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"MMOG allow us to be an object of our own fantasy and participate in a world with very loose rules that allow us expose us to experiences when we want to experience them” (Batchelder, 2005). You craft an avatar, name it, decide what skills it will have and quest through a series of challenges in order to level. By using this safe environment, choice making skills can be learned without harm. You have many choices in what your character will be and do. You choose whether you are Alliance or Horde and what race and class you will be. Will your character damage or heal, use spells or melee, fight with the environment or with other people or do some of both. In all these ways you earn experience allowing you to move forward to explore new lands. In playing you kill mobs and have to learn the necessary limits in order to survive.
You also learn trade skills to have money to buy the necessary items that make your character more effective and playing more fun. You need to have money to repair your gear when you die and to buy mounts to make travel faster. This teaches the value of working for money and spending it wisely. You will encounter others who ask for money and you can pity them for not having learned to earn it.
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You will meet friends and have the choice to decide whether you want to hang with them or move on elsewhere. You can join a guild or create one and see the benefits and perils of community life. There are many quests and all instances and raids you are unable to do alone. This teaches, that like in real life, we need to learn to get along and that working together makes success possible. You will find that not working together causes real peril for your group. Your place in the group and how you play your character and pay attention to the surroundings is very important.
According to Nick Yee who surveyed 30,000 MMORPG gamers, gaming is not exclusively for teenagers. The data also included college students; early adult professionals; middle-aged homemakers; as well as retirees. What is remarkable is that these seemingly disparate demographic groups are often collaborating and working together to achieve the same goals. “This finding is particularly striking given that these disparate demographic groups seldom collaborate in any real life situation” (Yee, 2006, p. 9).
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Doing things together as a guild is very fun. Along with instances and raids, there are festivals to attend and special events that bring special rewards. All of this is a lot easier with an informed guild. And if you are very lucky, your guild members will help you gear your character and provide you with information to make your playing more effective. When you cap out at level 80, which takes an average of six months, your guild will be your primary playmates as you run instances and raids to make money and get new gear. Having a tight knit community based around common interests is one of the best rewards of life.
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Illusions of Power
World of Warcraft gives you the experience of having power. It teaches you how power ebbs and flows and what to do to maintain your equanimity in the face of the unknown. It helps you understand that you have the power to do and be whatever you want. It is a safe place to learn how you shape your relationships, your abilities, and your life according to your choices. It shows you how the actions of others affect you. It is an environment that mirrors real life in its beauty, its challenges, and its rewards.
World of Warcraft gives you the power to make choices over and over again until you learn what works for you. “But beyond exploring how MMORPGs can shape the identities of individuals, these highly social and structured environments also allow us to explore whether certain valuable skills learned in an MMORPG can transfer to the material world” (Yee, 2006, p. 20). Learning to be an adult and respond effectively can be quite painful without practice. WoW can help us grow up successfully.
Although the field of psychology seems fixated on studying whether video games cause real-life aggression, there are many benefits to playing. Nick Yee asks “Considering that new forms of social identity and social interaction are emerging from these environments, is aggression the only thing worth our attention?” (2006, p. 7)
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Batchelder, M. (2005, August 29). World of Warcrack and the future of MMOGs
Yee, N. (2006). The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships and Problematic Usage. In R. &. (Eds.), Avatars at Work and Play: Collaboration and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments (pp. 187-207). London: Springer-Verlag