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WoW: Could WoW Be Considered a Religion?

Posted Mon, Feb 02, 2009 by Martuk

What would you say if someone told you playing World of Warcraft constituted a religion? Theo Zijderveld a grad student at the University of Colorado argues this in his Master's Thesis titled Cyberpilgrims. We're all use to being called hardcore fanatics so I guess religious zealots was an inevitability. In his thesis, Zijderveld cites many sources as he tries to draw a correlation between gaming in a virtual world and seeking enlightenment by using the virtual world like Azeroth in a spiritual way to ascend in a sense from our physical bodies.

Working in cyberspace by programming code, surfing the Internet and walking through virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life can be so absorbing that the physical becomes unimportant. Computer technology can become a means for immersion or flow in such a way that the user is able to liberate himself from his or her physical limitations and realize a new identity in cyberspace.

Zijderveld draws a comparison between World of Warcraft and the four dimensions of religion known as community, ethics, cultural, and emotional to support his thesis.

The community dimension is present in World of Warcraft as well as in Second Life. People are using their avatar online meet other avatars of real people. Avilion is clearly a community of people with the same interest in the fantasy world. The social markers are clear; the rules of how to dress and how to behave are very explicit. Avatars who do not fit in this picture are (sometimes actively) excluded by the community or by the moderators.

Overall the thesis makes for an interesting read and at the end just might have you asking yourself if playing WoW does constitute a religion. If so, why haven't we gotten those nifty religious tax free benefits?

  • You can read Theo Zijderveld full thesis here.
  • Discuss your thoughts about this thesis on our forums.

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