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]

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