Virtual Worlds and Online Gaming

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 10.22.59 PMMeet Cerellithan, Hunter-Night Elf and his loyal companion, Cat. Their reign of terror began on April 2nd 2013, in Aldrassil, where they turned innumerable thistle boars, deer and young nightsabers into corpses. Their bloodlust still unsated, the duo set their sights on Shadowglen, where they continued to kill every living beast in sight in cold blood. Cerellithan and Cat harvested the corpses for their parts, and told witnesses to never speak of this night, lest they return to exact their vengeance. The duo then disappeared into the night, never to be seen in Pandaria again.

Such was my first venture into the world of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPG for short). I was playing World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, because Lord of the Rings Online was taking way too long to download. Setting up WoW was easy enough, and it only took a few minutes for me to set up my account and start living my online life as the mean-faced night elf pictured left (seriously, can you trust that face? Cerellithanbecause I can’t trust that face). I selected this particular character because: (1) elves are cool, (2) I thought being a hunter would make beginner-me more intimidating to other players and (3) because he had a pet white tiger to keep him company.

While playing WoW, I found myself vexed with “noobish” problems. I couldn’t figure out how to talk to people. I couldn’t kill anything (and I had a reputation as a hunter to uphold!). I couldn’t even figure out how to walk at first. Of course, doing a tutorial or reading the Help section would have been the best course of action, but I couldn’t wait to play. I managed to figure out most of these things on my own with trial and error, but I still felt somewhat out of place in the virtual world, since most other players have probably been playing the game for longer than 30 minutes. I think these games can be very intimidating to new players for this reason. In the past, the only computer games I’ve really played are The Sims (plus about ten different expansion packs circa the early 2000s) and RollerCoaster Tycoon. But playing online with other people who can watch both your triumphs and your failures is daunting.

Overall, I thought the effects and the music in WoW were really impressive. My brothers really enjoy this game and I do see the appeal in it. After working my way up to Level 2 (don’t be jealous! ;-)), I could see how addictive it is to advance your player up the ranks. I also tried communicating with other players, although the ones I interacted with seemed to be computer generated. Once again, I was a bit too intimidated to start talking to fellow citizens of Pandaria!

In terms of libraries, I think hosting gaming tournaments or discussion groups could be a great way to attract patrons. The Ann Arbor District Library has shown that gaming can work to a library’s advantage. Since many larger libraries have actual computer rooms, these might be ideal spaces for hosting gaming tournaments, where rooms could be booked for contestants. Since gaming promotes literacy, I don’t think libraries should shy away from these potential crowd-pleasing events. In particular, gaming holds a lot of appeal to the younger generation, those who may be reluctant to come into the library and are looking for a reason! So why not celebrate International Games Day at your own library, in one form or another? Many of your patrons will probably thank you.

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