Review, Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader

In the next issue of SFRA Review, I will have two non-fiction reviews, and one of those is on Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg’s Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader.  As a WoW player and researcher, I found this anthology to be an indispensable body of work on the W0W phenomenon.  I am currently working on a paper in which I use my own digitally mediated definition of cosmopolitanism to demonstrate how a game like WoW can counterintuitively teach players to be more cosmopolitan in the physical world.  Here is a short except from my longer review:

            World of Warcraft (WoW) is the insanely successful fantasy and science fictional massively multiplayer online role-playing game launched by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004.  It continues to break sales records with its expansion packs The Burning Crusade (2007) and Wrath of the Lich King (2008), and it currently supports a worldwide subscribership of 11.5 million players.  The game, already lush with history and lore, has spawned a collectible card game, books, collectable figurines, manga, and comic books.  Furthermore, it has seeped into the cultural archive.  For example, it inspired an Emmy award winning episode of South Park titled “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” and it was featured in a Jeopardy! question.  Also, the game’s fantasy origins do not prohibit it from being a postmodern mash-up of real world history and popular culture.  Obviously, there is something to the World of Warcraft phenomenon that deserves further investigation and critique, but who has the time to study such an extensive and socially demanding rich text?

            Enter The Truants.  The members of The Truants guild are academics who study and play World of Warcraft.  Digital Culture, Play, and Identity:  A World of Warcraft Reader, an anthology of essays edited by Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg, is the end result of their in-game and online collaboration as players and scholars.  They simultaneously studied the game and its participants, played the game themselves, and used the game as a place in which to meet and talk (in addition to other online and in-person collaboration work).  Their gamer intensity is tempered by the rigor and attentiveness found in each of the chapters in this collection.

To read the full review, click over to sfra.org and join the oldest, professional organization devoted to the study of Science Fiction.  Also, our 40th annual meeting will be in Atlanta, Georgia in June.  Find out more about the conference here, and join us for author readings, essay presentations, and panels on the dual themes:  Engineering the Future, and Southern Fried Science Fiction and Fantasy. 

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