Monthly Archives: June 2011

Seeing Action: A Visual Analysis of World of Warcraft

High-level character view

The view of a high-level character in combat as part of a group of other players

Amid the flashes and the thrills of a videogame, something profound happens: a player comes to the game and together, they collaboratively create an experience (Holmes 2004). While this is true of any media to varying degrees (indeed, all phenomena are ultimately “experienced” and therefore interpreted, a co-creation of event and experience), a videogame is a unique text, for in a videogame the player is a necessary actor through which the game “happens.” Most analyses of a videogame must confront this fundamental circumstance: that the player and the game interact. Certainly, the notion of interactivity is unsettled and contested (see Gee, 2010; Turkle, 1995; Aarseth, 1997; Juul, 2005, and Wilson, 2004 for an example of the variety of interpretations). For the purpose of this analysis, I define interactivity as the condition through which the player controls certain events within the game world, and that this world informs the choices made by the gamer. So, a player uses an interface (actually, several—physical as well as conceptual) to influence the outcome of the afforded design of the game; and, depending on how previous actions affect the game world, the player then uses this interface to make additional choices, and the cycle repeats.

What are these interfaces, and how do they make the game possible? Continue reading

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Hunting for Identity: Community, Performance, and the Curious Case of the Huntard in World of Warcraft

The hunter marked her prey and crept closer, careful not to alert her enemy to her presence. She had followed the same tactics for hundreds of battles and honed her skills: send in her faithful hunting pet first to attack, let loose her array of arrows and traps, run away if the enemy came too close and—above all—try not to die. Now, it was her first chance to fight alongside friends and allies, who had invited her to battle alongside them, and she was eager to show off her skills. No one had made a move yet, so she decided she would try to kill the enemy first, to be the hero, to show how powerful she was, and how valuable to the group. She sent her pet in, waited a few seconds, and fired her own shots. She expected a quick kill—they had almost always been that way so far, after all—but it did not come. Instead, other nearby enemies noticed the commotion and joined the fray, swarming the allies and sending them scattering and shouting. In the chaos and confusion, she watched her companions die before being overwhelmed herself. As the dust settled, the recriminations began, chastising her, mocking her, calling her names: “huntard” they shouted, then kicked her from their group and far away into a another place in the world, with wounded pride and little confidence, left wondering: what had happened? Why had her companions abandoned her? What had she done wrong?

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