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.
That 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.
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.
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]