In the normal blogs it's quite common to tell who you are. There's no reason to hide it. "Hello, I'm Sara Svensson, I live in Hultsfred and this is my blog!". But when it comes to World of Warcraft it's different. Just have a look at Larísas corner. The writer is a little avatar with pink pigtails. Age, gender and family situation, that's as far as the information goes. Apart from that Larísa is anonymous. Just like many other WoW bloggers.
It's the same thing in the game. The normal behaviour in Azeroth is to introduce yourself to others under the same name as your main char (or maybe an abbreviation of the main name, a sort of nick name). Your real name you only tell a few others, and then just your first name. It isn't even always that you inform about your real name to your own guild. You keep in touch by the in game mail or a forum. Very few players will give away their e-mail addresses or telephone numbers. If you leave the game you also leave your whole network, nobody knows who you are or how to get in touch with you. The relation only exists here and now in the game, and then we can as well socialize under our character's names.
Somehow I think we want to keep the worlds apart. We live one life in the game and another one outside of it. I believe there are several explanations to the phenomena. One reason is that we're afraid to lose the hideout function, the escape from reality that the game offers. We don't want it to bee to mixed up. It's nice not to be found by colleagues, family members, neighbours and others, that have a set idea of who you are from the beginning. In the game you're reborn as an empty paper, you can let other make themselves an opinion of you without prejudices, far beyond looks, job and other things that normally are sorting people out. All of us that normally are a bit tired of the roles we play daily get a new, honest opportunity to be someone else.
Another reason is the opposite - that you don't want the game to invade your real life. Of course there are some freaks out there, among those millions of players. Just like in every kind of chat forum there's a reason for you to be a bit careful. Suddenly that nice guy from the net is standing at your door, turning out to be a stalker, rapist or psychopath.
I also think that the secrecy about the gaming comes from us being a little ashamed. Or if we're not ashamed, at least we realize that most people around us never will understand the attraction of the game, how grown-ups can dedicate this vast amounts of time, energy and enthusiasm, running around killing monsters. Instead of strolling at IKEA, ironing curtains or pulling up weeds in the garden like any decent citizen.
The WoW players form a community that is clearly related to the ones of role players, trekkies, tolkienists, medieval enthusiasts and such alike. At the best we're looked upon as harmless, childish nerds. At the worst, they think we're brainwashed and dangerous to society. If there's a teenage murderer and it turns out that someone of the involved at some point of their lives has come in touch with a game, in the eyes of the public opinion it's evident what has caused it.
For some reason it's accepted to put 20-30 hours a week into following the lives of other people by watching documentary soap shows, to put your heart into knitting (have a look at all those knitting blogs out there, speaking of fanatism!) or to put every single minute of your spare time into torturing your body with exercise or dieting. For some reason gaming makes a lot of people that are over 30 years old to get aggressive. If you don't want to have to debate anything from gaming addiction to overweight problems with teenagers, you'd better stay discrete.
But of course, it is a special moment if you sometime stumble upon someone else in RL, that is a WoW player just like yourself. You exchange a few words, like a secret code that opens up new worlds. The glimpse of recognition in your eye - player to player. We who are sharing the same secret.
6 days ago