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World of Warcraft FAQs for Christians: Why is it so addictive?

World of Warcraft FAQs for ChristiansWhy is World of Warcraft so addictive?

When Paul Sams, the COO of Blizzard (the company that makes WoW), was asked why people play World of Warcraft, his answer was a bit depressing: “How often in your everyday world do you get to feel heroic?” he said. “How often do you get to step into a world and do something big and meaningful? People need an escape from ordinary life. It’s just something people need.”

What’s implicit in this statement is that our normal lives just aren’t good enough. Our life in WoW and other MMOs seem fundamentally better than our real lives.

But not only do we feel like we’re accomplishing something meaningful and significant, there’s a huge community attraction that’s praised by almost everyone I talk to about why they play WoW.

Thirty-year-old Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates writes about his former WoW addiction and says this:

What I came to understand was that WoW was not necessarily an escape, but a surrogate for a community that is harder and harder to find in the real world. I lived further from my parents and siblings than my parents had. I wasn’t raised in the church. In my 20s, I built a shocking amount of community around illicit substances and bars. But with age and a child, that was no longer as attractive or even possible. Into that void, I brought WoW, which instantly connected me with the world—not just mine, but others I could never have imagined or found on my own…. [Now that I’ve quit playing WoW] I miss my guild, Gnomeland Security, a loose cross-section of military guys, history majors, high school students, writers and singers. They were the place where everyone knew my name.

Community might be the number one aspect of MMOs that keeps players coming back for more — to earn a reputation and be accepted by other people.

Through many weeks of brainstorming and even analyzing some of my own attractions to the MMO game, Guild Wars, here’s a list of why I think the MMO gaming genre can become so addictive:

  • You can be the best in the world at something.
  • Because you are the best, you become valued and needed by your guild and others in the game.
  • You are able to earn the admiration and respect of other players and thus make a name for yourself.
  • There is a high level of aggression, which feeds a constant flow of adrenaline.
  • You have complete ownership over building your character into whoever/whatever you want him/her/it to be (unlike other games that only give you a selection of characters to choose from, like sports games). You develop the character’s strengths and weaknesses, craft armor, build weapons, learn skills, perfect those skills, and, in some cases, even develop their unique personalities. It makes you feel that you have a unique identity, that you’re different and special from everyone else in a crowded world.
  • There is a rewarding and satisfactory feeling of conquering and achieving something difficult.
  • Interest in the paranormal and supernatural and controlling aspects of them for your advantage is very intriguing to teenagers and young adults. (Christianity even plays off this sometimes, too, doesn’t it?)
  • Death is never the end or “game over,” it’s only a development of character or an annoyance, which feeds an internalized feeling of invincibility.
  • The only laws/limitations are the laws of physics and sometimes even they can be overcome.
  • Fantasy is always attractive. Everyone has fantasies and imaginations to explore and carry out.
  • Relationships between real-life people abound and thrive in these online communities.
  • All the women are beautiful and all the men are handsome.
  • There are no families, only guilds and clans (of real-life people) that adopt members based on skill level, achievements and common goals. Thus, there is again pressure to excel and surpass everyone else.
  • The feeling that you’re actually making a difference as the enemy is defeated/eliminated/forced to submit.
  • There is no sleep, no need to rest, only the need to be better and stronger.
  • There is no mourning, only revenge.
  • Strategy and critical thinking are required to outwit and ultimately defeat your opponent. Victory does not always belong to the strongest — it often goes to the smartest and most knowledgeable. (A very attractive aspect for the little guys in real life who are often picked on or feel physically inferior.)

[ Read other “World of Warcraft FAQs for Christians” in this series ]

[tags]World of Warcraft, MMORPG, MMO, spirituality[/tags]


Posted on January 23, 2007

  • This analysis is really nice and the things you said are worth reading by anyone in game design. I especially liked these ones:

    – “Victory does not always belong to the strongest — it often goes to the smartest and most knowledgeable.”
    I like this one, I like this one a lot – and I really think any real time strategy game designers should remember this point.

    – “Relationships between real-life people abound and thrive in these online communities.”
    Well said.

    – “Death is never the end or “game over,” it’s only a development of character or an annoyance, which feeds an internalized feeling of invincibility.”
    This was the most annoying thing in some of those old adventure games… when I play adventure game (or mmorpg) I don’t want Death come to my way.

  • Good thoughts here Tim. I have played WOW for a while and gave it up because my community wasn’t that great. Like John Eldredge, I think we all want to be a part of something epic, and WOW is a great source for that. The thought of building your own identity, even how you look, is an amazing view into the desires of people. Unfortunately, like your quotes, most people are unwilling to take the risk to build themselves up like in real life like the game.

    I wonder what kind of guys groups you could put together to let them risk building this kind of identity and community? Is there something the church or youth ministry could learn from WOW?

  • WOWhater

    I think WOW is a waste of time. Right now my husband and I are on the edge of divorcing because of this game. It’s non stop, as soon as he get home from work until 2am in the morning and I hate this game and one day hopefully someone will be a genius and go on there and give everyone viruses to destory their computer that whoever logs in b/c then we won’t have a computer and we won’t fight over him playing it. He has kids to attend to and he doesn’t even attend to them. You people that play WOW needs to get a life. Get a hobby. Gaming online is just a a waste of time.

  • Tim

    Paul, I also was thinking a lot about how to combine this kind of adventure and community in real life settings. Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for good ideas right now.

    WOWhater, I totally sympathize with your frustration and I think it’s totally legitimate. Before I got married I was a guild leader and heavily involved with gaming, but one thing I always stressed to my guildmates was that real life always comes first — always. Your husband’s first priority should be to take care of you and his family. After that, with any left-over personal time, WoW could be appropriate. That’s how I do it now that I’m married and my gaming time has dramatically decreased to the point where I’m not even able to be active in a guild right now (hopefully again soon, though). What I had to realize that real-life responsibilities are so much more important than how I control a fantasy of little pixels on my computer monitor that ultimately mean nothing.

    I would guess your husband has some other issues that need to be addressed besides just an addiction to WoW, such as his contentment with his personal life or something. I’m not sure WoW is the source of the addiction as much as it is an expression of something deeper. I’ll be addressing this next week in my WoW blog series here.

  • I like Paul’s thought on figuring out how to build a community like that at church. Where you can be face to face with people. Great idea…just how do we do that?

    I somewhat know how WoWhater is feeling. I felt like that towards Guild Wars while Tim and I were dating. When we finally started working through things in our own relationship, we realized that things I was doing was driving Tim to play so much Guild Wars. It was a way for him to escape from his crazy girlfriend.

    Now that we’re married, and it started a little before that, I changed my view on MMO games. I’m still not thrilled about them, but man, I get really caught up in reality shows. I realize that Guild Wars is something that Tim likes to do to help him relax from a long day, or just have some fun. My TV time is the same for me. Unfortunately my TV time is scheduled for when the shows come on, Tim can at least get on to Guild Wars are more convenient times for us. So usually when I am watching one of my shows, Tim has his time on the computer.

  • WOWhater

    Well, that is fine. I do have my shows are some nights and I do not care if he does something he likes when I have my shows on but, when you first hit the door after work until midnight to 2am on games and I ask him to do stuff that needs to be done and it never gets done that is ridiculous and what is so childish is that he even said he would divorce me if I had the internet cut off.
    Thats just show what his priorites are. I need attention and he said he woudn’t give me any at all if I cut his game off. Please no advice on marriage couseling. Been there done that many of times and no approvement. We have no issues besides this game. So, its no personal matter but this WoW game. I give up.

  • As with anything, it can become a god to us and enslave us in habitual practices. The only thing that ever made WoW appealing to me was the Leroy Jenkins clip I saw on G4 and gamingandtech.com.

    That was funny. I do enjoy playing games, but have never played this one. Gaming can be done in ‘runs’ and be effective. Take a weekend and play all day on a Saturday – once a month or so – then you can have the essence of game play without the prison.

    Great article BTW – James Tippins

  • Tim

    Yeah, that’s how I’ve been playing lately — 5 or 6 hours straight every couple weeks. Hopefully I can get back into Guild Wars more consistently once Dana and I settle down in MN. It’s more fun when I can keep up with how the PvP aspects of the game change rather than coming back every couple weeks and feeling like a complete noob.

  • chris

    hi, i havent got WoW yet but i am going to, to see what it is like. I dont know why a lot of places i read about being addicted to WoW, never mention people could be addicted because its just so darn fun !? maybe its just a great game and ppl want to have some fun ? maybe its a little too fun, if u know what i mean ;) but if someone really really enjoys something then its hard to pull them away from it, and they will try and get back on it whenever they can so they feel better. just my opinion. i will not get addicted to WoW i dont think because i am too busy with my real life to be playing WoW all the time, i have my GCSE’s coming up soon so im incredibly busy, but also im more of an FPS fan lol!

  • Tim

    I agree, Chris. Anything can become an addiction, especially things that are fun! My attempt here was to breakdown all the different elements that make it “so darn fun.” It is certainly possible to play WoW and maintain balance in life. However, WoW seems to have a high propensity for becoming addictive for some of the reasons I mentioned here. It doesn’t have to be that way for everyone who plays, though.

  • Iplaywow

    When I started playing WOW my wife was ok with it.. but after awhile when I started to level through the 20’s is when I started to stay up later.. then she was pissed.. I solved it by getting her to play… woot Anyhow.. someone said ::: wonder what kind of guys groups you could put together to let them risk building this kind of identity and community?;;;;

    You start off as a noob in wow.. every one needs to pick a char. they like or relate too.. then you pick a prof. and so on and so fourth.. if you got a group of kids together. have them do tasks depending on the type of person each belive they want to become.. if they/one / each decide they are not suited to be that type of person, they/ one/ each pick another type and start over in the tasks.. you/one / they agree on something.. you then have a list of good prof. they might want to learn that go with that type of person. you then start giving them tasks to complete and things to master and of course if you have 2 or 3 kids with the same task… or a kid that has something another needs for help ……. well you get it…

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  • Mike

    I play wow, i have for some time, and i can understand how poeple get addicted to it so easily.

    its mostly for a sense of accomplishment and getting to a certain level ect. I think people get so addicted merely because its a very well-made game, and it is a nice way to relax.

    Its not a bad thing to play warcraft, but some poeple just suck at time management. i used to play wow all the time but now i cant play it very long before i want to do something else. as my life in the real world got more interesting i quit playing wow as much, it was a just a time-killer.
    I think the reason poeple will play it continuously is if they feel they have nothing better to do.

    I think its just like any other hobby a person might pick up (for instance my dad reads CONSTANTLY) I think poeple say its so addciting because all they’ve heard of are the poeple that cant put it down, or never tried it themselves. but in reality its more the person than the game.

    i never knew many of my freinds played wow (my youth pastor for one) untill i asked them. it only has negative effects if you let it.

  • eliza

    I feel bad for hating such a silly game. but i do. and i hate that i hate something so much. how do i free myself from this hate?

  • David

    I play WoW and I like it a lot. However, I do realize the need to curb myself at it and many other things. I too have a guild, and I look forward to playing with them. One thing I do is set a parental control timer or just a real timer with two hours on it (from 7 at night – 9 at night) to play WoW. Another way I curb it is by exercise; if I don’t hit the gym for an hour and a half, no WoW today. I mean, you can over use it a lot, but in the end it is A GAME and you need to disconnect from it…

  • ryan

    Just letting you know:
    don’t judge before you play it.
    People get steemed about people playing this game for long periods of time,
    and yet, it serves as an anti-drug.
    Think of it this way:

    what is better
    a.) doing drugs ,cocaine,weed,meth,and sex and drinking,
    b.) playing world of warcraft.

    it isn’t bad for people who are single , it serves as a great way to feel good about yourself.

    THough you should play in moderation I believe if you are married are in a relationship that you believe is serious.

    thanks

    -ryan

  • sam

    I played wow for about a year, I had to quit becouse I got into it way too much, like getting home from school cracking open a coke and play it until dinner was ready then go to bed and start the same thing the next day. At the end of the day WoW isnt worth the time and money you put into it, especialy if it consumes every free hour you have that you could be spending with family and friends, (actual friends not someone you forget excists when you log out of WoW).

  • aaazileee

    To WoWhatever.

    Before My boyfriend and I started seeing each other (almost 4 years ago now)
    he was a devout WoW player.We broke up once (after our first nine months) because of what it was doing to our relationship,he wouldnt even call me or email for days on end (we werent living together at the time). Once I broke up with him , he freaked out! he deleted the game from his computer, started exercising, and even started wearing a cross and saying he beleive in GOd, just to get me back.
    I travelled over seas about 2months after our break up,and he followed me. Where we started seeing each other again, and before I knew it he’d changed back to his old self, but because he had no computer he focused on Warhammer instead.
    After returning home, he started up his account again, but wasnt as frequent,(mainly because i hated it) he ended up selling his account,to a friend.
    I tried playing once, but didnt at all stick to it(or enjoy it).

    Anyway, we are over seas again, and with no computer, but when we go back home he’s said he really wants me to play with him. and Im going to.
    I hated WoW, and even now Im still not fond of it , the idea of it, and the pointlessness is has with our everyday lives, but we’ve come to an agreement taht If I play for an hour, He’ll exercise for an hour.And atm WoW is doing some thing that if a person signs up someone else they level up 3 times as fast.. or something like that.
    TO tell you the truth. Im dreadin it, but I know i will help our relationship, and its something he, does actually love and enjoy.
    He has a Very addictive personality, and I think by me joining him in his conquests, he might enjoy spending time with me, and see that spending time with a person is the main priority, everything in moderation.and will want to spend time with me doing other things aswell.

    SO yeah, leave your husband. freak him out.. he’ll realise what and arse he’s been and will travel half way round the world for you if he has to.

  • Tyler Jusczak

    I have played the trail version of wow. and the first night i stayed up all night (on a Friday night). And i really don’t know what makes this game so insanely addictive. It could be that its just fun, or you want to keep doing one more quest or one more trip here to get this armor. But it also could be that for all the people that are paying for it, they feel obligated to keep on playing because they are spending 15$ a month just to be able to play the game. And they don’t want to wast money. Because for me, it was easy to stop playing and do the dishes or do some math homework. because i wasnt paying 15$ out of my pocket just to play. And if u want to quit. just find a diffrent free game to play.. such as runescape.. or tibia.. they may have not near to the graphics as wow. but its still a mmorpg that wont suck money and your life away.. also e-mail me and ill play with you in either of thoes games ;) tylerjusczak@hotmail.com

  • don

    The real reason why WoW is so addictive…

    "Life's a bitch; WoW's a slut"

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