RL Drama


Screenshot from video

I’ve just watched a video of a virtual event for the third time. I found it so exciting and interesting, but some of you may find this response upsetting. You see, the event was not consensual. In World of Warcraft (WoW), a guild, Illidan, was holding an in-game memorial service for a member who had passed away in real life. The members of the guild were paying their respects, and videod the service to give to the family of the deceased. Then something happened. Another guild, Serenity-Now, attacked them. The funeral attendees avatars are seen strewn over the snow. They made of the video of the event too, to recruit new members to their PvP (player versus player) guild. You can watch a video at Google, download it there, and a hi-res torrent is available (but that is a different edit). Nate’s post at Terra Nova provides links to some fascinating online discussions and their are some interesting comments there too. 

I’m sure I’d be very upset if I was part of the funeral event, but as an observer I’m fascinated. It is interesting, to me, that the drama is because of a mix of the real & virtual world. If it was a realworld attack on a real world funeral, we’d react differently (though some are equally outraged at this event). And if the funeral was virtual then this event wouldn’t have so much tension. The whole idea of representation in the arts is at question here. We’ve been hammering on the idea of audience becoming active, of the reader becoming a user, of the co-creation of the text, of participatory arts. Well, it is happening. We now have the ability to participate in the creation of works and we are the event. The problem now is, how can we delineate between fictional behaviour and real world behaviour?

Okay, in the virtual world those players are not actually killing the other players in real life, they are killing their virtual representations. So, there is one delineation there. But it can still hurt. Someone can smash my favourite picture. The picture represents some memory I have, but it is just a representation. But it still hurts. Intention is the difference. Did the Serenity-Now players intend to hurt the other guild in RL? No. They intended to represent hurting them though… At what point have I crossed the line? Each avatar is a person, it is not a hollow puppet (besides the bots!). Many of these games, including alternate reality ones, are tettering on the edge. At present, we’re still covered in the muck of scripted entertainment. If we’re given a role suddenly, we say the lines we think we should say, as we’ve seen a million times before. But those words are quickly becoming stale, that echo will get fainter.

For decades, academics, artist, philosophers, anyone, has been championing the freeing of the individual. Power to the audience! Let there be a two-way interaction. Let’s destroy the tyrrany of the text. Let’s free people to have a voice and stop being help down by a dominant force. Well, maybe it was in place for a reason…

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