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Posts with tag video games

WoW is a Work of Art, part 2: Blizzard's masterpiece

As you read the word, "art," what do you think of? Van Gogh? Beethoven? Academy Awards for Best Picture? What is it that established mediums of art, such as painting, music, and film have in common?

In many ways, World of Warcraft is a combination of all these media, and yet it is something of it's own too. WoW has vast landscapes to explore, interesting characters with their own meaningful stories, and powerful music to thrill you or spook you or make you feel awe. Not only does WoW combine these elements together in a deeply satisfying way, it stands out as a carefully balanced masterwork of the "game" as a creative human expression. In other words, WoW is basically a web of overlapping problems to overcome alone or as a team, for which all the visual, musical and story elements are metaphors that open the doors into this central element of the game's experience. Not only is it fundamentally interactive, exploratory, and progressive, but your choices, from the way your character looks to the way you chose to play him or her, all represent your own investment in filling out the open space the game has made for you and the community of players. You and your friends are the final keystone in the edifice of the WoW work of art -- your progressive interaction with the game and your cooperation with others is designed from the beginning to be the main stimulating force on your mind and spirit, just as looking or listening is with other forms of art.

Of course art is a subjective thing, like beauty itself. One person may be profoundly inspired and uplifted by her WoW experience, while another may be left shaking his head and wondering why he wasted his time. In their own way, both are right; art is never art without a certain kind of participation by the one looking at it, listening to it, or engaging with it in some way. The perceiver of the art always has to be open to the special impact that art can have on your mind or spirit, and be willing to make that leap of faith into the work of art and see what its creators intended. For some to be unappreciative of one art form or another is commonplace and natural -- people have their unique likes and dislikes after all -- but the fact that a certain work of art touches some people, perhaps many, in a profound way is what sets it aside from mere entertainment.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

WoW is a Work of Art, part 1: A journey into Azeroth

The day I walked into the store to buy World of Warcraft, I had been taking care of my mother as she underwent chemotherapy for brain cancer, and I desperately needed something to do that wasn't cooking, cleaning, sorting pills, or running errands. I needed something that would connect me with people while at the same time letting me stay at home and care for someone I loved.

When I picked up a box with a pretty, yet severe night elf woman's face on the cover, I wasn't thinking, "I want to get to level 60 and start raiding Molten Core for epic gear!" or even "I'm going to be a PvP god!" Instead, I was hoping to create characters with a personal background, with feelings and ideas all their own, and act them out in an imaginary world where no one knew who I really was, a world in which our purpose was to share creatively and interact as a team, not to make money or exchange gossip.

In short, I wanted to roleplay. But what I got was something much more than even a roleplaying experience, more than me and my characters, more than an endless stream of quests and rewards, experience and reputation, monsters and loot. I found myself in a world filled with its own people -- real people -- and a series of problems for these people to overcome together in order to progress and travel even deeper into this world. At every stage, I found something new opening up to me, whether it was access to more abilities of my own, more ways to interact with others, more vast landscapes to please my eye, or more stories to capture my imagination.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

Breakfast Topic: WoW as meditation

There are a million ways to relax in this modern era. Yoga, taichi, zen koans, transcendental meditation, knitting, and yes, video games. It might seem odd to mention video games in the same sentence as "zen" or "meditation," but think for a moment: most forms of meditation involve focusing on one simple thing, such as the flame of a candle, or the repetition of a mantra, and excluding all other thought. Doesn't World of Warcraft call this grinding?

Now, granted, there are plenty of complicated and interesting things to do in WoW that involve lots of concerted thought and could not be considered meditation. But couldn't grinding away on daily quests or farming for materials be considered a very modern way for some people to wind down, clear their mind of daily frustrations, and just be nothingness itself for a little while? I know for my part, playing WoW by myself for a while certainly isn't ecstatic communion with the divine, but it can be a great way to just put everything else away for a bit and come back to life feeling refreshed.

What do you think: is grinding a form of meditation for you, or is it just something to do when you're bored out of your mind?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Study says games really don't hurt you


According to Ars Technica, a study appearing in the June edition of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine covering the effects of video games on young people paints a relatively reassuring picture. The study suggests that video games have no significant impact on academics or socialization. From the article:

Although there were some figures that might suggest that gaming displaced academic activities, such as reading and homework, the total time spent on these pursuits was so small that minor effects were magnified. If people are concerned about the lack of reading done by adolescents, the fact that non-gamers spend only eight minutes a day reading should be a far larger concern than the fact that gaming causes that figure to drop by a little more than two minutes.

And in my experience playing World of Warcraft with both kids and adults, I have to say that the game is very social, and can even teach plenty of social skills. (Well, as long as you eventually level out of Barrens chat.) Of course if you're replacing homework time with World of Warcraft time, that's one thing, but this study doesn't suggest that's what's happening. What's your opinion -- do games like World of Warcraft have a negative effect on our kids?
[Thanks, Mogwai!]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

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