Like Second Life, but with battle axes
By Roxanne Broda-Blake
I don't know about you, but on Saturday nights, I fight evil zombie lords and giant blue dragons.
I am addicted to World of Warcraft.
For those of you who spend your weekends grinding on a guy instead of exploring dungeons, World of Warcraft is an online role-playing game produced by Blizzard Entertainment. It takes players into Azeroth, a kingdom filled with every magical race and beast imaginable, from gurgling frog-people to unicorn zebras. Players choose from 10 different classes, 11 professions, and millions of adventures.
My character is a teensy elfin hunter with voluminous red hair and long, pointy ears. Wielding an enormous gun, I run with a pack of lions, tigers, and wolves. The beauty of a game like World of Warcraft is that it provides an escape. However, part of the danger is that it can provide too much of an escape. You have to be careful not to leave the real world entirely behind.
Isis, a waifish, blond elfin priest, claims that the game is where she releases her aggression. Josephiroth and Reventon, a light-harnessing paladin and 10-foot-tall axe-wielding Tauren, respectively, both said that being invited to groups with other players makes them feel important in ways they don't experience in everyday life. Despite their two-decade age difference, Josephiroth and Reventon feel accomplished while playing World of Warcraft.
Aside from fighting unimaginable foes and riding dragons, this social aspect of World of Warcraft seems to be one of the game's greatest strengths. One talkative player nicknamed Rusty is a funnyman who constantly tells stories and jokes. But outside the game, he admits that he's not outgoing.
In a game where interaction with other players is necessary, the line between harmless socializing and full-out creepines is easily blurred. When you've spent months questing, fighting evil, and exploring the illusion that you "know" your fellow players, friendships grow stronger as time passes. They've been depending on you to help kill difficult monsters or craft new armor, and, in turn, you start to depend on them. They might ask for your e-mail address, phone number, or even photos. And because you've accomplished so much together, you develop a sense of trust.
You know where this is going. "WoWDating" is an all-too-common bizarre phenomenon. It's weird, and there are plenty of horror stories about online predators and stalkers as evidence. But c'mon, kids. In the end, I simply enjoy killing things with other players and surviving tricky encounters with only five "healths" left. I play to fight monsters with a trusty wolf at my side. That's much more appealing than taking 500 pictures at a single beer pong tournament.