WoW subjectivity in and outside Azeroth

I am a human, a girl, a European, a white Europian girl, a daughter, a friend, a postgraduate, a student, a Romanian student in the United Kingdome, hence an immigrant, a buyer, a reader, a blog writer, a newbie gamer, a cat lover, a person, a Facebook user, a film enthusiast, and the list could continue. I never really encountered any kind of racist manifestation directed towards me.  But then, I’m a white, European, heterosexual, young woman. I speak English, I was absorbed by the pop-culture, therefore I know who Lady Gaga is, I will not ask what on Earth is Suicide Squad, and I will consider MacDonalds if I’m hungry enough . Despite my nationality, it seems that I have totally, but pretty much unknowingly, embraced the American culture, and I did at least once fantasize about a wild adventure on American ground as described in Lana del Rey’s song Ride. What could I actually be accused of? So, I floated undisturbed above racism of any sort because my skin color, my gender, and sexuality can easily fell into the “normality” pattern. I’ve encountered no problems of this sort in World of Warcraft either. But then I’m just another new, individual, anonymous player. I am fully aware of the racism and inequitable distribution of power, control, and status around the world, it just did not cross my mind that all of these could and did pass the barrier of digital games experience.

What I did encounter is a sort of surprise and skepticism from my friends when I first said, pretty enthusiastically, that I began playing World of Warcraft. Is was as they, even though, or better say, because they have known me for such a long time, could not imagine me as a gamer. In some of their eyes I should have been able to find myself better ways of spending time, which is exactly what I’ve been thinking before even considering joining the WoW community. Their surprise increased when I continued with saying that it wasn’t really my own decision, but I’m doing it for an assignment, and I’m not only playing it, but actually read and write about World of Warcraft and my own experience as a young, inexperienced gamer. The association of gaming with the action of reading, immediately elevated the game’s status, and gaming was acceptable as long as it involved something generally related to intellectual activity. The simple term “gamer” brings with itself a series of stereotypes; a gamer must be a male, but not every male, a white male with not much of an education or academic knowledge, addicted to shooting entities in virtual space, instead of reading a book. While we all know that not just any book is worth reading, almost any kind of book seems better than a video game, even though there is more than one type of video game on the wide world web. The activity itself seems to be cursed with a “bad” aura in the eyes of the self announced serious, responsible and smart people. Well, excuse me, I do intend on getting good grades, while still playing World of Warcraft.

Another topic, which I’d like to touch on is the inner game discrimination. And this is how a community which otherwise seems close to ideal, because the game doesn’t reject anyone, is crippled by the players. Even though the possibility of creating a new world from scratch gives the opportunity of “giving birth” to a gender-, race-, and hierarchy-free one, it came as no surprise that every single online community out there will and would have demolished the order of the real world, to built a new order over the ashes of the “real” world’s one, based on more or less the same principles. I am able to state this not because I studied every online community out there, but because of our human need for structure, and due to the fact that we only know the current structure, everything we create will have as a starting point at least one aspect of the structure and order under which we conduct our daily lives. World of Warcraft makes no exception. The whole game is based on a war between races, on establishing a race’s superiority over the other, on trying to subjugate the enemy races, well no novelty there, right? Of course, the races are fictional, but there is still no fiction regarding genders. The “male gaze” defined by Laura Mulvey in the article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975) is as pregnant as it was in early Hollywood cinema which she was referring to, and as it is in nowadays cinema actually. Pretty much every race’s female representative in WoW is sexualised, some more than others, but nevertheless, are pleasant to the eye. For me, going for a female avatar was instinctual, but after reading Angela Washko’s article Why Talk Feminism in World of Warcraft?, I began to wonder how many female avatars which I’ve passed by in Azure Isles were women behind the screen, and how many of the avatar who saw me, really thought that I was a female. I could’ve also chosen to play with a Draenei male, and while that would have been me “escaping” my own gender through World of Warcraft, facilitated by the anonymity provided in the game, this is not the case with males playing as female characters, as their explanation for doing so is not: I was interested to create and play as a female avatar because of the avatar’s qualities, because I was curious about a female role and Azeroth is the perfect place to experience it, but rather because as Angela Washko quotes in her article: “I’d rather look at a girl’s butt all day in WoW”. 

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Meanwhile I actually discovered that I was wrong about the lack of interaction between characters which I was talking about in the previous post, and although I do not have yet access to the to the chatty areas of Azeroth, the “chinese-farmers” case proved me wrong. I still maintain my opinion about the interaction not authentically affecting the plot or the main game lines, but it definitely affects the experience within the game. I did not encounter any generically so-called “chinese-farmer”, and I had no idea that Heilwig herself, and me alongside, could’ve been categorized as one, and attacked by other players if she were a dwarf. Maybe the gold diggers do spoil the pleasure of playing for some gamers, but the issue is not as shallow as that. Actually I find more problematic the fact that people are forced to play WoW in a FOXCONN factory kind of regime, and are accused of spoiling the western guys pleasure. While gamers brag about their chinese-farmers killings, hence purifying Azeroth, they do not seem to have any awareness of the fact that the avatar they just killed might or might as well not be a Chinese, an Asian, a modern slave, who instead of being forced to work on a plantation, is locked in a room full of undeveloped computers. From this point of view I might just state: blood in the mobile, blood in World of Warcraft as well.


References:

Baxter-Webb, J. (2014) ‘Divergent Masculinities in Contemporary Videogame Culture: A Tale of Geeks and Bros’ [online]. available from: <http://www.academia.edu/7731978/Baxter-Webb_J._2014_Divergent_Masculinities_in_Contemporary_Videogame_Culture_A_Tale_of_Geeks_and_Bros_> [29 November 2016]

Nakemura, L. (2012) ‘Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft’. Digital Labor The Internet as Playground and Factory [online]. 188-205. available from: <http://www.tandfebooks.com/action/showBook?doi=10.4324%2F9780203145791&> [27 November 2016]

Pulos, A. (2013) ‘Confronting Heteronormativity in Online Games: A Critical Discourse Analysis of LGBTQ Sexuality in World of Warcraft’. Games and Culture [online] 8 (2). 77-97. available from: http://gac.sagepub.com/content/8/2/77 [30 November 2016]

Washko, A. (2014) ‘Why Talk Feminism in World of Warcraft?’ Creativetimes Reports [online] available from: <http://creativetimereports.org/2014/11/20/angela-washko-feminism-world-of-warcraft-gamergate/> [27 November 2016]

Affect in Azeroth

Affect = 1. influence, sway; modify, alter. 2. touch, stir

to have an effect on something or someone, according do Oxford Dictionary

“Affect” has been approached from different perspectives, as belonging only to “the realm of the senses”, as something preceding the actual thought, preceding even the emotion, as a touch of the Real in Lacanian terms; as a combination of nature and nurture, considering one’s background even one’s mechanical, instinctual reactions might have been at least a little influenced by one’s surroundings. Maybe the second of indefinite terror (which’s existence many of us will deny) when our eyes are first struck by the darkness, is a result of the Boogie Man myth from our early childhood, which is actually nothing more than a construct prefabricated by humans. Furthermore, our excitement over things and places is also shaped by our experience or by others’ experience, by the common experience and crowd opinion as adjudicated by Sara Ahmed in the chapter Happy Objects from  The Promise Of Happiness (2010).  How does affect then influence social media and the digital environment? Firstly it makes us buy our gadgets and then it makes us buy the new improved version of our gadgets. What role does affect play in our digital lives? It is, at least for me, pretty much the same as in the “real world”, only the effect is diminished. I will not be as shocked by a car accident projected on a screen than I would be if it would happen right in front my eyes, without any mediation, but the raw feeling will be the same, only the intensity will differ, and this only as far as there is a neat line between the digital and the real world. The more the digital image resembles the “real” regarding visuals, sound, effects, the more intense the effect it will be, or the more time one spends in the digital realm. It is a circular connection between affect and the clarity of the boundaries between the real and the digital world.

800px-narcissus-caravaggio_1594-96_editedThat is why I consider the identification with my avatar crucial in the discussion about affect. I already talked about the relationship between me and Heilwig in the previous post. I do feel her as a different me when I am playing World of Warcraft. She is another me, or as Ken Hillis notes, following Charles Sanders Peirce’s lead, Heilwig is my indexical sign in World of Warcraft, the so-called footprints which Robinson Crusoe sees on the beach, my own digital contour in Azeroth.  As I already stated, I do not totally identify with my avatar, I don’t look at her on the screen when waiting for the game to load and become mesmerized with my digital reflection as Narcissus did, which is why, when she dies, I do not have the same fate as the unfortunate mythological character whose reflection brought his death.

I never played an MMORPG game before WoW, but I enjoyed playing real life RPG games with my friends when I was a child. And not just a simple games as mom, dad, and the kids, or the buyer and the seller, but complex games with a plot line, which was unconditionally altered as the game evolved, with sketched surroundings and outfits on shabby notebooks. Maybe it was the age, but I was more affected by those games which I can still remember, than by World of Warcraft. In WoW I do not need to draw myself the background or my avatar’s clothes because all of them are already there. The visuals and the sound are atmospheric, the music goes hand in hand with the mystical, mysterious landscape. And I might have flinched a few times when I was attacked, I had the curiosity to discover new realms, to fly on gryphons, to dive underwater, to fight side by side with my water elemental, which I didn’t think I might eventually find kind of cute, (it isn’t a fluffy little kitten after all), but I did, and I was keen on receiving new missions. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Heilwig’s spirit could walk on water, and I even tried to go through a tree, which didn’t quite work, it seems that not even spirits can do whatever they please.  The pumpkin costume which I acquired on Halloween amused me, and the unexpected appearance of the giant pumpkin-headed horse rider caught me off guard. It made a huge difference playing Wolrd of Warcraft with and without sound, as the background music enhances the atmosphere and the whole game experience, but I never really felt absorbed by the game, as it happened with my childhood RPG games. As I have already said, it must have been the age and my flourishing imagination, but there was something more. Interaction, authentic, and surprising interaction between players, which changed dramatically the plot. Until this point, in WoW, I lacked the interaction with other characters, better said with other players. It lacks the dialogue, the authentic interaction between players, I complete a mission and I receive another, I discover new territories, new creatures, I get new powers, new garments, it is quite exciting in a way, but everything is predetermined. Even though it tries to give the impression that you are in control, your route is already inscribed in the game’s “map”.  There are only so many choices that my avatar, that I can make, there are only so many routes that I can follow. There is no place for real improvisation. Probably that is supposed to be the outcome of a confrontation with another avatar, which I have not yet experienced, but not even this would be enough as it does not change the main plot line.

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 The game does try to trick its players into believing that they are in control of what is happening, but this illusion did not convince me, and the simple, but obvious fact of actually being just a pawn in an assemblage of other pawns which do exactly what the game expect them to do, takes away a bit of the pleasure of playing. Even though it is a role play game, I find it individualistic, there are a lot of players, out there, but I get the impression that we all play it separately, that it is a game played with a computer and not with other players.

But then again, World of Warcraft still has much more to offer, and I still have much more to discover, and at some point, my expectation might be fulfilled… or they might not.

 

 


References:

Ahmed, S (2010) The Promise Of Happiness. [online] Durham [NC]: Duke University Press. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, available from: <http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=54d078af-fe97-44ec-802d-3225ded72487%40sessionmgr4006&vid=0&hid=4207&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=600207&db=nlebk> [14 November 2016]

Clough, P. T. (2008) ‘The Affective Turn : Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies’. Theory Culture Society [online] 25 (1). 1-22. available from: <http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/25/1/1> [25 November 2016]

Hillis, K. Paasonen, S. Petit M. (2015) ‘Introduction: Networks of Transmission: Intensity, Sensation’. Networked Affect [online] 1. MIT Press. 1-24. available from <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/bkabstractplus.jsp?bkn=7081709> [26 November 2016]

Hillis, K. Paasonen, S. Petit M. (2015) ‘The Avatar and Online Affect’. Networked Affect [online] 1. MIT Press. 75-88. available from <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/bkabstractplus.jsp?bkn=7081709> [26 November 2016]

Wetherell, M. (2014) ‘Trends in the Turn to Affect: A Social Psychological Critique’ Body & Society [online] 21 (2). 1-28. available from: http://bod.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/27/1357034X14539020 [26 November 2016]

The Avatar and Online Affect, Ken Hillis

  • I organize my discussion around the figure of the avatar in multiple-user virtual environment (MUVE) platforms such as Second Life and also make reference to a subset of MUVEs, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft
  • While avatars can be operated by forms of artificial intelligence, one of the acknowledged purposes for which humans fabricate avatars is so that they can serve as stand-ins for human individuals seeking to communicate affectively with one another both in and through virtual environments or space.
  • Avatars have a capacity to generate seemingly independent forms of networked affect unrelated to their human operators. An avatar in Second Life that turns to look back and wave at its human operator as it walks across a virtual space, for example, has the potential to induce for that operator and others the perception that it has about it intense qualities of liveliness that are seemingly independent of its operator

Continue reading “The Avatar and Online Affect, Ken Hillis”

Introduction: Networks of Transmission: Intensity, Sensation, Value, Susanna Paasonen, Ken Hillis, and Michael Petit

  • Networked communications involve the circulation of data and information, but they equally entail a panoply of affective attachments: articulations of desire, seduction, trust, and memory; sharp jolts of anger and interest; political passions; investments of time, labor, and financial capital; and the frictions and pleasures of archival practices.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb affect as “to have an effect on something or someone.” Most definitions of affect highlight the central role of intensity and agree on the presence of a quality of excess, a quality of “more than.”
  • While some theorists hold to a humanist inflection alone, others conflate affect with emotion or argue for the practical inseparability of the two, and yet others emphasize the meaning of being affected in a visceral manner as in, for example, theorizing an individual’s precognitive “gut reaction” to someone or something as “more than” can fit into any fixed definition of emotion.

Continue reading “Introduction: Networks of Transmission: Intensity, Sensation, Value, Susanna Paasonen, Ken Hillis, and Michael Petit”

Trends in the Turn to Affect: A Social Psychological Critique, Margaret Wetherell

  • in many respects affect is a challenging topic for social theory and cultural studies – it raises some core social psychological issues that seem unavoidable
  • I want to surface the social psychological assumptions which underpin three, highly influential analyses of affect in cultural studies and social theory
  • Silvan Tomkins – Yale Professor; writing in the 1960s
  • Eve Sedgwick and Adam Frank aim was to draw on Tomkins’ biological theory and his sophisticated examinations of affect and personal history (apparently often autobiographical) to encourage social and cultural researchers to attend again to embodiment and experience

Continue reading “Trends in the Turn to Affect: A Social Psychological Critique, Margaret Wetherell”

The Affective Turn Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies, Patricia T. Clough

  • Affect and emotion, after all, point just as well as post-structuralism and deconstruction do to the subject’s discontinuity with itself, a discontinuity of the subject’s conscious experience with the non-intentionality of emotion and affect
  • The turn to affect points to a dynamism immanent to bodily matter and matter generally – matter’s capacity for self-organization in being in-formational – which, I want to argue, may be the most provocative and enduring contribution of the affective turn
  • I want to turn attention instead to those critics and theorists who, indebted to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Baruch Spinoza and Henri Bergson, conceptualize affect as pre-individual bodily forces augmenting or diminishing a body’s capacity to act and who critically engage those technologies that are making it possible to grasp and to manipulate the imperceptible dynamism of affect.

Continue reading “The Affective Turn Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies, Patricia T. Clough”

Exploring Digital Culture – week 3

Affect and Embodiment – Network Affect 

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Download Arzombies – do not open it!

  • discourse, language, and writing became privileged in our understanding of self -> domination of discourse
  • bring the body back into the picture – thinking is a “body” process as well
  • our body reacts first

Defining Affect

  • visceral
  • bodily
  • automatic
  • intense
  • reactive
  • being affected – being moved -> participation
  • we act upon others <-> others act upon us
  • openness

Affect comes before emotion

‘autonomy from conscious perception and language, as well as emotion’ (Clough 2008: 3 on Massumi’s definition of affect)
‘Affect is a post personal force exceeding the human.’ (Wetherell 2012: 59)
Active environments – Active connections – Networked affect: •Contagion

                                                                                                                                   •Mob mentality
                                                                                                                                    •Atmosphere
                                                                                                                                    •Environment
                                                                                                                                    •All of these things that we have discussed about experiencing affect in the physical world happens online too think about things going viral etc.

Happy Objects, Sara Ahmed

  • even though happiness is imagined as a feeling state, or a form of consciousness that evaluates a life situation achieved over time, (Veenhoven), happiness also turns us toward objects.
  • happiness as a happening: involving affect, intentionality, evaluation or judgement
  • happiness – a promise to direct us toward certain objects – social goods
  • affect = what sticks; sustains, preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects
  • Middle English “hap” = chance -> original meaning preserves the potential of this “hap” to be good or bad; the “hap” of happiness gets translated into something good.
  • happiness – being lucky, favored by fortune (archaic meaning)
  • nowadays: effect of what you do, reward of hard work, rather than happiness being “simply” what happens to you

Continue reading “Happy Objects, Sara Ahmed”

Exploring Digital Culture – week 2

Digital Embodiment 

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Cartesian Dualism: the privilege of the mind over the body. But the brain is part of the body – the mind is externalized

What happens when one is not able to think properly anymore? Does it disappear? No.

personal note: He does not disappear for the others, but he kind of does for himself. If someone is in a profound coma, his body is still palpable,  although he is not able to think anymore, but this only affects the others.

What is embodiment? 

  • plasticity -> biological limb, artificial tool
  • the body extends itself through external tools
  • externalizing our minds -> writing, reading

‘By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated as hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs’ (Haraway)

By the use of glasses, contact lenses, gadgets, clothes = second skin – all extend the body.

Prosthetic limbs which one uses as it was one self’s

Rubber hand experiment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCQbygjG0RU

 

Exploring Digital Culture – week 1

Community:

  •  What is a community?
  • Am I a part of a community?
  • What about an online community?
  • How being a part of a community shapes who I am?

Examples of communities: university, class, church, nation, group of friends, groups of people who share the same interests of hobbies

?Home? – What is a home? What makes a home feel like a home?

  • it’s a sense of comfort, of belonging, a feeling more than a place

Communities aren’t fixed. We choose which community to be a part of based on our interests.

“it appears that in the most usual sense, a community refers to a particular kind of social group, defined by strong personal links. Such a group will be fairly small, so that it is possible for each member to know personally everybody else in the group. Relations are supposed to be direct, face-to-face, frequent and stable. Relations are strongly tinged with affectivity, which is often presented in a positive light. In a rosy version of the picture, relations are warm, cordial, well-meaning and kind. Everybody can count on the sympathy and solidarity of other group members in case of need or mishap.” – a common and powerful myth (Memmi 2006:290)

Community members: active/passive

Online communities and benefits

  • reject authority (but it restructures it)
  • anonymity
  • equality

How have online communities changed our sense of belonging?

http://writerguy.com/wwo/metahome.htm 

http://blacklivesmatter.com/ 

http://www.humansofnewyork.com/ 

Online Communities I’m a part of  Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, Vimeo, SoundCloud, WoW