How much does WoW reflect real life society?

| Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Is it possible to make broad generalizations from WoW? On the surface this seems possible, maybe useful. After all, WoW does cover a decently broad cross-section of the industrialized world. While it began with bored college students and perhaps the unemployed, it has grown to cover at least a little bit of every demographic (see imaginary citations for more details). There is of course the modifier of WoW being almost entirely anonymous; almost in that our characters may be remembered but there is no connection to our RL identities. But is this all that different than being in a crowd during a commute or at a concert? You're pretty much anonymous. However just as in real life, people online can increase their exposure to others, reducing the anonymity.

From this we could try to identify trends. Are we polite or rude? What triggers politeness or rudeness? How willing are we to help strangers?

Or take it further: how much do we seek to understand out world? I hold the theorycraft and testing of WoW to be the science of that world. The lore would not qualify as history since the past actions of NPCs have no use for deciding our own actions (for more explanation of this, go to the So What? part). However the history of guilds or dev decisions would be useful for predicting and adapting beforehand to changes.

How do we handle scarcity of resources such as mob spawns, resources, or random loot drops? Do we measure contribution by sheer time or do we include other factors such as consumables and previous effort to gear up in preparation? Or do we go by who would benefit most? Or do we use totally random systems such as rolls? Let's not forget the possibility of gold bidding systems (used in some high-end PUGs and from what I've heard: China) or oligarchies which hand out gear based on their whims (also known as loot councils).

Going back to knowledge: how ignorant are people? Do they know how to do their jobs (play their class/role)? Can the average person be trusted with your virtual life, both by intent to keep you alive and personal ability?

I said in a previous post that we may not give the player base enough credit. It's not as stupid and incompetent as we might perceive. However there is no denying that some players just have no clue and may take absolutely no actions to fix that. The melee hunters and one-dagger rogues and druids who go balance/feral for DPS. Would these be the idiots fired from McDonalds for incompetence and laziness? Are they the idiot coworker who ruins everything he touches? Or is there something else that I'm missing (or just not saying)?


Dwism said...

Think there are some comparison possibilities between real life and wow. Guilds beeing co-workers/family for example. However a lot of it is skewed. Conversation for example. When I studied communication, we where told over and over again how 70-80% of a conversation was anything that wasn't the words beeing said. I.e. non-verbal, tonation, gestures ect ect. That part goes lost in places like wow, so a lot of the alianation between players come from that imo. I also think that has a lot to do with why people in bg/pugs ect are so often described as idiots. You don't know them, or their motivations.
So it is a lot easier to write them of as beeing stupid or just be rude to them

(warning rant in progress) furthermore there are the different ways people react or choose to interact with the game. Mrs dw-redux chars look a lot like her, and the one time she managed to get /ignored by another player, sho took it very personal.
Whereas i've met some teenage boys who thought the whole purpose of the game was to try and be nothing like themselves: women or complete anonymous arsehats.
What im getting at, is that a lot of the problems with a comparison between wow and RL is that if people don't all react to and percieve the game the same way, comparisons gets difficult.
know what I mean?

Klepsacovic said...

You're right about the lack of cues leading to more negative communication. One of my papers last semester looked exactly at that: as a general trend with text people see neutral words negatively and positive words neutrally.

And then you went and hit exactly the problem: people can play games differently and that leads to even less objective measurement than IRL.

Kristine Ask said...

Your post about people not beeing as ignorant as we think was spot on, and I see this as a continuation.
It is about perceptions of what the WoW population is about.

We have been RL-citizens longer then we have been Azerothians, and we are ofcourse bringing in values, systems, traditions, cultural understandings etc. into the game. Alot of what we do in game is an attempt to emulate things we know from RL. DKP for instance. Its a way to balance reward with effort, quite like we are used to from work IRL.
We run guilds like organizations or companies with leaders, councils/officers/boards, trusted member, initates etc.
In short: the knowledge we have from RL is crucial at all times and of great importance.

However, because it happens online, cause it happens in a game - it will never be the same. Reflection is perhaps a good word to use, as it is not identical - its a slightly distorted mirror image. Like looking into a pond on a windy day; you can see your face but its not the same.

G-Rebel said...

Kristine Ask, you took the words right out of my mouth; reflections display something less than the real thing. Even in the clearest mirror there are things that are not reflected well or sometimes not at all (personality, knowledge, value system, past RL experiences). In short, it's very difficult to reflect the intangible parts of who we are, but it's also impossible to completely hide them either. If you are prone to say bad things about people in RL, sooner or later you'll YELL at someone and call them an idiot in-game.

Oh, and about the lazy, one-dagger Rogue who got fired from McDonalds, I think I know him. Just the other day he was calling me an idiot, then he swore and said I made him late to McDonalds (maybe that's why he was fired).

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