Now that I’ve thoroughly stickied my fingers with semantics, more on WoW as societal fantasy.
This pretty accurately sums up the first post in the series:
People don’t play WoW to escape into a story, they play WoW to escape into another society that celebrates social awkwardness and in general, provides you with an immersive place to interact. If they wanted to escape into story, there are plenty of great console and PC games with no online, social components. Really, WoW is just a more complicated Gaia Online, or a multi-tiered chatroom with PvP combat. It’s a place for gamers to congregate or for new gamers to get a taste, like Bainbridge did. I don’t see it as any different from any other online community; people gravitate toward others that have the same interests, form tribal bonds and identify allies and opponents.
I will agree with Bainbridge that WoW poses alternatives to reality, but it’s not through the NPCs and the environments of the simulated world of Azeroth; that’s just window dressing, a necessary point of reference for the establishment of an integrative, alternative society of players.