A Blast From the Past (and Paper Sources)

As a WoW veteran, this was an enlightening and simultaneously all too familiar book. While I actually can’t say I’ve ever participated in Raid culture myself (I only think I ever actually reached level cap once, despite several peer-pressured attempts made through Azeroth), much of the interactions Nardi discusses I have witnessed first hand. Sadly, the chapters regarding addiction were also overwhelmingly recognizable.

I, myself have never really been addicted, even though some of my playing habits may have been not the most healthy at certain periods, one of my close friends almost became consumed by WoW when we introduced it to him in high school. I don’t feel comfortable sharing his story, the fact is that the game addiction debate is a complex one that is still worth having. As of now Game Addiction is considered an actual disease in the same vein as gambling addiction by the AMA. While to some, that may provide a clear answer, it’s still entirely a symptom of a problematic personality than that of games. Something that most people have yet to accept.

Aside from the dark stuff, the most interesting chapters of her book to me were those that dealt with some of the design consequences, namely the 10-man raid schism and the revelation that the Blizzard employees did not consider the numerical aspect of their game core to it’s function, in spite of the fact that players essentially only engage with the gamespace numerically.

It’s strange to think that designers will spend so much effort on things, not realizing that the main draw for players is simply to retrieve numbers from things, or push their numbers onto different things. This is hugely reinforced by Nardi’s findings. Theorycrafting deals exclusively with numerical mechanics, a player’s quote about ugly but well-statted gear implying numbers beats aesthetic, and just the general enthusiasm about gear and leveling up illustrate that the most immediately appreciable thing about this expansively articulated universe is the numbers that dictate it’s interactions. Although, admittedly my satisfaction in this is mostly just because I personally consider WoW a very poorly made game, and this schism of design intent and ultimate outcome was vindicating.

The 10-man raid schism, however, was actually far more interesting as it pertains to a lot of what my paper will be about, which is how game systems and design shape communities. It was especially interesting because it showed a clear cause and effect for the shift. While I sadly doubt I’ll be able to witness anything as clear-cut as this example, it gives me hope that my research will be able to bear fruit.
Speaking of research, here are some of my current sources. My main primary sources will be Pokemon Showdown, Smogon University, Pokemon Online, and their respective communities. I’ll also be looking at some content produced based around or on Pokemon, such as Youtube Casters (people who record and commentate single pokemon matches), Web-comics, and other Youtube content providers. My other sources currently include “Millennial Monsters” and “Identity and Desire” (http://commissionedwriting.com/identity_and_desire.html). The focus of my paper will be on the ways in which Pokemon fosters identity and community, resulting in it’s success and broad appeal. Although, if it ends up being too long I will focus primarily on the identity/community stuff.

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