|Some days, I do wonder… ^^|
Today I began the first of two writing courses. One will count towards a degree, the other I’m doing ‘just for fun’ and as a way to prove I can do more than simply string some random sentences together. During the first break this morning our eldest member of the group, on hearing that I play a game on a computer with a bunch of disparate individuals spread across Europe, looked at me and shook his head. ‘You’ve made them up,’ he pronounced. ‘They’re not real, they’re just inside your machine.’ Although I’m reasonably sure he was being ironic, the statement made me think. How hard would it be to explain to a total stranger what it is I do as a hobby? Could I make them believe my world was ‘real’ and not simply a figment of my deranged imagination?
I reckon I could break it down into bite sized chunks: perhaps I could start with a personal history, how I’ve played games since the 1980’s and that, after my daughter was born, I bought Warcraft as a way of getting through long nights of breast feeding and enforced sleep deprivation. I’d then possibly admit that period when I got ‘a bit obsessed’ with the game (or not maybe because then I’d be drifting into a stereotype that I do my very best to avoid wherever possible) but that would depend on the level of honesty I’d want from my finished piece. What I’d want to emphasise however is how very human the virtual experience is, despite the ‘images’ you see playing which are anything but. After all, all life is in Azeroth: young, old, good and bad and most points in-between. In fact, what makes the game so utterly compelling on most days is the fact that the people bring something special to the table: look closely and so much is revealed about how people react with other people and to circumstances. It’s no wonder psychologists and sociologists take such an interest in online worlds: so much more can be seen if you know where to look.
However the point I think I’d want to emphasise most would be the way that virtual people surprise you. Individuals who, in some cases you have never meet and might never get the chance to, are prepared to do wonderful things in the name of helping others ‘win’ this particular game. Winning of course isn’t like scoring a goal or crossing a line, it’s a long process of learning, co-operating and beating an increasing complex set of computer-generated foes. It’s obtaining that 100th Mount. It’s completing that quest chain for a reward although only briefly relevant is always hard fought for and gratefully received. It’s allowing the person behind the keyboard a chance to do something that makes them feel like they are involved in a worthwhile pursuit, that makes them feel that the people they choose to be with are part of a family. At it’s worst an MMORPG can be a living nightmare, but at it’s best, where I am most days with my virtual family, it is a joy to participate in.
It is often the way that if you do not understand something that you trivialise it or make it the subject of humour or abuse. I’m used to that happening, as it has for many years with certain groups of people. For a long time I thought it was probably a good idea to pretend this side of my life didn’t exist, but age has made me understand that the only way to truly grasp what you are is to embrace all your interests and not to pretend you’re something you’re not. I know what I am. Embracing my Inner Gamer is just the same as acknowledging my desire to have a Proper Voice. It’s all part of the process and justifying that wouldn’t be half as hard as maybe I first thought. Perhaps I should give it a try.
I’m happy to exist in this virtual world, and I’m not afraid to admit it.