The Power of Play: Finding Hope and Community in World of Warcraft

Connection is a cornerstone of online gaming. One teen shares how it (and his World of Warcraft guild) became a lifeline for him during a time of tragedy.

By iThrive Games
December 8, 2020

For many young people, games like World of Warcraft are more than play. Games provide a place to connect, a place to explore, and a place to learn. At iThrive Games Foundation, we have seen firsthand how game play can support teens in thriving, whether it's in the classroom or amongst friends playing together online.

Earlier this year, we asked teens from a high school in Philadelphia to share a bit about their experiences with games. For extra credit in their sophomore English class, a few students shared their thoughts on questions such as, "How do games help you deal with life? What games are meaningful to you and how do they help you better understand yourself or the world? How do games help you question the way things are in the world?"

As part of the Power of Play series, we'll be sharing their insights on play, from video games to card and board games. To protect their privacy, their reflections will be shared with initials rather than full names. We hope these stories illuminate the power of game play as seen through the eyes of these young people.

Finding Hope Through World of Warcraft
B.P., High School Student from Philadelphia, PA

"Video games are a waste of time for men who have nothing else to do. Real brains don't do that." These words were by Ray Bradbury, a famous writer and a pioneer of the science-fiction genre in the 20th century.  Fahrenheit 451, one of his most well-known stories, foretold a dystopian society with remarkable technological advances similar to our modern world, and people were addicted to and disconnected by it. Bradbury regretted his accurate predictions, and hoped such a world did not occur. As a consequence, he despised gaming and believed that it was a meaningless hobby. His mentality is not unique and it is still popular, among many, to shun video games for being childish and a waste of time. However, I greatly disagree. From my experience, gaming is a worthwhile pastime, tremendously connective, and offers as many insights into life as books.

I was raised in a complicated and toxic household. When my parents divorced and my childhood best friend committed suicide, I was in a grim and lamentable place. Since I was an only child, I did not have anyone to consult about my problems. Often, I would hide in the bathroom and silently cry alone. On one Thanksgiving night, my older cousin found me sobbing in the dark. After he calmed me down, he proceeded to nonchalantly play a game on his laptop. 

"World of Warcraft," I said out loud, curiously, since it was my first encounter with the world of gaming. He noticed my interest and offered me a chance to play it. Completely ecstatic, I picked one of his coolest-looking heroes—an undead warlock. After staying up all night playing the game with my cousin, I fell in love with World of Warcraft. Later, he allowed me to use his account and introduced me to his guild (in the game, players can join guilds and play the game together). From the guild, I have met amazing people who are unbelievably nice. One of the members of the guild that I interacted with was a therapist from Europe who plays the game in his free time. We would often farm monsters for drops, and talk about personal issues or life lessons while playing the game together. He helped me learn about the importance of mental health, and building healthy coping habits to deal with stress. 

Although we both no longer play the game together or keep in touch with one another, he has made a considerable impact in my life through the amazing connectivity gaming enables. Furthermore, gaming allowed me to understand the importance of companionship and strategization in a way that no other form of entertainment could teach. In essence, gaming is not just a simple time waster. It has the power to connect people like no other media can. I wish more people could understand that gaming is so much more than ten year olds playing Angry Birds or sweaty thirty year olds in their mother's basement.