joke. I'm only entitled to a Pony, and Ghostcrawler's sorted that anyway.


Jagoex said...

Fantastic post--indeed the problem is multivariable, and that is what motivated the convo I had with my peer. Can it be simplified? Because if we can operationally define it in a minimalistic way it would make the game that much easier to study.

Anyway, I'm sure we can wax on about this-and probably will on Twitter. Looking forward to more insight to come!

Matty said...

Wait, what was the question?