people think of MMORPGs as elaborate make-believe
fantasies that are not only pointless but perhaps of danger to
teenagers who may lose hold of their real identities. This critique
is ironic in that everyone shifts between multiple roles in real life
- father, son, leader, follower, teacher, student. In fact, maturity
is about the accumulation and balance of roles, and more importantly,
understanding life from different perspectives.
Others point out that MMORPGs in the end are just
games and not worthy of our attention. This view is also ironic
in that the status of a game is culturally constructed. Chess and
golf are seen as almost noble pursuits, but in the end they too
are games. Also, by labeling MMORPGs as games, we fail to understand
them as sites of complex work and collaboration. In fact, MMORPGs
are more like work than play.
Another line of critique focuses on the relationships that form
in these environments. Some argue that virtual “relationships”
meaningless. This view fails to take into account that the
people behind the avatars are real
people. More importantly, we all wear masks in real life.
It is naive to assume that we get to know a person intimately
merely because we can interact with them face to face. After
all, the “bad”
people in online worlds live in the real world. And finally, most
players actually play
with someone they know in real life on a
regular basis. In other words, these online environments
can be seen as places where existing RL ties are being strengthened.
And finally, some would argue that these games are pointless because
nothing that is achieved in these environments has any real life
meaning or value. The eBay transactions show that achievements in
MMORPGs actually do have real life value. More importantly, when
MMORPGs are understood as complex frameworks of rules and mechanisms,
it becomes hard to differentiate them from other complex frameworks
in real life - such as getting a paper accepted at an academic journal.
The question then becomes - How much of life is also
just a game?