It was a bit of a shock, getting attacked. Until this point, I’d felt in control of choosing my enemies and therefore being ready to respond to their (slow) advance. This time, I was set upon by a gang of Blackrock assassins and was killed three times.
I’d accepted a mission from Mashal McBride and then was tempted by a supplementary task: to extinguish the fires that were burning in the vineyards. Why I didn’t see the quest name (Extinguishing Hope) as a hint that I should perhaps avoid this, I don’t know.
The attack felt brutal and I felt hopeless as I watched me/Lyrabloom/us die. The impact of my character’s killing was experienced with more of a sense of panic, of helplessness than I would have experienced if I were watching a film or reading a book. As Gee notes, the ‘tripartite play of identities…is quite powerful. It transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can now do’ (p.54).
I had failed. I had failed Lyrabloom and I had failed as a gamer. My virtual character was dead. My real-world identity was confirmed in its suspicion that I am not, and never will be, a gamer, and my projective identity was now a ghost. I thought that this ‘project in the making’ (Gee p.50) was done. And then I was told to make my way back to my corpse. I could be resurrected. My failure was not total and I was able to resurrect Lyrabloom (granted, for her only to die a few more times before we made our way out of there).
The game allowed ‘repair work’ (Gee, p. 57) to happen.; the game creates a ‘psychosocial moratorium’ (p.59)There was a low cost of failure: Lyrabloom lives again.
The first pig of a job was getting WoW downloaded. I’m currently living in the sticks and my broadband is both slow and unreliable. I had to use a friend’s connection in the end. The test of tenacity to install the game might be seen to be a learning experience in itself: I began to realise that I had capacity to be more patient than I had ever thought possible.
On first launching the game, I was enthralled by the quality of the graphics and the stunning soundtrack; I listened carefully as what I thought was the exposition was narrated. I then discovered that I was actually watching an advert for Legion – WoW’s latest expansion set…It struck me just how much of what I was doing I was simply doing through trial and error. There were no instructions, no guides (Discovery Principle – Gee); however, as I was to discover, my route into the game was carefully scaffolded.
When I finally did enter WoW, the first thing I had to do was create my character. And then I was in.
It was a dizzying space: full of small, intimate battles, with the clang of swords, the grunts of efforts and silent cries for help in the comms panel at the bottom of the screen. Lyra/I/We (Gee’s three identities) were unable to help. I found my way to Marshal McBride and accepted my first quest – killing spies. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, so I asked for help and was greeted by silence (turns out I wasn’t communicating properly).
I had no choice but to throw myself into the game and figure out how to kill the spies myself. Of course, I wasn’t doing this myself: the game design ensures that a complete novice is able to operate within it, within a ‘regime of competence’ (Gee). Once I got started, the first challenges were fairly straightforward and allowed me to get used to how to control my weapon (I can, as a Mage, only freeze my enemies), how to loot and also to develop more of a sense of the semiotic domain in which I found myself. At this stage, unless I targeted someone/thing, I wasn’t under threat of attack myself.
During the first few challenges I got a lot of input for a lot of output (Amplification of Input Principle – Gee) and started to think of myself as becoming a little better than a novice. And then I died.