by Latoya Peterson
These are the notes for “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft.” The notes are for the keynote presentation given by Dr. Nakamura at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.
This article examines the racialization of informational labor in machinima about Chinese player workers in the massively multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft. Such fanproduced video content extends the representational space of the game and produces overtly racist narrative space to attach to a narrative that, while carefully avoiding explicit references to racism or racial conflict in our world, is premised upon a racial war in an imaginary world—the World of Azeroth.
This profiling activity is part of a larger biometric turn initiated by digital culture’s informationalization of the body and illustrates the problematics of informationalized capitalism. If late capitalism is characterized by the requirement for subjects to be possessive individuals, to make claims to citizenship based on ownership of property, then player workers are unnatural subjects in that they are unable to obtain avatarial self-possession. The painful paradox of this dynamic lies in the ways that it mirrors the dispossession of information workers in the Fourth Worlds engendered by ongoing processes of globalization. As long as Asian “farmers” are figured as unwanted guest workers within the culture of MMOs, user-produced extensions of MMO-space like machinima will most likely continue to depict Asian culture as threatening to the beauty and desirability of shared virtual space in the World of Warcraft.
- Cartman: “I am the mightiest dwarf in all of Azeroth!”
Kyle: “Wow, look at all these people playing right now.”
Cartman: “yeah, it’s bullcrap. I bet half of these people are Koreans.”
With that, Nakamura starts the discussion on how Cartman’s off-handed comment reveals how many think of Asian players – specifically Korean and Chinese – as “not real” players in this online world and begins to explore how racial bigotry is manifesting itself in the World of Warcraft.