So I decided to look at a bit of machinima made from WoW clips set to the song “Here Without You” by 3 Doors Down. It has been an interesting journey. It is incredible to think that some clips from World of Warcraft set to a cheesy late 90’s love-rock song could make me misty-eyed. I dare you to watch this video multiple times and not be moved at least a little bit.

The transformative powers of repeated viewings were incredible. I had entirely different experiences when I viewed the game through different phenomenological perspectives. The first time I saw it as just a MMORPG player. When I first watched this video, I was distracted by the medium. All I saw was World of Warcraft characters, and attached to them every stereotype and bias that exists about World of Warcraft players, my understanding of the culture of MMORPGs, and the pop culture phenomenon that is the game.

However, after repeated viewings the “World of Warcraft-ness” started to fade away, and I realized that this video is very compelling. The second time I saw it as Chad with my particular history of knowing people who have died and the beginnings and endings of relationships in my life. I even noticed that when I was writing my notes from watching the video, I never referred to the character in the video as “he” or “him.” I kept writing the word “I” or “me.” That was quite a powerful realization, and it was enough to make me go find Yujia and give her a hug.

Then I started reading the various comments and I saw someone who said it reminded him of when his mom was killed by a drunk driver. In my next viewing I pretended that my mom had been killed by a drunk driver, and I was surprised (and a little frightened) at how easily I was able to envision that scenario. Throughout all of these viewings I felt real, genuine pain. It grew even worse when I kept reading the comments about all the other types of loss that people associated with the video: breaking up, moving away, death of a loved one, losing touch with a childhood friend, someone cheating on someone else, or watching a sick relative slowly get sicker.

The sadness and tragedy of life were made even clearer by the insensitive and frankly assholish comments that are interspersed amongst the genuine comments. For every heartfelt comment there is another where someone is making fun of anyone who got something out of a “stupid video game.” There is much to be said here about internet culture, how machinima is viewed amongst other forms of expression, or how this particular video is grouped in with funny and ridiculous other WoW-inspired machinima. But that is the structuralist and semiotic stuff for later.

With all my new lenses for looking at things, I am slightly overwhelmed with things that I can say about this video, not least of which is that this video is definitely not what Blizzard had in mind when they created World of Warcraft.  But I have come to an interesting realization recently, and it is this: It isn’t our ability to say all these things that is valuable. It is the fact that we have noticed new things and in doing so are able to have richer experiences.