Those Denizens of Cyberspace who are either young, young at heart or have teenagers will undoubtedly have heard of World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment, or WoW as its commonly known amongst those initiated in its mysteries. WoW is not the latest of what is called MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) but it is certainly the most popular.
For a small monthly fee of about $12US you can join some 9 million other players in an online virtual world. Once signed up you can become a warlock, a shamen, a warrior or any of a host of stereotypical characters that have stepped out of the pages of Tolkein, Fiest or Eddings.
And what does your monthly tithe to the Blizzard Empire give you? Well you are able to kill a wide variety of monsters and undertake different ‘quests’ in your pursuit to gain more levels and be able to kill more powerful monsters and get prettier, shiner, stronger weapons. While this description is simplistic it does describe the essence of the game.
So is it fun? Indeed it is. WoW does provide a nice slice of distraction and relaxation from the grind of daily life for those who are able to eschew their more addictive tendencies and play an hour or 2 a week. But many players are not, spending most of their free time playing.
So why is this game so addictive? Why is it so popular that over a 100,000 chinese players “farm“ gold in the game and sell it to other players for real, tangible money? Partly perhaps due to the social aspect, you can go on quests with other characters played by people from all corners of the globe, plus an added bonus for many is that it doesn’t matter if you’re fat or weedy, wear 2” thick glasses or have a comb over. Your level 70 Shaman brings you power and respect amongst fellow gamers regardless of any of those things.
The game’s popularity is also due in part to the fact that it provides a high level of escapism that many people seek to alleviate the perceived pointlessness of their daily lives. In this case the game most certainly delivers, with people playing for a day (or days) at a time, stopping only to relieve nature’s urges and to grab another slice of pizza.
A point of interest for the more perceptive soul is perhaps why games like these are so popular in the first place? Perhaps it is due to the fact that we are becoming a more materially wealthy but an emotionally bankrupt society. The intimacy that we seek we are finding more and more difficult to achieve with family and friends can be sought out through our digital alter egos. But much like text messaging, is this communication at a distance really doing us a favour in the long run? Would we not better spend that time practicing Krishna Consciousness?