World of Warcraft: Affect

When we as humans are affected by something we typically feel an emotional response towards a subject in ‘The Affect Theory Reader’ by Seigworth and Gregg (2010) they explain how, ‘Affect, at it’s most is anthropomorphic’ (2010:2). The way in which we can be affected can be through many different senses, for instance, auditory, smell, taste, touch, social and visual. The senses are a key aspect in how we can be affected through different mediums, Sara Ahmed (2010) in ‘The Promise of Happiness’ explains that ‘We are moved by things. In being moved, we make things’. When a subject moves us, we create an emotional response to that subject. When an emotional response occurs be it positive or negative, it’s important to note that our social context as an individual is key in how we interoperate such feelings. A subject that might provoke a positive reaction from one could revoke a starkly different reaction to that of another. This is all because of how we encode and decode the signs and signifiers, Hall(1973). Wetherell (2014) summarizes Reicher (2001):

‘social identity and identification are a key […] We seem to be drawn to, empathise with, and are most likely to copy, imitate and share the affect of those we affiliate and identify with, and those whom we recognise as authoritative and legitimate sources’ (2014:16)

As an avid media consumer, from films, books and of course games I’m familiar with how easily one can be affected through consuming media texts. Playing WoW is no different in the way it provokes emotion from me than a way in which a film would do. I believe the music within WoW is very powerful in the way it can sway emotion, I recall a time of intense fear after coming across this incredibly rare creature, a bone golem as I recall (Rare because I only discovered it after three years of playing the game). The creature was large and structured entirely of bones and skulls that had huge scythes, I remember meeting it somewhere near Western Plaguelands. This is probably the first time I felt very strongly affected by the game, I was in awe of such a magnificent creature but also horrified and scared due to the creepy music and high level. In the end I didn’t defeat such a beast, it killed me and I never seen it again. I think to be completely affected by the game you have to completely immerse yourselves within it, If you’re playing whilst watching television or playing whilst listening to the radio or other forms of music, or experiencing other forms of entertainment alongside WoW it will directly impact the way in which the game affects the player. Components to the game like the music and sound effects are important to provoking emotional response, if these are removed the player is the less immersed within the game.

I believe the aesthetics of the game are also important, because of the fact I have played World of Warcraft on and off for a long time. Silvermoon City is the capital city of the Blood Elves, and although I have changed avatars and created different accounts across the years I’ve been playing, Silvermoon City has always felt like ‘home’. It’s strange how some pixels on a screen can emulate feelings of nostalgia towards when I first began playing World of Warcraft, but it really does. Playing World of Warcraft on this module has also sparked feelings of ‘Déjà vu’, after a break of not playing WoW and then returning to it with a new account as a ‘noob’ takes me back to when I first set up the account many years ago.

Despite still feeling affected by the game, I think it’s important to point out that I have in some ways been slightly desensitised to the game because of how familiar I have become. After observing my classmates screeching or screaming when a beast approaches them, or seeing them physically covering their eyes to hide from the beast I recall a time when I was too experienced those kinds of reactions.

I think that embodiment and affect must directly correlate with each other when talking about World of Warcraft. I can’t see it being possible to be affected by the game unless the player is embodied. Perhaps players can be affected negatively by feeling bored or despondent if they are in fact feeling disembodied and feel a barrier between them and the game. I also think that I am strongly affected by what happens my avatar, as it’s a digital extension of myself, I ‘care’ about that happens to her, of course I want her to do well and of course I do not want her to die. I want us to work together and succeed every endeavour.

 

References

Ahmed, S (2010) The Promise of Happiness. USA: Duke University Press

Gregg, M. and Seigworth, G. (2010). The affect theory reader. 1st ed. Durham, N.C. ; London: Duke University Press.

Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and decoding in the television discourse. 1st ed. Birmingham [England]: Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.

Wetherell, M. (2014). Trends in the Turn to Affect: A Social Psychological Critique. Body & Society, 21(2), pp.139-166.

Reicher S (2001) The psychology of crowd dynamics. In: Hogg MA and Tindale S (eds) Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Group Processes. Oxford: Blackwell.

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