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The Stigma of Playing WoW

Posted Mon, Jun 07, 2010 by Mem

Playing World of Warcraft is taboo. Not the kind of taboo that will get you arrested or stoned by an angry mob, but there is enough stigma attached to playing that a big fat stereotype will be slapped on your head without a second thought. In fact if you play World of Warcraft, or most any other game, it’s almost instantly decided that you must be a whiney, overweight, antisocial, geek with no life, no job, and no goals to speak of. Not to mention you probably think going outdoors is akin to visiting another planet and your idea of a gourmet meal is probably a ham and cheese Hot Pocket.

This was of course news to me, I mean sure I could stand to lose a few pounds but I have a happy family, a steady job, a healthy social life not to mention Hot Pockets make me nauseous. And while it may come as a surprise to those that perpetuate these stereotypes most WoW players are normal healthy individuals of many ages that come from all walks of life. Their only apparent crime is choosing to play WoW instead of a more accepted form of entertainment. That’s not to say that there aren’t some individuals out there that fit the description above, but these WoW players are a rare species indeed and most defiantly not representative of the typical WoW player.


When in doubt, blame video games.
However, everybody loves a scapegoat and WoW and its players provide the perfect target. Instead of presenting WoW as what it really is; a simple form of entertainment, comparable to watching TV, all the negative aspects are highlighted and pushed into the spotlight providing a very skewed view of the WoW community to the world.  This skewed vision of WoW has been embraced by the general public, and is further perpetuated by the media.

My first real experience with this attitude occurred as my wife and I were making our way through our local mall. It was a chilly day and because of this my wife had donned her ‘For the Horde’ hoodie. This wasn’t the first time she had worn in, however this would be the first time anyone ever made a comment on it. As we checked out at one particular store the cashier happened to glance down and  read the words on her partially zipped hoodie. A few seconds later, apparently unable to hold it in any longer the cashier blurted out “I can’t believe you play World of Warcraft, you’re a girl and you look so.. normal!”  Not knowing exactly what to say my wife mumbled a response and we quickly grabbed our bags and left.

Even after this experience I remained convinced that this stigma was simply a part of the small town life I lived and couldn’t possibly extend to the world at large. However my opinion quickly changed as examples of this stigma jumped out at me seemingly everywhere I turned. Groups on social networking sites, blogs, and forums can be found spread all over the World Wide Web dedicated solely to the trashing of World of Warcraft and it’s players and YouTube is littered with anti-wow videos.

The media further enhances the anti-wow attitude by picking up stories such as “Man Abandons Girlfriend in Labor to Play WoW” then sensationalizes it,  making it seem like the game is the reason for this atrocious behavior. People who are not familiar with the game buy into this nonsense and the stereotype thrives and grows. Even parodies of the game done completely in jest such as the wildly popular World of Warcraft episode of South Park, or the MC Raider song by Myndflame are dangerous. While I certainly laughed at both of them, enjoying the sheer ridiculousness of it all, there are those who truly believe that all WoW players are really like this and seeing it on TV, or perpetuated in a song just confirms what they think they already know.

With the media apparently embracing the concept it makes it easy for people to lay the blame for all their problems or the problems of their loved ones on the game instead of where it really belongs; on themselves. Are you anti-social, suicidal, refuse to work, or force your Mom to bring you a bedpan so you can continue playing, or any other number of negative traits? Don’t worry, it’s probably the game’s fault, and of course if you play the game well then there just has to be something wrong with you. But with the stereotype going strong, and the stigma attached to the game growing, what can we as WoW players do to stand against it?

There is a relatively simple two part answer to this question. First and probably most important, is don’t allow yourself to become the stereotype. With so many people believing you are a certain way, it’s easy to actually become that which you despise. Take WoW in moderation, don’t forget your real life friends, and be sure to have other interests outside of WoW. Oh, and do eat things other than Hot Pockets.

An image from South Park parodying a “typical” WoW player.
The second part of the answer is to speak openly about the fact that you play, and enjoy World of Warcraft while at the same time leading a normal life. This may seem like an easy task however it’s the one I’ve personally found most difficult. Living in a small town where gaming is nearly unheard of, the prejudices are strong I find myself often on the receiving end of stares that clearly say the person thinks I’m insane, and sarcastic remarks.

People are baffled at why I would want to play, how I can possibly fit it into my schedule and are convinced I’m neglecting my child because of it. I usually calmly explain that playing WoW is no different than zoning out in front of the TV for a few hours and answer any questions they might have. Eventually the shackles of ignorance are broken and they realize that perhaps gamers aren’t so bad after all. So make a stand, be proud of being a gamer, and do your part to dispel the myths about WoW. It’s about time we the players stood together and said enough is enough.

Have you ever had an experience directly relating to the stigma attached to WoW or do you have ideas on how to dispel the current stereotype? Join us on the forums and share your thoughts and experiences.




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