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Over the past 4.5 years I have encountered situations where I have suffered World of Warcraft burnout. During these times, if it wasn't for my guild and a handful of close friends in-game, I would of stopped playing the game and perhaps never returned. Fact is I'm only one subscription, however, I consider myself to be a typical gamer and if I'm encountering burn-out how many other gamers are experiencing the same thing? What kept me playing during these times of burn-out and/or returning after a short hiatus from the game? The hundreds of people I met through social networking within the game. Increasing the size of your /friends list in the World of Warcraft for grouping, pvp'ing, raiding, etc is only one form of social networking within World of Warcraft. In the following sections I will take a look at a couple other benefits of social networking in World of Warcraft.
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Social Networking & WoW Professions
Similar to real-life, your reputation with other players in the gaming world is of utmost importance when trying to establish a solid customer base for your services. Being polite, courteous, and providing your service at a fair mark-up will improve your reputation with the player(s) you are doing business with. This will not only ensure that the player(s) you are currently doing business with will do business with you in the future but will also result in your customers recommending you to their network of friends. This has the potential to have a snowball effect and before you know it you may not have to even advertise your services! You will be so busy doing work for the people that contact you directly for your services and in time you will have your own network of friends who come to you whenever the need arises for your specific profession.
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Social Networking in World of Warcraft & Real Life Benefits
While the chances are slim that social networking in the World of Warcraft will net you the job of your dreams wouldn't it be nice if you could promote yourself while you enjoyed playing your favorite MMO? Any research I have seen recently shows that the average age of a World of Warcraft player is 28. What does this mean? First of all, the misconception that all gamers are mouthy teenagers or adults who live in their parents basements is just that, a misconception. World of Warcraft players are working adults, and lets be honest, the more geeky or intelligent the person is, the more likely they are to be drawn to a game like World of Warcraft. I'm not saying you are all geeks! In reality, however, I feel that, as a generality, this is a fairly accurate statement. Geeks spend a lot of time learning, geeks obtain high paying jobs in specialized fields, geeks are always an excellent group of people to have in your network of friends! In-game or outside of Azeroth.
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Social Networking in World of Warcraft & Real Life Benefits, Continued
Another stigma you will have to get past while trying to promote your real-life self in-game is the embarrassment some adults have admitting their age and real-life profession to others in-game. For some reason, that I personally don't understand, a small subsection of our society seems to think it is inappropriate for an intelligent, well educated adult to spend their leisure time 'playing a stupid video game'.
This brings us to finding a solid group of friends to adventure with in-game. In most cases this will involve joining a guild and sometimes this will result in real-life relationships. My in-game guild has been together for over 4 years and in that time we have had half a dozen real-life 'parties'. That's right, we schedule a time and place where we can all take a few days and meet and get to know the person behind the avatar. I consider several of my in-game friends to be some of my closest friends. Weird? I don't think so. If you spend a few hours a day most days for over 4 years with any person or group of people you are bound to develop a few close 'friendships'.
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Why is Social Networking So Important in the World of Warcraft?
The general consensus is that World of Warcraft has maintained such a loyal subscription base because it has incorporated a high level of social networking within the game. It's inevitable that people will develop a network of friends, and not only be loyal to the game itself, but also their in-game friends. As I mentioned before World of Warcraft players experience 'burn-out' frequently, and in my personal experience, keep paying that monthly subscription because of this loyalty to their in-game friends. I have logged in many times and found myself sitting in a capital city for hours just chatting with my network of friends, achieving nothing within the game itself. This is not only a perfect scenario for Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, but for myself as well.
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Final Thoughts ...
One of the biggest aspects of social networking in the World of Warcraft for me is if I log into the game and don't feel like raiding, grinding faction, working on achievements or moving my character at all that's okay! My network of friends is there to chat with. Does this make me a geek? Perhaps, but in the end I make no apologies for it! Whether it be facebook, twitter, myspace or World of Warcraft we are all taking part in social networking within a virtual community. The days of teasing people who make use of online virtual communities to build a network of friends is over. I think we should all embrace the chance to take advantage of social networking in whatever form is available to us. If I can develop a network of friends while slaying orcs and dragons even better! Ok, so I am a geek. Until next time, develop that circle of friends and make the most of your time in Azeroth!