Author

Sierra Warren

Date of Award

2016

First Advisor

Katie Boswell

Second Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain

Abstract

Mystery, magic, and endless adventure ... What else would you want in a video game? The MMORPG World of Warcraft offers players a chance to explore, fight and conquer alongside family and friends. Many have extolled WoWs impact on their lives, claiming that Warcraft has afforded them great confidence and personal growth in the·physical world. Indeed, some have forged long-lasting friendships maintained on and offline, and some have even found life partners through the game. But its content raises interesting questions about topics to which many users hardly give a second thought: racism, cultural appropriation, colonial nostalgia, sexualization, and utter violence which dominates the game's themata. This thesis investigates Wor/,d ofWarcraftas a locus, or a site of convergence, for these cultural conundrums. From an anthropological perspective, I hope to legitimize WoW and other virtual worlds as worthwhile pursuits of study. Indeed, virtual worlds are not static entities in themselves, but mediated representations of reality manufactured by artists, programmers, engineers, designers, producers, and writers. It is a created space which has become, at one point or another, enmeshed ii;i. the lives of twelve million people across the globe. Is World of Warcraft "just a game"? Or does its existence gesture to ignored cultural paradigms which fly under the radar due to Warcraft's un-academic form? Here I argue that virtual realities have the potential to broaden and enrich discussions pertaining to race, cultural appropriation and gender as these social worlds shape, and are shaped by, contemporary context.

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