Grady Hendrix has an interesting piece up at n+1 on World of Warcraft (the link's likely to be temporary, but the piece should be findable in the archive once the essay's no longer on the main page). I am almost completely oblivious to the interesting and complex world of gamers, but I often like to hear about it, especially when the writing's good:
Non-gamers want to know what on earth these people are doing on their computers when they could be out at a party or meeting people. The short answer is that they are out at a party, meeting people. Any way you measure it, the social life of the average American has collapsed since the 1950s. We’re not going out, we’re not participating in our communities, we’re not socializing in nearly the numbers we used to. Mostly what we’re doing is watching TV. Dmitri Williams, a social sciences professor at the University of Illinois, sees WoW as a game that provides social interaction to an audience hungry for company. To him, games like WoW are a bridging experience, providing a way for people to meet. And while the depth of their interaction – their bonding, so to speak – isn’t as deep as it might be in a real-life meeting, he’s found that over time friendships do deepen and bonding does take place. As an added bonus, according to Nick Yee’s surveys, the average WoW player spends 22 hours a week in Azeroth, but only around 7 hours watching TV, compared to the national average of 29.