MMOs are Social Media?

Hello Internet,

As a part of my Social Media Marketing Class (Mark474) at NAIT, I’ll be writing a blog each week! 🙂

This blog is in response to an article called, “Users of the world, unite! The challenges of opportunities of Social Media” by Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein.

Something that definitely piqued my interest was the classification of virtual game worlds as social media – I guess it just never occurred to me. Now, I played World of Warcraft (WoW) from Grade 11 to my first year in college (I quit before Mists of Pandaria), and I’ve always thought of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) as just that – video games!

According to this Wikipedia article:

Social media is the interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

So by this definition, MMORGs like WoW are considered social media…?

The picture below is an old one from “back in the day” with a few guild members which I guess could also be called a virtual community. We interacted with one another; we talked, we raided, we helped each other out. BAMMO! That sounds just like the definition! Case closed, MMORPGs are social media.

ImageHowever, I personally think the definition is a bit to broad.

Similarities & Differences:

I can see how a virtual social world like Second Life can be considered social media because that’s what it was meant for – socializing. But MMORPGs are just so much more than socializing – it’s about grinding levels or gear, progressing in game and reaching different achievements. Not to mention, you don’t even have to be social. Some MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft, have a tool that helps you find other people to queue with for dungeons, etc. – no socialization required.

On the other hand, if you want to be social in MMORPGs you can add friends, block people, join a guild, have a conversation… Sounds a bit like Facebook, right? (But the guild would be a “group” instead.)

Both MMORPGs and social media are also similar though, in the sense that people want to do well or achieve something. On Twitter, you want to gain more followers and popularity, on Facebook you want your status updates to get tons of likes and in MMORPGs you want to gain more skill, gear and achievements so you are seen as “better”. Everyone loves getting rewarded, and both social networking websites and MMOs deliver that. Lots of people use social media for “bragging rights”.

Another similarity between MMORPGs and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, is that they are very customizable. People want their profile or avatar to reflect who they are in a good light. Whether it’s having an amazing profile picture or having the best looking gear in the game, it’s essentially the same thing. People that use these mediums want to out their best face forward.

One of the main differences that I see between MMORPGs and social networking sites like Facebook and microblogs like Twitter, is that you have companies actively trying to engage you and get your attention. Maybe this is why my brain says, “NO! MMORPGs aren’t social media!” Maybe this is also a huge opportunity that is being missed by companies? … Who knows? Virtual game worlds have a high social presence and media richness, allowing for them to be a powerful medium.

As a gamer, I’m always going to think of MMORPGs as just games, but there are definitely many parallels between them and today’s popular social media platforms. This article on Mashable does a good job of explaining them! 🙂

-B.

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