Sunday, 28 September 2014

Lametti vs World of Warcraft

Lametti points out that "Apple has built its highly successful business model around incompatibility" (216). Hinting towards an era where the Cloud replaces the Internet - or perhaps more accurately, towards an era where Clouds replaced the Internet - as the primary site of public discourse and private data storage, the future according to Lametti will most likely be one full of gatekeepers, paywalls and segregation, propping up a system of neoliberal privatisation that will be as ubiquitous as the media that facilitate its effects.

Lametti also notes that the deregulated Internet allowed for "file sharing and mash-ups" (203) to emerge as dominant, definitive and most importantly collaborative forms of self-expression online - Lametti predicts that this will all disappear with the dominance of the Cloud.

However, taking the example of "machinima" content created by World of Warcraft players, we can see contemporary parallels that seem somewhat less bleak. Celebrated by the community and actively encouraged by Activision Blizzard, "machinimation" involves using a program to extract models from WoW as files and then manipulate them, along with other video editing techniques, to create an original piece of art.

Generally humorous and inherently subversive, machinimation seems to actively undermine Activision Blizzard's monopoly over its own content, politically, economically and legally. And yet, Activision Blizzard encourages this practice, as it provides a source of free advertising, strengthens bonds within the community, and makes them look like benevolent overlords.

It is also a source of free labour, much like the numerous and popular "let's play" YouTube channels. Even Jane McGonigal, champion of gamification, insists that people not be paid for their efforts, because then people would only ever do things for money (232). 

While the example of WoW's paratextual environment provides an alternative version of the future to Lametti's privatised nightmare, perhaps the prospect of glorified unpaid labour is not that much better.

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