Index Page Introduction
Empowered Consumers Watching Producers? (Enclosure/Network)
by Lieke Mandemakers Mobile Accessibility (Stationary/Mobile)
by Lieke Mandemakers From Individuals to Dividuals through the Avatar (Individual/Dividual)
by Marjolein Keislair Marketing Strategies (State/Market)
by Marjolein Keislair Conclusion
Introduction “…the new youth consumer: … determines what, when, and how he watches media. He is a media consumer, perhaps even a media fan, but he is also a media producer, distributor, publicist, and critic. He's the poster child for the new interactive audience” (Jenkins, 2002).
The above-mentioned consumer is a poster boy for the new participatory culture that has come into existence through the use of new media. Jenkins is one of the many theorists concentrating on describing the many possibilities of new media in this respect. Although he is careful to note that the conglomerates still exercise a certain form of power, he does not usually describe this in detail, and instead focuses on the users‟ ability to interact with new media in a meaningful way. The fact that interactivity has changed, however, does not mean we should not look or consider the other side of media-participation. There are still restrictions and borders involved that should be mapped out in order to form an educated opinion about new media use in a digital age. An important form of new media is still gaming. It is especially here that we see certain power dynamics and with it, a form of control being active. It is because of this, the focus in this research paper will lie with Deleuze‟s idea of a control society. In exploring the power relations in a case study called Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (AoC), an attempt shall be made to locate aspects of the control society within these power relations. In doing so, clarifying the „darker‟ side of media-use in mapping out the restrictions of these games. It is important therefore, to ask of ourselves the following: In what ways can we recognize Deleuze’s control society in the power relations in Age of Conan? The aspects of governing subjects as described in the control society that will be explored will be opposed to the equivalent aspects of the discipline society. This way, the difference in tactic will be clarified. These aspects discussed will be narrowed down to four: enclosure/network, stationary/mobile, individual/dividual and state/market. The society of control becomes apparent in the ways in which citizens are governed. It has developed out of the society of discipline, known for its enclosures. Foucault describes the societies of discipline active in the 18th and 19th century (Deleuze, 1992: 1). He describes how in the society of discipline the subject moves from one enclosure to the next, never free, always bound to strict rules and laws. These laws are enforced through a clear oppressing 2
power, punishing subjects when they disobey (Deleuze, 1992: 1). After World War II a new system was gradually being put into place, resulting in a control society (Deleuze, 1992: 1). The society of control differs significantly from the discipline society in its inner workings. It is aimed at an ever-changing group of dividuals, as opposed to a mass of subjects. Deleuze sees the disciplinary enclosures as molds, fixed shapes of how the subject should be, whereas in the control society they are more like modulations: a caste ever changing and moving (Deleuze, 2). Instead of subjects moving from enclosure to enclosure, in the control society, they are never finished with anything, as seen in education weaving through our lives. The general idea of counterpower originated from Foucault‟s panopticon-theories. In it, he describes the ways in which modern societies are governed by using Bentham‟s model of a panoptic prison. He mentions one vital aspect of this panoptic surveillance-system: for every power we can recognize a counterpower (Foucault, 1975: 15-16). For every form of surveillance for instance, we are able to find a countermovement, something to undermine this power. In Age of Conan we witness a certain form of power exercised on the people. In any situation in which a large group of people is involved, a form of government is present and thus a form of power is being exercised. Yet, true to Foucauldian beliefs, counterpower is also present in this particular case. The control society is a product of new techniques, of which an important aspect is new media. The control society has never been uses as a tool to further analyze power relation is games. Gaming can be considered as one of the most important forms of new media. Because of its inherent „information for all, anytime, everywhere‟-nature, it has been at the birth of this new way of governing people. Games are often seen as a platform for free interactivity and participation and thought of as a utopian platform in which the player is completely free to participate with media. The countless possibilities of gaming are always mentioned, yet people forget about the many restrictions involved in this medium. To illustrate this we have chosen to use the mmorpg Age Of Conan as a study object.
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is a massive-multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG)1. Age of Conan (AoC) was developed by Funcom in 2008. The game is based on the Conan fantasy license originally created by the famed author Robert E. Howard, set in 10.000 BC in the world of Hyboria. The fantasy world is based on over 75 years of books, movies, art, and music.2 Players enter Hyboria with their friends and enemies to live, fight, and explore the dark and brutal world of King Conan. You can engage in guild warfare and embark on challenging quests which all stay true to the original written works by Robert E. Howard. AoC will feature a limited single-player portion at the start of the game. Here you advance through a deep and involving story, where the focus is on you, your character and your place in the world. After a while you will start meeting other players, but you will be able to switch between single-player and multiplayer during the first twenty levels of your character's life. After level twenty it‟s all massively multiplayer.3 AoC is often criticized by its clear male-orientated perspective, as there is a dominance of male characters and masculine themes within the game. Being on the decline, it presents a unique situation of power dynamics between the developers and consumers, both of which are trying to retain their beloved game. Age of Conan offers a look into the delicate consumer-producer relationship, and the powers involved from both sides.
Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games are games played via the Internet and involving hundreds or thousands of players all playing on the same server or gameworld. Players can meet each other in-game, play together, and adventure with thousands of people from around the world. 2 Howard wrote the series of stories during the 1930's 3 “WAR Vs AoC: The Comparison” http://www.theburialgrounds.com/Articles/Article2.shtml
Empowered Consumers Watching Producers? An important aspect of the idea of governing people according to principles based upon a control society, is the ways in which the governing in a control society works in a much more networked, diagrammatic way than a discipline society. In the following chapter an attempt will be made to establish in what ways power relations in Age of Conan either resemble a networked or an enclosed system. In order to properly scrutinize power relations, the situation within the game as well as outside of it will be analyzed. The traditional way of governing people in a discipline society consisted of enclosures. This was shown clearly in Foucault‟s description of a discipline society using Bentham‟s theory of a panoptic prison system (Foucault, 1975: 4). The subjects are isolated in each in their own cells, unable to make contact with each other, separated by walls. From a central tower, the guards can see all the prisoners, yet, because of spotlights aiming directly into the separate cells, the prisoners can not see out. This makes them isolated, blind and vulnerable. Foucault uses this description of Bentham‟s prison to explain the workings of the discipline society. In the discipline society, people or citizens are governed by use of this same effect of isolation. Not necessarily locked up, but watched from every corner, citizens are in effect visible from every perspective, yet can not see who or what is watching them. The all-time popular book 1984 describes this effect in stating „Big Brother is watching you! (Orwell, 1949). The subject knows he is being watched, yet does not know how and when. The idea that surveillance is all around them puts the citizen in a vulnerable position. The power of „seeing‟ is only given to the „guards‟, the subject does not see: “…one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen” (Foucault, 1975: 4-5). The subject then, feels isolated as in Bentham‟s prison because of surveillance being everywhere, working on the individual itself. In Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures we see a slightly different way in which surveillance and powers are manifesting. Age of Conan is a multiplayer game, in which the players progress through the game together. Chat-functions (see figure 1) and voice-chat allow the players to be in contact with each other all the time and everywhere.
Figure 1: The chatbox is visible on the left-hand side.
At first glance, the ways in which the players are in contact with each other seems to contradict the principles on which a discipline society is build. There is clearly no talk of complete isolation here, seeing as players are free to communicate with each other. Yet, we should note that there is another side to the surveillance question in Age of Conan. Instead of physical individualization, the players have an experience of individualization by feeling surrounded by the surveillance system. This because players can „report‟ each other of indecent or wrong behavior in general. When zooming in to a particular situation of a player then, we can still argue there is surveillance all around them, seeing as his fellow-players are part of it. The player then, feels surrounded by it even though they have the ability to communicate freely with others. Isolation yet, is too simple a term to apply here. While surveillance is all around the player, he is not so much alone within this surveillance system, as part of it himself. To further scrutinize this situation therefore, we need to make use of newer theories regarding this subject. Greg Elmer (2003) recognizes a new way of reading panoptic surveillance. He refers to surveillance in a media society as diagrammatic, instead of a linear two-way guardsubject arrangement (Elmer, 2003: 241). In doing this, he uses Guattari‟s concept of „diagrammatic‟, described as a “sign machine or blueprint, rather than a chain of signifiers” 6
(Elmer, 2003: 242). In signifying, normally, we can establish the signifier and the signified, one always pointing toward the other. The chain of this linear system of power and counterpower is rejected in a diagrammatic way of surveillance. Elmer mentions Deleuze who, in his description of a society of control, regards diagrammatic and networked surveillance as “the manner in which signifieds and the process of signification are continuously reconstituted by each other” (Elmer, 2003: 244). In this surveillance system then, the networked system is constantly redefining itself, changing shape and the direction in which the power works. This can be explained as followed: surveillance does not only switch back and forth between power/counterpower, but also sideways or up and down. The actual parties involved do not only switch between power/counterpower, they are both and none, constantly in flux, constantly moving (see figure 2). The situation in Age of Conan resembles these diagrammatic, networked workings of the society of control. The players are part of the system of surveillance, yet at the same time also the ones that are under surveillance. The player has the power to report even herself, as do all other players. This makes for a general system of surveillance in which the signifier and the signified (the surveillance and the ones under surveillance, in this case) are constantly being reconstituted and defined. The system as a whole cannot be read as chains consisting of signifiers, but as a dynamic network, constantly redefining itself. This networked way of governing players inside the game is also apparent outside of it. Because Age of Conan is an MMORPG, it is possible for the players to interact and communicate with the developers, in doing so altering the game to suit their wishes.4 Normally, games are made by a small group of people, to entertain a much larger group. Being a product set on the market, the larger group of players has no choice but to accept what this small group of producers has given them. Yet, Age of Conan is a MMORPG, and we see a unique opportunity for players to exercise a form of counterpower in this particular instant. This unique feature of an ever-changing world makes it possible for players to communicate with developers and alter the content provided to them. Because of its economical position (Age of Conan is having problems competing with the titan World of
MMORPG‟s are commonly referred to as „synthetic worlds‟. They are called this because of their unique ability to change content, thus offering a „world‟ for players to immerse and play in. They are games that are never finished, because developers are able to alter and add content continuously, keeping the synthetic world a living, breathing entity (Castronova, 2005:79-86).
Warcraft and has lost countless of players since launch5) it has forced the developers to listen more closely to the opinions of the player base if they are to retain their player-numbers. This becomes apparent in the different sections of the official forums where players have the opportunity to discuss „patches‟ (specific additions to the game in chunks at a time). These forums deal with anything related to feedback on the game, and attempts to start discussion not just amongst players but including developers (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Communication between developers and consumers.
Besides feedback on the content of the patches, it is also possible for players to express their opinions about former patches, so that producers can evaluate the different aspects they have added. By giving feedback on the feedback (see figure 3) a dialogue comes into existence, resulting in the two parties consulting each others opinion for the reapplying of new content into the game. By being able to form an opinion and specifically in being heard, players exercise a form of counterpower opposed to the power of the developer to design the game. These power and counterpower show a communicative, networked way of interaction between developers and consumers. As Castells points out: “The diffusion of Internet, mobile communication, digital media, and a variety of tools of social software have prompted the development of horizontal networks of interactive communication…” (Castells, 2007: 9). 5
A decline has been noted in the number of players, from 700.000 players in June, 2008 (http://www.joystiq.com/2008/06/30/age-of-conan-reaches-700-000-players/ ), to 140.000 in February, 2009 (http://forums.ageofconan.com/showthread.php?t=184743).
These networks of interactive communication serve, in a way, the control society‟s diagrammatic way of surveillance in the ways in which the developers are subject to surveillance from the players. By judging the product of the game and expressing their discontent in it, the players are in fact „keeping an eye on‟ the developers‟ work, which makes sure the developers try and do their job in keeping with the ways in which the players want to see it. The players exercise a certain form of control over the producers: continuing and adding to the networked system of surveillance within the game. The complete system of surveillance around the game Age of Conan then, is a network or diagram in which players are subject to surveillance from developers and fellow players, yet also have the power to control surveillance over other players Figure 3: Feedback on the feedback, from a developer.
and developers themselves. This occurs within and outside of the
game, sometimes simultaneously. The player can be the signified or the signifier, the „watched‟ or the „watcher‟ all at the same time, while interconnecting with other subjects who are dealing with the same issues, thus creating a completely dynamic, interconnected system of surveillance. This new way of subject-orientated surveillance while being connected and dynamic can be witnessed in more new media applications, but is surprisingly enough very apparent in the 9
participatory dream of gaming. Surveillance has changed its form since Foucault so aptly described it in the discipline society. Instead of passive, individual still subjects, new media makes for â€œinteractions between mobile subjects and geographically-dispersed technologies of surveillanceâ€? (Elmer, 2003: 235).
Mobile Accessibility An important prerequisite for the players to exercise the aforementioned power is accessibility to the game and the forums. In the importance of a working internet connection we can recognize the vital duality of mobile vs. stationary subjects. In a control society the subject is mobile, as opposed to the society of discipline, in which the subjects are enclosed and stationary. In the next chapter the power relations and subjects in Age of Conan will be analyzed to determine whether or not mobility is an important factor here. In doing so, it will also be possible to recognize either the workings of governing subjects in a discipline society or control society. Foucault describes the ways in which, in the discipline society the subject is completely stationary (Foucault, 1975, 2). As mentioned in previous chapters, the society of discipline is recognized for its environments of enclosure (Deleuze, 1992: 1). The subject moves from one enclosure to the other. This way, these enclosures seem to function as molds. As has been mentioned in previous chapters, subjects are fit into molds: a “distinct casting” (Deleuze, 1992: 2). These molds do not only serve as tools to form individuals in, we can also see them in relation to the stationary nature of a discipline society. Molds are set values, neither dynamic nor shifting. Subjects are molded into being a certain individual, an individual that is not ever changing but stationary (Deleuze, 1992: 2). This particular aspect of subjects being stationary is important, because it greatly simplifies the surveillance system in a discipline society. When the subject isn‟t moving, but set in its rigid molds and institutions, it becomes easier to contain and watch them. This is opposed to a control society, where because of the specific traits of new media, the subject is not stationary but constantly moving and dynamic. Because of the constant movement, this mobile subject is therefore not only dynamic but also “geographically dispersed” (Elmer, 2003:235). Hereby the global, without-borders nature of new media is used as a tool to control subjects in Deleuze‟s control society. It is necessary then, to evaluate the mobility of Age of Conan players, to determine whether or not this aspect of the control society can be used as an analytic tool to scrutinize the power relation between producers and consumers. Players of Age of Conan are restricted to a working internet-connection, to play as well as to participate on the forums. In the chapter on enclosures vs. networks it was established that in the game and on the forums players are able to exercise a certain form of power over producers, and the other way around. In short: in order to exercise power, the players and producers of Age of Conan need a working internet 11
connection. At first glance, this makes them less mobile than would be expected. According to Manuel Castells, access to the internet is severely limited in certain area‟s in the world, and even in rich Western countries there are a lot of fluctuations between numbers of accessibility (Castells, 2001: 248-249). This means there a particular area‟s in the world where the aspects of the power relations that resemble the control society are not active at all. The subjects, then, are only to be found where there is a proper internet-connection, making them not mobile in the ways of having freedom to go everywhere. Yet, the notion of mobility should not be so easily rejected, either. It would not suffice to say the subjects are completely stationary, seeing the freedom they have within their „mobility-radius‟ (the areas where internet connection is facilitated). It should also be mentioned that the mobility-radius is still expanding, with more geographical locations getting access over time (Castells, 2001: 251), and the upcoming of Wi-Fi „hotzones‟ enabling people to go onto the street to surf the internet (Mackenzie, 2006: 138). Subjects are able to reach the internet not only from their computers, but also using their phones or laptops, enabling them to exercise power even while moving. Considered like this: the subjects are not in the least bit stationary, but mobile in their dealings with Age of Conan. Even though the subject is most commonly stationary behind the screen while playing Age of Conan, he is not restricted to a certain place to play. He has the freedom to be anywhere while playing, thus enabling the description of power relations in Age of Conan to encompass the vital prospect of mobility. This mobility helps to establish the governing of the subjects through a system resembling the society of control. This system works in a networked, diagrammatic way, better enabling the governing of mobile subjects because of the connectivity between players and producers.
From individuals to dividuals through the avatar The following chapter describes how we moved from individuals in the society of discipline to dividuals in the control society. By illustrating some examples it will be shown how power is exercised upon the players of Age on Conan. Gilles Deleuze explains in his essay „Postscript on the Societies of Control‟ how we are controlled by technologies (Deleuze, 1995). He continues on Michel Foucault‟s work on the discipline society (Foucault, 1978). The discipline society employed technologies, like factories, schools and hospitals, which placed people physically in time and space. Individuals never ceases passing from one closed environment to another. In the control society the individuals have become „dividuals‟ and masses; individuals have been replaced by samples, data markets or banks (Deleuze, 1992: 3). While in the discipline society the individual is molded within sites of confinement and always starting again with different enclosures (from school to barracks, from barracks to the factory), the „dividual‟ is no longer molded within sites of confinement. In the society of control one is never finished with anything, one never fully leaves these disciplinary institutions. Within this new system of governance, the society is so tightly interconnected that forms of control are endless without any boundaries (Deleuze, 1992: 2). In the discipline society a limited number of behavioral molds existed, in the control society this changed into modulations. Ultrarapid forms of free-floating control replaced the old disciplines operating in the discipline society (Deleuze, 1992: 2). Within the discipline society the molds lead to fixed and forced ideals: you‟ll be this type of child, you‟ll be a soldier, or for example you‟ll be the head of the school. When you are the head of the school or the principal that is how you‟ll act. You as an individual are in charge and make sure that you lead the school smoothly. Other utterances of the self are deviations. Within the control society a compilation of devices contribute to make sure that people maintain a rather socially acceptable path. The flows and fluctuations of each body are important. Deleuze‟s control society enables an almost endless expression of the self. One person can simultaneously be lesbian, a man-hater, a femme-fatal, a blue-jean femme, et cetera. In a control society each person has to open herself (O‟Byrne, Holmes, 2009: 60-61). While in the discipline society the signature designates the individual and a number indicates her position in the mass, in societies of control we have a code as a password that mark access to information, or reject it. The way that data can be collected about us and used for or against us makes us dividuals (Deleuze, 1992: 2-3). Enumerated we can describe a dividual as a „physically embodied 13
human subject that is endlessly divisible and reducible to data representations via the modern technologies of control, like computer-based systemsâ€&#x; (Williams, 2005 cited from Best 2010: 10). In Age of Conan the players are represented as avatars.6 When you create your own profile, you create a graphical image as your character; your avatar. You will have to choose your character's name, gender, race, class and even appearance. Your avatar is displayed when you are playing the game, or when you make posts on the website of Age of Conan. To enter your profile you have to log in with a password. Without the password you cannot access the game. This is typical for the society of control: we have a code as a password that mark access to information, or reject it. While playing the game, communicating with other players or posting messages your avatar is monitored and controlled by other users and so called game masters. The avatar is digitally representing you and is not physically individualizing you as a player. For instance when you are playing Age of Conan you are acting completely different from when you are at work, or in class. The avatar can be seen as a dividual as Deleuze describes. Here we can witness a change in Foucaultâ€&#x;s notion of individualization where surveillance is involved. As has been described individuals in the discipline society are molded within sites of confinement. The individuals are isolated and watched. In the society of control dividuals are not isolated or molded, thus subjects are watched in a different way. The avatar as a representation of the self is a part of the self and the avatar is not physically you. At this point we can observe a different way of surveillance. In Age of Conan not you as a whole physical individual is being watched, but your avatar which is just a part of you or a representation of the self is being watched. In the control society then, there is a power controlling endlessly divisible and reducible subjects. In the discipline society subjects as a whole are disciplined. Clearly, while being many selves at the same time, in the form of dividuals, itâ€&#x;s hard to govern a divided subject as a whole. Yet it is possible to govern the separate divisions of that subject. Through the above-mentioned avatar as part of a dividual, the producers are able to exercise a certain form of power onto the players. I will now continue to clarify this by some examples
An avatar is any digital representation (graphical or textual), beyond a simple label or name, that has agency (an ability to perform actions) and is controlled by a human agent in real time.
we witness in Age of Conan. Dividuals are being subjected to powers. The options we have to create our avatar in the game are influenced by the game design and the producers. Traditional notions of the ways how woman or men should act and what they should be or look like are confirmed in Age of Conan. Although character creation gives you many options, the options are solid. Players have standard male or female choices, you can‟t choose to be both. Next to choose is your race. The three races of which you have to pick one are Stygians, dark desert dwellers from the south, Cimmerians, barbarians from the north and Aquilonians, advanced and cultured race placed in the middle. Choosing a race and class will have an impact on the game play: your race determines what class you can play, and your class determines what weapons, armor and abilities you can use as well as the general style of the game play. Players of the game have to make choices to „be‟ either this or that, while they might not want to be any of these. As a player you are stuck in these decisions. Laura Fantone, who‟s research interests include gender and gaming, explains that while the game user acts through another body which he or she controls, „involves a degree of internalization of the virtual character‟s embodiment, which can bring forth new queer gender identities‟ (Fantone 2003: 66). While having limited options in creating your virtual character this can lead to unexpected queer formations. The parts of which a dividual can exist in this case stand firm. Interestingly, while being dividuals in the society of control we can also witness these dividuals being enclosed in molds like in the discipline society. The game is often criticized by its clear male-orientated perspective. There is however a dominance of traditional male characters and masculine themes within the game. To start with, the game exists of masculine activities: fighting, collecting weaponry, exploring and dominating space. Second, the Non Playing Characters (NPC‟s)7 in Age of Conan are mainly male characters. These powerful characters often save the woman in the game from dangerous attacks. These NPC‟s are figures of power and while most of them are men characters this make the female position subordinate. Age of Conan sets up a classic male subject position for the player in which the player is passively watched rather than actively watched. The players engage in voyeuristic practices. Here we can witness the so called „male gaze‟; an asymmetric relation between the man as viewer and the woman as the viewed. The female avatars are sexy looking and created as objects. Many people shrug of the woman of Hyboria
A Non Playing Character (NPC) is a character that can be controlled by a game master or is a character that is not controlled by a human while being part of the program.
as nothing more than scantly clad wenches.8 In the mean time according to several posts on the Age of Conan website a lot of players, male and female, „love seeing outfits that accentuate sexuality‟. Next to the fact that the woman is put in a subordinate position, evidence has indicated that media play a role in people‟s internalization of the thin body ideal. Media images accumulate over time in the minds of viewers and eventually result in expectations of the real world that correspond to media presentations (Martins et Al. 2009: 824). According to Fantone the characters that populate games are hypervisible bodies (Fantone 2003: 61). This is true when we look at AoC: the male characters in AoC can be described as extremely muscular and flexible and the female characters as sexy and objects of desire. The creation of female characters has caused some critics to observe that games are also responsible for reproducing a „stereotyped, ideal woman‟s body‟ (Fantone 2003: 60). This can be illustrated by the following example. Short after the release Age of Conan caused a delicate uproar. A patch to Funcom's Age of Conan game changed the size of some female character‟s breasts (Figure 4). After a user noted the involuntary reduction of his character's bust size in the official forum, discussion broke loose and hung on the brink to becoming a serious argument. After more than 350 posts dealing with the topic were posted, Funcom finally reacted by promising that the „breasts should be back to normal soon‟.9 But the breasts size was cup D, while in the Netherlands the average cup size is B or C.10
Cited from the website Gaming Today http://news.filefront.com/age-of-conan-presents-women-of-hyboria/ Cited from the website joystiq.com. Sliwinski, A. “Age of Conan's incredible shrinking breasts” http://www.joystiq.com/2008n/06/03/age-of-conans-incredible-shrinking-breasts/ 10 Cited from the website Elsevier.nl: Cijs, van der I. “Nederlandse vrouwen hebben grootste cupmaat” http://www.elsevier.nl/web/Lifestyle/Mode-Wonen/Mode/104625/Nederlandse-vrouwen-hebben-grootstecupmaat.htm 9
Figure 4: The changed breast size of a female character in Age of Conan.
Funcom states to create an updated view on woman compared to the works of Robert E. Howard. Their goal has been to make any female player in the game as strong and able as any man. As they announced on the website: „The world circa-2007 is very different, in most places, than the 1930‟s in which the original Conan stories came around. Early on in our development, we therefore made a very clear and conscious choice: namely that any female player in Hyboria should be just as strong and able as any man! The strong, fierce and independent female is perfectly in line with the lore of Howard, however, we have expanded it to include all the female players.‟ The developers created specific „female-only‟ animations to sets of special emotes to an array of female clothing and armor. They created something „unique, something strong, something sexy‟. The developers of Age of Conan try to create man and woman equal by making them equal in how strong they are, but at the same time there are rarely any female figures of power in the game which is very contradictory. The „male gaze‟ expresses the asymmetric relation between woman and man, constructs the female body as something sexy and creates the woman as a lust object.
Marketing Strategies Deleuze describes how in the control society the corporation has replaced the factory (Deleuze, 1992). The factory, in the era of the society of discipline, was more stable and the labouring force shaped individuals as a single body that could be mobilized for mass resistance. The factory can be seen as a mold and the wages as control. By moving towards a society of control the corporation brings more delicate control methods, putting into practice new methods of wage control. The corporation as a mold sets individuals against each other, like a competition, and divides them by strategies as paying people salary or bonuses according to their merit. While in the discipline society school education was an environment of enclosure, in the society of control a perpetual training replaces the school, while preserving education is necessary for continued employment in continuous control. As Deleuze goes on he describes the way in which in the control society the market instead of the state is the one governing people. While the society of discipline equipped themselves with machines involving energy, the societies of control operate with machines of another type: computers. This technological revolution brought a mutation of capitalism and changed into a capitalism of concentration, for production and for property. In this situation capitalism is no longer involved in production, but it focuses on the product being sold or marketed. The factory made place for the corporation. The conquests of the market are made by grabbing control and no longer by disciplinary training. „Marketing has become the centre of the “soul” of the corporation‟ (Deleuze, 1992: 3) In this case, when we focus on power and counterpower we should witness a shift to power exercised upon users from a commercialized source. In Age of Conan we witness a clear consumer producer relation because of the money being involved. One party pays the other: the players are the consumers, and paying Funcom, the producers of the game. This means that the producer has a certain amount of power over the consumer. The player is put in a vulnerable position in which she has to rely on company to fulfill her wishes. While the consumers want to play the game, the producers have power. In the article „The state of play. Law, games, and virtual worlds‟ Balkin underlines the contractual relationship between players and providers that transcend that of a regular relationship between the provider of a service and a client, due to the „enormous power that platform owners wield over events in the game space, and their ability to see everything that goes on in that space,‟ so that they have the „abundant opportunity to abuse their authority‟ (Balkin, 2006: 88). The owners can make 18
changes in the game whenever they want. However, there is also a counterpower to be noted. The company doesn‟t want to loose the consumers, while the company is making profit of their activity in the game. When the participants of the game are unhappy with the offered services, they can quit the game and stop paying at any time. There is always the awareness form the producers that they need the players of the game: without players the company won‟t make any profit. Knowing that the players can quit whenever they want provides a disciplinary effect on the producers. While Age of Conan is being on the decline, we witness a rising of power to the consumers (for this I refer to Mandemakers‟ chapter: „Empowered consumers watching producers?‟). Because of the fact Age of Conan is on the decline, the marketing strategy of the game has changed. The company needs the players to exist, making them more susceptible for their input. This change in marketing strategy thus changes the relationship between producer and consumer. In Mandemakers‟ previous chapter it has been established that the producerconsumer relationship can be an illustration of the society of control. This means that indirectly, the marketing strategy is responsible for the facilitating of power relations that illustrate the society of control. This means that, as Deleuze describes marketing as the soul of the corporation, marketing is an essential part of power relations and of the control society.
Conclusion As described, power relations in Age of Conan outside, as well as inside the game work in a networked, diagrammatic way. Opposed to Foucault‟s description of a discipline society being a linear, two-way dynamic relationship between power and counterpower, in Age of Conan we witness a networked system, interconnected on all fronts. In this way, it seems to resemble the principles of a control society as described by Deleuze more than a society of discipline. Mobility is another important aspect in Age of Conan. At first glance, it would seem the player is stationary behind the screen, subjected to a working internet connection. Yet, when we look closer at this particular phenomena we notice that, while restraining the mobility while playing, this does not have to equal the player being completely stationary. We still see freedom in movement in the possibilities of laptops and so-called „hotzones‟ (Mackenzie, 2006: 138). In this way the mobility described in Age of Conan rejects the principles of a „stationary discipline society‟, but embraces the ever-moving dynamic vibes of a society of control. As explained, in the society of control we can observe a different way of surveillance. In the discipline society subjects as a whole are disciplined but in the control society endlessly divisible subjects are controlled. In AoC people are represented by an avatar so a divided subject is being watched. It is possible to govern the separate divisions of the subject, but it‟s hard to govern a divided subject as a whole. As demonstrated by different examples the producers are able to exercise certain forms of power onto the players. Because Age of Conan is on the decline, the marketing strategy of the game has changed. The existence of the game depends on it users, so the producers are more capable of improvements suggested by the players. As described, the marketing strategy is responsible for the facilitating of power relations that illustrate the society of control. Enumerated, marketing is an essential part of power relations and of the control society. This research focused on the power relations witnessed in Age of Conan. Being visible in different aspects of the game ranging from producer/consumer relationships, avatars, mobility of the player or marketing strategies, these power and counterpower dynamics illustrate the movement from a discipline society towards a society of control, as described by Deleuze.
Yet, while the tactics of the society of control become visible in the power relations mentioned, we also witness certain aspects of the discipline society. It is apparent that there is an abundance of control and power present in Age of Conan. Restrictions are very clearly present in this particular game. This shows, that games in general should be more fairly assessed. While Jenkins is right in describing the ways in which new media offers many possibilities to participation and interaction, new media should not be considered to contain only these aspects. There is another side to gaming and new media in general that needs to be included in analysis. This side contains power dynamics between producers and consumer, and restrictions within as well as outside of the game.
Literature Primary literature Balkin, Jack. M., & Noveck, Beth. S. The state of play. law, games, and virtual. London: New York University Press, 2006 Castells, Manuel. The Internet Galaxy; Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society Oxford University Press, 2001 Castells, Manual. “Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society” International Journal of Communication 1, 2007: 238-266. Castronova, Edward. Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games Chicago: The university of Chicago Press, 2005. Fantone, Laura. “Final fantasies: virtual women‟s bodies”. Feminist Theory 1, 2003: 51-72, Online: http://fty.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/4/1/51 Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October 59. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992: 3-7 Michel Foucault, “Panopticism” Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. 195-228. Online: http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticis m.html Elmer, Greg. “A Diagram of Panoptic Surveillance.” New Media & Society 5.2, 2003: 231247. Jenkins, Henry. “Interactive audiences? The „collective intelligence‟ of media fans”, in: Dan Harries (ed.), The New Media Book. London: British Film Institute, 2002. Online: http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/collective%20intelligence.html. Best, Kirsty. “Living in the control society: Surveillance, users and digital screen technologies” International Journal of Cultural Studies 1, 2010: 5-24 Mackenzie, Adrian. “From Café to Park Bench: Wi-Fi and Technological Overflows in the City. Mobile Technologies of the City ed. Sheller & Urry, London: Routledge, 2006: 137-151. O‟Byrne, Patrick and Holmes, Dave. 2009. „Public Health STI/HIV Surveillance: Exploring the Society of Control.‟ Surveillance & Society 7(1): 58-70. Martins, Nicole, Williams, Dmitri C., Harrison, Kristen, Ratan, Rabindra A. “A Content Analysis of Female Body Imagery in Video Games” Sex Roles, 2009: 824–836 http://dmitriwilliams.com/femalebodies.pdf
Secondary literature Orwell, George. 1984 New York: Penguin Books, 1950. Age of conan official site: http://forums.ageofconan.com/ Last accessed the 24th of January, 2010 Joystiq.org: http://www.joystiq.com/2008/06/30/age-of-conan-reaches-700-000-players/ Last Accessed on 23rd of January, 2010 & http://www.joystiq.com/2008n/06/03/age-of-conansincredible-shrinking-breasts/ Last Accessed on 20th of January, 2010 “WAR Vs AoC: The Comparison” http://www.theburialgrounds.com/Articles/Article2.shtml Last accessed the 24th of January, 2010 Gaming Today: news for gamers: http://news.filefront.com/age-of-conan-presents-womenof-hyboria/ Last accessed the 24th of January, 2010 Elsevier.nl: Cijs, van der I. “ Nederlandse vrouwen hebben grootste cupmaat” http://www.elsevier.nl/web/Lifestyle/Mode-Wonen/Mode/104625/Nederlandse-vrouwenhebben-grootste-cupmaat.htm Last accessed the 25th of January, 2010
[missing titlepage] Collaboration with a fellow master-student: exploration of Deleuze's control society concept, and the way in which we r...