MMORPG Social and Narrative Structures Entering Real Life

Not sure if there’s a causal link (or if so, which direction it goes) in relation to the MS13 and WoW roles, but there are definitely cases where people fill in their lives with the roles and narratives supplied by WoW.

The documentary “Second Skin” (can watch it all on Hulu: and the web seried “The Guild”  both take on this topic; the latter is a parody, leavened by the fact that the writers are big WoW players themselves.

It’s easy to get into armchair psychoanalysis about these people, but I’ve tried to factor that out and it seems still that there’s a strong desire for people to have a clear narrative thread in their lives. “I’m a student” or “I’m saving for a new house” or “I mod and race cars” — along those lines. WoW certainly can provide that. (Along with a steady feed of the quick-reward cycle, where clicks lead to tiny victories, supplying a little jolt of endorphins. Mmm, endorphins.)

2 Responses to “MMORPG Social and Narrative Structures Entering Real Life”

  1. Quentin Hardy says:

    Sure. People read novels in part to reflect on how the world works and reflect on themselves. They look at celebrity trash in part to reflect/take the pressure off their own concerns (adultery, weight gain, substance abuse — there’s a shame function in reading about other, “better” people going through it, but there’s also a way of helping you think or talk about it.) So this could fit in that kind of function.

  2. Daniel Turner says:

    Yes, but I still think (well, have an impression; should think this through more) that there is a difference in consuming a narrative such as a novel or a telenovela in order to escape from one’s own context/life and this construction of real-life identity and social structures taken from a narrative. Mass narratives are full of explorations of this line being crossed, usually casting it as illness (“King of Comedy” pops into mind, though it’s also about other things)… LARPers and RenFaire fans are of a different category than Tolkein readers or Renaissance scholar, yeah?

    (Of course, we could go on about the first case — historically, wasn’t the novel initially seen as a danger? Augustine said it could deceive and hinder the way to god: