World of Warcraft – Digital Subjectivity (Week 5)

Over the past weeks, I have looked closely at my embodiment and my own feelings of affect within World of Warcraft. To some extent, I have looked into my researcher subjectivity, as outlined somewhat in my character creation post. However, I have not yet fully explored it, and understanding my digital subjectivity as both a player and a researcher is critical to underscoring the research. My subjectivity, my identity’s more stable elements include the following relevant recognitions: White British, Cis Female, Feminist (Third wave/Post), Gamer.

Firstly, the relationship between myself and my avatar, Cineris, is crucial to research and my own gameplay. She is my tool for interacting with the world. I created her using the templates the game provided, and while I customise her with armour and weapons, I am still inherently bound by the game dynamics in her creation and character development.  I did make certain active decisions that indicate my own subjectivity and how I perceive myself. I made her female, I made her strong and powerful, I opted for a ferocious female warrior to play as and interact with the world. All of these are either things I directly see in myself or are things I wish I could enact. In Eklund (2011) and Royse et. al. (2007) they detail subjectivity among their female research participants, and both look closely at how women see their subjectivity within themselves and their avatars.They both noted that often women chose to play as women so they could feel kinship with the character – this I can definitely agree with.

Cineris at current. I love how strong she looks, but I’m still trying to find ways to downplay her hyperfeminine body as assigned by the game default for female.

There is also evidence of avatars being used as modes of both identity exploration and solidifying identity practices of the player, much as I mentioned above with giving Cineris certain traits I wish I had or wish I could explore more. ‘Games function as technologies for explorations of the gendered self, producing paradoxical enactments that challenge cultural norms’ (Royse et. al. 2007: 567). In this sense, I have produced a female gendered character, reflecting my own identification as a cis female. Yet paradoxically I have made her a warrior, I made her large, powerful and threatening in appearance, all of which are the antithesis of traditional femininity and female roles. ‘To construct oneself in WoW, is a constant, ongoing process; the identity is never fixed but varies over time and with the situation’ (Eklund 2011: 338). I agree with some extent with Eklund. The identity of the avatar can continue to develop, as I have already seen myself from levelling up and game progression. However, I have certain subjectivities that I carry with me that are much less fluid, and some even fixed, like my race.

When I was creating Cineris, the thought of my own racial subjectivity did not even cross my mind. Race was not something I stopped to think about. I see the other player avatars as what they are, taking them at face value, as the avatars are how the others players want to be seen, and I see no reason to question that. However, I am very aware that my subjectivity as white is shaping this. ‘The invisibility of whiteness as a racial position in white (which is to say dominant) discourse is of apiece with its ubiquity’ (Dyer 2005: 11). Dyer discusses that whiteness is invisible and the presumed race for any not explicitly named or signified. My subjective position as white informs this, and therefore while I do not feel I see all others in game as white (I try to think about those behind the avatars), on some level I do. To some extent, ‘It is also possible that Whiteness in gaming, like Whiteness in general, is uninterrogated.’ (Shaw 2012: 37). I did not see the need to look into my racial identity, and nor do I see myself interrogating others for their racial identities, because my subjectivity as white has caused a blanket effect on myself and my vision up to this point. bell hooks (1992) has called for white researchers to examine their subjectivity far more in depth, and reflecting on how poorly I initially considered my racial subjectivity, I would have to agree. However, as Keating (1995) has pointed out, in examining my white subjectivity more in-depth, I must not fall into a trap of marking distinct racial categories, when here in the digital space, there is room for subjectivities like these to shift through the image of the avatar, no matter how fixed the subjectivity may be within the player. Nakamura notes that in WoW ‘racializing discourses that reflect the concerns of an online culture obsessed with determining identity online through virtual profiling’ (2009: 132) bring racial subjectivity and the positions of players online into WoW to continue building and performing discourses of race.

Unlike my racial subjectivity, which was highly unconscious, my gendered subjectivity was something I paid close attention to. As mentioned above, I wanted a female character who I still saw as feminine, and yet had strong masculine traits, including strength and aggression. I deliberately moved away from the sexualised appearance initially given by the character creation, and worked on creating a more androgynous look – but still identifiable as feminine and female. This is all very reflective of how I see my own subjectivity in real life, so naturally I transferred it online so I could enact it more so, particularly in terms of the aggression and violence WoW allows me to take part in. ‘Participation in virtual worlds is not simulation but performance. There is no faking performance; it is brutally honest’ (Nardi 2010: 93). The way I have created my gendered subjectivity online is quite obvious, and indicative of a lot of my personality and personal beliefs. It is interesting to note that while I realise I made these decisions consciously, even without looking into my own reasoning, it would have been clear to an outside researcher what I was doing with my gendered subjectivity. ‘Gender was so relevant to gamer identity without being consciously articulated as such’ (Shaw 2012: 34). Even without thinking about it, I knew what kind of gamer subjectivity I wanted to embody. I took up these things naturally, and built my own subjectivity into the character. 

I am aware that MMOs are not utopian spaces, and that subjectivities are carried online through our digital selves do not suddenly transform because they are digital and not physical. I have never been under any illusion that the game is utopian and equal for all, and I am acutely aware that I hold certain subjectivities that potentially make me a target for online hate (being female in particular). Nakamura’s (2009, 2015)  work has particularly highlighted how the online spaces of MMOs are still just as shaped by racial and gendered discourse as real life. Being aware of subjectivity online, and how they are used and performed in online spaces such as WoW, means that I can see the full image of how MMOs act as spaces for identity performance and embodiment – including the flaws and individualities of participants. In understanding my digital subjectivity, it places me in better stead as a researcher, and enables me to be more critical of my own in game choices, and to better understand those around me in WoW.

An example of how non-utopian the space is. Here Cineris was approached by a male ogre who proceeded to flirt with us without even talking to us first. This is not that dissimilar to certain examples you would find in a ‘real world’ nightclub.

Bibliography

Dyer, R (2005, 3rd Edition) ‘The Matter of Whiteness’ in White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism Ed. Rothenberg, P. London: Worth Pub

Eklund, L. (2011) ‘Doing Gender in Cyberspace: The Performance of Gender by female World of Warcraft players’ in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol 17

Hooks, B (1992) Black Looks: Race and Representation. New York: Routledge

Keating, A (1995) ‘Interrogating “Whiteness” (De)constructing “Race” ‘ College English, Vol 57 (8) p901-918

Nakamura, L (2009) ‘Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft’ Critical Studies in Media and Communication Vol 26 (2) p128-144

Nakamura, L (2015) ‘Racism, Sexism and Gaming’s Cruel Optimism’ Deadspin 14th October 2014. Accessed from <https://lnakamur.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/racism-sexism-and-gamings-cruel-optimism.pdf>

Nardi, B (2010) My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. Michigan: University of Michigan Press

Royse, P et. al. (2007). ‘Women and Games: Technologies of the Gendered Self’ New Media and Society, Vol 9

Shaw, A (2012) ‘Do you Identify as a Gamer? Gender, Race, Sexuality and Gamer Identity’ New Media and Society Vol 14 (28) p28-44

World of Warcraft – Affect and Emotion (Week 4)

Now that some weeks have passed and I’ve clocked up almost six hours of gameplay with my character in World of Warcraft, the implications of affect within the game and the feeling of emotional affect are starting to become more realised. I’m connecting more deeply with my character, and enjoy playing with her much more than I did four weeks ago. As discussed in my embodiment post last week, I’m developing a much more embodied feeling within the gameplay, and subsequently, I’m experiencing a greater level of affect.

First I feel it is important to define affect. According to Dictionary.com, affect is defined as ‘to impress the mind or move the feelings of’ (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/affect). Affect is linked to emotion, and emotional responses, and how we perceive and are influenced by objects, contexts, and their meanings. Tomkins (1962) was an early influence on affect theory, discussing it broadly in terms of emotionally elicited responses to stimuluses and subsequent reflexive emotions. Ahmed sums up affect quite perfectly with ‘We are moved by things. In being moved, we make things’ (2010: 25). Whatever the ‘thing’ we make is of our own choosing, be it happiness, a community, a physical object, it is the impact of the initial emotional affect that creates this response.

Affect however must not be seen as the privileging of the mind over the body. Affect is the bridge that links these two discourses together, and thus can produce highly nuanced discourses for use of analysis. Affect is by it’s nature slippery and difficult to define, and therefore it stands to reason that is also cannot be seen to be used in one specific category or discourse (Seigworth and Gregg 2010). Affect must however, be remembered as being a force of emotion that moves us (as discussed with Ahmed above), and it is this incredible power of affect to be both influencing and malleable that makes it such a poignant tool for digital studies such as this one with WoW. ‘Affect theory draws attention to the ways in which “bodies”…combine, assemble, articulate and shift into new formations’ (Wetherell 2013: 350). Wetherell’s discussion of the discourses of affect here shapes how online bodies and affect work together in virtual spaces like WoW.

I have known for some weeks now, perhaps even since starting this class, that I would be subject to affective discourses with playing WoW. My own personal history of gaming and attachment to in-game characters gave me enough indication that this was going to happen, and although it has taken me a little longer to become comfortable with my character, I am now starting to fully embrace the affective discourses WoW offers me as a player. ‘MMORPGs push us to think about the pleasures…players are experiencing’ (Taylor 2003: 22). When I am playing, I try to remain aware of what I am feeling as I play, and how I am being affected by the game. This week was particularly interesting for me in terms of affective discourses with Cineris as we had our first encounter with death. The shock that went through me as I saw her crumpled on the ground was a strange feeling. It wasn’t sadness as such, just sheer surprise that we’d been wiped out so completely and so quickly. I re-spawned, and then had to find my corpse in game and revive myself – which was even stranger than dying itself had been. This obviously is not a ‘pleasure’ as Taylor discusses, but it does have strong links to affect – after all, affect does not have to positive in it’s reaction. I keep field notes as I play WoW, and record quickly how I am feeling in response to certain events in game. Reading back over these, I can easily see my strong emotional responses spilling out, and therefore I can easily reflect back on these and identify the affective discourses at work. I am not resisting the affect that the game produces, nor am I am worried about appearing strange for enjoying the game. I am trying to immerse myself instead, and to get a richer experience of the game by engaging with the affective responses, be they good or bad.

Field notes detailing my class gameplay. It’s very emotional stuff playing this game at times!

Cineris in her wolf form in game

Cineris as a spirit after we died

It was from this experience in WoW that the idea of networked affect and how human and non-human agents can affect each other arose. I’m also linking it to last week’s ideas of digital bodies and embodiment, as especially for me in WoW, I feel that the two cannot be separated. I live the experienced of WoW as embodied, and therefore I experience affective discourses produced by my own embodied gameplay experiences. ‘What links community, belonging, and fantasy is the notion of affect; that it is the capacity of bodies and texts’ (Ferreday 2009: 30). I am affected by my avatar Cineris; the emotions I feel when playing WoW with her are real. When she died I felt shock. When I saw her in her wolf form I felt glee, and I loved how much more powerful and scary that she looked as opposed to her human form. I also like that as we play and develop more within the game, that my affective responses become more genuine and varied. ‘Bodily transformations might also transform what is experienced as delightful. If our bodies change over time, then the world around us will create different impressions’ (Ahmed 2010:23). If I consider Ahmed’s statement in line with digital bodies and how those affective discourses online are lived and experienced, then I can quite literally see how my digital body in the form of my avatar is being shaped, changed and affected. This has links back to Foucault (1977) and the docile body I discussed in terms of embodiment – but here I am discussing it within affective discourse. Therefore the docile body of the avatar acts as a conduit for affect, particularly to my own body and my own emotions. This demonstrates how human and non-human agents can have affective responses on one another, and illustrates that the complexity of the digital body and affective discourses is more than simple cause-effect discourse.

Bibliography

Ahmed, S (2010) The Promise of Happiness. USA: Duke University Press

Dictionary.com, accessed at <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/affect> on 24.10.2015

Ferreday, D (2009) Online Belongings: Fantasy, Affect and Web CommunitiesOxford: Peter Lang AG

Foucault, M (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Penguin Books

Seigworth, G.J and Gregg, M (2010) The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke University Press

Taylor, T.L (2003) ‘Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming’ Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies Vol 9 (21) p21-46

Tomkins, S.S (1962) Affect, Imagery, Consciousness Vol I: The Positive Affects. Oxford: Springer

Wetherell, M (2013) ‘Affect and Discourse – What’s the problem? From affect as excess to affective/discursive practice’ Subjectivity Vol 6 (4) p349-368

World of Warcraft – Embodiment and Digital Bodies (Week 3)

During this week’s class, we looked at the concept of embodiment online. We focused on the embodied vs. disembodied argument related to online practices, how embodiment can work, what digital bodies are and how are they related to our physical bodies, and focusing all the time on what it means to feel in these bodies, ways and spaces.

Embodied and disembodied experiences are experienced very differently. To experience gaming as embodied, the body will have physical reactions: biting the lip, sweating, leaning closer to the screen in anticipation, and feeling elation, sadness, frustration at the game and the result of play (Crick 2011). Disembodied, however, plays upon the idea that all we can feel during gameplay is the literality of the gaming console: buttons, keyboards, flickering lights, beeps and sounds, and that we cannot have emotional connections through such inhuman devices (Stoll 1995). There is no bodily, emotional, gut reaction that truly speaks of the game and its impact on the player.

When it comes to the embodied vs. disembodied argument around gaming, I strongly place myself on the side of embodied, agreeing with Crick’s argument about it being a ‘fully embodied, sensuous, carnal activity’ (2011: 267). During my World of Warcraft playing experiences, I’ve felt joy and frustration, been swept up in the chaotic atmosphere of fights and frustrated by my lack of skills at the game. Even if all of these emotions were elicited by a computer game, the fact is the emotions that I felt and experienced were deeply real. My heart rate went up during battles and when I had to run to regain health, I smiled at the screen and felt my shoulders lift when I managed to complete a quest or successfully strike down an enemy. It doesn’t matter that I performed these things by pressing buttons on the keyboard and peering at a backlit screen. I still felt them, and it made my gaming experience so much more embodied and real as a result. Cineris (my WoW character) isn’t just a jumble of pixels. She is my character, and therefore can be considered an extension of myself, and part of my digital body. This is where Stoll (1995) seems to fail to realise that gameplay is about so much more than the literality of those two words ‘game’ and ‘play’. It is immersive and experienced by the whole body, from emotions to senses being sparked. Not matter the platform which elicits the feeling of emotional and sensual connection, the reality of the feeling is that which matters most in embodiment.

Digital bodies and the extensions of the self have been discussed by a multitude of authors on different topics. McLuhan (1964) was one of the first to highlight the ways in which the self can extend through the everyday object or media. Since his work there has been a huge amount of writing on the topic of extensions. Now there is the concept of the digital body that is an extension of the physical body in online spaces. But what does it mean to have a ‘digital body’? What even is it? By more traditional theories about the body ending at the skin, and that the contact with a ‘second skin’ unknown to the body causes revulsion (Kristeva 1982) the digital body should not be something we can enjoy. On the contrary though, the digital body seems to have developed alongside new technologies and in association with the physical body. This moves away from Descartes ideas of the Cartesian division of the self into mind and body. Here we actually have body and body, both as important, neither privileged over the other. What instead we have is a Subject that has both digital and physical bodies that interact with each other in varying spaces and ways. ‘Issues such as norms and values, forms of community bonding and social belonging…require a notion of the Subject’ (Braidotti 2013: 42). What Braidotti highlights here is that not matter how far it seems we are straying from the traditional notions of ‘human’, so long as we can feel core issues within ourselves and our senses of feeling, then it merely indicates how humanity as a concept is evolving to react with new forms of embodiment in the self.

The idea of the body is also discussed at length by Foucault (1979), and I feel this has great relevance here in terms of the embodiment, and how the body behaves when engaged in online practices such as gameplay. I have already mentioned the physical and emotional responses I have experienced during my WoW gameplay. Foucault sees the body as being of a ‘formless clay’ (ibid: 135). The body is malleable, shapeable, subject to internal and external influences and not bound to one set of behaviours or identity practices. These ideas are key to engaging with embodiment and the digital body. Understanding and awareness of how certain practices affect the body and therefore the experience on the subject is key to fully immersing in embodied practices of gameplay.

Returning to the way in which the gameplay of WoW allows to actively look at constructs of embodiment and the digital body, I can say truthfully that I feel the experience as wholly immersive. I am growing in attachment to my character as I play with her more (or more accurately I feel I should say, as we play together more), which is leading to interesting developments in her character and my gameplay. Initially I had felt disconnected, both from Cineris and from the gameplay itself, having jumped in at the deep end of an unfamiliar game and gaming system. However, having had a few sessions to get to understand WoW, I can now see and feel my embodiment and attachment within the game beginning to grow. My embodied experience is more fully realised now, and I am beginning to experience a greater sense of the extension of the self into the character than I did initially. ‘The future of humanity, of the cyborg and of technology, has to remain open’ (Zylinska 2002: 4). It is this openness, the sense of not knowing how the experience will ultimately unfold and shape me that I am bearing in mind. How I experience embodiment online in my digital body and in this digital space will be hugely shaped by the ways in which my physical body and human emotions interact with the online platforms. Tufecki (2012) noted this as a ‘the tension of being human’. I am keen to experience things through my digital body, but I still have to abide by my physical one, no matter how closely intertwined the two are in terms of emotional experience, the physical remains that I, in my physical body, am not a werewolf warrior running through Azeroth. But it doesn’t mean I can’t feel that.

Bibliography

Braidotti, R (2013) The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press

Crick, T (2011) ‘The Game Body: Towards a Phenomenology of Contemporary Video Gaming’ Games and Culture Vol 6 (3) p259-269.

Foucault, M (1979) Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin Books

Kristeva, J (1982) The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Roudiez, L. New York: Columbia University Press

McLuhan, M (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London: Routledge

Stoll, C. (1995) Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway. New York: Doubleday.

Tufecki, Z (2012) ‘We Were Always Human’ in Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects, and the End of Anthropology Ed. Whitehead, N and Welch, M. Colorado: University of Colorado Press.

Zylinska, J (2002) Cyborg Experiments: Thee Extensions of the Body in the Media Age. London: Contniuum.

World of Warcraft – Online Belonging and Community (Week 2)

A short extract of interaction within my guild, Rude Awakening. I was invited to join recently and enjoy catching up with people online and sharing anecdotes.

During class, we had our first opportunity to play World of Warcraft as a collective, rather than in our own time. The result was somewhat chaotic, highly frantic, and yet still fun to see people’s engagement and reactions online. We were tasked with finding each other within our realms in the game. This proved much more difficult than we had anticipated, due to the limitations of our levels, knowledge, and our own unique character stories. I was the only one able to find another member of the class, and that was because we were both Warrior class Worgen at the starter level scenario. What we found most interesting here was that for all the discussions of community and how we are all able to connect online in spaces such as World of Warcraft, transferring our already existing and established class community to a cohesive online platform was proving difficult. However, we were still experiencing aspects of both the online and physical community. The emotions could be felt in the room, through the energy of the players and sounds of excited voices. We were feeling as a collective – the energy in the room as we compared characters and as we began playing was palpable, even if success within the game was limited. The evidence of the crowd mentality was clear.

Considering the lack of online community that I have so far experienced, I found it curious that WoW is so often cited as being a great platform for connecting online communities and creating whole new spaces of connection (Visser 2013, Billieux 2013) that can aid in the formation of identity and have real impacts on players’ senses of community, online connection and belonging (Ferreday 2009). However, I bear in mind my own personal experiences are limited  by both my player knowledge and my gameplay time, so I cannot judge the impacts of how the community itself is constructed and enacted. What I can relate to is the energy of feeling that was generated by the class as we played together, and I can assume a similar feeling is developed online during gameplay as time passes and communities are established.

A short extract of interaction within my guild, Rude Awakening. I was invited to join recently and enjoy catching up with people online and sharing anecdotes. This is a prime example of how it takes communities time to form and engage. 

My reasoning for assuming that a similar feeling of happiness and togetherness would be generated through playing is linked to the ideas of Neotribes (Bennett 1999, Maffesoli 1996) and to Postmodernity (Jameson 1991). Neotribes have links to crowd mentality, and supports the idea of feeling through collectives, and eliciting genuine emotional responses, over valuing geographical and traditional notions of community. Postmodernism already highlights the huge changes which have occurred to our everyday lives, particularly in terms of connectivity, and thus the Neotribe and a real need for community in individuals has emerged as connectivity becomes more intensively driven by online platforms and less by directly physical interaction (Anderson 1982). ‘Postmodernism is…a more fully human world than the older one, but one in which ‘culture’ has become a veritable ‘second nature’ (Jameson 1991: ix). Postmodernism demonstrates that being connected makes us both more human and less human at the same time, linking culture and nature together. I am not suggesting that just because communities and senses of connection are constructed online that they are somehow less than valid, and nor am I suggesting that Postmodernism is eliminating human feeling or invalidating it because of utopian Posthumanist ideals. Coupling the boundless structure of the internet with an ingrained feeling within the body of emotive response demonstrates that connectivity online evolves with us and our needs from online spaces. ‘An authentic sense of being-at-home in cyberspace derives precisely from the sexy and slippery possibilities offered by us destabilising traditional notions of authority which depend upon a fixed sense of identity’ (Ferreday 2009: 103). What Ferreday highlights here is something which I experienced during the class gameplay. My identity online does not feel fixed. I have yet to truly develop the identity of the avatar I am playing as, nor have I found an online community which would help solidify a sense of identity. Yet it is these notions of being able to be anything without borders or consequence that illustrates this appeal of being online. You have the full opportunity to engage and be what you want, and still experience the same level of satisfied fulfilling feeling that you would from more traditional methods of connectivity.

Here, the ideas of feeling and belonging within online communities become more tied to emotional feelings and affectivity. The Neotribe promotes a community of feeling within the digital space, and links to the crowd mentality of ‘feeling together’ (as experienced during the class gameplay). What we are seeing here is ‘affective economies, where feelings do not reside in subjects or objects, but are produced as effects of circulation’ (Ahmed 2004: 8). Ahmed demonstrates that feelings are not unlockable like achievements and accessible as we wish, but are instead felt and generated by the experiences we have – whether that is online or physically, both sites produce intense feelings of emotion. The community setting and gameplay within WoW has the ability to act as the site of emotional production for the players involved.

The caption says 'Bring your friends to Azeroth. But don't forget to outside Azeroth with them as well'. This is a highly unusual stance as the game identifies the importance of both the offline and the online community interaction.

The caption says ‘Bring your friends to Azeroth. But don’t forget to outside Azeroth with them as well’. This is a highly unusual stance as the game identifies the importance of both the offline and the online community interaction.

One of the most interesting things however, is related back to the more negative views of Postmodernism and ‘over-connectivity’ within the world i.e. the idea that having access to unlimited online connections and constant access to the digital world is reducing our capacity to connect in the ‘real’ world. Maffesoli noted that ‘the aesthetic of the ‘we’ is a mixture of indifference and periodic bursts of energy’ (1996: 12). During the class gameplay, we were all locked to our computer screens, not matter how excited the energy in the room felt, we were not behaving a united community – we were a fragmented community who were connected by emotional feeling, but not by any kind of space within the digital. Maffesoli’s idea that the ‘we’ (the collective) is not a constant but experiences pitches and falls is incredibly poignant of how real communities behave. Taking WoW as the primary example. The communities are not constantly working together, supporting each other, making stands and acting quests. Often times players only come together for quests or within set social spaces, making the idea of the community more flexible. A community is not a specific group of people, nor a set geographical location. It is the sense of feeling that belonging recalls within one’s body, the reality of how the emotional reaction that is experienced feels. Whether the community is a constant, or a variable, emotions cannot be sustained 100% of the time. But knowing that a sense of belonging can be produced by accessing certain sites, ensures that a true idea of online belonging and community can be generated and sustained by World of Warcraft.

Bibliography

Ahmed, S (2004) The Cultural Politics of Emotion. London: Routledge

Anderson, B (1982, 2006 Revised Edition) Imagined Communities. London: Verso 

Bennett, A (1999) ‘Subcultures or Neo-Tribes? Rethinking the relationship between youth, style and musical taste’ Sociology Vol 33 (3) p599-617

Billieux, J (2013) ‘Why do you play World of Warcraft? And in-depth exploration of self-reported motivations to play online and in-game behaviours in the virtual world of Azeroth’ Computers in Human Behaviour Vol 29 (1) 103-109

Ferreday, D (2009) Online Belongings: Fantasy, Affect and Web Communities. Bern: Peter Lang AG

Jameson, F (1991) Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logical of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Maffesoli, M (1996) The Time of Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society. Trans. Shields, R. London: SAGE Publications

Visser, M (2013) ‘Online communication and social well-being: How playing World of Warcraft affects players’ social competence and loneliness’ Journal of Applied Psychology Vol  43 (7) p1508-1517

World of Warcraft: First Experience and Character Creation

For the M94 Digital Media and Culture module, a key part of this is centred around gameplay in the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), World of Warcraft (WoW). Although I have experienced and very much enjoyed single player RPGs, such as Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Age 2, and The Legend of Dragoon (sensing a dragon based theme…) I have not played a true MMO. I do recall attempting to set up a character on a very old copy of Baldur’s Gate several years ago, although the lack of character choice, bad graphics and a slow operating system made me quit before even finishing character creation – I was an impatient child.

On first setting up World of Warcraft (to which my old Mac thoroughly protested with a whiny fan), you are greeted with a rather dark and dramatic login in screen, complete with fiery gates, rock and brimstone, with some classic fantasy music. The whole thing reminded me deeply of Lord of The Rings and Mount Doom in all fairness. The colours are very bright and bold, and the graphics and character design are very classic in terms of fantasy art, with lots of excessive detail. I personally prefer my fantasy style a little darker, grittier and more realistic as opposed to the ultra bright and vibrant style that WoW has opted for, but I understand it is going for a very traditional fantasy outlook, rather than a more modern appeal.

Coming to the character creation screen, there is a plethora of choices suddenly available, somewhat crammed onto the screen in fact. You have the choice of Alliance or Horde (good or bad essentially, although debatable I am sure). Each side has it’s own set of races. Alliance has Human, Dwarf, Night Elf, Gnome, Draenei, and Worgen. Horde has Orc, Undead, Tauren, Troll, Blood Elf and Goblin. There is a separate neutral class called Pandaren as well. The class choices available are : Warrior, Paladin, Hunter, Rogue, Priest, Shaman, Mage, Warlock, Monk, Druid and Death Knight.

When you scroll through the races, each one comes with a recommended class, although you can change this to several others. Not all classes are available for each race though, which makes sense to a degree, especially in terms of magic use. When you click on each class or race, a box with a small description appears, including the benefits that come with choosing each one, so you can tailor your character to strengths in class and race, depending on how you want to play. I skim read some of the information, and paid more attention to the classes I was interested in initially – Worgen, Draenei, Human and Orc to be precise.

I already knew I wanted to play a warrior character, as I know from past experience I do not have the patience or skill to play as a magic user or sneak around as a rogue character. I like to hack and slash with a tank character. As my housemates have termed me I am the ‘Queen of Murderstab’ as I usually opt for killing a character rather than listening to them and talking my way out of a problem in games. Choosing a warrior narrowed my choice a little, but not by much.

I opted for a female character, as again, I know from experience I struggle to connect with male characters that I have created. One of my favourite things in fantasy RPGs is to play as a strong tank female character. I get a real sense of satisfaction making a female character who is often stronger than the male characters in the game, and can fight better. I was however disappointed with the female character’s body shapes and types presented here. There appears to be a standard hyper slim, tall, high breasted and overly feminine body and face copied across many of the races. I had expected the female characters, especially those in warrior class, to come with bigger and more muscular bodies, rather than waif like figures. The pronounced breasts of the female characters was something else I also found disconcerting, especially in the non humanoid characters, such as the Tauren and Worgen (resembling a bull and a wolf respectively). I did not feel they added to the character and if anything I found it off putting (I am hoping I can add some full coverage heavy plate armour at some point).

In the end I opted for a female warrior class Worgen, whom I called Cineris, meaning ashes in Latin (yes I’m aware it’s pretentious and far too much effort for a character name). I should also add I initially wanted to play as a Death Knight, which was much more along the lines of the dark fantasy I prefer, but was unable to due to account restrictions. I was however impressed with the amount of choice for the face, skin, hair and ears with 16 faces, 12 skin colours, 10 hairstyles and 12 ear options. I attempted to make her as wolf like as possible, straying away from the prettier and more human faces offered, and giving her wild bushy hair with pronounced ears. I do appreciate that the Worgen have snarling faces though, rather than demure smiles. I did not like that the faces (for the females at least) each had very feminine, flirtatious eyes with long eyelashes and almost seductive bedroom eyes. I tried to counteract this with a darker face and wilder hair.

Cineris, female Worgen warrior

Cineris, female Worgen warrior

This is the finished character. I am disappointed with her overly feminine body but I like her face, large clawed hands and the fact she is already holding a sword. Her armour I can hopefully fix later!