Playing the Game Wrong

27 04 2010

I never liked World of Warcraft, because I never liked MMORPGs in general. I don’t see he appeal in trudging across the map 3000 times to pick up pixellated macguffins in order to fulfill the desires of some AI dimwit. Because of my generally cantankerous attitude, I never really felt the need to “keep up” with the goings-on in WoW.

So I’m way behind the times, is what I’m saying. But I did finally run across the notorious “Serenity Now Funeral Raid.” In the words of the Serenity Now guild themselves:

This event has become a fascinating study on the time delay of things spreading across the internet. Here at “ground zero”, this was pretty much a dead topic the day it happened. But then every one of you retards with a modem and an internet browser stumbles across it on a forum somewhere and thinks its hot-off-the-presses and urgent. If you are just now hearing about this – ESPECIALLY if you play the game World of Warcraft – you are in the internet cultural equivalent of Wyoming. Congrats on finding out this hot information – while you’re at it, go buy some zippered parachute pants and some neon clothing…I’m sure they are in style where you live.

But the fact of the matter is, I don’t really care about WoW, internet fads, or trolling. I’m interested in the way that videogames can “transcend” what they were created to be. I think it raises some interesting questions about how videogames and the communities they spawn evolve with one another.

Basically, the story here is that a girl died of a stroke in real life, and her friends on WoW organized a funeral for her in the game world. Then, a few members of the Serenity Now guild crashed the party, killed all the attendees, and delivered a short-but-stirring eulogy. Some people think Serenity Now’s actions were uncalled for. Others think they were hilarious. (Warning: Awesome Misfits song ahead).

The question that needs to be asked is, “Who’s playing the game right?” The group of people who used a videogame to assemble peacefully in mourning for a fallen comrade? Or the people who used the videogame to run amok and kill the peaceful people?

And it’s a question that has no clear answer. On the one hand, MMORPGs don’t really have “an objective” per se. Your goal is essentially to interact with the world around you. On the other hand, WoW is a RPG like any other, and the modus operandi of any good RPG player is “kill everything and steal stuff.” Conquest and warfare are pretty much the only way to really “proceed” within the game.

So, which is the “intended” use of WoW? How is it best to be appreciated as a work of art? As a network for people to interact via avatars, like Second Life? Or a hacky-slashy RPG where barbarians and wizards whale on each other? And does it really even matter what it’s “intended” use is? I dunno, but these weren’t questions that people had to mull over back in the era of Pong.

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