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


I came across Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader while I was conducting a search for scholarly texts associated with video games. This book piqued my interest mostly because I am also a World of Warcraft player. To see the game placed in a serious, scholarly context was thrilling, as was the proof that video games can be treated as viable objects of academic study. The place of video games in modern culture has become more prominent, and scholarship has moved beyond the debates of video game violence and into richer territory. Hilde Corneliussen's and Jill Rettburg's book clearly reflects this shift.

The text is a collection of thirteen articles broken into four sections: Culture, World, Play, and Identity. The first section takes a cultural studies approach and inspects the ways that the game relates to culture. The second section examines the gameworld and various interactions with it, the third looks as gameplay and the ways players interact with the game, and the final section centers on character identification. The audience is clearly identified as "academic scholars and students of game studies and other disciplines dealing with digital culture" (p. 3). Thus, the audience is identified as academic but may not be familiar with World of Warcraft. The introduction explains the game and gameplay clearly and concisely, while the essays that follow explain each part of the game being analyzed with detail. There is also a glossary in the back of the book for any terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader.

Corneliussen and Rettburg also remind the reader that the emerging field of game studies is interdisciplinary. They acknowledge the complexity of the game, and in turn acknowledge that there is no one way to approach it. Rather, a number of disciplines can be drawn from to assess games and the contributors reflect this sentiment. There are contributors from the humanities, sociology, media and communication, and information technology. The wide breadth of disciplines used to examine the game are admirable, but the sections the text is broken into do not clearly reflect the disciplines; as a result, the text as a whole is slightly disjointed. However, the disjointedness of the text does not take away from the interesting collection of writing the authors have done. It is clearly stated that all the authors who contributed to this text spent many hours playing with and becoming familiar with the game so they could write about it with conviction. This dedication shows that the video game is, indeed, a medium that can be written about in the scholarly context successfully. A book such as this is a step towards creating texts in the field that can be used in the classroom.

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