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my life as a night elf priest

Culture of World of Warcraft

Over the past few weeks, we all have bringing up a lot of points about reality and video games, specifically the similarities and differences between them.  When I first began My Life as a Night Elf Priest, one of the first things that I noticed was the culture of World of Warcraft and how it is similar to culture of the real world.  What fascinates me is that this culture developed by its players and not the developers of the game.  Nardi explains how you can join a guild or tag along with a random stranger to participate in a quest.  These types of interactions involve very little personal information, much like meeting a new person in reality or joining some organization.  You are simply a name and a face.  Then, she talks about how you may become closer and more intimate with certain players after meeting them  in the game world, sharing personal information such as where you live or what you like to do outside of WoW.  This resembles relationships and friendships all over the world.  They develop the exact same way in the game, making the video game and reality very similar.

Even more interesting to me is how social ranks and class seemed to have developed in the game, at least according to Nardi.  “Players consider some races ugly and some beautiful.  …Players were very aware of the looks of their characters, noting that “hair matters” and that players carefully chose among interesting features such as horns or facial tattoos.  Gender is also an important cosmetic attribute” (16).  The fact that this social structure has developed in a video game community where real life race, gender, and social class are all hidden at least on the surface, shows how a culture can develop in a video game world just like in the real world.  All the races started out on the same equal platform when the game was created, and it was the players that collectively decided which races were superior to others, perhaps based on looks and skills.  Looks and gender are also important in the game which simply shows how much a video game can grow to model real life issues and concepts.  What I think could be potentially interesting is if a game were to become large enough or popular enough for the opposite to happen and in game ideas were to extend to reality and become part of our own world.



4 thoughts on “Culture of World of Warcraft

  1. These similar interactions happen in more than just WoW. I play Guild Wars 2 and before I could even begin my character’s first quest, people were seeking me out to join their guilds. I bounced from one small guild to another, trying to find people I really liked and then I came upon Regnum Ascalon, the guild I represent and am a high ranking officer. These social interactions are the best part of MMO’s. I notice similarities in the culture of these games too. In GW2, the races were set equally but have very strong dispositions against each other based upon the plot. A character may choose to be any race and play in any map where any race lives, but the dialogue from NPC’s to players varies. The race-based ‘superiority complex’ is also very prominent in GW2, sometimes to the point where guilds may only accept a specific race into their ranks.
    The vast similarities to the world I described to reality are incredible. In today’s world there are advertisements targeting small children attempting to persuade and gain their trust as consumers. Joining a guild may seem friendlier but in reality is very much the same. Although there are laws against it, society still contains a large amount of racism.
    Racism in the real world developed in a similar fashion, where the ‘white man’ saw the ‘black man’ as inferior socially, because he was ‘better suited’ for physical, menial labor. An orc may be a better fighter, but there are still great orc clerics. WoW can teach us that race might not be as big of a deal. Going on what McGonigal tries to say, gaming can change the world.

    Posted by jbort94 | June 3, 2013, 12:21 pm
  2. Culture is a complicated concept. Most UB students are from New York state, even primarily from upstate NY. One might say we are all part of the same culture. We are all Americans. We are all New Yorkers. When we are here though, we see all the differences. Upstate/downstate. Rural/urban. Ethnicity. Economic class. Sexual orientation. I’m sure you can walk around on campus and see many people who grew up a few hours drive from you that you would identify as being quite different from you culturally. And yet those differences are small compared to those felt by international students on our campus or those you might feel travelling to a different continent.

    Games are not separable from those cultures. We import our concepts of identity based on gender and race to games as both designers and players. We bring aesthetic and moral values with us as well. And our practices of social hierarchies and collaboration. And it is a two-way street, so that in-game culture influences cultural practices elsewhere.

    Posted by Alex Reid | June 4, 2013, 10:01 am
  3. You raise some really good points here. All the things you pointed out do indeed “[show] how much a video game can grow to model real life issues and concepts,” and it reminded me of something we’ve been talking about in my Advertising class. In the class we speak a lot about the “ultimate question” in advertising/consumerism: does advertising, like video games, mirror society or shape society? Through every bit of technique-analysis in marketing, the answer can only be both. All media mirrors and shapes society. It seems to be the classic chicken-or- egg-syndrome that we all keep coming back to in our discussions, which is truly a fascinating thing to contemplate!!

    Posted by jowz24 | June 4, 2013, 5:06 pm
  4. The points you make and have already been made in the comments are all very valid, but I do find issues with MMO’s. I have played Guild Wars in the past but played only because a group of my friends played and asked me to play and help them out. What I find uncomfortable and not necessarily a positive about MMO’s is how little you know about the people behind the characters. I never really cozied up to playing with a bunch of random strangers and even when I played Guild Wars I played primarily with my real world friends or by myself. Both Bogost and McGonigal have touched on the fact that video game players generally get more satisfaction from playing with people they know in real life. What hasn’t been talked about though is the possible turn off of playing with/against a bunch of people you don’t know is for some people. Admittedly thats a small number of people, but it is still a population represented in society.

    Posted by Ben Tarhan | June 5, 2013, 1:30 am

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