Discourse Community Paper Essay
For the last decade, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have been rising in popularity, with the total revenue of these games coming out to be about half a billion dollars. Since the year 2004, there is one game that has greatly contributed to this increase of interest in the genre: World of Warcraft. Since its inception, World of Warcraft has achieved over eleven million subscribers, as well as being referenced in mainstream media such as news reports, being spoofed in an episode of South Park, and satirical news network, The Onion. World of Warcraft is set in a virtual “sandbox world” known as Azeroth.
In Azeroth, players choose between two opposing factions: the Alliance, and the Horde. In terms of black and white, the Alliance would be considered the “good side” since they consider “nobility and honor” as some of their standards, while the Horde tends to be more aggressive in their appearance, and their approach to in-game conflict. Throughout the game, players work together to finish various quests around Azeroth, as well as gaining new abilities, and equipment for their avatars. One of the most significant things about World of Warcraft’s success is its massive community that has continued to grow over the last seven years.
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The concept of an alternate reality has truly been reached with WoW’s fan base: the in-game world has its own economy, and players fuel it by buying and selling game items. The language that has stemmed from this subculture doesn’t really have an official name, but some might call it “gamespeak” or perhaps more appropriately, “WoWSpeak. ” Two of the most popular phrases that many people use when they speak to each other in the game world include, “n00b,” and “pwn. ” The phrase “n00b” is used to describe an inexperienced or unskilled person especially in computer games, (http://www. rbandictionary. com/define. php? term=n00b) while “pwn” is the act of dominating an opponent in a game (http://www. urbandictionary. com/define. php? term=pwn). The social interaction is also significant, with many players saying that the people they have met during their play time are equal to (and in some cases, more important than) some of their real-world friends. One World of Warcraft player, Jacob Grunewald, explained how he first became introduced to the series: “I first started playing wow a few years ago because I watched a lot of videos about it and I was interested in it.
I ended up joining a guild, and I’ve met some pretty good friends in it. My social experience with WoW has been pretty good, and most of the people are pretty cool. ” While this is one of the more positive aspects of the World of Warcraft experience, there are also negative sides to it too, and like the real world, not everyone you meet will be friendly, or polite. Some might be rude, inconsiderate, or arrogant as well, “The internet is one of the most verbally abusive places you can find yourself in, and unfortunately, sometimes WoW is no different.
While there are many friendly people willing to help you in WoW there are also a lot of ‘trolls. ’ There are two kinds of trolls in the game: one of them is an in-game race of creatures, but the second kind is anyone you meet who has no respect at all for you as a player, and they basically try to make your life hell while playing,” says player, Katie Navarro. She continues to say, “While you troll or get trolled, you also turn around and work well with the people you need to, whether it’s for PvE [Player vs. Environment, which consists of the player fighting against computer controlled enemies], or PvP [Player vs.
Player]. If you can’t cooperate, then nothing can come out of your experience. People know that, so they learn to get along. The community usually works together, you always have those that don’t play well with others, but if someone needs help, others usually chime in with help or suggestions of places they can go to find the help they need. ” While “trolls” can be a negative experience when playing World of Warcraft, one of the more unfortunate aspects of being a WoW player is the danger of being labeled or stereotyped for your hobby, and community.
One consistent stereotype that seems to plague this community on a regular basis (especially when dealing with the mainstream media) is that all players of World of Warcraft are antisocial, or they have an unhealthy relationship with the game that results in them playing for days at a time, without any sleep or food. “To people who don’t play WoW, everyone’s a fat, ugly, nerdy, never-gonna-get-laid, wannabe scene kid. Seriously, as soon as you tell someone you play WoW there are usually insults, and if you don’t look anything like they’d expect you to look, they’re just surprised. It’s like their world gets flipped upside down.
Don’t believe everything you hear. WoW is full of all kinds of people, from young kids, and older kids, to adults. For instance, my nine year-old sister plays, my forty year-old uncle plays, and my sixty year-old mom plays,” says Jourdan Marsh. I personally believe that part of these stereotypes stem from what is almost a cultural fear of video games as a whole. This cultural fear seems to be a combination of multiple elements: video games have just recently become a mainstream phenomenon within the last 10 years, and the “over 40” generation is still trying to wrap their heads around this new media that is starting to grow even more.
An example of this is the upcoming Supreme Court case, Schwarzenegger vs. EMA (Electronic Merchants Association). This court case revolves around whether or not it is constitutional to ban minors from getting their hands on video games with content that would be deemed inappropriate, including strong violence or sexual content. (http://alturl. com/fsjen) The reason why I think this potential law is based more on a cultural fear of video games, than actual concern for the safety of children is because this is a law that will be exclusive to the video game industry, while movies and television remain unaffected by this plan.
While there have been reported cases of World of Warcraft addiction (or rather MMORPG, or video game addiction) I think the mainstream media focuses more on the negative aspects of the game rather than the positive, and enriching qualities of the world of Azeroth. Due to the negative approach that the media has taken in covering this community, the latter is now plagued with generalizations that non-players make.
These stereotypes of the WoW community has even led to the difficulty of players finding jobs in the real-world, as many employers have come out and said that they will generally refuse to hire anyone who they know is a subscriber to World of Warcraft, or any other Online Role-Playing Game, because they have a pre-conceived notion that WoW subscribers have bad time management, or have their priorities set on other things (http://alturl. com/ijkma). Some people also argue that online games, especially RPGs, can be beneficial in developing leadership skills, project management, and teamwork (http://alturl. om/ijkma). Even with this problem of employers refusing to hire gamers, some have decided to use their love for the World of Warcraft community to their advantage: Actress Felicia Day, who is also an active WoW player, started a web series called “The Guild,” which is a series dealing with a group of friends who regularly play a game that is loosely based on World of Warcraft.
Day signed a deal with Microsoft to distribute her series on the Xbox Live Marketplace, MSN, and the Zune Marketplace. (http://alturl. om/ijkma) With the success of this show, and more importantly, the number of people participating in this game increasing, it will become more difficult over time for employers to look at these people differently, or make judgments on them. To sum everything up, I believe that the World of Warcraft community is a group that is misunderstood. The game’s new way of connecting and socializing, as well as it’s very diverse demographic, makes it one of the more progressive communities and interesting discourse communities in the world.
People from many different ethnic groups, age groups, and nations participate in the game. People who are unfamiliar with the game or the community like to put those associated with it in a box that makes them all the same: anti-social, obese, lazy, and more. The fact is that everyone who participates in this community is different, and each one of them is their own individual. With this eleven million people already signed on to the game, and with more subscribers coming in everyday, this community truly does have the potential to be what its name suggests: a world.