|My lvl 85 hunter Akiko (in older raiding gear).|
I must admit that I am perhaps biased in my argument. I have, on-and-off for the past five years, been part of what is arguably one the largest gaming communities that has vastly expanded its scope and influence into real life (RL): World of Warcraft. I have leveled two characters from 1 to 85 (the current level cap) as well as countless alts through solo and group questing with both RL and WOW friends. I spent a great deal of time as one of the core members of my guild’s raiding team, spending innumerable hours (mostly at 4am - the guild leaders were based in Australia…) in front my Mac, slaying dragons, abominations and the undead. I loyally shelled out $15 a month for endless months, not to mention the $1200+ for attending Blizzcon - the annual convention for Blizzard games (which includes the Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft series) – for the past three years. I even have a Horde bumper stick on my Honda Accord to prove my loyalty, attachment and love for this game.
I do not play currently; when I’m in school, my WOW life is put on hold. But that does not mean I feel like I have left the community. I still keep in touch with several members of my guild – after all, some of us are even Facebook friends and know each other’s real names – and wear my Blizzcon t-shirts with pride.
"Community:1: a unified body of individuals: asa: a state, commonwealthb: the people with common interests living in a particular areac: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common locationd: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger societye: a group linked by a common policyf: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interestsg: a body of persons of common "
So, returning to Berger and Barker: I would be interested in seeing how all that would not be defined as “community”. Recently, the Cenarion Hatchling pet raised almost $2 million for the Japanese earthquake relief fund. Mini pets in WOW are mere vanity items, most you can find in-game for free, but some have to be purchased with real money, like the Hatchling (billed as a $10 “adoption fee”). Nothing about these little pets is anything remotely helpful to gameplay, skills or the WOW experience, and yet I still find it incredibly moving that so many people channeled offerings of help, despite hard economic times, by using a game component.
Now obviously the online community has done some pretty horrible things as well – hacking accounts, malicious bullying, stealing, etc. – but certainly evils things exist in the real world with much heavier consequences. It really comes down to how the populace comes together and faces whatever adversities. I would then suggest that the definition of community needs to include that idea: the feeling of comradeship and belonging that follows once a group of people – despite their different backgrounds and histories – comes together and shares in an experience.
In Cultural Studies, Chris Barker comes to the conclusion that Berger’s main argument is that “electronic gaming is associated with social isolation, violence and addition” (360). Of course, cases come up every once and a while where this has happened – most notably when parents neglect their children to play games. However, Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica points out that while it is sad when this happens, the whirlwind of media reports and press that follow it is “stupid… if the couple went out to a baseball game and the child died, would [there be] stories about it in the sports section?” (1). People have preconceptions and assumptions about gamers, and when something like this happens, Kuchera argues that it gives their stereotypes merit – that “games are addicting and terrible and cause nothing but pain and misery”- and further fuels the negative connotations of video gamers and gaming. Kuchera is right when he notes that “gaming didn’t cause [a] child’s death, neglect did” (1).
But not all gamers are isolated, neglectful, horrible individuals, obese, living with their parents, or even, as conventions usually hold it, male. Many of the people I have met (both in RL or just online) are responsible adults with steady jobs and higher education. The archetype of a fat guy on his computer should be replaced with images of the young and the old, females and males, all sharing one particular hobby. One of my guildmates even had encouraged his mother to start playing – and she raided confidently along with the rest of us.
I have definitely seen the expanding of influence in effect at the three Blizzcons I have been to. The convention is held every year in Anaheim, near where Blizzard is headquartered, and the event has grown substantially from when I first attended in 2008 (with 2 ½ convention halls used) to 2010 (4 halls). The picture to the left was taken in 2009. This is the parking lot behind the Anaheim Convention center. This picture does not include the huge coils of people in line that snaked around the whole building, as well as near the entrance. This is probably not even 1/5th of how many people there actually where there that day. People from all over the world; huge groups of friends in the same guild. Families with their children. And yes, most of them male, but a shocking number of girls too.
[If anyone is still in doubt, there’s an estimated 11 million players of WOW, which would, according to the CIA World Factbook – if it were an actual country – have a higher population than Portugal or Greece, but be just behind Cuba. It’s startling to think that if the orcs, elves and dragons of the online fantasy world converged with ours, the nation of Warcraft would arguably hold some political, economic and societal sway over the worldwide spectrum.]
If this isn’t a picture of community, then I’m not sure what is.
Word count: 1,079
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Third Edition London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.
Kuchera, Ben. “Neglected child dies while parents play World of Warcraft. This isn’t gaming news.” Ars Technica, 2005. Web. 18 August 2011. <http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2005/06/547.ars>