An added disclaimer: I came home from the office, tired, angry at the trains for always being late, stressed and all that usual stuff. In the entry below I might sound a bit harsh at times – if so, I’m sorry. I will not edit the entry in any way though, I shall leave it as is. But this is what can happen when you have a personal blog that is yours and yours alone. Be kind, and please, if you disagree with me, let me know in the comments.
Since the release of the Dungeon Finder tool in World of Warcraft, a lot has been said about it. It’s been praised, ridiculed and criticized – people can’t decide if they love it or hate it. Neither can I, after only having spent one evening with it (yes, I’m resubbed to WoW, will get back to that later). All that I can state is that World of Warcraft, with the introduction of said tool, is a completely different game compared to only a couple of weeks ago.
Copra, on Twitter, linked a blog entry that caught my attention more than the others though.
The Basic Premise
The post is called The Porn Star and the PUG, written by Elnia at The Pink Pigtail Inn. The basic premise of the entry is twofold. Number one, Elnia applies a quote from Sharon Mitchell, former porn-star turned doctor (who runs the AIM Institute, which tests actors/actresses in the porn industry for STDs), to her own life and later to PuGs through the LFD tool. Number two, she draws an analogy between porn in general and the LFD tool.
The Mitchell quote comes from an old interview, where Mitchell states that “I think I fell for attention. I was performing acts of intimacy without the intimacy and that kept me from love for a long time”. The interview in question, according to Elnia, is no longer available online, but there’s no real reason to doubt that it’s real considering it’s a sentiment shared by other porn stars (Jenna Jameson’s How To Make Love Like A Porn Star is recommended reading, from a psychological standpoint if nothing else).
About the analogy between LFD and Porn, Elnia writes
The critical question is why is there a tool that emphases the unshackling of sociability from grouping when, as I pointed out last summer, the teen age years are the most social times of one’s life. Do we really want our children to learn that the ideal group is a group without intimacy? For the precise real world analogue to the new grouping tool is the website Adult Friend Finder, where people go to create PUGs for sex. With strangers.
I’d recommend reading the whole entry if you haven’t yet, because I can’t keep myself from commenting on it more in-depth than a normal comment on a blog would allow me.
An Analogy Gone Astray
Early on in the entry, Elnia points out that she came across the quote from Mitchell years ago and found in it an analogy for her own life. She then goes on to apply it not only to porn in general, but to the LFD tool. Here’s the first trap that we have tendency to do when finding something profound that makes us rethink our life – without hesitation we apply that new revelation on more or less everything around us, despite that the source of the revelation and the subject we apply it to don’t have anything in common.
I’ve done it many times over the years myself. It is this phenomenon that can turn people who find a drastic new meaning in their life arrogant. While Elnia, when hearing this quote, saw a similarity between her own life and the lack of intimacy that Mitchell describes, it does not automatically apply to completely different context. The LFD tool and the lack of communication in most groups formed through that tool, is not the same as the lack of intimacy in a sexual love relationship. The two are so wildly different that they don’t even share any common ground.
If person A says “my boyfriend does not want to have sex every night”, person B can’t apply that to her/his own life and respond “same here, but in my case he doesn’t want to eat pasta every night”. It’s not even the same context. Intimacy, or the lack thereof, in one context is not the same in another – only because something is “lacking” in one case, doesn’t mean that what is lacking in another is remotely the same thing.
In Elnia’s life, that quote seems to have been discovered at just the right time. I do not question, or disparage, that at all. But it is hardly a quote that can be applied at all things, as soon as something is lacking.
It’s A Matter Of Perspective
The new LFG tool is the gaming instantiation of the pornography mindset. A quick easy thrill with no string attached. So it’s no surprise that it’s popular; pornography is popular. As Tobold correctly notes popularity normally means profits.
I will get back to the “pornography mindset” later, but here Elnia likens watching porn with the LFD, as both are “quick easy thrills with no strings attached”. Hey, pornography is popular, which means that LFD is popular for the same reasons. Again, the analogy stumbles over itself trying to prove its point.
There are just too many “quick easy thrills” in this world to make the comparison between porn and the LFD hold any water. Bungee jumping is like porn, because they are both popular quick thrills. There’s no intimacy or communication in bungee jumping either, which means that it’s like porn. For many, drinking alcohol is a quick thrill, so is sniffing glue or balancing near the edge of a cliff.
See where I am going with this?
The porn-analogy would mean anything if the subject was even remotely connected with pornography or sex, the LFD tool isn’t. We could, perhaps, liken the mindset of people who become sex-addicts from suffering the same “lack of intimacy” as a porn movie. But gaming, a group of people picked together at random from a queue and shoved into a dungeon together? That because they don’t communicate, because most people are so familiar with the dungeons themselves that they don’t have to communicate, they lack intimacy?
When I’m playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I am thrown into a group of strangers. We have one common goal – to win over the other team. If we win over the other team, we get bonus XP. Bonus XP leads to more unlocked weapons. I don’t talk to them, they hardly talk to me, most of us know more or less where to go and what to do. If someone is under-performing, they run the risk of getting downrated. Does this mean CoD:MW2 is like porn?
Of course not. The problem for LFD is a matter of perspective, it is because it’s not always been there. We look back at what WoW used to be like and judge this new tool through those eyes (even if we like it or hate it). Running dungeons with strangers has always been a fact of life for many in WoW, now most of the communication has been taken out of the equation. Is that a good or a bad thing? Do we want WoW instances to become more like “ordinary” multiplayer games? Those are questions I believe we should be asking, instead of drawing convoluted analogies to pornography.
Why Do You Bother, Petter? Get Real.
Yes, why do I even care? Here’s the thing – Elnia gives pornography an agenda and applies that agenda to the LFD tool.
Elnia states that pornography’s “purpose..it’s goal…it’s aim” is “unshackling sex from intimacy”. By then drawing a comparison between porn and LFD, the natural conclusion would be that the LFD shares the same purpose, goal and aim. It’s a rather bizarre conclusion.
First of all, there’s a problem with giving pornography a purpose. Pornography, in itself, doesn’t have much of a purpose except showing people in sexual situations on photo or film (or in art, some might point out). There is no unifying voice of pornography, it’s not a political party. Yes, it can have – and has had – political and cultural implications, but that’s from an observer’s point of view. Pornography, in itself, does not have a goal.
In the same way, the LFD does not have an aim in itself except for an easy way to get people together into random dungeons faster. We know that Blizzard is still looking out for social interaction, especially with the upcoming changes to guilds in Cataclysm and the fact that they still add raids to the game. We haven’t seen what kind of implications the LFD will have on the WoW community in the long term, since it’s only been out for a few weeks. What kind of emergent gameplay will come out of this whole experiment remains to be seen and we have yet to hear anything about how the system will come into play in Cataclysm.
A similar system has already been in place for PvP in WoW for a long time. Does that mean that the Battleground queue system has an agenda and an aim to make people communicate less? For the longest time, chatting in BGs have been reserved for the whiners and the would-be leaders, while everyone else have been acting on pure instinct, not bothering to chat or to pay much attention to the rest of the people in the battleground. While that does not have major implications for the LFD tool as such, if we are to apply an agenda to one system in the game that acts a certain way, shouldn’t we be doing the same to a system that works more or less the same way?
Another reason why I feel that Elnia’s post should be criticized is because it takes two cultural phenomenon – pornography from the “real” world and dungeon running in a “virtual” world – and mashes them together. That should never, ever go without watchful eyes (same goes for this post, by the way, feel free to rip me apart in the comments). Then it’s a matter of language, where Elnia calls Mitchell a “whore”. Not a big thing, probably not meant in a negative way, but that offended me more than any of the f-words in the entry.
Towards the end, Elnia writes
…every day [Mitchell] gets to look those young men and women in the eyes and subtly ask them what their AIM is. Do they really think the risk for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is worth it for a few thousand dollars and the chance to see oneself in a movie. Do you think fellow Warcraft players that having a silent run, without communication, without intimacy—your little noontime quickie—is really worth it for a shot at some loot? Is grinding out one superficial relationship after another—networking—really worth it for success in the business world? It’s not my place to tell you yes or no [...].
I’m sorry, but I think you just did.