World of Warcraft as Spatial Practice

In the essay A Hollow World: World of Warcraft as Spatial Practice, Espen Aarseth investigates the world of Azeroth as a fictionlized spatial region that resembles a theme park rather than the real world. Aarseth compares other games to each other in order to illustrate the necessity for a theme park resemblance in order to establish a gameplay protocol that will attract users to the game. The author believes this resembles produces a hollowness that is characteristic to the game’s greatness and therefore attractibility.

In the context of the World of Warcraft, Aarseth argues that Azeroth and all of the landscapes with in the game, portray an unrealistic divergence of time and space between different geographical landmarks. For example, she provides vivid evidence that if the game’s continents were scaled, the vertical distance of the Eastern Kingdom would be about 8 miles which is almost the same vertical distance of Manhattan Island. However, the time and space between geographical landmarks are compacted where it only takes the player a matter of minutes to travel within the world rather than hours. This characteristic according to Aarseth is part of WoW’s appeal which is satisfying in the same appealing manner that real-world amusement parks are. Aarseth says, “The transportation and communication devices and the possibility of player-initiated teleportation anywhere contribute to a functional gamescape that, precisely in its nonworld qualities (the way worldliness is negated by the game mechanics and the lack of real, boring distance) offers the players near-instant access to the attractions, very much like an amusement park, a carefully planned playground where the ludicrous is accepted simply because it is amusing and pleasant”. So like theme parks, WoW due to its accessibility and playable options allow a player to temporarily escape the fictional world in which it belongs to as well as the real world.

To further support this argument, Aarseth argues that this fantasy world and its nonworld gamescapes undermine the worldliness of Azeroth. Features that include appearing/disappearing NPC’s , electronic auction houses, etc. all contribute to this departure from the real world comparisons supersedes it from reality. However, I have to disagree partly because I feel that the game does keep with reality that don’t include the landscape. For example the game very much keeps with reality as a hunter. Since my human character is a hunter I may have a biased opinion about realistic continuity, but I feel that the gameplay mechanics are consistent. As a hunter, my initial weapon was my crossbow. After going on a few quests, I managed to gain a sword and shield which require two hand to use: one hand for each weapon. Another aspect of reality in the gameplay is that a player can’t use the weapons unless you get trained to use them. A player can’t use a weapon unless they have been trained. This then causes the player to make deliberate choices such as to keep the weapon until properly trained or sell it for money. To keep the weapons can take up space in a player’s bag unless one has sufficient bags to keep accumulation of finds. Similarly these choices reflect kills within the game. One must choose which products to take from after a kill depending on space availability.

There are many points which I agree with Aarseth about however the main point I don’t agree with is the fact that WoW completely diverges from the real world.

An example of a human hunter using both hands to properly use the crossbow. It is important to note that the character had to be trained in the crossbow and its usage during early levels of the game.

An example of a character (an elf I believe) using both hands to properly use a sword and shield: one in each hand.

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