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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.