Posted by: jspiegel | May 12, 2009

#27: Online Gaming


There is a large portion of the socially maladroit population who participate in online gaming activities.  As a ‘gamer’ you may be wandering in a world of make believe, only to find that your casual role-playing elf is no match for the level sixty paladin who roams the countryside seeking to destroy anything in its path.

Odds are this uberhero is using food stamps to buy his Ramen Noodles and Little Debbies.

Role-playing games have been around for a number of decades, and while the graphics and interface have evolved significantly, the overall goal and vision has remained the same: to provide an escape into an alternate reality in which you can create a life that far more satisfying than the one you currently live.  Seemingly a majority of the working world would want to subscribe to such a service, and many do.  However most of them find themselves preoccupied with the necessary evils of the real world such as having a job.  For whatever reason, employed people also spend enough time away from these games to understand that ideals such as socializing, friendships and intimate relationships can provide some brief happiness to their mundane existence.

Unemployed people have no such trappings.  Since you have no office to go to, you spend much of your time indoors and by yourself, thus adding to your social isolation.  While television and computers provide access to the outside world, they are only constant reminders of the society that has rejected you.  But, in the world of EverQuest, or GuildWars, you are a powerful Elf Warlord who can slay a dragon with fifty-thousand hit-points in a matter of moments.  Can your old boss with a six-figure salary say that?

Certainly, the longer you remain unemployed, your social skills are bound to dwindle and fade.  Fortunately with online gaming, being gregarious is not as important of an attribute as strength, constitution, or dexterity.  Your imaginary physique and mental endurance are far more crucial to your character’s virtual success and the determinants of your social status rely not on you being kind, humorous, or charming, but rather the invaluable skill of being able to barter with a forest gnome on High Feastday.  If only your online girlfriend could appreciate such a quality.

The rules of engagement are also vastly different in the online gaming worlds.  Here in reality, it would be preposterous to assume that a half-human, half-elf could actually hold a position of political power, or that a dwarf and a ranger would actually be accepted as a legitimate couple in today’s society.  Luckily, in a simulated environment, the cruel hardships of the real world are not a factor and you have just as much chance of being accepted as anyone else; even if you are of Orc descent!

The bottom line is that it is a harsh and bitter world out there.  But, since you don’t have a job, why should you have a life?  Unless, of course, that life involves some virtual ales and late-night friskiness with the local tavern wench.


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