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.
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.
Central Texas is experiencing an ice storm. The city is shut down and for the first time all year, the kids can not wait to get outside and stomp on ice puddles. There are flurries outside, with big flakes that we simply never see here.
Jack and Harry were considering mounting an expedition to the local Best Buy. With the streets patched with ice, they would slowly trek the 7 miles to get copies of World of Warcraft’s new expansion: Burning Crusades. Best Buy decided to open this morning just long enough to feed the WoW addiction and they expect to make a few grand simply by selling copies of Burning Crusades to frozen gamers.
My brother’s family bought their copies at 11:00pm last night, and my nephew has been calling to see if our kids have their copies and are ready to play. My oldest woke this morning and began singing,
“Today….is the day….the day of the Expansion.
Burning Crusade, going to get it….
Burning Crusade, today is the day…
Today….is the day….the day of the Expansion.”
Now, I have been arguing that this is more about burning desire and foolish crusades. I wasn’t making much headway until they tried to release the truck from a thick sheet of ice. It’s as if an ice mage threw a frost nova on it, and froze it in place. No Crusades for us today!
If your kids play WoW, take a moment to watch this incredibly well done bit of machinima. What is machinima? It’s the creation of movies using game engines. Go check out wikipedia if you want to know more. But if you want to see it in action, here’s a wonderful example:
We took the family out on the road for the 4th – from Texas to Ohio.Â These family road trips are fantastic.Â Our gaming family goes off to go visit my husbands gaming family.Â I suppose it isn’t surprising, but our holiday can be tracked by the games we played along the way:
Driving to Ohio:
Find the Word Puzzles
A clever twist on Connect Four called “Toot and Otto,”Â where you are Toot or Otto and have to spell out your name.
Nintendo DS games:
3 team Mario KartS
Brother v. Brother matchups of Mario and Luigi in the downloadable game from Super Mario Bros. (punctuated with alot of “That’s MY star!”
At Grandma’s house:
Euchre, a fantastic card game with a confounding element that takes the Jack of the trump suit and turns it into a ‘Right Bower.’Â The jack of the other suit becomes a “Left Bower” (so if the trump is spades, the left bower is the Jack of clubs, etc.) The heirarchy follows as:Â Right Bower, Left Bower, Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine.Â You throw away anything less than Nine.Â Enough..google it if you need to know more!
Uno (with twentyfive cent winnings, paid in impressive piles of nickles.)
Bingo (again, twentyfive cent winning, but blackouts worth $1 – My youngest won $4.25 between the two games and is quite proud.)
More of the same Nintendo DS titles.
Solitaire:Â Our oldest learned to play this one using real cards!
Freecell:Â He picked this one up pretty fast, and thinks ahead, so he’s got a good mind for it.
4th of July in Batesville, Indiana
Corn Hole:Â Where you toss bean bags into a box with a hole in it. Yep, that’s it.Â This Texas girl didn’t play – give me horseshoes or washers, please. Down in the basement we found a box forÂ game where they called it Baggo.Â Maybe it’s Baggo in Cincy and Corn Hole in Indy?
World of Warcraft:Â yes, the farmhouse has a robust wifi and my son was able to log in, check the auction house and get a quick fix of WoW.
We didn’t have time for any Hand and Foot, which is a variation of Canasta.Â We’ll have to catch it next time, our 9yo is quite good at it and loves playing.
My ladies league fantasy football draft started up a week ago, so there was drafting throughout the holiday.Â After the draft I’ll post a summary of the draft, but so far it’s going well!
With so much going on, we couldn’t get up to Origins, a large gaming convention in Columbus.Â Next year we’ll really have to extend our visit so we can get up there.
Graeter’s Ice Cream, Skyline Chili, and gaming – we just love visiting Grandma!
This quote from Wired holds a really nice nugget for a gaming parent – why not look at the obstacles in front of you as one of the quests in your game?Â Taken one step at a time, the task is likely to look less daunting, more achievable, and may even include a nice loot drop at the end.Â String together a run of quests, and that promotion to ‘management’ falls right into play.
And the tedious quality of most educational programs?Â Not so different from the ‘level grind’ in many MMOs.Â Slog through high school, pick the toughest quests, read up on strategy on the side, do the same through college. Â Now if only they would include a decent sword drop with the cap and gown…