Online Gaming: A Social Media?

After finishing his paper and finishing his work, Rupert went online and log on to the internet. He then went to his game account for a game Eden Eternal to begin playing a game. He had plenty of friends on the game. This sounds like a fictional story but the situation happens more often than one would think.

Many MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) exist today. The games generally attract many people. The most popular MMORPG is World of Warcraft. "It contains over half of the Online RPG market, with about nine million participants alone." . Also, "Online Gaming is one of the most profitable businesses on the Internet. Out of all the genres… MMORPGs… have become the most popular among network gamers, and now attract millions of users who play [in] an evolving world simultaneously over the internet." . To enter into an MMO, first you would need to both buy and install the game, like World of Warcraft or the Diablo Series, or download the MMO from the internet for Eden Eternal from Aeria Games, speaking from personal experience. You would create a character and then begin an adventure in a virtual world from the game. Not only teenagers do MMOs. Adults do it as well. "The average MMORPG gamer is in fact 26 years old. About half of these players have a full-time job." .

In addition to the people being a part of the games, "[the games] play important roles in the increasingly blurred intersections of our social, economic, and political spheres… reveals larger trends in our digital mediated world… Articulating the blurring of work and play in [them] reveals how they may soon become indistinguishable from each other." . Parents might think that their children browse the internet when in reality, those children are writing fan fictions, stories, or other creative writing.

A common thing that a MMORPG would have is the ability to communicate with other players either nearby or across the globe. This is an ability that a social network like Twitter or Facebook. And thus give the games a potential to be social networks as well.

An interview was performed with one of the players of an MMO, Eden Eternal whom happened to be named Mary Jane. She explained through the account that MMOs contain the potential to exist as a social network but "some people just don't understand how to use a game. They get tired or frustrated and go back to Facebook. People don't have the time or patience for [learning how to use a game]." .

"Communication in most MMORPGs [as well as most social internet sites are] primarily text-based. Depending on the game, text-talk can range from zone-shouts (in which everyone in the current area gets your message) to private messages." . However, just because you can say something, doesn't mean people should. An example would be sexuality.

"Players openly seeking cybersex partners [in MMORPGs] were often told to 'get the fuck out,' shut up, and possibly reported to the GMs for spamming the chat log." . Needless to say, there was a huge distaste in the MMO community; talking about that stuff is highly discouraged. However, such stuff takes advantage of the ways of communication that are used in MMOs. They are the chat functions, one's own avatar in an MMO, and the simple actions an avatar can use, which are emotes, but "Unlike IM chat or webcam cybersex where the audience is purposefully selected, Avatars live in a virtual space with other avatars and therefore are forced to constantly monitor their command inputs. Being vigilant in continually broadcasting to only the intended audience, becomes [very important] to 'virtual privacy'." .

"A study was done to see the psychological impact (and/or the perceived psychological impact) of engaging in or witnessing STAs in MMORPGs." . In the experiment done by Monica T. Whitty and her companions, with five participants in the experiment, seven overall themes appeared in the experiment. The seven themes were "separating game space from the real world, sanctioned equivalence, cannot separate all symbolic taboos, taboos ought to be permissible in the game, having real players impacts on the game play, emotions experienced from engaging in symbolic taboo activities, and comparing real self with game self." .

MMORPGs are the descendants of the table-top RPGs and in turn are descendant from the 1st Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. But what majorly shoots down these groups by the main population would be the reputation that was put on them. Although at worst, RPGs tend to be geeky. People claim that the games are worse than they actually are. "These games came under severe attack by a few Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christian Individuals and groups who alleged that they contain occult content and inspire people to [commit] suicide or criminal activity." . Such accusations can come from organizations like B.A.D.D. (Bothered about Dungeons & Dragons). "In 1985, BADD confronted the Consumer Products Safety Commission, demanding that all RPGs contain a label, warning [of the possibility to] cause suicide. This was dismissed by the CPSC who decided that the connection… was not close enough to require such labeling." . The RPG advocate, the leader of , had done a review on the most widely spread piece of anti-gaming propaganda, Dark Dungeons.

The comic takes advantage of the mid-80s paranoia about RPGs using clichés and urban legends. But one of the most stupid claims was the connection between the games and suicide. "According to the American Association of Suicidology's suicide statistic data from the 1980s… a group of people as large as that of gamers (estimated at four million by some sources) would have to reach around 490 successful suicides and over 8000 unsuccessful suicide attempts yearly, just to reach the national average!". In spite of the false claims, RPGs continue to be good educational tools and stress relievers. One anonymous person who visited '.org' and posted this comment: "D&D teaches teens to stretch their minds, use their imaginations. They learn to work together as a team, rely on a friend. They spend time in social circles. It is nothing but a good influence in lives. I am a Christian and I have, do, and will play D&D. I like it and I know there is nothing wrong with it, or me."

"Game play in MMORPGs is both complex and somewhat open-ended." . They are mobile version of their tabletop countertops, broaden the horizon for players, and there is no real difference between them and other social networks. The playing of the game makes up for the lack of applications you would get with the game. These are the reasons that MMORPG (and RPG) community be accepted. Despite what the mainstream thinks of it, I am damn proud that the community exists and to be a part of that community because it is something the world needs.


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