Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) are vastly time consuming and are designed to immerse the player in a virtual world. The most popular game in this genre is World of Warcraft (also known as "WoW") and boasts a record breaking player base of nine million paid subscribers ("World of Warcraft Surpasses Nine Million Worldwide"). Given that it is only a single game amongst many that are similar, it is likely that many readers will know someone who plays. It is important for parents and loved ones to understand what the player may encounter and the effect playing may have upon them. Players may not realize the impact their hobby has on themselves or others, so monitoring is frequently necessary if there is any concern over the amount of time they spend in the game world. This is especially true for adolescent gamers. Social interaction is a primary feature in MMORPGs; in the adolescent years, players may by influenced from those they play with. Given the amount of people that play, the risk of exposure to negative influences is present; however, through monitoring and communication it is possible to prevent negative impact on the gamer. These games feature in-game sub-culture that influences how players interact and represent themselves; there are positive and negative effects of playing and the potential for of addiction. Since World of Warcraft has the largest player base, it will be the primary subject of examination.
1. In-Game Subculture
Blizzard, the company owning and designing WoW, has worked hard to create a virtual world. There are two continents and many cities, races, and professions available to the player. Given this level of immersion, it is not surprising a sub-culture has arisen within the player base. The The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines a subculture as having a "shared set of customs, attitudes, and values, often accompanied by jargon or slang" ("Subculture"). WoW meets every one of these criteria and since many players tend to be a part of this sub-culture, understanding the community is important.
WoW is flush with virtual customs. The company hosts several different holiday events, corresponding to real world holidays, yearly. In addition to these, there are several events specific to the game. All of these events allow players to undertake certain challenges, congregate and socialize, and generally come together as a community in the pursuit of fun. These events represent global customs; however, many players have created their own through roleplay, where groups of players act the role of their character in a predesignated situation. These players tend to centralize themselves on one of several roleplay realms1 designed specifically this play style.
Along with customs, WoW players also have shared values. The players themselves may have vastly different value systems; however, within the game, the central value system is centered around the opposition of two groups, designated by race2 choice. These groups are known as the Horde and the Alliance. The game is designed around a storyline in which these two groups have undergone centuries of battle. Many players are familiar with the story and feel vehemently about their chosen faction; however, the game designers have instilled the "Horde versus Alliance" value into the game's mechanics. Players are not allowed to interact with the opposing faction unless it is to engage in combat, another shared value. Battle is the key element of the game and players tend to spend the majority of their playtime engaged in it.
Within the system, individual values vary among players. One core value held by the majority of players is the overarching theme of right and wrong when working with other participants in a group. Since the game requires people to work as a team in order to succeed, acting...