No pun intended.
It was a pretty wild week for Soul Kerfuffle. Andy's little guest article sparked an internet firestorm that led to over 1000 diggs and not one, but two slashdottings.
It was obviously way beyond any kind of response we were anticipating. This blog was started by me a couple of years ago for the same reasons most people start a blog: just a way for friends and family to keep up with what's going on, and a place to track meandering thoughts.
I learned some pretty valuable lessons from the experience of all those comments and emails though. For one thing, it has made me a lot more sympathetic to public figures whose every word could land them in hot water with the press. It is so easy for anything that you say to be taken out of context and twisted when every word is dissected and discussed by a great number of people. Since I'm good friends with Andy, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what he meant by his words from previous discussions: it really wasn't much more than a classic case of someone realizing they had let their behavior get out of hand, and then taking steps to fix it.
What was shocking was the amount of backlash received. One of the commentors linked a message board for a WoW guild called Fires of Heaven, and in an effort to understand the backlash I ventured onto their message board to get their point of view.
Although some there were understandably a little put off at first, there were several good points made.
One point reiterated strongly on the board and in the comments was the issue of comparing World of Warcraft to a drug of some kind. Some people went so far as to say it was insulting.
I believe the issue is, quite frankly, unimportant to the purpose of the original post. Whether or not something is intrinsically addictive or not is for the realm of science to figure out. But I'm pretty sure that it's possible to exhibit addictive behavior towards just about anything. So whether or not Warcraft is addictive like a drug really doesn't matter to me... the fact that some people exhibit addictive behavior DOES matter to me. And it matters to me because the people are important, not the game or the way it's designed or any of those things.
Another interesting point made on the Fires of Heaven message board that I never considered was one of guild burnout. Some of the folks over there clearly care about raiding, and do a lot of work to schedule raids and put in a lot of time to earn the gear. They view it as a personal affront when someone who has spent some time raiding with them, earning gear alongside them, leaves the game because of burnout because it penalizes others who feel they are able to balance the game and real life. Now those people must find someone else to replace the burned out player who let things get out of hand.
Finally, a long long time ago I posted something about game design shortly after I quit playing the game myself. The gist of the thing is that when you look at World of Warcraft and compare it to Pac Man, you see that game design actually may not have come as far as we thought. There is still a kill-loot-reward mechanism in place that probably should have gone the way of the dodo years ago. I bring this up again because this week's issue of the fine online gaming magazine, The Escapist, has a terrific article about how tantalizingly close MMOs are to being revolutionary, but how they are falling short in the author's eyes.
Finally, on the issue of the game or the person being to blame, I'm always going to vote in favor of the person, with the following caveat: a person can be influenced by their environment. That doesn't mean to me that the environment is at fault, but it can be an obstacle to overcome. It is a particularly timely issue, because in other news this week a fellow who happens to play Dungeons and Dragons killed a coworker with a homemade samurai sword.
That the fellow may be schizophrenic doesn't make the headline.