Friday, July 25, 2008

The World's most elaborate treadmill

There is a misconception is that people need to be liked.

Most people WANT to be liked, but they don't need it. What people need is to be acknowledged.

Being liked is, of course, a form of acknowledgment, so it can fill that need. But so can a lot of other emotional responses. People can stand being hated, so long as they're not being ignored.

It's as though people fear "not being."

So naturally, I've brought you to this strange existential idea as a way to talk about World of Warcraft.

First, an overview:

You fight enemies to get equipment, you get the equipment so that you can fight harder enemies, you fight harder enemies so you can get better equipment. And that's pretty much the game.

While the same general thing happens in many traditional, single-player games, it's not quite this circular affair. I fought enemies and found equipment in "Chrono Trigger" because I was invested in the story and characters. Experience points and armor ratings were a means to the end of fulfilling that investment. For most players of "massively multiplayer games" like WoW, though, the minutiae justifies itself.

(For those of you who just got up-in-arms, notice that I used the qualifier "most." There are some people that are genuinely interested in the titular "world" of the game, or play as an arbitrary activity to spend time with friends . . . the other 99% though, are in it for the gear.)

And why is this seemingly ridiculous grind so appealing? It's acknowledgment. A WoW character is stored on company servers, not on the player's hard drive, so you know that it hasn't been tampered with.

This gives the character and his inventory a kind of validation, this makes it real.

And that, in turn, gives the players validation. It makes them real.

On some very important level, people just want to have their actions noticed, even if that notice is an automated response by some lines of computer code.*

*Oooo, Uncharted Trophies were announced today!

No comments: