Review: Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader

Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft ReaderDigital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader by Hilde G. Corneliussen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I do appreciate that the authors in this volume took time to actually play the game they study. I felt that rather than just reading about it, their experiences in this world would lead to a greater understanding the complexity of the game, and the awesome fun too. I did find, however, that while quite a few essays are well written but out of date (as is likely to happen, especially in such an expanding field as gaming), some others got on my nerves as I didn’t feel any belief in what the author was saying, and that the inaccuracies or just simple neglect could not be explained away by having been written during Burning Crusade (since then, three more expansions have been released).

Quite a few of the articles are out-of-date, so the specifics of them no longer hold true a few expansions later, but the ideas behind them are still relevant. The important of the economy as a structure is very much still an issue, both with the addition of transmogrification (changing the appearance of one piece of armour to look like another of the same type) and dwindling numbers on particular servers. The problem of not being able to impact upon the game environment has changed through the expansions with the addition of phasing, as you progress through certain quests or stories, the environment you are shown is changed (none more so evident than in Mount Hyjal in Cataclysm).

Some essays looked rather negatively on WoW with no sense of charity of purpose, and illustrated the issues in a very simplistic manner that didn’t do justice to the game. War and Histories seemed very basic, labeling the Horde as environmental and the Alliance as ecological destroyers which doesn’t quite stand true when you take into account the different perspectives of the races. The essay on Post-Colonialism in WoW I felt wasn’t quite understood. Yes, some races are based on real-life cultures, but I don’t feel (perhaps this is subjective) that it was meant to be demeaning in any way, as the player chooses the race and adopts that culture. Race could be seen to be subordinate in WoW, with the major differences only being class choices available and aesthetics. I also take note with the depiction of role-playing being see as deviant and not the way the developers intended. There are specific realms for role-playing with more rules (and it is easier to report those who break them), but also the developers aren’t policing role-playing as it is very individual how one chooses to role-play, and guilds and communities will self-monitor this. The nature of quests, while still very much kill X of these or collect Y of this, has become more consolidated with better threading of the storylines.

The essay on gender was extremely problematic. There are important issues around gender inside the game itself and externally in the gaming industry, however I felt the author was pushing an agenda by ignoring certain aspects of WoW. Just on the background of the game, the author refers to some characters who are absent in-game, or ignores the strengths of those in-game in favour of defining them only by their romantic relationships. There is no mention of Jaina Proudmoore or Sylvanas Windrunner, both in-game heroines of incredible strength and who defied powerful men to be such important roles in the shaping of recent history. The author also doesn’t point out that there is no playable differences between male and female characters, and or allow that female and male players (of any sexual preference) do choose characters that are of a different gender.

While some of this book was interesting in offering different perspectives, regardless of the age of the text compared to the game itself, I did feel that quite a few essays were incorrect or the authors were analysing the game unfairly by ignoring certain aspects.

View all my reviews


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