Artistic Changes Entering the Spirit Realm After Death

A procedural aspect that I want to analyze more closely is the instance of death in the World of Warcraft. Being new to this game, I have found myself spending more time in this state then one would intend to but because of this it has made me more aware of the environment and want to explore it further.
Death is something that occurs when your characters health has reached zero. When this occurs, on screen you are transported to the nearest graveyard and your character is now depicted as a ghost. According to the World of Warcraft wiki, there are three ways in which you can revive your character once it has perished; you can control the ghost to return to the body at the place of death, you can be resurrected by a spirit healer, or by another player near the corpse who has the ability of being a healer.
When transferred to the spirit state after death, referencing Galloway’s Gamic Action, the world focuses more closely on diegetic/operator game play. Where the regular game play relies on the characters coded in the game to interact with you and you with them the death state is more about you experiencing a diegetic realm and journeying back to your body. The diegetic world environment of the game changes dramatically from when you were still alive. Looking at the art and visuals of the game the first thing that is very apparent is that color is drained from the world you are in. Once lush green, present in places like Elwynn Forest, now is replaced by muted black and white and a foggy atmosphere on the horizon. The absence of color foremost helps to differentiate between the live state and that of the dead. When the color is drained the player automatically knows that something happened. Appearing in the graveyard it creates a connection between the fictional World of Warcraft (one with creatures of all varieties) and our world of reality. We are able to associate tombstones with cemeteries and death so that even in a fictitious world we can assume that death has occurred. Also, making the visual parallels between our world and that of Azeroth it also subconsciously creates an empathetic tie to our character, which is basically a virtual extension of one self. This sense of empathy is also seen when you finally reach your characters body and are standing over it on the ground. Lastly, the idea of what happens when we die is not know for certain and there is much mystery about what happens after life. This backs the artistic decision to create the foggy atmosphere. Your character cannot see as far in the spirit world creating a landscape that becomes mysterious itself.
My personal experience during the sprit state has been one of frustration but also relief at the same time. Depending where my death occurred it became tiresome to travel back to my corpse each time for revival. However, I do not think it is the games intention to create frustration but to acknowledge that there are ramifications in a virtual world rather than just passing death off as an instantaneous opportunity to try again. The relief came in part because it allowed me to still be in the world but not having to worry about impending attacks from creatures lurking in the forest or other characters. Due to this invincibility characteristic there were many times that I simply wandered around the area just to explore and see where I might travel once I was back in my characters body.
Even though it is a relatively insignificant aspect, without the consequence of death I do not think that World of Warcraft would even be able to exist: Why buy better armor or weapons? Why attack a character in the first place? Without the risk of dying questing and exploration are really what are backing the game, but even then, completing quests without a possibility of having to restart because of death would not be very challenging or entertaining. When talking about “the medium is the message”, the death state makes the player aware that a change has happened and connects with the player on an emotional level through the artistic changes in the environment.


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4 Responses to Artistic Changes Entering the Spirit Realm After Death

  1. mightymoss9 says:

    I enjoyed your view of the death state, I normally have no calmness about death. Whenever I find my self there I’ll usually be frustrated being that I have to get back to where I was, repair my items, and if I was in a dungeon, try to catch back up to the rest of my party. One thing I think you should try is after you die, trying exploring areas your normally couldn’t such as the swirling vortex in Westfalls.


  2. glupinetti says:

    After my first several Deaths I can say I definitely agree that the point is not to insight frustration. I think I feel relief as you described, especially because of the invincibility factor. I had never given much thought to the necessity of dying for the success of the game, but your point makes me wonder how I did not realize this sooner. I like that you present death as the ultimate motivator, the reasoning behind trying for better items, the weight in battle, the emotional driving force in the game. I kind of am interested in what you think this says about a players relationship with the concept of death in reality? Really interesting post!


  3. pittpanther22 says:

    I am glad that you decided to cover this aspect of WoW–being a new player to the game, I can say that I have faced death many times already. It is an extremely frustrating aspect of the game. One thing I kept running into with death was how close you had to be in proximity to your body. I had to complete one quest, and during this quest I was constantly being killed, and every time I returned to my body, I was simply killed again. I believe that one of the benefits of death is that it allows the player to step back and better plan out their actions and allow them to figure out what they need to do.


  4. cso9 says:

    I really enjoyed your analysis of death in WoW! You make a valid and interesting point that it draws references from our culture, through death itself, spirituality, and the faint surroundings which indicate how unknown death really is as an aspect of human life.

    It’s even more interesting how it can serve as a relief because for once, you can freely travel the lands of Azeroth without being attacked. It makes me wonder what claim the game is making about death in reality, if it really is a sense of relief, a freedom from suffering or harm?


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