A friend of mine shared the article below – which talks about the pleasure and freedom a disabled young man got from online gaming, in this case World of Warcraft.
Gaming has a bad rep – it’s nerdy, it’s antisocial, it’s played by sad lonely folks with no real friends. Wrong. Whilst it’s true there are online games which can be played solo there are also plenty which can be, and are, played by millions, and generate real and lasting friendships.
Someone, please tell me why playing an online game alone is so frowned up by non-gamers. Why is this different from reading a book by oneself or watching a movie? It’s not. Most of the games have complex worlds, plots and themes. They bring adventure, skills one could not hope to have in reality, and enjoyment. Yes, there are some violent games, but there is very little evidence to state there is a correlation between playing violent games and actual violence. There have been episodes of shooters who played games acting them out – but there are far more who don’t – they have other, multifarious reasons for doing what they do. People don’t say reading or movies are sad… to me gaming is even richer.
Anyway I digress… I played World of Warcraft for many years, and I don’t regret a single day, a single hour, or a single session. Not one. That particular game brought me a lot of enjoyment and lasting friendships. I met folks I’d never have met before, and had (usually fairly silly) conversations with them. We laughed, we co-operated, we grumbled, we yelled at the screen, we joked and we supported one another.
Games like this are so much more than just killing monsters. They are social, engaging, exciting and world-broadening. My guild had people from a range of nations, speaking English mostly but multilingual. We had male and female, gay and straight, old and young. And no one gave a damn about things like that. Many people think gaming is sad, or for losers. It’s not. Really it isn’t. It’s a way of finding friendship, new worlds and experiences, new realities.
For a long time it was part of my life, and part of my social life. I am still in contact with people I met through that game, and my guild Frozen Legion, was a small and close guild – like Starlight mentioned in the article. There is far more to a social game than running around as an elf (or in my case an undead mage) poking monsters. The guild supports it’s members in the way any club would. People form bonds – and I know within our guild and our alliances with other guilds there were relationships. Why is friendship formed in such a way less worthy than friendships formed at, say the pub, or football, or chess? It’s not. Of course, it isn’t.
I met my best friend through an online game – and we’ve had nearly a decade of deep friendship. I can tell her anything, and we support one another. We speak every day, or at least every other day but we have never physically met as we live thousands of miles apart. Yet that friendship is as dear to me as any of my more local friends.
The young man mentioned in the article was disabled, and could not participate in sports, or various other activities. In WoW he was free, he could run about and have adventures, he was a valued and respected member of that particular community. A few members knew his health issues – but as with many communities online – no one much cared that he was ‘different’. His gaming friends pooled their money so some could attend his funeral, and his friends sent his family touching messages. He’ll be remembered by people who never met him, but nonetheless cared about and respected him. Mat touched hearts, brought joy to others and lived a life of adventure – even it was not ‘real’. That’s not a bad legacy for anyone.
Another example of this touching and respectful communities amongst gamers –
Star Trek Online – when Leonard Nimoy passed away there were several in-game memorials to the legendary actor, who was, of course, Mr Spock. Players gathered their avatars on the world of Vulcan to pay their respects.
For those of you out there who disparage gaming and online communities – please think again. It’s rich, caring, society where there is far less prejudice and far more freedom.
Dedicated to my friend Zherevox – I miss you buddy – Mats Steen and his family, Starlight and Frozen Legion.