Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for the ‘Warcraft’ Category

Duff: Podcasters eventually turn away from game and return to real life

Duff: Podcasters eventually turn away from game and return to real life

When does a group of game players become a community? And how do you recover when gaming becomes your life?

This is the story of a community built around the game World of Warcraft, about a group of podcasters who made a guild for their fans, and about how they’ve come full circle.

World of Warcraft is blessed with an unusually active and diverse podcasting community. If you want straight facts with a minimum of fuss, you can visit Starman and Renata at World of Warcast. If you want hardcore PVP and raiding advice (with a permanent Explicit tag) check out Alachia’s WoWcast. And if you’d rather laugh than take notes, check out the loveable lushes at TavernCast.

All of these podcasts are available through iTunes, and their respective home pages can be found by copying the name of the podcast into a Google search.

There are a dozen other great Warcraft podcasts out there, but those were my three favorites. These are the podcasts that convinced me to buy the game and join a guild. The guild was called The Pod People, a giant, friendly group run by and for fans of these podcasts. At its height, it had more than 400 members.

The Pod People were a family guild, in the best sense of that word.

There was no cursing allowed in the guild chat and the age of the members ranged from 12 to 60. The Pod People were proud of their status as a “casual” guild. While some hardcore guilds implement strict attendance and performance standards, The Pod People were strictly there to have fun.

But for all their protests about being casual, The Pod People were an extremely active guild, and together, these podcasters devoted an extraordinary amount of time to their game.

Beyond the normal time sink of the game itself, these folks were managing a guild of hundreds.

Managing a guild may not sound like much to the uninitiated, but imagine trying to organize a church group, a bowling league, a parents’ organization or a small business with 400 people in it. Now imagine the members are in different states, different countries and different time zones, scattered all over the world.

Think on this for a while and you’ll see why young managers want to put guild leadership on their resumes.

For years these folks devoted themselves to Warcraft. Now, in their Oct. 7 podcast, three of the TavernCast regulars reveal that they’ve quit the game.

After spending countless hours praising Warcraft, they spend their latest podcast complaining about it and comparing it to an addictive drug.

They don’t hate the game, and they don’t say they’ll be gone forever, but for now they’ve walked away from it, and we can all learn from their experience.

Check this space next week to hear about one cast member who turned himself into a Warcraft addict, and how he found his way back.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 19, 2007 at 14:10

Posted in Columns, Games, Warcraft

Is game addiction real? Share your story here.

Today I published the first in a continuing series about guild dynamics and game addiction in the World of Warcraft. I've got five parts of it drafted now, with interviews scheduled with the TavernCast folks this weekend.

Eloysius has been incredibly helpful here, speaking with me for long blocks of time, sharing intimate details about what he went though and what he learned during his experiment.

And here's where I get to make a distinction between old journalism and new journalism. Old journalism was a one-way street. Columnists handed down their opinions and the context of the issue was restricted to the column itself.

That's not true anymore, and I want to cast a wide net. Most of the quotes and observations I use in my series are taken from the June 2nd episode of TavernCast After Hours. I wish I could just transcribe that episode and run it in print, but paper and ink cost money, and the typical print reader wouldn't care enough to justify it.

But you're not reading this in print, you're reading on the net, where the page goes on forever and the bits roam free. I'm spreading this series out over five weeks, but you don't have to wait for it. Just download the podcasts and hear the story straight from the people who lived it.

Don't wait for my opinions, jump into the comments section and present your own. The TavernCast forums are on fire with…fond farwells and gentle goodwill.

I'm looking for a place where people rip into Eloysius and company for leaving, but I can't seem to find it. Surely there's some gamer blowback out there somewhere.

The good news is, gamers are not blind or stupid. Most people know when they're walking the line between healthy play and destructive behavior. They know the problem exists, they're just not sure what to do about it.

We all know people who've gone too far, and we know people who've quit cold turkey. I think without a strong social incentive, most people will eventually get bored with the game and drift to other activities.

I hope we all can benefit from this discussion about game addiction and guild culture, and I hope you won't hesitate to tell your own story.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 19, 2007 at 13:12

Posted in Games, Warcraft

Duff: With video game addiction, prevention has to begin in the home

Duff: With video game addiction, prevention has to begin in the home

Last week I tried to prove that video games could be good for you. This week I have to talk about the other side.

For every 100 kids playing video games, 15 of them could be addicted. This number comes from a report submitted to the American Medical Association. On Wednesday, the AMA decided that although overuse of video games can be a problem for children and adults, they’re not ready to call it a disease.

It’s the classic problem faced by ethicists in the modern age. Is it moral or medical? Is video game addiction caused by brain chemistry or weakness of character?


I’m not qualified to answer that question, but you don’t need a degree in neurochemistry to deal with the problem of addicted kids. Parents have to exert control over their kids’ computer use, and game manufacturers are willing to help.

World of Warcraft comes with parental controls that allow you to determine exactly when your child can play the game. If the last time you saw the Warcraft account screen was the first time you put your credit card in, please go to www.worldofwarcraft.com and look again. Look for “Parental Controls” on the right hand side of the main page under “Quick Links.” The parental control page is worth a visit, if only to see the cute cartoon.

Of course, no technological solution can substitute for an active, concerned parent, but establishing boundaries can make the battle easier, and help your WoW-crazed child get some sleep.

Wives may even want to try this trick on their husbands, but please don’t blame me for the results. As a recovering WoW addict myself, I’ve often wished for an external authority that would shut the game off and make me go to sleep. Unfortunately, being an adult means having the power to sabotage yourself, and having no one else to blame when things go wrong.

It’s easy to blame manufacturers when kids get wrapped up in these things, but I think game addiction is more a symptom than a cause. The real problem is the army of latchkey kids, stuck with computers as their baby sitters and primary source of social interaction.

Real life is harder than virtual life, but it’s also more rewarding. Show your kids the richness of real life, and the games won’t seem so tempting anymore.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 29, 2007 at 14:58

Posted in Columns, Games, Warcraft

Duff: The wages of Warcraft are linked to the guild one joins – choose wisely

World of Warcraft is more than just a game. With a worldwide customer base of 8.5 million people, Blizzard’s award-winning computer odyssey has become a legitimate cultural phenomenon. World of Warcraft, commonly known as WoW, is devouring free time all over the world, leaving a trail of strained marriages and sleepy employees in its wake.

World of Warcraft is a Massively Multiplayer Role-playing Game, an MMORPG for short. Players use Internet connections to run quests, fight monsters and trade goods and services with other people playing live at the same time. Players form guilds that are run like midsized corporations, working out elaborate schedules for group raids and loot distribution.

Warcraft is cheap, as addictions go. You can buy the original and the expansion together for about 50 dollars, or try it free for 10 days by visiting http://www.worldofwarcraft.com.

And if you think computer games are just a sideline for teenagers, guess again. My old guild played host to a swarm of players from the ages of 12 to 60. World of Warcraft cuts across all kinds of professional and social boundaries.

The warrior guarding your back in that end-level dungeon could be a doctor, a lawyer, a musician or a teenager. My group included a family of four who played together, and a college-age guy in Alaska who played every night with his mother in California.
Michael Duff

The social dynamics of the environment bring out the best and worst in people. I’ve seen adults reduced to the emotional level of children, and I’ve seen children who handle stress better than adults. The social aspect makes Warcraft more than just a game. The environment becomes a canvas for human drama, with all the fun, and all the pettiness, you’d expect from a social game.

Of course, Warcraft has its dark side. The game is terribly addictive – an all-consuming passion that can strain marriages and destroy grade-point averages. Good guilds can strengthen families and build lifelong friendships. Bad ones can take over your life and turn recreation into an arduous chore.

Most churches think of video games as a destructive influence, but I’ve seen Warcraft actually make families stronger. Online games can bridge geographical boundaries, and the teamwork aspect can actually bring children closer to their parents.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 22, 2007 at 15:14

Posted in Columns, Games, Warcraft