In “Humans Playing World of Warcraft: or Deviant Strategies?” Torill Elvira Mortensen explores the concept of deviating from the norms and rules of World of Warcraft. To Mortensen deviance is considered to be anything that does not comply with the rules of the game. When rules and norms are bended excessively, society tends to considers it deviant and problematic. Deviance isn’t necessary illegal – as the protocol of the game allows it. For example, “ninjaing” loot in WoW is frowned upon by players, but there is no formal in-game punishment for it. In that way, deviance is pushing the limits of the game in order to excel. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this kind of deviance. While it is clearly annoying to hardcore players, it is allowed by the protocol of the game, and as Professor Fest said in class, if it’s allowed by the protocol of the game, it’s allowed. This kind of deviance is just taking advantage of what isn’t not allowed. Like Mortensen says on page 204, “Obedience to rules is not a universal human trait, and while some players excel at mastering rules, others enjoy changing, subverting, redeveloping, and avoiding them all together.”
An interesting point Mortensen brought up in his article is that a major deviant part of World of Warcraft is guild-leading. The guild leader, required by the rules of the game, tirelessly sets up the guild and does maintenance work, while never receiving any reward besides informal respect from guild-mates. The work put in to leading a guild deviates from the structure of World of Warcraft in that there’s no formal reward for all of the time spent working on leading. I agree with this, but don’t necessarily agree that the only reasons one would want to be a guild-leader include a “masochistic desire to serve” and the desire for power. For such a complex game that requires so much time, a task like guild-leading that requires even more resources and time should be rewarded in some formal sense through the protocol of the game. However, the want to be a guild-leader isn’t deviant in my eyes, since someone has to be a guild-leader for a guild to be created, and it’s just a necessary role that someone has to take in order for the game to be played to its fullest extent.
Mortensen also explains how counterproductive and destructive forms of deviance are different in a multitude of ways. He also explains that cheating and contamination aren’t necessarily deviance, as cheating has in-game goals of excelling at the game without working as hard within the rules of the game universe, while contamination has out-of-game goals of moving the virtual game real world in order to make real world gains, i.e. financially, also within the protocol of the game.
Since the game is created to be as social as it is, however, players aid in tracking deviance and contamination and fixing those who contaminate, even when the game’s mechanics don’t solve the problems these players create. For example, when players create bots that are deviantly made to farm gold, a common response tactic according to those Mortensen interviewed is throwing useless items to the bots to fill up their inventory and prevent valuable items from being picked up, or spamming the macro to make them attack you, and then respond by killing the lowly bot. I applaud that these players work together to keep the game ethical when others are deviating from the rules, even when the protocol of the game don’t implement protection mechanisms to prevent this behavior. Still, I don’t really see these behaviors necessarily as malicious. It’s just a different way to play the game that takes advantage of strategies that others cannot or will not take advantage of themselves. As Mortensen explains at the end of her argument very correctly, the deviant is not the one who breaks the rules, but the one who decides not to care about them at all.