Review by Angela Harrison: | "Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft® Reader" Edited by Corneliussen, Hilde G. and Jill Walker Rettberg
MIT Press, 2008 ISBN: 978-0262033701 304 pp. $31.95 | Web-Article Design by Jeff Hewitt

"Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader" - Corneliussen, Hilde G. and Jill Walker Rettberg (Editors)

Reviewed by Angela Harrison

Introduction | Culture | World | Play | Identity
Conclusion / Final Assessment | References


The final section of this book is also the shortest. It contains two essays on the relationships that are established between the players and their characters. The first essay, "Character Identification in World of Warcraft," by Ragnhild Tronstad, examines the relationship between the way a character looks and the capacity the character contains, and how that relationship affects gameplay. The author is careful to include a number of items in the definition of appurtenance, including level, gender, race, and not just physical appearance (p. 250). The author also distinguishes between two different kinds of play, role-playing and non role-playing, and analyzes the effects of each. She concludes that in role-playing, the concept of flow, or when character and player are one, is achieved through narrative empathy, whereas in regular play, flow is achieved though embodied empathy (p. 261). The author concludes that capacity and appearance cannot be separated from one another and that identity in the game is not superficial. In turn, the way the player interacts with the game is affected.

The final essay in this section, and in the book, is an ethnographic study entitled "Playing with Names: Naming and Gaming in World of Warcraft," by Charlotte Hagström. This chapter outlines the importance of naming and how it contributes to identity in the game. The author establishes the importance of name both in real world culture and game culture and then moves to outlining the methodology she used to study names, as well as voice any hypotheses she has about them. She cites many different observations about naming, including the origins of name from personal experiences, popular culture, literature, and mythology, the patterns and strategies used for choosing a name, the imaginative quality of name choosing, and what happens to players that lose a name, break rules with naming, and have negative reactions to names (pp. 269-70). She concludes that all of these activities contribute to a rich and ongoing culture within the game.

Identity Assessment

This section is short, but once again provides a good balance between the theoretical approach and the ethnographic one. However, two essays do not seem sufficient enough to even break the surface of identity in World of Warcraft. It is a rich and complex territory to explore, and these two chapters are excellent starts, but perhaps studies of why players choose certain races or even genders would have provided another angle to the collection.

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