Commodifying Scarcity: Society, Struggle, and Spectacle in World of Warcraft

Kevin Moberly

Abstract


Overrun by monsters and tyrants, and ravaged by fanaticism, excess, and greed, World of Warcraft offers players a chance to struggle metaphorically against that which oppresses them: the excesses of late capitalism as they are represented by the game’s spectacular antagonisms. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, however, players must employ the very thing through which their oppression is manifested. Interpellated into the game as fetishized images, players must construct themselves and function in accordance with the limitations imposed upon them by the race and class of their characters. Players, as such, are incorporated into World of Warcraft’s spectacle even as they struggle against it. What World of Warcraft sells players is thus not liberation and fulfillment, but more of the same: a spectacular version of the present tense in which the race- and class-based antagonisms that define the status quo of late capitalism are represented as magical and fantastic. In approaching World of Warcraft in these terms, this article attempts to understand how the game commodifies struggle, not only securing the consent of players to produce themselves and perform as subjects, but in doing so, reproducing the illusion in which the society of World of Warcraft’s spectacle is manifested: the illusion that the spectacular hierarchies and inequalities of late capitalism are natural and inevitable rather than socially constructed.

Keywords


MMORPGs

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