Friday, November 26, 2010

WoW Psychology & Philosophy - Intro

For a while now I have been putting a great deal of thought into this topic. I'd like to take my field of study, psychology, and start to put it into a WoW perspective. It always seems weird to put words like "games" in the same sentence with "psychology", "sociology" or "philosophy", but the more I play and read the more I find it fascinating.

My first inkling of this almost made me quit playing the game altogether. I was doing dailies and thinking about how I should be cleaning my house instead of cleaning my bank. My reaction was immense. I was appalled. I thought, if we can live our lives through this game does that mean I'm foregoing my responsibilities in life, and instead,  playing at my life through WoW? We can cook, clean, do chores (dailies), and slay dragons on the side. All from the comfort of one chair. That was when I really evaluated my play time and began deliberately taking time from the game to make sure I was taking care of life and not avoiding it. My second head turning point was when I went to see the movie "Surrogates". The premise is people that live their lives through robots or surrogates. They stay at home and lay on a couch or bed and send their surrogate out to do their daily work, go to the store, interact with others, or whatever else, and they essentially live through them vicariously. The general "feeling" of the movie was that these people had quit understanding what it was to BE human. They no longer experienced every day life and human interchange in person. The surrogates were immune to disease and death and allowed the user to feel superhuman. All the while the real people became depressed, unhappy, and antisocial. They thought that being a surrogate was living and found they weren't really living at all. It was a really interesting exercise in social networking taken to the extreme. I found the ideas behind the story very relevant to my MMO experience, and how and why we play. We have the ability to live vicariously through our avatars. I'm sure this path has been explored a number of different times so I'm not going to go any further with that topic in this post.
My third and the deciding factor in me actually starting to blog about this topic is the book I read two months ago, "World of Warcraft and Philosophy - Wrath of the Philosopher King" (bibliography can be found at the end of this post). What this book did was pave the way for me. Yes it might be crazy, but people do write about WoW in terms other than DPS, XP, boss strats, and how long it will take you to grind Ebon Hold rep. There is a need to understand. On the side of the developer who wants to know what makes their game keep our attention, to the player who may want to know why this is a time sink, or what they really GET from an MMO. What brings us in and what makes us come back. The answers are easy, you can probably think of a few reasons right off the top of your head. They are also deeper. Reasons we give such as I want to play with my friends also has greater meaning to us sociologically.

What I'd like to do is take a couple of posts and delve into some of these topics from my perspective and my own experience. I'd also like to take some examples from the book and add my own take to them. If you ever have an opportunity it's a short read and is not to terribly mind-taxing. You don't have to have any experience with philosophy to grasp the concepts.

Works Cited
Cuddy, Luke, and John Nordlinger, eds. World of Warcraft and Philosphy. Chicago, IL: Carus, 2009. Print.

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