Anthropologist delves into World of Warcraft as a parallel to religion in China

World of Warcraft

Ryan Hornbeck is a cognitive anthropologist who has recently completed an enormous dissertation on the subject of moral cognition and spiritual experiences in World of Warcraft in China. And according to Hornbeck, World of Warcraft's popularity combined with its communal structure and the way it creates opportunities unavailable to some in Chinese society makes the game similar in many ways to traditional religion and the experiences religion provides.

Hornbeck explains that opportunities for moral expression are "largely restricted to the affordances of the education system" but World of Warcraft offers an opportunity to "experience strong upwellings of moral sentiment." Additionally, he offers numerous quotes from Chinese WoW players that express how the game has transcended gameplay and turned into something entirely different -- something with deep personal value.

Here's one such quote:

In the end, the most important thing I want to say is what we are playing is not merely a game. In this world we find a feeling of existence we cannot find in the real world. This does not mean we are escaping, nor that we can only play games. People who say this are not real players. Do not think playing games is a waste of time, because the game made up for something we lost.

The full post is well worth a read.