When we are faced with an enemy, a person or group of people wishing to do us harm, we can view this as an opportunity to develop patience and tolerance. We need these qualities; they are useful to us. And the only occasion we have to develop them is when we are challenged by an enemy. So, from this point of view, our enemy is our guru, or teacher. Irrespective of their motivation, from our point of view, enemies are very beneficial, a blessing.— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, An Open Heart (2001)

Where is it written that the best that can be said of massively multi-player online games, psychologically, socially, morally, is that old saw catharsis; That, at best, MMOs offer pre-emptive release in play of emotions and ill-considered impulses fraught with danger to self and others in so-called “real life”? Better kill here, than kill there.

Or more pragmatically, more cynically, that, akin to imperial-militarist sport, such as American football, the “team work” and interpersonal skills required in MMOs to organize, discipline and deploy players in virtual combat operations, develop and demonstrate generic, transferable “leadership” qualities equally applicable to serving the Corporate Order. One hears rumors of a generation unabashedly putting WoW Guilds and 40-man instance runs on their resumes.

Easily overlooked in all this is the fact that MMOs — and I mean especially, even exclusively violent MMOs — offer an entirely different realm of play, of testing, probing, imaginative pre- and parallel engagement with the psychological, social, moral dilemmas and required discipline of “real life.”

This other realm of playful preparation and contemplation of the “real world” is easily overlooked because its prerequisite is a fundamentally moral choice, one all too easily elided in thrall to what everyday has long counted the way of the world.

To open most any violent MMO to this realm of psychological, social, moral contemplation, training, discipline, education, all it takes is a simple refusal to kill: War Is Over If You Want It

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