“Ron Paul Rally in World of Warcraft”, or “How your child is likely to learn about political candidates”

Posted by dkidwell on January 3rd, 2008 — Posted in parenting, politics, World of Warcraft

Earlier today, 240 characters in the massively multi-player online game World of Warcraft gathered together for a rally that spanned continents in their virtual world. Even as I type that, I realize just how foreign most of what I’ve just said must sound. But yes – 240 players in a video game gathered to rally for Ron Paul.

Nice coverage of the event is available here.

This is likely to be the first time my 14 year old son hears of a candidate for U.S. President outside of the usual droning of adults, teachers and news pundits. Which means – this is likely to be the first he hears from his peers – his constituency.

That’s a mighty powerful thing.

Not too many 14 year olds are politically aware, and those that are likely to have parents that talk about it. I’ve got no research to back that up, but I doubt it would take me long to find some. I’m just going to rattle off some of the things I find really striking about this – bear with me, or go look at something cool instead:

  • Gathering 240 characters together takes considerable management and planning. You’re asking 240 accounts (keeping in mind that some folks have more than one account) to gather and hop online for a coordinated activity. Most activities in game require 5 people, and for larger events 40 may get together. Rarely would you need to gather this many. There’s a whole chain of logistics involved in actually making this happen, and it’s every bit as impressive as real life rallies.
  • Players are considering moving their characters to play in this particular group even if that means changing servers. That may not sound like a big deal, but some of these players have years of work built up in their primary character, and uprooting him to move to a new server is not trivial (it costs about $25 but the real costs are in leaving your community in the old neighborhood.)
  • Over the years, communities of players ebb and flow. Factions within groups crop up and guilds rise and fall. But what if guilds congregated to join in something deeper and rooted in the real world – say an ideology of freedom and limited government? If I were Blizzard (or a community manager in any game) I’d be proactively looking for ways to foster that. As a mom, I’m planning to ask my son about the guild tonite and see if he’s heard of it. From there I expect we’ll wander into a dialogue about the monetary policy, Ron Paul thoughts on the gold standard and the relevance of that for gold in World of Warcraft.
  • World of Warcraft has 9 Million + players and as such, 240 characters isn’t that many. But, considering the subscription costs of those characters, just that group is paying ~ $3,600 a month to play. Some of those may be 10 day trial accounts, but I’d be willing to bet most of them are not. Not sure where I was going with that thought, but if I was managing a political campaigns internet efforts, I’d be looking at that kind of thing.
  • Gamers as a constituency are an interesting lot. Tech savvy and engaged (on their terms) in participating in online activities, I’d be wanting to reach out to that group to rock the vote.
  • The activity in game echoes in forums and blog postings where the players hang out. Not only are they talking about the candidate in game, but they are expounding on it, linking and, most likely, verbally abusing one another on any number of related sites.

I think this is the beginning of a very interesting avenue for public discourse and activity. I absolutely love the idea that a group of gamers is participating in our political process and bringing that discourse into their virtual world.

If there is one thing I’d hope for the political inclinations of my kids, it’s that they are knowledgeable and participate in the political process. Rallies in World of Warcraft bode very well for that.