The last few posts I’ve put up have been a bit lengthy. Hopefully a shorter post, along with a relevant video, will help round-out the type of content this blog offers…
The Raid is a documentary that observes raiding in World of Warcraft. A shorter version of the film was previewed at Blizzcon 2010 and the full film premiered on Gamebreaker.TV in August of 2011. Embedded below is a full video of the premier night. The documentary starts at 26:08.
For those unfamiliar with Raiding, this documentary does a terrific job explaining what raiding is and why players raid. The film also touches on some important topics such as gender equality and hostility/harassment in MMOs. For instance, a female raider recounts her experiences as a long time gamer – a male gamer vocalizes some unfortunate, and all too common, stereotypes about the types of women that play MMOs. The discussion of gender and gaming was short, but clearly communicates that World of Warcraft is very much deserving of the “boys tree house” stereotype. Still, I wish the filmmaker had spent more time on this subject as it is a major issue in MMOs (especially WoW). Early promotional video (below) suggests that plenty of this discussion was left on the editing room floor.
The video does a commendable job seeking expert opinion on MMOs. Academics such as Edward Castronova, Jesse Schell, and Bonnie Nardi lend thoughtful perspective on the merits and challenges of MMOs. However, the viewpoints of these three scholars were mostly in support of MMOs (a bias I too share). The result is a perspective that feels a bit one-sided. Alternate opinions would have offered a more objective look at the good, and bad, of playing MMOs.
As much as I love MMOs, there is plenty of bad to observe. Beyond struggling with gender equality, MMOs are often a place for terrible hate speech (a topic also briefly explored in the film), racial and sexual orientation inequality, problematic media use or overuse, and a whole host of other issues. Sure, MMOs receive plenty of negative coverage, so it was nice to see a film that underscores the things MMOs do right. Addressing the challenges that besiege MMOs would have added some much needed depth and perspective to this documentary.
This lack of critical objectivity was my key takeaway from the film. For better or worse, The Raid feels as if it was made by gamers for a gamer audience. The film does a tremendous job explaining what raiding is, why one might enjoy it, and how it works. But it too quickly glosses over the negative aspects of MMOs that seem so entangled with the good. Arguably, this is an incredibly difficult story to tell and one that may have been well beyond the scope of this documentary. Even still, I would absolutely recommend watching the film (a DVD is available for purchase on Createspace). The Raid excels at observing the social bonds that develop between players and goes a long way toward discrediting the notion that MMO players are lonely geeks who live in their mothers basements.
The film ends with The Lich King fight. The Lich King is killed and the end credits roll. The message is that MMOs are fun, good, social, and a bit troubled. When the glory of victory ends, all that is left are the friends you play with. That is, until next week when the raid lockout rests.