MMOs,  Social Networking & Media

The Beauty of Virtual Personas

There has been a lot of commentary (quite obviously) on the Blizzard/Activision RealID debacle, and quite a lot of it has pointed out that Blizzard’s official response seems to be “We’re doing this, so deal with it or stop playing. What are you guilty of that you want to hide your real identity?” which is both extremely dismissive of their customer’s feelings, and also something much, much worse. It is quite obvious that this decision was made by suits who are complete non-gamers.

This is a bad thing for a game company, in my opinion. If you totally don’t understand the culture, how can you make the right decisions for your player base? If you don’t play games yourself, if you don’t understand the love of gaming itself, you think of games as units to be shipped, as though they could easily be cars or rolls of toilet paper instead of games. They don’t understand that you can’t lump Farmville and Warcraft together in the same category – they are very much not the same thing.

You don’t live in Farmville. Quite a few people, however, do to an extent “live” in games like Warcraft. I’m not talking about saddoes who have no life outside their mother’s basement, I’m talking about people who have real relationships and friendships within a virtual environment. I’m talking about people like me who have felt joy in their heart when watching a virtual dawn seeping like gold across the Barrens.

Virtual worlds have always fascinated me in part because they allow you to be who you are inside, without being judged for your economic circumstances or for whatever random roll of the chromosomes went into making up your physical face and body. Every waking moment we are pigeonholed and judged for what we look like, for our sex, for the clothing that we can afford. What a relief, what magic to be liked or disliked for our intelligence, our sense of humour, for what we contribute to others.

I wasn’t shortchanged by Fate…I come from a pretty family, and I’ve enjoyed the perks in life that being attractive gets you. I’m a professional in a technical/creative field, and I make a decent wage. Even so, I love being able to step out of my life and into another persona. When I am Kitsune, my hunter, I literally think like a different person, and I love it, I absolutely love leaving the suit behind and being my hunter. I don’t want to be my real self in game, that is totally NOT why I love to play.

Neither do I want to hide behind a handle on forums because I enjoy being a forum troll. I don’t post often, but when I do my responses are literate and well-thought-out. I might write something quite lacerating if I’m excited enough about what I’m writing, but I’ll do it in a logical, sensible fashion. I don’t troll. But I want to make those posts as my nickname, which is unisex…not as my real name. I don’t need fourteen-year-old boys sneering at my opinions because I’m a woman, and because I’m as old as their moms.

I’ve also been quite open about past relationships to people who know me in game, and they know that some of those relationships have been with women. (Although I don’t really have a sexual orientation, I’ve discovered that I do have a cultural orientation, and I don’t think that one should sleep with people who they wouldn’t bring home to meet the family…so those relationships have been rare, but they exist.) Some guildies, predictably, think this is just the sexiest damn thing that they have ever heard, and they think if I’ve done it with X, I probably want to do it with their girlfriend as well. Wrong. This attention has at times gotten to the point where I’ve stopped playing mains, hiding on alts if Testosterone Boy was online. I haven’t ever felt in danger, as in this case he seemed a nice enough guy…but I would have been very concerned if I knew that at any time he could look up my address and show up on my doorstep.

I want to be safe. I want the right to play as I wish, as whomever I wish. I want to be able to escape into a character and be me for awhile. And a non-gamer will never, ever understand that.

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