Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

World of Warcraft: A Family Therapist's Journey into Scapegoated Culture

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

World of Warcraft: A Family Therapist's Journey into Scapegoated Culture

Article excerpt

Introduction--The Games We Play

Video games are becoming as ubiquitous as the cell phones people often use to play them. What iPhone owner has not played the free version of Angry Birds or Candy Crush at least once? Across the globe, across culture one can find a keyboard, Playstation, an Xbox or a Wii remote in the gnarled grip of a gamer desperately trying to figure out how to conquer a level, defeat an enemy soldier or raid a castle for valuable loot (Jordan, 2009; Smyth, 2006; Yee, 2006a).

Contrary to insistent media portrayal, gaming is not just middle class, individual, teenage boys locked away in a basement. Women of all ages play games at an amazing pace (Ferguson & Kilburn, 2009). According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the regulatory body that determines game content ratings, women make up forty five percent of all total gamers. The percentage of female gamers is higher than that of teenage boys age seventeen or younger (19%). Further, women are the fastest growing group of gamers in the world (Entertainment Software Association, 2013).

The men and women who choose video games as a hobby are not just playing by themselves; parents and families are choosing to play games together (Jordan, 2012; Yee, 2006b). Over half of parent surveyed by ESA (2013) say they believe video games to be a positive part of their child's life and fifty-nine percent say video games encourage families to spend time together. While many subscribe to the idea of the lonely teenager playing alone, attitudes about video games have changed a great deal from twenty years ago. With the change in attitude comes a change in spending. Video games are a billion dollar industry (Cork, 2007). Ubiquitous broadband internet and the onslaught of easy to learn accessories like Xbox Kinnect and Playstation Move have created more and more revenue for the gaming industry (Entertainment Software Association, 2013). Perhaps the biggest revenue streams for game publishers like Sony, Microsoft, Entertainment Arts (EA), Take-Two Studios and Activision Blizzard are games with relational (online) components like Call of Duty: Black Ops II which grossed $1 billion in the first fifteen days of sale (Thier, 2012). The money relational games earn has pushed publishers to invest in their development heavily. Sony Corporation is hedging its bet toward social gaming so much so that the new Playstation 4 controllers will actually have a "Share" button designed to upload gameplay pictures and videos to Facebook or seek out help from the world community with a specific game. It has been eight years or more since Sony significantly changed the layout of its input devices. To do so in such a way as to add a "Share" button confirms the significance of relational gaming and their confidence it will be around for decades to come.

Games like World of Warcraft (the game specific to this study) have been around for almost a decade and continue to be lucrative ventures for publishers and developers. World of Warcraft (WoW) is arguably the cornerstone of the Activision Blizzard gaming portfolio and perhaps their biggest cash cow. This Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMO) boasts almost eight million active players around the world. Its subscriber base is the largest of any game of its type (Kain, 2013). While WoW is not as popular as it was at its height a few years ago (around twelve million active subscribers), it is still considered the most successful MMO created to date and its longevity is unmatched. World of Warcraft is often credited as a video game that brought the hobby into the mainstream and popular culture (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell & Moore, 2006).

World of Warcraft has a huge and dynamic universe where players interact to accomplish in game tasks and "level up" avatars to conquer increasingly difficult scenarios. This shared reality has created and maintained hundreds of thousands of relationships through the computer screen and in the "real world". …

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