The Guardian recently ran a piece by Laura Kate Dale, who, after playing as a female in World of Warcraft, gained the confidence to come out and tell her friends and family that she was transgender. It’s a fascinating piece about the transformative power of online personas, and worth a read in its entirety, but here’s a taste:
While socialising, I had begun to act in a stereotypically male way, as though I wanted to prove to the world that I wasn't different. I was making an active rejection of everything female in an attempt to deny something that was becoming ever more clear to me. However, for some reason I couldn't explain, when it came to World of Warcraft I opted to play the game as a female character.
For her, Warcraft became a gender-issue testing ground.
It allowed me to try out female names and find which ones I liked, which ones felt like they fit me as a person. It gave me a chance to talk to people who only ever referred to me as female. It also gave me a chance to see the huge issues I would have to face in the future when people discovered that the person they had referred to as female was, “actually a guy.”
This really speaks to the futurist potential of games—how they enable us to have a second layer of existence where we can try on different roles and see things from other perspectives. In the best cases, like this one, we take what we learn from these alternate places and bring it back with us, and our lives are way better for it.