It's only a game Dad

As my avid readers know, the hub of the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition is a 20" 1.8 gHz iMac, which takes pride of place in the studio. But recently, I've been getting even less stuff done than usual, because when I get home from work, one of my sons will already be on the computer. When I come upstairs after tea, one of my sons will be on the computer; after breakfast and before school, one of my sons will be on the computer.

Why? They're all playing 'World of Warcraft', the computer game.

So, it was apparent that, given they were playing this game on my computer, I deserved a go too.

'World of Warcraft' is an RPG, a Role Playing Game, where the sprite you manipulate passes more or less successfully through a virtual world of challenges and quests and develops strengths, skills and abilities based upon your achievements in the game's environment. Or to put it more simply, you hit monsters and then rifle their pockets. The monsters (and the pockets) get bigger as the game progresses.

I'd like to introduce you to Jazzarian.

JazzarianAs is usual in these matters, the sprite or 'avatar' you create to play in the game world is based on various types - warrior or warlock, dwarf or gnome, male or female , so I chose to be a human female Paladin. I gave her dark brown hair with a slightly raggedy cut and gentle green eyes; the enormous breasts come as standard. She's good at defending herself, can hit things very hard with sword or mace, can do a little bit of magic, but is rubbish at throwing. So yes, she's very much like my wife. I called her Jazzarian and entered the game.

And that's where things got interesting.

You are not alone

For years, computer games were 'one player, lots of monsters', eventually evolving to the network and internet games where the monsters were other players. The ethos has always been individual competition. But World of Warcraft is an online game where success can only be achieved by co-operation. WoW won't work at all if you're not connected to the internet, and the quests are tough if you don't team up with other players, which means it's a social game based on communication between players.

So I entered the game, and started working out what to do next. Maybe hit something and rifle its pockets? I wandered down to the nearest village and had a look at the inn and the blacksmiths. Minutes later and out of nowhere, someone blew me a kiss, and before I had time to recover my composure said, he needed a cuddle. He was a rather handsome guy with a bleached blonde beard, bare chest and a huge sword, actually.

Frankly, I scarpered as fast as my long, sturdy (and bare) legs could carry me.

This kind of thing has happened a few time since. On the boat to Theramore, a gnome mage all of two feet high in a pointy hat got very close and told me I was a sexy devil. I was just glad I wasn't wearing a skirt for him to look up. On the train to Ironforge, a couple of eight foot tall Night Elves got into the same carriage and started making jokes about my hair. And laughing. I mean it comes out the speakers - Ha Ha Ha. Hmmm... maybe I should be avoiding public transport.

On the other hand, I met a lovely guy called Tessus when we were fighting Blackrock orcs in Redridge Mountains together. He wanted to enchant my breastplate for me, but I couldn't work out how to let him reach the straps. I wonder where he is now?

Meanwhile, back in the real world

OK, slow down. Back up a little. Can you see what's happening here? This sort of thing must be going on all the time in chatrooms, but it's the first time I've encountered it. Is anybody doing any research on this stuff?

I'm a grizzled old Scotsman, with fewer of my own teeth than I'd like. But in WoW everyone sees me as a delicious green-eyed, dark haired Paladin with enormous breasts and a fine pair of thighs. So how many of the other male and female characters are representative of their players? And what would be fascinating to investigate is, what influences players' choice of gender?

In retrospect, I could have chosen an avatar that looked like a grizzled old Scotsman, but then I wouldn't have had as much fun at the auctions or going shopping. I got a lovely dress that was a real bargain just the other day - the armor value wasn't great, but 5 spirit and 4 agility!