Digital Attachment

So as I let go of a Warcraft account (again), wishing good will towards my avatar, I can’t help but think of a few things that seem to have coalesced into a complex relationship with digital intellectual property.

  1. When we used to play games back in the day (25 years ago), the character would last as long as a play-through. With the invention of the save game, our experience would transcend that play-through, creating a sense of continuity in the experience. Not just pausing a movie, it was more of stringing several movies together with a single protagonist. MMMOs take this and amplify this a hundred-fold. Now you have a character that grows in such a way that when you aren’t there, there is a sense of loss or missed opportunity. I had heard it described as a game that makes you feel guilty when you play it and when you don’t.
  2. Community increases that sense of loss. Even if you’re like me and generally avoided too much social interaction, you will meet people in a game like WoW. I didn’t know my guildmates very well, but guildchat was the only way that I could ever talk to them. And some of them were funny. It’s not that I’ll miss them terribly or anything.
  3. There is no direct monetary value for the digital property that I’ve created. Even though there may be some sort of value placed on a digital identity or virtual good, without a well-maintained and serviced trade system, there is no way to withdraw. So even though all of that crap that I’ve collected over the years is technically worth something in-game, it’s pretty pointless outside of those digital halls.
  4. With a persistent world, any changes leave you behind. And there’s only one thing that you can do about that: re-up. Fuck that.
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