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my life as a night elf priest, Uncategorized

What constitutes work?

My Life as a Night Elf Priest at the surface is a simply just an anthropological account of World of Warcraft. However, Bonnie A. Nardi has taken this opportunity to examine the whole of gaming culture. The concept of “work” has come across all of the books we have read thus far this semester. In Reality is Broken McGonigal examines work in Chapter 3 “More Satisfying Work.” “Compared with games, reality is unproductive. Games give us clearer missions and more satisfying, hands on work” (McGonigal, 55). McgGonigal asserts that satisfying work has two very important components: well-defined objectives and steps toward achieving the goal. In How to Do Things With Videogames, Bogost says that work and play are entirely separate entities. He says that games are disconnected from everyday life. It is an escape from the outside world entirely. He describes it as “safe” and “otherworldly” (Bogost, 117). In My Life as a Night Elf Priest, Nardi explains that play and work can overlap and blend together frequently. Work enters the world of play in two ways. “First, play may manifest seriousness and dedication which players refer to as work. Second, play may demand obligatory actions […] that are necessary to accommodate the larger play activity—the activity that players find pleasurable” (Nardi, 102). Nardi has managed to bring to light the idea that although not all aspects of gaming are enjoyable, it is the freedom to leave at any point that makes it what Bogost calls an escape. Unlike the mandatory facets of our lives such as familial responsibilities and enslavement to the capitalist society we live in, gaming is another world in which we acknowledge and accept the terms of the game and decide whether or not to proceed (and/or leave at any point). “The voluntariness of play is evident in the relative ease with which people abandon play activities” (Nardi, 101). Although very clearly exhibited in WoW, the coexistence of work and play is quite evident in numerous other games (both videogames and not). In MMORPGs such as Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft, the codependence of players in different settings adds an element of pressure that can give play the illusion of work. When players know that their actions can directly affect another player’s success within the game, they will exert exponentially more effort. In more common games like soccer or basketball, this is also evident. Frequently people turn to sports as a means to escape the conventions of reality and immerse themselves in an alternate universe with different rules and expectations. However, these team sports have an element of codependence that is quite important to the premise of the game. Only through teamwork is the individual player successful. This possibility of “losing it” or “winning it for the team” adds pressure to the mix. When people are “counting on you to do your job and do it well,” the game can stop being fun and carefree and become what some might call work (Nardi, 100).





3 thoughts on “What constitutes work?

  1. Deciding whether or not one could call video games “work” is a complicated task. I agree with McGonigal when she states that video games can be “more satisfying work” than the work we must do at our jobs or in school. Personally, no matter what video game I am playing, whether it is a simple game on Facebook or something on the Wii or Xbox, I would never call it “work”. I would rather call it relaxation. When I think of work, negative ideas come to mind. Work is not usually a word that we associate with positive emotions or feelings. I agree with Bogost that work and play are two totally different things and that video games are an escape from the outside. Turning to Nardi, I think that the “seriousness and dedication” that players feel when playing a video game should not be connected with work. I think that players feel this seriousness and dedication towards their game because it is so much of an escape from the outside world and it is so satisfying to do something that no one else is making them do that they want to put effort into it. I’ve heard some people say that if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. If you love something, you do it because you love doing it and it is not really “work”.

    Posted by sierrasu | June 10, 2013, 12:38 am
    • One of the definitions of “work” according to dictionary.com is “productive or operative activity.” By looking at work as productive activity, and play as activity undertaken for pleasure or to achieve Dewey’s aesthetic experience, we could potentially view work and play as not discrete but potentially overlapping qualities of an activity. If you love what you produce for pay, you could be seen as working and playing at the same time. It allows for identification of things you love doing as work while also acknowledging their play aspects. I think it’s useful to look at work and play not necessarily as a dichotomy but frequently overlapping qualities of activity. I certainly know there have been parts of video games that have felt like work. As excellent as Half-Life is, damn did I hate Xen.

      Posted by emmapezz | June 10, 2013, 1:29 pm
    • When you talk about the “seriousness and dedication” that Nardi brings up in My life as a Night Elf Priest, you connect that to the escape that Bogost brings up. However, I interpreted Nardi’s argument as somewhat unconnected to the idea of escape. Using gaming as a means to escape the pressures of reality is not an uncommon practice. However, with increasingly “realistic” virtual realities where mundane activities seem to infiltrate these escapes, how can we not consider the idea of “work” beginning to seep into gaming as well. World of Warcraft is by no means an actual representation of actual reality. There are no druids or warlocks or mages in reality. That being said, it does mirror aspects of reality. There are jobs to do and people counting on you and this can create stress. In my opinion what Nardi is saying here is that work can infiltrate gaming in some aspects (particularly in multiplayer virtual realities such as World of Warcraft), but what sets gaming aside from reality is the ability to leave the game behind. People can take breaks from WoW at any point and return at a later date. The same can not be said for reality.

      Posted by jmlemons | June 13, 2013, 12:03 pm

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