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I had an interesting time in World of Warcraft tonight. It’s Children’s Week in the game. This is an in-game event in which you can get a special pet by taking a virtual orphan around to a few places in the game. In short, you run some quests in which you play the role of a Big Brother or Big Sister to an orphaned child.
I’m such a softy. I just got misty-eyed thinking about it. The parallels to the real world are obvious. These was one instance in the game where we were standing around at a place called The Dark Portal, waiting for the quests to update, when I asked “Is anyone getting the update?”. This led me to a brief conversation with another player who said “Wouldn’t it be nice if orphans in the real world were lavished with this much attention?”. No doubt.
There were plenty of players who were just running their quests and trying to get the pet reward at the end, and never thought any more than that about it. Then there were a handful of people like me, who were kind of moved by the whole thing. When the quests were finished and I had to take the kid back to the orphanage, I sat there for a long moment. I wished there was some way I could have passed on the reward and kept the kid instead. I couldn’t help but think about how different our world might be if more people in the real world felt that way.
You may laugh at me for playing a game like World of Warcraft. Plenty of clueless people brand you a loser if you’re content to spend time in a virtual world, as opposed to, say, clubbing and drinking, or parking in front of the television set like “a normal person”. I contend that the experience I had by befriending a Draenai orphan in Shattrath City in The Outlands was every bit as valid an experience as yours. It left me affected. And to my mind, that means it’s just as good as “real”.
When I logged in this morning to check my auction sales in World of Warcraft, I had a message waiting for me from my orphan (whose name was Dornaa). I saved a copy of the letter as a momento, and put it in the bank for safe-keeping. I realize that it was an automated follow-up to the quests; a message sent out by the game computer system. Yes, I know that Dornaa isn’t real. But the emotions I felt were real.
Say what you will about online gaming and how people are disconnecting from the real world (I think they’re doing that with iPods and Gameboys, myself). I know the next time I see a child in distress in the real world, what I felt and thought of because of Dornaa will come into play. I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

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