For Blog Post 4, I chose to read chapter 5 within Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. This chapter focused on an essay by Espen Aarseth titled “World of Warcraft as Spatial Practice”.
In his essay, Aarseth focused on how many people argue that Blizzard has produced a game with a “hard, static surface and no inner substance to speak of” (112) but he feels as if it is this exact facet of hollowness that allows for the games various successes. Below are a two passages that I found that jumped out at me. I will discuss his interpretation and my own. I found that we shared similar views, but at times I wanted him to push further and give more concrete examples of what he was discussing.
My first passage for discussion was found on page 113, where he (Aarseth) compares World of Warcraft (WOW) to another game, Everquest 2. Here he focuses more on the differences between the games in regards to character personalization and customization, and the affects that this feature has on each respective game.
“The opportunities for personalization are markedly less: Everquest 2 players can tweak facial details and furnish their own apartments, and instead of the slightly flat, cartoonish artwork of World of Warcraft, Everquest 2 has almost photorealistic, higher-resolution graphics that can only be described as more accomplished” (113)
One of the ways that most gamers rate games is by their graphics. Here Aarseth argues that the customization provided by Everquest 2 is a nice feature, however it hinders the game-play. Although key details of each character are greatly increased, the fluidity of the game is sacrificed. As described by Aarseth, this leads to “a labyrinth of connected, different-sized game levels, not a semiunified, semiendless surface like Azeroth.” (114) Here I would agree with the critic, although increased graphics are a nice feature, as they add to the realism of the game play and enhance the overall experience, they don’t mean squat if you’re lagging across the map or forced into paths by the game. The ability to move freely and seamlessly through an ever-changing environment is one of the most attractive parts of WOW. Although my lack of experience with Everquest 2 sets me back when analyzing his interpretation of the game, I do have experience with other games featuring enhanced graphics, but labyrinth feelings. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a revolutionary game, as far as graphics go for a first person shooter, however the game was very direct. For example, many times within the game, if a player were to divert from the obvious course given by the game, he would either be killed instantly by an unknown force from the side, or reach a dead end. These type of labyrinth levels are avoided in WOW, which puts it into a league of its own.
An instance where I wanted additional clarification from Aarseth and more concrete details was in his comparison of the game’s dynamics to that of a Disney theme park ride. (114)
“The nature of the game dynamics can be compared to a theme park ride, the Fordist paradigm of assembly-line mass entertainment as pioneered by Disney: ‘Move along, please, more enjoyable monsters and sights await around the next corner.” (114)
Following this quote the critic immediately changes topics and discusses the flight of the griffins and how their flight patterns tend to be those not normally traversed by a player. He continues to describe the vision that these flights give, allowing the player to see other characters interacting, or parts of the realm that have yet to be explored by the player.
The lack of clarity for the aforementioned quote bothers me. Often I feel as if I go to a new city, collect the new quests, complete the quests, get the second round of quests and complete those. I only do this with the intention of moving forward into the game. Its not that I actually care about the dwarf that lost his engineering device inside of an ooze, but yet I find myself spending 20 minutes killing every ooze in sight until I find the device. Its very systematic; I complete these smaller tasks, wandering aimlessly through this vast space known as “Azeroth”, hoping to find the greater quest, hoping to become part of a more important story line.
Being a newbie(noob for short) to WOW, I do not know or even slightly comprehend the story line progressing throughout the game. I found it difficult to disagree with what he was saying based on my in-game experience, however I don’t feel that my view has much weight due to my inexperience. I would have appreciated an example on his part to help better clarify my assumption, or even, hopefully, prove me wrong.
Corneliussen, Hilde, and Jill Walker. Rettberg. “A Hollow World: World of Warcraft as Spatial Practice.” Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. 111-15. Print.