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Unfinished Space

All matters pertaining to computers will always be unfinished, and Lunenfeld (1999) defines unfinished as the “aesthetic of digital media" (p.7). When looking at World of Warcraft as unfinished space, the game’s history stands as proof. From Warcraft past to World of Warcraft present, the series expand the “storyworld and its history, added episodes to a gradually filled-in chronology of the world’s history and produced cinematic cutscenes” (Lowood 2009 p.415). In this section, World of Warcraft’s unfinished space encompasses the creation and development of the avatar, architectural building and landscape, rearrangement of the landscape (expansion pack) and quests.

Avatar

The avatar is a prime example of Lunenfeld’s (1999) “not yet fully formed object” and that it “open[s] up more space for pleasure and identification than any “complete” work or person can ever offer” (8). The avatar as an identity is a “cogitation on how to define our “self” under new conditions” (Filiciak 2003 p. 88). In context to digital media with video games in mind, avatars “enable us…to manipulate our “selves” and to multiply them indefinitely (p.88). With this in mind, the expansive avatar selection of World of Warcraft is noted. It is not a matter of simply selecting an avatar but choosing what faction, race, class and talent an avatar will be. World of Warcraft defines these terms:

The purpose of the game play is to develop the avatar “through combat versus a diverse number of opponents, against a subtext of way finding, exploration and learning skills” (McGregor 2006 p.7). The purpose of the avatar is vital, it is the only way to play the game however, the selection that goes into crafting an avatar is just as important. As Filiciak (2003) writes, “a huge role is played here by the ability to choose appearance, which has become an obsession in the postindustrial societies” (p.90). Avatars go beyond merely “being” in the game but as cyborgs are “a manifestation of the self beyond the realms of the physical, existing in a space where identity is self-defined rather than preordained” (p.90). Referring back to Lunenfeld’s idea of a “not yet fully formed object,” the avatar is continues to be developed in World of Warcraft. With the new expansion pack expected in 2010, the Worgen (Alliance) and Goblin (Horde) will be added to the played avatar list (Wikipedia: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 2009). When playing one’s avatar in World of Warcraft, the camera view can either be first person, where the player sees everything or third person, where the player can see his/her avatar.

Architecture

Unfinished space is also bound to architecture or as Lunenfelds (1999) writes, “our lived spaces reflects and incorporates the electronic information and imaging technologies that are ever more central to our lives” (p.11). Architecture is a way of “organizing and using space” (McGregor 2006 p.1) and when applied to World of Warcraft, one begins to notice the use of landscape and buildings in the game. Before looking at environment, one must first understand the geographical makeup of World of Warcraft. The world of Azeroth is divided into the three continents: Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, and Northrend, all of which are divided by the Great Sea. The variety in landscape is considerable and as McGregor (2006) puts it “players weave and maneuver their way around and under trees, across hill, dale, dune and dell, through streams and lakes into underwater terrains, into caves and up mountain ranges (p.4). It is not a matter of just traversing the landscape or entering buildings, players “interact[ing] with the architecture…are alternately channeled and impeded” (p.2). These architectures structure and mold players “organizing [their] activities into discrete zones and structuring the way in which [they] move between activities” (p.2). The landscape and buildings in World of Warcraft are not just space but unfinished space that shapes its players.

Such examples of players interacting with the landscape are hiking the mountain terrains throughout the continents. Although the mountains appear as barriers, they can be traversed and some players have “devoted hours to mapping out paths afforded by the junctions of geometry within supposedly impassable terrain” (McGregor 2006 p.4). There are divided areas throughout the continents that are labeled and have their own unique set of non-player characters (NPC) and levels of difficulty (p.4). However, there are some NCPs that are found consistently throughout Azeroth such as Murlocs(WOWWiki:Murlocs 2009), Naga

Rearrangement

The point of unfinished space within World of Warcraft is its expansion packs. With each new expansion, land is added, areas are opened, and new themes are offered. Lunenfeld (1999) says it best when he writes, Perhaps no other aspect of the new technologies has opened such a wide ranging set of investigations as the advent of virtual environments and online matrices, with their re-calibrations of physicality and seemingly boundless realms" (p.8) In the case of the new expansion pack, Cataclysm, the entire world of Azeroth will be rearranged. New towns will be added or given aesthetic makeovers (World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 2009). Old dungeons will be brought up to the new 85 capping level, newly accessible areas and a “Path of the Titans” for players wanting to level without raiding, PvP or grinding. These new additions are landscape specific, and other changes that will be examined further in the paper.

Quests

One area of World of Warcraft that has one foot in unfinished space and another foot in unfinished story is questing. By questing, players come to know the depth and breadth of a land. Through narrative, players tell where they have been and where they are going. Players echo the endless space and indirectly inform themselves and other players of future narratives that are waiting to be told because of exploration. World of Warcraft, McGregor claims “is vast, the quests numerous and the components manifold” (p.7). Gaming narratives of quests allow players to share knowledge, making it almost “impossible to play inside game worlds and learn absolutely nothing about the characters, locations and events that occur there” (Lowood 2009 p.413). To date there are 7,650 quests in the World of Warcraft (Dumitrescu 2009).

Some quests are race/class specific and others are open to all. There are several methods of receiving a quest: “right-clicking signs, reading scrolls or documents, opening containers, using certain loot items, or from completing a previous quest” (WOW Wiki:Quest 2009). Once the quest is completed the player is awarded experience points (XP). Once the maximum level of XPs is accomplished (currently 80), gold is given instead of XPs. There are different quest types. According to the Wikipedia entry on quests, they are: kill quests, delivery quests, gather quests, escort quests, hybrid quests and quest chains (Wikipedia: Quest 2009). However, the World of Warcraft quests are a bit more specific. A list provided on the World of Warcraft wiki gives a more detailed list:

World of Warcraft is comparable to Lunenfeld’s (1999) “unfinish in the era of liquid architecture” (p.13). ] With landscape shifting with each expansion and exploration of that unfinished space through quests, it is understandable that through these “simulations, morphings…one way we find our way through is by telling stories of where we have been” (p.13). Stories are told but stories that have no end in sight are unfinished stories.

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Written by ANBecker. This project is adapted from the final paper for the LIS 585 Multimedia Literacy for the LIS 600 Capping Exercise. March 9th 2010.