Saturday, April 08, 2006

Think People

Ok, this is one of those times where I don’t know whether to laugh, or be very, very sad.

Here’s the basic story.

An avid player of World of Warcraft dies (in real life, not on the game).

So, his guild and the rest of his friends on World of Warcraft, decided it would be nice if they all got together, in game, and hold a memorial service for him. They put the word out in the game, letting everyone know the time of the ‘service’ and where it will be held.

So they logged into their friend’s account, took his character to a lake, and all his online friends turned up to pay their last respects.

Seems nice, huh? A little strange… but nice. It’s also true that if you explore enough in World of Warcraft, you’ll find a memorial set up on top of a hill that was put their by Blizzard (the game’s creators), for an artist who worked on the game, but died before its release.

Anyway, back to the ‘memorial service’.

So this group of friends that it in turns to ‘view’ their dead friend’s character, say a few words, and then line up in front of him…

At which point, a rival guild comes storming over the hill… and slaughter everyone who attended.

Now, on the one hand, this is morbidly funny. To many people, the idea of holding a funeral inside a role-playing game is ludicrous, and the accompanying ‘raid’, just makes the thing seem all the more absurd.

On the other hand, this is a horrible, horrible thing.

A group of friends decide to remember their friend in a game, a game that was something that they all shared. In many ways, this is no different than say, an avid fisherman dying, and his friends all deciding to get together, and go out on the lake fishing to remember him.

It’s remembering someone in the context of an activity he or she loved.

Plus, although I don’t know the circumstances here, but it’s not uncommon for members of a World of Warcraft ‘guild’ to come from all over the world.

Now, one thing I’ve heard over and over again is: “How can you become close friends with someone you’ve never met in real life?” Well, I met my wife over the internet, and when I visited the American Embassy to get my fiancé visa, two of the other 15 people who where also there to get fiancé visas had met their fiancés playing Everquest, an online role-playing game, very similar to World of Warcraft.

In short, it’s entirely possible to make close friends and real relationships online.

My point is that this might be the only way for this group of friends to ‘get together’ and remember their friend.

It’s the fact that this funeral service was held in a role playing game that makes it slightly funny. The idea of a bunch of game characters, wizards, dwarves and all meeting for a funeral service is patently absurd… But the truth is that the ‘raiding party’, are quite simply a group of callous, de-sensitized pricks.

If any of them had stopped to actually think for a moment, maybe one of them would have thought: “Ok, ok, this is a little silly, but someone actually died here, and these are all his grieving friends and relatives. This might not be the time or place for a practical joke.”

Now, this story is all over the internet, including a video of the actual raid, but this makes me wonder…

If you strip down World of Warcraft to its most basic level, it’s an online chat room with a game attatched. If you use skype or some other form of voice chat, it’s a telephone call.

My point is that what makes World of Warcraft so popular is the social aspect. It’s the opportunity to play with your friends, and make new friends, as you play that makes it enticing. You get to compete and co-operate with real people. The game is fun, but it’s the interaction with other people that puts it ‘over the top’.

In other words, what makes World of Warcraft so popular is people, not necessarily the game.

So let me ask you a question. Imagine a close friend dies, but you can’t get together with his family and the rest of his friends to pay your last respects, so you agree to ‘meet’ in an online chat room, or set up a conference call.

During this meeting, another group of people know what you’re doing, and think it’s funny to break into your call and distrupt things as much as possible.

What would you do?

At the very least, you’d be pissed as hell and hurt.

It’s the game that adds the layer of separation that makes it possible for these people to not realize what it is they’re actually doing…which is disrupting a memorial service. If this was real life, these people wouldn’t have done a damn thing. If they joined an online chat room, and found people talking about a recently departed friend, they’d probably express their condolences and leave.

However, the fact that this was an in-game environment, and that the attendees are game characters, these people forgot that behind these characters are real people who had recently suffered a tragic loss.

In my opinion, this ‘raid’ on the online, in-game memorial service is no different that lighting fireworks and heckling a ‘real’ memorial service.

All I’m going to say is that if this happened to me, and I knew where any of the ‘raiders’ lived…I’d be paying them a little visit.

…and I hope that the people who decided to disrupt this service eventually realize that with the emotion involved, they might as well have kicked the casket over at a funeral.


OzzyC said...

Where's the video?

Paulius said...

Kato said...

It just takes one asshole.