World of Which Craft?

Meet Mata Darkward, klutzy, dorky Second Life avatar of a klutzy, dorky, real person – me. Mata can’t fly without landing with a face plant, she can’t change her appearance, and she can barely walk… Is there no hope for Mata Darkward?

This past week’s class explored multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) and massively multiplayer online games (MMOG). The experience reaffirmed my position that I have no business in virtual worlds. My ineptness showed as I struggled to master even the basics in Second Life.

Because the experience taught me nothing more than I suck at computer games, I consulted a master World of Warcraft player — my adult son. He’s played WoW for many, many years – mostly in my basement — so his expertise is extensive. In fact, for a long time, WoW was the only world in which he really socialized: He even met his wife online playing WoW. He courted her by having his character die in front of her character, which is a healer. She brought his character back to life and he continued to “kill” himself until she finally agreed to talk with him in the real world.

My son has Asperger’s Syndrome (he was diagnosed at the age of 30 years), so his in-person social skills are not as developed as his peers. Playing WoW was/is a way for him to socialize without all the real-life awkwardness. He was safe in that world – even if he died a lot – and was judged on his gaming skills instead of his social skills.

I asked him if he’d learned anything of value playing WoW and he came up with an extensive list: Eye-hand coordination; applied logic; complex math calculations; strategic planning; and how to better socialize. He said without WoW, he wouldn’t have met his wife and, if he’d had to court her in real life, it would have been more difficult

While I understand playing WoW provides some skill-learning experiences (and I got a daughter-in-law through the game), it shouldn’t be a substitute for real life. Though my son and his wife still play WoW, they now spend more time socializing in the real world. And that’s a lot healthier.

The last bit of advice my son gave me was to give up on Second Life and join WoW. He said I’d make a perfect shaman – a healer. Hmm…Mata Darkward – heal thyself!?

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