Though not all gamers would likely admit to the relative similarities between the two, when really taking a critical eye towards the MMO culture and more importantly the individual realms of each; it can become increasingly clear just how kindred to a high school experience these games can truly be. Cliques, the latest trends, passing insults, random chatter whilst making your way about, and probably most prevalently the competitive nature we can all never really manage to fully outgrow; makes up only some of the relative qualities between the two.
Developer's have caught on to this nature and utilized it to the fullest especially since the rise of free-to-play within the industry. Where once specific gear and appearance within a game stood as indications of accomplishment, all too often today equipment seen worn by players stands as indication of purchase, wealth, and ultimately status. Granted there are still a range of equipments exclusive from PVP or specific instances offered from the games, it comes as little surprise however to find the majority of items that are trending popular due to their 'look' can often be found ready for purchase in a money-market or player auction of grandiose purchase. Granted more often than not this is a vanity purchase and will not always include the statistic altering element that the official piece of equipment offers, but one can't help but reminisce back to purchasing a Polo or IZOD shirt simply for the decorative indicator of that purchase versus any other non-trending brand of a nearly identical shirt.
Sporting a specific look of 'cool' is but one of the similarities however, bullying, trash-talking, and any other layer of obnoxious behavior conceivable can and often does take place as well. 'Troll' being the term most commonly used to identify such players, but in reality this is nothing more than the disruptive (even if at times humorously) kid in class that constantly misbehaved to provoke the teacher and sometimes laughter of classmates. Some trolling takes place out of actual upset regarding bugs or problems with the game itself, more often though this behavior is no different than what it was in high school, a means of relieving personal tension. While maybe not the best measure for such relief, just like in school it can prove disruptive to those around, remembering that in reality this is typically the root of the behavior can assist in keeping a good humor in regards.
Probably the most obvious way that MMO's are so much like the realm high school held for many of us, is the reality by which age becomes nearly meaningless from within these realms. While a twenty something trolling player may sound fourteen due to their behavior, surprisingly the fourteen year old player can as well have been mistaken for eighteen or older when their skills at playing seem to indicate experience. No matter the appearance of the avatar, the behavior of the player, or even their skills at playing the game; from the MMO perspective we are all children. Certainly there is an economic, even etiquette and a user-agreement, involved; but ultimately no matter how adult a player may be when signing up for a game it's simply a matter of circumstance and time before that inner child will make themselves known.
Those coming up in the world today, vacating from high schools, and moving on with their careers or higher education; may never share in the same longing to return to childhood prior generations have. While most would likely not wish to repeat puberty and the trauma that high school could have presented in their lives, the reality of MMO's and what they present to our society today assures that gamers whether they like it or not will never have to miss the high school experience so long as they are playing an MMO.