On New Year's day supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul gathered on the Whisperwind (US) realm in World of Warcraft to march across Azeroth and show their support for their candidate of choice. The rally started outside Ironforge with approximately 240 players (with 400 members in their RP Revolution guild) and traveled to Stormwind, Westfall, Booty Bay, Ratchet, and finally Orgrimmar. And if you didn't make it, you can still experience the rally vicariously via our image gallery below (and if you did make it, feel free to send screenshots to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!) or video above!
To the best of our knowledge, this was the first political rally to be held in World of Warcraft -- and looking at their numbers it seems to have been a successful and upbeat gathering (or at least it was upbeat for the participants). Will this event help Ron Paul's chances in the election? It's hard to say until the votes are cast, but the uniqueness of the event is causing it to get a lot of media coverage. (And no press is bad press, so long as they spell your name properly, right?) Read on for impressions of the event.
Gallery: Ron Paul rally in World of Warcraft
The real question here is whether voters notice or care what happens in a video game. OC Register spoke with political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, who commented that "the rally will likely only bring the name 'Ron Paul' to the minds of young people, who... are not likely to vote in elections." And even if the event brings Paul's name to the attention of the mass media, will voters take a game-based rally seriously?
But if these become more common (and as games become larger and larger -- with over nine million people in World of Warcraft, it's become a legitimate social space), voters and politicians will have to take notice. GamePolitics comments that, "While some may have found the Ron Paul event silly, inconsequential or simply annoying, my take is that it was a most unique way to harness the social and political potential of the game space." (Though this isn't the only place politics coincides with WoW -- a search of the armory shows a variety of politicians represented in character names.) So will we be seeing more of these in the future? One of the event organizers, lemur, says:
The RP Revolution guild is on Whisperwind to stay! We made so many wonderful friends, and had a blast being together in a guild where we could intelligently discuss the world's problems with likeminded folks. Most of our members came from other servers, and many (including myself) are now considering moving our mains there. It's highly likely that many of those who joined with the free trial will be staying with the game as well.
And my take? Anything that gets politicians to take gamers seriously as a demographic -- instead of using them and the games they love as a scapegoat for violence -- is a good thing. But only time will tell whether this is the start of a trend or simply a one time occurance. But I have to say that if I were a player on Whisperwind, I'd be awfully irritated at my inability to play, as well. If World of Warcraft continues to be gain acceptance as a social space, Blizzard is going to have to address the issue of server reliability during event-driven population spikes.