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Steven Nix works as bilingual support for Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft 

By Steven Nix

 

What’s it like to work for a company who’s central core of beliefs start with “Embrace your Inner Geek”? Intimidating, in a word. Those I work with, and those I assist are beyond my level. I had long thought of myself as a geek, that general catch-all for any of those “uncool” outcasts at school. I never played D&D, I never collected comic books, but I did love the video games. I had my specific tastes in those early days, but as I grew, so did the range of my titles.

Video games were always the security blanket growing up. Whatever problems I had in school or in life, I could always disappear in that world of make-believe and let my problems disappear for a while. Please don’t mistake me, I loved to read (and still do), but video games were interactive, immersive, and required an amount of skill to succeed at. Some were educational, but all were fun.

As college came and I was exposed to a wider range of people, I began to find the hardcore gamers; those people who have some vested interest in the game they play and all but spontaneously combust if they should happen to lose once. This was new to me. Sure, I would get upset now and again, but there was always the knowledge that it’s just a game. I have the option to turn it off and walk away.

That option is non-existent for many players. With the advent of the MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game), people are able to connect at any time and place to a wide cross-section of humanity all bound by their love of the game. There are a wide variety to chose from, but World of Warcraft stands tall above the rest, dwarfing all others in scope, playability, and size of player base. Eleven million people play World of Warcraft…and the number grows daily.

The concept is simple and amazing and should herald praise and adulation for this amazing age in which we live. Unfortunately, due to the anonymity and instantaneous communication of the Internet, all manner of civility is now gone, replaced by suspicion and a severe lack of empathy for their compatriots. Players are forced to work together toward a common goal. All but a few do so grudgingly. Combine this with the intense anger and angst one finds in most teenage men and women and you have a virtual powder-keg of emotions ready to explode at any moment.

 

They have become addicts; trapped in this world, unable to leave, unable to enjoy themselves any longer. To lose a virtual fight, lose their virtual currency, or miss their chance at grabbing a virtual item becomes a singular obsession. Day in and day out I see this trend growing ever larger, sometimes reaching a frenzied pitch totally incongruent with the virtual rewards one can receive.

 

And yet they are branded as geeks, one and all.

 

Sadly, these ideals have passed on to a newer generation. Where video games once were about individuals, now there is a push towards family gaming. World of Warcraft creates a forum where parents feel they can connect with their kids, but the end result tends to be the opposite. We get many parents asking us how to get their child to stop playing the game as much. While we cannot, legally, offer any advice, many times I simply want to say, “Be a parent.”

 

These children are the biggest concern. What is a person supposed to think when they receive a suicide threat because they cannot find an item the player supposedly deleted. Thankfully, we have methods and contacts with police departments to check on them, but it’s disheartening to hear. We tend to live now in a world of self-entitlement where we are owed things, whether we eared them or not. We play and we pay for the game, so they owe us whatever we desire.

 

Is this the new standard? If one wishes to willingly brand themselves as a geek, is this the bar we must pass? It seems that it might be. Video games are no longer a niche, reserved for the meek and the unsocial, but are for the masses. This is a world of ‘geekiness’ I have never before experienced. To effectively help them, I must be of them and understand their plight. It’s uncharted territory for me and I know not what I will find along the way.

 

I will embrace that geek within, but I tread cautiously.

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