In my college years I played countless hours of World of Warcraft (WoW)…hours that I’ll never get back. Ever. But I digress…
Because I wasn’t raised in the U.S. I never knew about the gamer-shame of 90’s era Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (i.e. Starcraft, Diablo, the infamous Everquest), but that didn’t matter. Within weeks of some college friends finding out about my new ‘hobby’ (I know that’s a liberal use of the term…sorry?) I felt an immense amount of ridicule. “You play WoW?!” “You must not have any friends…or a life for that matter.” All common phrases when I had ‘come out’ to people.
I was confused.
Folks would constantly tell me stories about ‘people they had known’ who never left the house again after playing an MMORPG or someone who had lost everything they had. There was no way they could be talking about me! I had a lot of friends and I was not giving my life savings to Blizzard (the company that makes WoW.) But I couldn’t shake this trope of ‘loser gamer = social outcast.’
I began to form a close-knit inner circle filled with people who understood my love for the game – admittedly people who had gotten me into the game in the first place – and we built a kind of camaraderie. It was fun! We spent a lot of time together not only doing the typical college-kid stuff of studying, partying, etc. but also forming groups within the game to conquer challenges that would be impossible on your own. It was truly a unique social experience, one I couldn’t seem to explain to anyone.
That was until I found “The Guild”. A web series created and written by one of the funniest women on the internet.
The Guild is a comedy that revolves around a group of six who play World of Warcraft. They belong to a guild (a group that gets together to complete those impossible challenges I talked about before) and form the social connection I couldn’t describe to anyone. In the first episode we learn that Codex (Day’s character) has been abandoned by her therapist because she doesn’t have enough access/connection to real-life people. Codex protests, only to lose concentration and fail her group during a challenge. The series’ five seasons follow the guild’s ups and downs, their meetings in real life, and their interactions with their rival guild ‘Axis of Anarchy‘.
This web series is incredibly important because it began to shift the idea of what it meant to be an online gamer. Because Felicia Day and her crew (oops…guild) made light of the experience of a gamer, it began to give people an idea of what it meant to have that specific kind of interaction. They showed the gamers not only playing the game together but also getting together for coffee, playing the game in the same room, even calling each other to talk about real-life issues they were encountering.
Felicia Day has helped give a voice to online gamers and started shifting the popular conversation about the identity of gamers – who are they? what do they look like? what do they do? I would argue that since The Guild’s inaugural season in 2007 it has become more okay to tell someone that you play videogames online.
Thank you Felicia for illustrating that gamers are in fact people. That gamers can (and do) have social interactions with each other (and non-gamers) too. That gamers do not lose everything they own and everyone they love to their obsession with their game. That online gaming as a hobby is just as ‘cool’ as any other. Mostly, thank you for putting online gaming detractors in their place.
And all that through grace and humor.
Here are a few episodes of The Guild that might help piqué your interest –