Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MMOs made me into the man I am.

I play World of Warcraft, a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, also known as a MMO. At the heart of every MMO over the past 10 years has been cooperative game play with other people. What you do affects the play of others and what they do affects you, which in turn has a direct impact on your enjoyment of the game. 10 years ago in EverQuest we played the game to be part of a team, to kill dragons, see all the content, and obtain loot. You had to play as a member of the team because every step of the way you needed the team to achieve anything. Your guild was your team, and without them you were nothing. As an individual you couldn’t accomplish anything. I still believe at its heart that is what a MMO is about, being part of a team.

I was a teenager when I started playing EverQuest so fulfilling my obligation to my team and guild helped to mold me into who I am. I am a team player; I place the needs of my guild before my own. In EQ it was never about me, or I, it was about us and that has carried on into every aspect of my life. Today I’m in the United States Military Reserves and that mentality has helped push me ahead of my peers. As a group I understand we are able to accomplish so much more than as any individual could. I learned from EQ that sometimes putting the needs of others before my own will make the team stronger, and thus make me stronger. I also learned I had to stand up for those who were being unfairly treated due to favoritism because the team had to always be at its strongest.

There are lots of educational games out today that are designed around helping kids learn to spell or do math but I’m not sure any teach the kind of social skills I learned in EQ. The ironic thing was that while I played EQ I was very “anti-social”. I didn’t go out at all, my school grades dropped, and I didn’t talk to many friends that didn’t play with me. So on one hand I learned about selflessness it was at the expense of being a hermit.

The important thing to realize about EverQuest was that we didn’t prioritize the team over the individual because we were somehow nobler than the gamers of today, we did so because that was what it took to overcome the challenges. We were forced to work together because the game was simply that difficult and I honestly believe that if the game had been easier that community would not have existed. If the game had been more forgiving I never would have fully grasped the idea of reputation within a community, even an online one. I never would have understood how someone from your guild could affect how an entire community looks at you simply because you are in the same guild. Everything mattered.

I went through all of this at a very impressionable point in my life. I’m thankful I went through all of this because honestly I love that I have these values. I love that I place the team first. I love that I never place myself above others. I love that I naturally consider how others will react to my actions without any conscience effort.

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