I am one of the 6 million people who play World of Warcraft. This should be no surprise. I've blogged before on the topic, and most folks know I enjoy my weekly Dungeons and Dragons games, and this game appeals to those fantastic sensibilities.
I'm also a member of a guild on World of Warcraft called "Sadhus of the Smoke" (I assume no responsibility for the dreadful animated gif if you follow this link). I've been a member of the guild for a good long while now, and have even made a couple of real life friends there. In fact, the girl who invited me into the guild in the first place is now dating one of my buddies!
Last weekend, a few of the guild members came to Philly, at least one coming from as far away as California. I got a chance to meet a lot of them in person for the first time, and the experience was unique to say the least. If you looked around the room, there were a bunch of people that, on sight, you wouldn't figure would be very likely to hang out together. Outward appearance, however unfair, is the only measuring stick available in most social situations for people to gauge who they'd like to approach.
But in this case, appearances were right out the window because most of us had gamed together for a long time now. The connection, or pretext for conversation, was already there. We drank a couple of beers and played some board games and had a good time. And it was really refreshing.
World of Warcraft has come under some scrutiny of late, and not all of it undeserved. There was the lamentable handling of a gay and lesbian guild on one of the servers. A recent editorial claiming that Warcraft teaches kids the wrong things makes some interesting points and is seeing some circulation around the web.
But I have a hard time believing that a game can be good or bad on some fundamental level. I would be lying if I said I haven't seen some people engage in addictive behavior over this game... I've heard some disturbing things in chat channels where parents are ignoring their kids because they want to make "one more run through the battlegrounds" or "turn in this last quest". I've seen claims of classes, and work, being skipped for days on end to play the game. That behavior is just not healthy on any level.
But I still maintain that's NOT THE FAULT OF THE GAME. That's the fault of the person playing the game being unable to prioritize properly.
And if people can make lasting connections through a game like this, I fail to see how playing this game is any less healthy or antisocial then going to a bar or club every weekend to try to meet people.