Last weekend I was in Kansas for a wedding. I know, plenty of excitement to be had there – which I am sure there was, though I was unable to venture much farther then a few miles from my hotel. Sadly, there just was not enough time to get into the city and taste some of what makes that city tick.
As my wife and I were driving around looking for something to eat, my mind turned to bigger questions of our culture – which also brings in gaming. While she is not a gamer, she understands from reading what I write, why I and so many others play World of Warcraft and other games.
But, what struck me most as we sat at an intersection and looked across at the handful of chain restaurants and clothing outlets is this: We — that is all of us — have both a desire and ease of moving about, yet when we do, we either “stay” home, or “take” home with us.
Think of it this way, we can go anywhere and still be in contact with “home” through cell phones. We can go anywhere and still be at work with laptops. Cloud based services make leaving home even easier, but these services make taking work with us even simpler. In the end, while we sat at that intersection waiting for the light to change, I kept looking at Outback Steakhouse. It hit me: It was so easy for me to leave my home in Colorado and fly to state a couple of hours away, only to be offered nothing different than what exists down the street.
I was baffled. Is this really what we want? An ease to move about, only to be offered the same fare as what is down the street? Could this be one of the reasons we escape to games – because, there we won’t be barraged by what is down the street? Even with the many, many pop culture references that exist in Azeroth, I won’t see a McDonald’s as I venture about. Of course, I won’t be surprised to see some product placement make its way to Azeroth.
Later that evening, when the family would get together to go out, all anyone wanted was the same thing that exists in Colorado. I suggested we find some bar-b-que or something that serves a good steak (I had been told to experience a steak in Kansas). The name of the restaurants listed were available down the street from both the hotel and our houses, mind you, some of my wife’s family live several miles away from us in the Denver area – regardless, the fare there is no different than what is near my house.
Earlier, though, while we sat at the intersection, I said aloud, “Now you see why I game.” My wife looked at me and quickly made the connection. Even in the center of Denver where she works, she has little opportunity to escape the chain shops. She agreed, that perhaps one reason so many of us game is because we won’t run into the absolute expected. Sure, once you have toured Azeroth, which is wonderfully easy now with flying mounts, it all becomes the same. But, there is a difference in the limited scope of the virtual world – against the scope of reality. Is this what we really want in reality, though? Do we want to travel only to go to familiar places?
Many years ago I got a wild hair up my fanny and moved to France to live with a family as au pair. For those of you who don’t know, and au pair is a live in nanny. I intentionally found a family in a small town in Normandy. Really, I didn’t care where I went, so long as it was not Paris. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris. If you haven’t been there, you really should go, as there is no city quite like it.
Everyone I spoke with asked the same question: Why wouldn’t you want to live in Paris? My answer was simple, I wanted to experience real French culture. I didn’t want to see Burger King or Subway. Of course, Paris is real French, but it feels too normal to me. I wanted a radical change. I wanted to be the only person who could speak my language (not just English, mind you, but my language, which is a language of the city). So, I went as far form that as possible, a town with a population of about 25, this is no exaggeration. I learned so much about myself there, as one often does on an adventure. I was the only person for miles who spoke English or had lived in a city so large that it couldn’t be easily traversed in a short time.
I contend that among the many reasons you and I game, that among the many reasons you may be reading what I write is that we all crave and know that there has to be something more. We all crave an adventure, both in reality and out. But, our culture is leaning more towards providing the expected in our adventures. We can go on an adventure to any city and find that which we expect much more easily than finding the local fare, where the real adventure is. Games do provide an adventure that isn’t just available down the street.
We are wired with a desire to move around and seek out something new, but we have become increasingly reliant on routine and we go where we are familiar, Starbucks. In games, while the world is familiar, while we play with friends that we make inside the game, it certainly isn’t Applebee’s. Blizzard, like other game producers, has offered players the ability to adventure, as our culture has seemed to inhibit our ability or desire to do so. When we do travel, we often end up where we started, Pizza Hut.
The reason my wife and I were at that light having this little talk in Topeka is that we were looking for a place to eat. All we saw were chain restaurants. Neither one of us wanted to go to one of those, but it seemed we had little choice. We wanted to leave home, but it seemed a difficult undertaking. We sought an adventure while in Topeka, but it was hard to come by. Hidden behind Wal-Mart and Target, it had to be there, but we couldn’t find it. We both craved the unique tastes that could be offered to us, but we ended up at, of all places, Hooters, a place which neither of us had ever been to, nor will go to again, I doubt. As the food there was not much different than what we can find at any other chain processed food restaurant.
So, I encourage you all, as you go on your adventures in reality, to take with you the same wanderlust that you bring to the game. Go someplace local and different, a place where the recipe may be generations old. We bring so much of this wanderlust and sense of adventure to World of Warcraft, I say take that same desire and drive with you as you go out with your partner in life. Go on an adventure, seek it, it is right there, hidden behind The Macaroni Grill and The Olive Garden. In the end, it will be worth the price you paid.
When was the last time you took an adventure outside of your home? Did you go to a local establishment, or did you end up at the focus group processed chain? Does World of Warcraft help satisfy your need for adventure? Share with us where you think someone seeking adventure in your area should go.
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