Boredom

Boredom on WoW is interesting. It is not an uncommon occurrence for folks to be logged on, and wander around, griping about being bored. I, myself, find that happens to me frequently.

But of course the question is, if you’re bored on WoW, why not log off? Is it that it’s the best option of a range of boring things? Is it the social aspect, that you want to be able to share the fact that you’re bored, and therefore feel solidarity?

Today I was bored on WoW for quite a while. At first, the boredom was broken up by a phone call from J., which was fun, and actually had me paying no attention to WoW at all. Then much later D. came on and we ran some instances, including one on my level 41 alternate character (my alt), which took all that boredom away.

This, of course, is what one hopes will happen when bored on WoW, but the question remains as to why this would be the place I go when I am bored.

Partly, the boredom, for me, comes from an expectation that WoW is going to be entertaining. WoW is so frequently fun that I go on in hopes I will find something interesting “going on.” This suggests, of course, that I view this space as a dynamic and alive one, not one solely governed by my actions and pursuits as is a single-person game such as Elder Scrolls.

I do not, therefore, approach WoW like a video game per se, but rather as a multi-person space with its own events, developments, and activities that can be entertaining for me even when I am feeling more passive and not planning to make those events happen on my own.

This is the key to its other characteristics. WoW is active, even more so than offline video games. Interactivity in WoW is not just about interacting with the computer, of course, it requires interaction with other people, and therefore demands – and provides – more engagement. That affordance is also, of course, a limitation. Its capacity to engage depends on my own engagement with others. When I am feeling passive, there is even less potential to engage me than TV (commonly typified as less engaging than video games). Its capacity for engagement, then, is only in relation to my active participation in engaging … well, actively. The ostensible continuum of passive-to-active media breaks down if the user isn’t pursuing all possible activities. This is an interesting departure from the assumptions around such classifications, and further emphasizes why such a scale has garnered such criticism.

Nonetheless, notions such as interactivity levels and capacity for transporting the user/viewer are thus removed from their tight relationship with the characterstics of the medium and are situated(where they belong, I believe) in the user/viewer. In short, just because a medium lets me do all kinds of things, doesn’t mean I’ll do them.

This phenomenon is especially true at the top level (80, now). While leveling a character, the game is much like a level-based offline game – or can be. Quests provide a framework within which to act and develop. At 80, however, that framework is provided by the player, and is sometimes difficult to establish or maintain, especially for someone like me.

I am more hesitant to engage with strangers, and thus less engaged with the game overall at level 80. In some ways, this structure does not suit my entertainment needs as well as leveling did, for all that the social aspects of the game are incredibly powerful and important to me.

It is this very social nature, in fact, that makes it more difficult to engage, or, basically, avoid being bored, when I have certain needs in the uses and gratifications sense.

What is interesting is that I, and others, seem to go to WoW to fulfill some needs it does not actually fulfill. This is an odd shift in the way we think about how people select media to fulfill their needs and are motivated to use certain media. Yet we hang out there anyway, hoping it will change into what we need it to be.

And today, it did.

Obscuraa, my level 41 alt mage on her Hawkstrider.

Obscuraa, my level 41 alt mage on her Hawkstrider.

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