Chat Box of Power

Most of the time, creating habituation is enough: making players want to come back to visit your game, whether or not they want to eke out every morsel of performance…(Bogost, 133).

Think back to a time when you first started playing a game that was so difficult, complex, and convoluted that from the second the “Xbox 360” screen went away you felt completely alienated, dazed & confused and never played the game again.  It is both the tutorial and the game being designed as “easy to learn and difficult to master” (Bogost 125) that holds the interest of the player long enough to ease them into the “meat” of the game to which they can then become addicted.  As Bogost discusses, it is the designer of the game’s job to make the player’s relationship with the game one that is healthy and leaves them wanting to come back for more.  This relationship is created through instilling a feeling of habituation.

In World of Warcraft there is a live feed in the bottom left-hand corner of the gamer’s screen that relays chat, updates, and loot pickups among a plethora of other information about what is occurring around the user at all times.  As one performs the main objectives of the game, such as going on quests or riding a horse through a forest, this chat window creates a familiar parallel with our current generation’s necessity to have a constant stream of information fed to us that accessible at our fingertips.  The news feed window allows every single thing in the World of Warcraft world to make sense in an instant after looking at the feed.  A player is able to see and absorb far more information than would be possible with the appearance of mere speech text bubbles, overlaying voice narration, or having the character physically look to observe what is happening on their own.  With the news feed/chat window scrolling in the corner one can simultaneously be listening to a spoken narrative story, while reading a quest objective on screen, while steering a horse through a forest with the mouse, and have the luxury of having their attentional capture reflex activated with a bright orange flash in the form of text notification that Leeroy Jenkins picked up thirty silver and you received a twelve silver share of it.

It is this almost subconscious influx of information via live notifications that appeals especially to the mass of World of Warcraft’s target group: young people, who read five Facebook articles, respond to three emails, and send forty text messages during a fifty minute biology class all while taking decent notes on the lecture material.  This mass influx of both conscious and subconscious information is what triggers the “addiction center” for the younger crowd of players of World of Warcraft and college students, with access to the internet, alike.  Such a relay of information to an individual can increase their ability to multitask or handle a vast load of information in different forms all while completing their main objective.  An example of this would be texting while driving.  While I do not condone texting and driving think about who would perform better at this illegal act: you or your 82 year old grandmother?   Media such as the chat/update box in World of Warcraft aids in the strengthening the minds of players to where they can handle multiple areas of focus at the same time whether it be consciously or not.

The constant update and being “all-knowing” of what is going on around you is where the sense of power is given to the player in the same way that Google or Siri does to someone outside of the virtual world.  Power is given to the gamer that they are familiar with from using all of the technology in today’s society to answer any question we may think of at the beck and call of how fast our thumbs can type it into our devices.  The plethora of mediums through which information is received by the player is far greater than anything than would be feasibly be able to be accomplished through say a book, movie, or text message alone.  This makes being a player in World of Warcraft with the “superpower” of having a window that tells you everything that is happening at all times a very addicting and powerful medium to possess indeed.

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4 Responses to Chat Box of Power

  1. adeledazeem says:

    This is an interesting analysis of the heads up display! While I agree that our capacity for multitasking has probably increased in the era of the internet, I’m hesitant to say that we can fully, consciously keep up with everything. Perhaps it’s my inexperience, but deciding whether to roll, pass, or try to buy an item while fending off attackers and trying to keep up with group chats during a dungeon can be overwhelming and difficult to sustain the attention needed.

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  2. smaugonthewater says:

    I can see how the HUD makes gives all the information in the game, but I don’t always like being all knowing in a video game. Sometimes the fun comes from not knowing what’s happening around you, but just being able to react to the stimuli. I really like your comparison to the modern day technology, as WOW does feel like a smartphone sometimes, with people talking to you from anywhere and so many other distractions all at the same time.

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  3. soc19 says:

    The omnipotence of the chat box is quite powerful, indeed. The fact that the player can also control the intended recipient of a message is also powerful: one can direct a message to all players, to guild members, to party members, or to a direct “whisper” to another player. To have all of these levels of communication at one’s control in one simple interface is indicative of the compartmentalization of technology. I also like your mention of the addictive quality of the bombardment of information via this chat box–it is very much reflective of our modern social media culture!

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  4. dfw1alskare says:

    I appreciate the attention you’ve given the chat box in WoW. It seems like as we play – and most of us are new to the game – we just take the chat box for what it is and gratefully use it as a source of communication with the characters of our fellow classmates. What I never actually stopped to realize is that the chat box adds an interesting layer of gaming in Warcraft in the sense that players all over the world can communicate their thoughts to each other. I know this firsthand because as I was participating in a dungeon one time, a player messaged in the chat box saying, “you’re useless, hunter.” I was offended at first but then realized, “wow, someone from a different part of the country just talked to me through Warcraft!” I don’t generally think about this on social media like Instagram or Tumblr, where a bunch of strangers are in communication with each other, so this was certainly an interesting effect the gaming experience had on me.

    One thing I don’t agree with you on, though, is the idea that the chat box increases one’s ability to multitask. In the scenario you mentioned of a typical college student responding to emails, texting, social media-ing and taking decent notes–I don’t think this is successfully possible because our brains are actually no good at multitasking. It is good at dividing its attention, but I think in the end this becomes unproductive. When I use the chat box I certainly try to get to a safe place because I know I wouldn’t be able to fend off beasts while chatting, but maybe I’m just a noob like the other WoW player perceptively noted. Thanks for your post!

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