Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Betcha can't get out of traffic tickets based on WoW, though.

How MMORPGs are just like Freemasonry:
The World of Warcraft (and the Worlds of MMORPGs) are in many ways novel and radically disjunct from past human experience. But the appeals of constructing an avatar - of stepping out of daily life, of starting fresh, of finding a community, of achieving status and respect, of a separate and shared language - these are as old as the urban and urbane, as the metropolitan and cosmopolitan.

Freemasonry took hold in Europe in the early modern age, just as cities boomed and filled with young men. In this country, the golden age of fraternal orders in the late nineteenth century coincided with urbanization. These groups were the MMORPGs of their day. Members dressed in costumes, acted out dramas in a parallel world of symbology, and attained rank and position. But the core of their appeal lay in the camaraderie they offered, and the community they created.

TNC's observations appear to suggest that digital role-playing is returning to these analog roots, after a long period of growth. Fraternal lodges provided a framework for interaction, bringing together young men who might not otherwise have met, but who shared much in common, and providing them with social connections that they often drew upon in the outside world. That's happening again now - as online romances attest. The development of guilds and groups within these games is particularly striking, and parallels some good social science work on the tendency of communities to limit and self-divide into manageable units in which social intimacy can be developed and maintained.
This is especially funny to me since the dudes I know who are Masons also tend to be a bit on the D&D-playing-nerd side. And of course from some religious POVs, it's all Satanism.
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