Photo of the player behind Quadilious

Here is something you don’t see every day: a quadriplegic WoW player who’s among the elite (progression raiding is sort of the top of the food chain in WoW–it takes months if not years to get to the point where you can even start doing it; RL issues notwithstanding, this guy is good).

Besides its human interest and inspiration for all of us, this kind of computing at the extremes can be a very informative case study. Obviously, this is a great example of emergent uses of technology.

But from a phenomenological standpoint, it is really amazing how similar this player’s experience of WoW is to any other elite player’s. I mean, other than the physical mechanics of how he plays, he talks about raids like I do. That says something not just about him, but it also says something about WoW as a technological environment: it is able to create similar–and very successful–interactive experiences for an incredibly diverse base of users. And phenomenological theory can help us explore and articulate the characteristics of those felt experiences in rich ways.

A screenshot of many players in World of Warcraft engaged in raid combat.

Part of it is that WoW is a configurable technical environment. Quad talks about the ways that he maps his physical inputs/hardware to the the WoW software, and how that mapping is mediated by interface mods. Take out the specifics pertaining to his physical disability, and you have a conversation that all serious WoW players have on a daily basis. When I “talk shop” with my guildmates, often we are comparing/contrasting different UI configurations and discussing how well/not well those configurations play with our local hardware configurations (do you have a regular mouse or a gamer’s mouse? is turning attached to the mouse or the keyboard? how many monitors do you have? do you have a headset? etc.) And for Quad, as for any other player, these configurations and conversations are social and collaborative. From RL friends and spouses in to in-game guild-mates and external sites like WoW.com, all serious players use this support network in similar ways. Doing so is a part of the WoW experience.

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