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WoW is the new "third place"

This is interesting -- a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (just up the road from me here in Chicago) says that World of Warcraft is an emerging new "third place." That is, it's a place in between your work and home where you make friends and otherwise interact with new people. Starbucks has even used the term in their actual marketing (to try to make their coffee shops a hangout more than just a place that you stop by and grab a cuppa joe), and WoW isn't even the first videogame to fit the critera -- Sony advertised the Playstation 2 as a "third place" in Europe.

But even though Blizzard has never actually marketed the game as a "third place," it almost fits the definition most. Sure, it's not actually a different place -- most people do play at home, I'd imagine -- but in terms of having a different crowd of people that you interact with outside your home or work, that is often exactly what WoW is for us. As Professor Constance Steinkuehler (who has a pretty wild website for a college professor) says, "most people go for the game and stay for the people."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Slaughtering? No, it's just burning down houses (with people inside?)

When I first heard about the new Caverns of Time instance coming up in Wrath of the Lich King, where we go about helping the pre-lich king Arthas as he tries to "purify" the city of Stratholme, I heard other people jumping for joy, while I was feeling a bit of dread. When I played through that stage of Warcraft III, I remember that Arthas was already going down the proverbial moral hill, being ruthlessly indiscriminate as to whether the citizens had actually become undead or not. He didn't have much interest in helping them -- even if help was impossible, he didn't have any sympathy or hesitation in his slaughter.

I understood that part in the game to show how he was already beginning to fall even before he went to Northrend and picked up Frostmourne. I was pressing the buttons that killed those digital Stratholmians, but I also knew that I was just advancing the plot of a story, even if I didn't approve of the action. If the same scene appears in the Caverns of Time however, then this is not, in my mind, merely advancing the plot. This is my character taking part in activities that I myself would never condone. Slaughtering almost-but-not-yet-undead families feels a little too close to home to me. "They're doomed anyway so might as well slash them to ribbons?" That inhuman attitude is sometimes used in real life to do horrible things, and it's quite chilling.

Well, Blizzard CM Bornakk would disagree with me: "Slaughtering is a strong word," he says, "maybe it would be better to say that you are aiding the pround Prince Arthas in Straholme [sic] as he uses his divine Paladin powers to purify the streets of vile evil undead creatures ... and burns down houses." Well, I'm glad not to be hacking defenseless mothers, fathers and children apart myself, but burning down their homes is a serious thing, particularly if the houses to be burned are supposed to have these not-yet-undead families inside of them. For Arthas to do that in the story of his corruption is one thing, but for my character to help him is totally different.

Now, admittedly you could argue that one of the existing CoT instances has us helping Medivh open a portal for orcs to come and rampage lots and lots of people, and yes technically that's an evil thing to do. But there's a big step between opening fantasy portals and burning down houses that are supposed to have families inside them. Does anyone else see a problem here?

[Also, as a side note, the thread in which Bornakk tells us that slaughtering is a strong word actually begins with a really funny idea for another CoT instance, "Back to the Future," which is worth checking out.]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Instances, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

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