There’s something strange about getting to know people in WoW. Absent the body, you can be whoever you want in funny ways. Maybe you can’t really change your personality much (although perhaps some do?), but you can side-step all the judgements that come from the physical.
When I first started playing, I was really bothered by this. I had this thing where I just really wanted people to know what I looked like. Not because I thought that would particularly add to my appeal, but because somehow I felt I was misrepresenting myself with out the physical. Honestly, I have no idea why this was. I’m pretty much over it now.
But there are so many things we respond to about people when we look at them. I’m not just talking about how interact with them phyiscally, with all the attendant body language, smiles, eye contact. Those things can change everything about how we interact and respond, most certainly.
I’m talking about what we associate with looks in general. We believe the Beautiful People think they’re too good for us – unless, perhaps we believe we’re part of them. We believe dark skins mean one thing, slanted eyes another; pale skins mean one thing and brown skins something else. We look at people’s hair style, assess their weight, catalog their pimples, their baby face, their choice in clothing. We don’t have to be “racist” or “classist” or otherwise prejudiced against bad dressers and round tummies to react to these things. Regardless of the direction of our reaction, we have one. We’ve been trained by society and probably evolution to figure things out about people based on what our eyes see.
Online, we see nothing. Well, we see a screen name, a bunch of words in chat. In WoW we also see a ‘toon. A WoW friend once derided me for choosing a troll as my main. “A TROLL?” he guffawed. “How could you ever play a troll? They’re so UGLY! Oh my GOD! Their FEET! Those tusks! How could you play that? Why would you ever want to be so ugly?!”
I confess that in picking my troll, looks were a factor. IMHO, trolls are kind of cute. Curvy, mischievous looking, blue…. I like it. I feel cute as Lantana, and that matters to me.
He thought trolls were ugly. I was offended.
Offended! By his judgement of the drawing of the generic cartoon I picked to play WoW.
What is that about? I have no idea.
I didn’t want to be a Blood Elf because the females are too anorexic / prissy* looking. I know the males are pretty silly looking according to some folks as well, but I actually like them. And female trolls look like they can kick ass. And I like that. I’m happy to say, “In RL I’m built like my troll.” I know. I know. That’s probably really, really weird. And I’m not exactly built like her, anyway… okay, moving on.
Getting to know people in WoW, you see their toon(s). Their names. Read their text chat. Listen to their voice on vent. Your brain forces you to create some image of each person. And inevitably, if you ever do manage to see the real person’s image behind the toon, you are probably dazed and confused.
So, when I would get close to people on WoW, I wanted them to see me. Not even me in person, just a picuture of me. Honestly, I didn’t have as great a need to see what they looked like, but… Maybe it’s that in some ways, some people would treat me as though I really did look like a Blood Elf. Which I don’t. And the idea they had some idealized image of me in their head bothered me. I wasn’t interested in pretending to look like a Blood Elf.
I’m not so bothered by this anymore with most people I become friends with in WoW. I’ve exchanged a few pics since those early days, and met a few folks I play with, but for the most part, I’m fine that people don’t know what I look like.
But recently I have made a few friends I chat with a bit more than others, and some I know what they look like, some I don’t. Does it change things? Well…. I’m not sure, to be honest.
But somehow, getting to know someone without the phyiscal is different. Is it more about the personality? Are we being somehow more “pure” in responding to pure person, not biased by the body? I’m not sure. The body matters. The phyiscal matters. Maybe we are wrongly afftected by the body in many ways. But ultimately, it affects us, which can be a very good thing.
Maybe the physical is just a really good filter. You don’t like that I’m not one of the beautiful people? Good to know.
[Edit: * This comment on female belfs is, of course, doing exactly the same thing as that guy’s comment about trolls. And I confess that I have 3 female belf alts, anyway. They actually are cute.]