A combination of guild drama and some real-life drama between a couple of my in-game friends has set me wondering about the tangled intertwining of real people and their avatars.  I recently learned, indirectly, that I am not regarded as a ‘real person’ by someone I have played with regularly for the past year.  In theory, I suppose this is how it should be – we are after all in a ‘roleplaying’ game.  But I was surprised, nevertheless.

Many of my long-term guild-mates have divulged enough information to give me at least an idea of the person behind the character, and it is almost always the human being that I feel in contact with.  Obviously, when meeting non-guild characters, in random groups or while questing, the first contact is with the character – but any extended conversation will generally include some snippets of information about the player.

I do wonder if the disconnect some players feel between character and player is a generational thing.  Maybe younger people spend so much time interacting via tweets, Facebook pages, text messages etc. that they lose all sensitivity to the nuances of actual human contact.  Yes, I play a character alongside other characters, but I have a real interest in the people behind the characters I know well.

I am aware that people are capable of lying about themselves – often to fulfill some sexual fantasy, but I don’t believe this is as widespread as some sensational reports would have us think.  I play on an EU server, from what I have read the US servers seem rather more dangerous in this respect.

I have posted before about some of the problems of communication in the player-base – the WoW community, while far from perfect, has not yet reached the level of toxicity of the xbox crowd.  And a lot of the unpleasantness comes from this same disregard of the person behind the character.

I am not drawing any conclusions here, merely musing on something which interests me.  For me, the people I play with are, in fact, people.  For others, it seems that is not the case – I feel that is their loss, but it could be that I am out of step with a game which is, after all, not designed for slightly over-sensitive elderly women.