Virtual Funeral Crashing

Curator's Note

While I show many short clips throughout the semester to my classes, no clip has perhaps elicited more divergent and emotionally invested responses than this one. This clip is just a portion of a much longer one (the longer one is a bit higher quality). A woman who was an avid player of World of Warcraft died in real life. Unable to attend her real funeral, her Warcraft friends decided to have one online (set to the solemn music). However, another rival faction heard about this, and decided to crash the funeral (in the video set to “I ain’t no Son of a Bitch”), killing all those who attended. Unprepared and outnumbered it was a one sided battle to say the least. This event generated increasingly angry discussion on the World of Warcraft forums and other fan sites, even making it to the front page of Digg, with the conversations increasingly characterized by schoolyard taunts and vocabulary. It seems particularly interesting that not only was this done, but that players felt the need to tape it and make it available for everyone to view, as if the ability to tape and broadcast were more important than the actual crashing (over 350,000 views on Youtube and nearly 2,000 comments). On the one hand I find this video tremendously funny, they even set it to music and include framing quotes, on the other I am utterly disturbed. If the point of a game is to be free of real world consequences, he or she who exploits the rules the best wins, funeral crashing is not only accepted but actually playing the game really well—the logical conclusion of these types of virtual space. Is there another space from which we can critique these rules and suspend this winner take all ethic? Or are our second lives so tangled up in our first that we have nothing left to do but laugh or condemn the audacity? Note: This post was originally published June 6, 2007, and is reprised here for new media/video games-themed week. — Editors


By Anonymous

While many single-player games may offer entertainment free of real world consequences, the massively multiplayer system is anything but consequence-free. A player's actions in the game world, social or not, depend heavily on that player's investment in the game and on his or her reasons for playing in the first place. Players that care about their social reputation or a particular type of role-playing act very differently than hyper-competitive power players or player-killers. The real issue is between those who view the game world as a real social space, subject to similar rules of etiquette and conduct, and those who see game events as completely divorced from their real world identities and lives. Either group can function happily in an MMO – the conflict here is that one group chose to interact with the other. On a related note, this reminds me of the guild that chose to hold a World of Warcraft server hostage by completing a quest chain that would open new content for all players on that server, and then refusing to actually open the content. Their reasons, in their own words: “Nobody remembers the fair and quietly intelligent people we meet in their daily lives, but everyone remembers those who ruin their day.” It's very difficult for one small group of people to get attention in a world with literally millions of players - I'm not surprised at all that the funeral video was edited and released in this way, or that it appeals to one player-type by insulting another.

In some senses, this is a wonderful clip to act as hinge between the video games week and the satire/parody week, since it provokes questions of why some things can be funny when rationally we know them to be so inappropriate (which leads into South Park and its ilk). I must admit to seeing this clip as funny, but I also worried about myself as I laughed. :-) I wish media studies had a more developed toolbox for explaining such odd reactions

“Leeroy you are just stupid as hell.” Dave Parry’s clip reminds me of the now infamous “Leeroy Jenkins” video. Here (, a group’s best-laid plans are unceremoniously undone by the impetuous Jenkins. Like Jonathan notes about the funeral crashing, the humor of viewing the doomed party is at odds with the players’ experiences. Though, with the Jenkins example, the adventurers’ fates are hardly as (potentially) sacrosanct as the virtual funeral, since dying and re-spawning are common inconveniences to MMOs, and are not online performances of sacred offline ceremonies.

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