Objects of Desire: A Reading of the Reward System in World of Warcraft

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    This article is written in an attempt to navigate the reward structure in World of Warcraft (WoW). Alongside its analysis of the reward structure in WoW, this article draws upon the paradoxical design of desire itself. In doing so, it takes a binocular perspective that addresses both the interplay between WoW's reward structure and a player-centric approach that seeks to explain the transcendent design of desire itself. The interplay between game structure and the design of desire is approached by means of a narrated scene from a personal experience of WoW dating back from the time of classical WoW, where the level cap was 60 and the guild raids in the high-end instances demanded the participation of 40 players. The scene is intended to provide the reader with insights both of the reward structure of WoW and of player's experience of the game world.

    The analysis of the reward structure has its point of departure in Charles S. Peirce's semiotics and his idea of infinite semiosis. From there it moves on to Jacques Derrida's philosophy on différance including his understanding of the sign. This perspective is fruitful when trying to understand the reward structure of WoW as a dynamic between desire as a field of tension and progression in the game world. Derrida's definition of the sign and his philosophy of différance cast light on an intriguing dynamic that arises between the players' desire and the design of WoW's reward structure, especially on how players lose themselves between present and future, between distance and closeness in a game world that has no finalisation. The analysis will show how WoW's reward structure successfully draws upon the paradoxical design of desire in a game world based on a deteriorating value system. The interpretation is further supported by Sigmund Freud's analysis of the pleasure principle, where fulfillment of desire yields to the acceptance of disinclination. In addition it has to be said that, although it takes an interpretation of epic items (highest quality items) as its starting point, the analysis expands into a broader perspective that encapsulates the entire structural design of WoW. Before I begin the analysis, let me describe a scene from Blackwing Lair in classical WoW.
    Translated title of the contributionBegærets Objekter: En læsning af belønningsstrukturen i World of Warcraft
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)15-24
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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