In this week’s installment of World of Warcraft Wisdom, I get into the depths of character as well as identity, channeling my inner existential philosopher – and wonder about meaning in virtuality.
A bit about me – I am, by nurture, a calm, peaceful person. By nature, I am, like so many of you, a violent person who is always making sure to survive, be it through sustaining food, procreation, or protecting my territory; however, civilization has done its best to make sure that these impulses are tempered through a variety of tools. So, what does this mean regarding World of Warcraft? The question I wish to pose is this: When we create a character in any game, especially an MMORPG, is it to actualize who we are or who we wish we were?
Further, I wonder if the manner in which we exist in a game is similar or different from the manner in which we exist outside of the game in reality? More personal, to what extent are the characters I have reflect my true, or real, identity? I have written in the past on the benefits of games and how they may help us in reality. This time, though, I wish to explore the deeper issues of existence.
When we create a character, we begin in the World of Warcraft as we do in real life: a tabula rosa. In other words, we are born with a physical existence, though virtual, and no personal identity. As we live, our identity, or one’s essence, is created through our actions and choices. We can, with some restraints from our social structure, determine ourselves as we grow. The same happens in the game, but only to a certain degree. Blizzard gives us a path and training based on a class from which we cannot deter. Furthermore, the race we choose has pre-determined abilities (similar to the idea that one born and raised in a higher income bracket has certain options and skills pre-determined from the get go than someone in a third world), but it is up to the player to determine what to do with that training and that character, it is in an image that we determine. As the character grows and gains in talents and skills, we use those however we choose.
My first character that I really enjoyed and leveled all the way has been my priest. When a new expansion comes out, she is the first one to rise up to the challenge. I maintain that I like to heal – due to the challenge it presents in the game. But, I run a healer for different reasons, just as I do my paladin, my warrior, and my mage. I have noted too many times to mention that I absolutely hate playing DPS. I find it boring and no challenge whatsoever, especially with the nerfing Blizzard has done with Cataclysm. However, healing, like tanking, presents the player with a variety of challenges that DPS never has to be concerned about. All DPS has to do is hit the buttons in the right order to maximize their damage to the monsters. But, I digress.
I like the priest, because part of me in reality plays a similar role. Though not a healer, I am compassionate. I seek to help those around me, I like to be in that supporting position where I can guide and help enable the best in someone else to come to fruition. Remember, I teach high school, and as such, I am there to bring forth the best in someone. I have no grandiose dreams of running a school, or the world for that matter. Just like in the game, I want to be there for my guild or group, help out when I can, yet when I need to, I can be quite fine on my own. The healer is the primary support for the group; she makes sure each member in the party stays healthy to fight, she is there to insure that the group achieves victory. Without this supporting person, a group will not get very far. This, again, is how I live and guide my actions.
Of course, there are times when I would love to succumb to my biological impulses and lash out in a violent manner, but my upbringing and socialization wont let me. It is for this reason that I have my mage. FraublÃ¼cher is dedicated to PVP. She hit 85 and has done only battle grounds and arenas since. I have to admit, I do love PVP, but in reality, I am not a physical fighter, most of my fighting is done with words and ideas, I figure it is for this reason that I am not that good here, as PVP is diametrically opposed to who I really am. But, there are still times when it feels good to lay waste to someone in an arena or battle ground.
These are all questions of identity. I look at how I create these characters and how I give them existence in Azeroth. I notice that the characters have the same values I do. For example, my view on money is different from that of my culture. I don’t live to make as much money as I can, I don’t save every penny, invest in some stock or bond: money is mine to spend. My father taught me that I should only work so much to afford my needs, yet I should keep my wants simple. He said that the more time I spend working, the less time I can enjoy what you have worked for. So, I keep it simple — in life and in the game.
Similarly, I really do stink at making gold in the game. I would say that between all of my characters I have about 10k in gold. I talk to my friends, and they all have double that on each of their level 85 toons. In reality, I don’t have a large house, fancy car, a Rolex. In parallel, my characters maintain enough gold to pay for repairs, get the next level of flying, and the like. My characters don’t have fancy mounts, they have what they need. Like I do.
There are other parallels too – between the characters I create and myself. None of us are overly cheerful, neither of us use text speak in any communication, we are always gracious when helped, and neither of us pass an opportunity to help another in need. We all keep our lives simple and focus on the next adventure. Most importantly, we both are around to laugh and have fun — after all, isn’t that the main reason to game?
What about you? To what extent do the characters you create reflect who you are in reality? Or, do your characters allow you to live in a a manner you cannot in reality?
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