World of Warcraft 101
December 6, 2005 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Games for the Web: Ethnography of Massively Multiplayer On-line Games Students of Trinity University's Communications department wrote their term papers on various issues that come up in the MMORPG, World of Warcraft. I'd like to take that class!
posted by BuddhaInABucket (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
via Boing Boing
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2005

that is kinda funny, I am planning on doing something similar next semester as an anth independent graduate study.
posted by edgeways at 12:32 PM on December 6, 2005

I appreciated this post.
posted by elderling at 12:34 PM on December 6, 2005

I hereby coin the term "MOGology" for the study of multiplayer online games. In addition to ethnography, it includes economics, psychology, gerontology, and more.
posted by neuron at 12:38 PM on December 6, 2005

Cool. The first one I read (on customer service) sounded more of a screed than a paper, but the Prisoner's Dilemma paper is decent thus far.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:39 PM on December 6, 2005

I really enjoyed the World of PeaceCraft (pdf).

Recently downloaded the trial version and am happy that it will expire in 8 more days; I am starting to feel my inner nerd dorkily nerd it's way to the surface of my carefully affected stoic hipsterism.
posted by dobie at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2005

This is some pretty dry but decently written stuff. Having taken a turn at gaming journalism, it certainly beats anything out there from the hedge-researchers.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:53 PM on December 6, 2005

Is WOW something that adults would be into, or is it more oriented to kids?
posted by xammerboy at 1:17 PM on December 6, 2005

I think that I read somewhere that the average age of a WoW player is in the mid-to-late twenties. They have something like two million subscribers at this point so you really do find all sorts. That being said, I turned off the general chat pretty damn quick after suffering the endless accusations and claims using the term 'n00b'.
posted by dobie at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2005

Virgin demographic remains steady at 100%.
posted by bardic at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2005

If you like this kinda thing then check out, it focuses on socio-economic issues within games such as WOW, Eve-Online, 2nd Life, etc.

xammer I am 26 and enjoy WOW much. The population seems to be pretty spread out, but the general chat in some of the areas can lower your IQ by a few points, (Garona Horde Barrens chat is some of the funniest shit ever sometimes) . I have also played all the Warcraft games from back in the 90's as well, as it fits in with all of that really well. All said, the game is pretty simple to play, as I have seen an occasion or two where a player has had their 4 year old playing with them. A lot of times it seems like the game has nothing but 14 year olds running it based on some o the chat. But it's still fun as hell.

On the other hand I also play Eve Online which is about a thousand times more complex than WOW, and is totally different. The game has a more mature player base, is full of greifers becuase of the PvP inherent in the game, and is more rewarding and frustrating becuase of the amount of time it takes to accomplish things in Eve. Most of the players that have left WOW for Eve say that WOW is made ffor 8 year olds, but all in all the games are 2 totally different creatures.

If you want a nice RPG game that's fun and doesn't have monthly charges try Guild Wars

When Dungeons and Dragons Online comes out I will be buying a subscription for that to try out.
posted by daHIFI at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2005

Is WOW something that adults would be into, or is it more oriented to kids?

I'd say that the target market is in the 18-35 bracket, actually. The graphics are cartoonish (big hands, etc.), but the situations and characters are meant to appeal to those of us who grew up reading sword and sorcery books (Tolkien, Eddings). Of course, you'll have to be willing to step over social barrier that invisibly divides the "cool kids" from the "geek kids."

Do I play? Nah. I give my $14.99 a month to City Of Heroes / City of Villains and one MMO subscription ought to be more than enough for anyone with a job, a family and a life.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2005

For fear of being pigeonholed as a video game nerd, I've been playing World of Warcraft off and on since it started a year ago. I believe the current numbers are 4.5 million worldwide subscribers with over 1 million in North America. I've been fairly convinced that this game is the break-out MMORPG to bring the genre to a wider mainstream audience, but it has yet to be seen how successful it will actually be.
posted by Helix80 at 1:51 PM on December 6, 2005

I took a college class called "The History of Computer Game Design" last year. It was a great class.

One week we held discussion section in-game in Asheron's Call from our respective dorm rooms. One lecture consisted of us watching our professor play WoW, ostensibly to showcase narrative techniques in MMORPGs but really just because he needed the Whirlwind Sword.

There was also a "lab" filled with old game consoles for "research." I even got to write papers on Pac-Man and NFL Blitz. It was actually very educational too, and the only lecture I've never skipped.
posted by TunnelArmr at 1:52 PM on December 6, 2005

Virgin demographic remains steady at 100%.

Just because you can't comprehend the simplistic beauty of a Night Elf finding love with his Level 12 mage Orcish bride in a universe that transcends such corporeal constraints like clear skin and the ability to not wear sweat pants every day...


Maybe I'm just an old fashioned romantic...
posted by dobie at 1:57 PM on December 6, 2005

from World of Peacecraft: "During game play, I observed Alliance players using leetspeak to distract Horde players during combat. I also fell victim to such a plot. While I attempted to decipher the leet text
on my screen, I was taken out by a level 60 rogue who had been waiting in stealth mode.

I don't buy it, and this is the problem with qualitative research. Coincidence (player gets taken out by rogue while trying to decifer l33tsp34k) is passed off as correlation, and remains unquestioned, even though such a ploy ("ok, I'm gonna shout in l33t, you look for people who are trying to read it and backstab") is almost impossible to pull off in reality.

bardic: "Virgin demographic remains steady at 100%."

I'm constantly amazed that his stereotype of the gaming industry remains now that games are so mainstream.

The simplest refutation of this falacy is how many raids I'm on that are interrupted because someone's wife/husband, kids or boy/girlfriend is pulling them away from the computer.

Fuck, didn't you see Revenge of the Nerds? Don't you know that we don't waste our brains thinking about sports and being cool so we can have more time to think about having sex?
posted by illovich at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2005

Thanks for the answers on the age question. I'm going to check some of these out.
posted by xammerboy at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2005

illovitch: I don't buy it, and this is the problem with qualitative research. Coincidence (player gets taken out by rogue while trying to decifer l33tsp34k) is passed off as correlation, and remains unquestioned, even though such a ploy ("ok, I'm gonna shout in l33t, you look for people who are trying to read it and backstab") is almost impossible to pull off in reality.

So, I'm biased here because I'm wrapping up an ethnographic study of WoW myself for my senior thesis, but I'd say what you have identified is the problem with bad qualititative research. Good qualitative research explains the meanings of actions based on a complex and subtle understanding of the dynamics at play. It's not easy, and in writing my final paper is something I worry about quite a bit, but striving for thick (and accurate) descriptions of situations is a big part of what makes this style of research meaningful.

Though I hope the 100% virgin thing is meant in jest, there's good data to suggest that it's patently false and we really should move past it as a stereotype. Nick Yee has been doing some excellenet quantitative work around MMOG's over the past few years. As an anthropology groupie, I think we have a lot to add to the discussion, but he nails this point in his discussion about people who play with people they know in real life.

The punchline of his article is: "About 80% of players are playing with someone they know in RL on a regular basis."

So the vision of people who spend time in online worlds as somehow avoiding real life is a dangerous fallacy that needs to get stamped out as soon as possible. It's just not true.

(Also, I'm finding in my research that having people you know in the game is having a profound affect on sociality, which is why the "gamers are anti-social" meme really rubs me the wrong way. The fact that they are inherantly social people is a main part of what defines sociality in WoW.)
posted by heresiarch at 3:00 PM on December 6, 2005

I'm 35 and play WoW. I only play about 5-8 hours a week, at the very most (occaisionally a few more if the wife's out of town...). I get bored with it from time to time and sometimes don't play for a week or so.

It's lots of fun - compelling and addictive. I like that it's fairly easy, too once you get the hang of it.

The fantasy world they set it in is creative and original. Not a typically Goth mideval setting, much brighter and cartoony, which appeals to me.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:07 PM on December 6, 2005

There's the old adage that says: "the gamer will never be pleased" ...I think Socrates said that...Actually I just made it up, but it accurately summarizes the plight that many a trying game developer finds herself in when trying to develop a game that will satisfy their players.

posted by mrgrimm at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2005

posted by Spacelegoman at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2005

Thank you spacelegoman, for making me shoot Pepsi out my nose.

posted by lazaruslong at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2005

Hmm. Random quote from the first blog I looked at:

"I don't think that there is much strategy involved in group play in Warcraft, at least from my experience."

Granted this author didn't group much because she didn't like it, but I think she seriously missed out on the true nature of group experiences on WoW.

Then she goes on to relate how she left a friendly guild she was in because they had "Lightening" in their name when "Lightning" was the more appropriate word. After snarking about their poor command of the English language, she makes an irritating to/too fault a few sentences later.

Please, someone point me to which of these have some good intellectually stimulating material here, with a true understanding of the game. I'm kind of stabbing at random.
posted by beth at 5:17 PM on December 6, 2005

I found the one on sexism the most interesting. The Prisoner's Dilemma one is good too, but sort of grabbing at straws.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:30 PM on December 6, 2005

WTS [Alumnus Exam Notes of the Eagle] cheaper than AH!!
posted by ab3 at 9:54 PM on December 6, 2005

Thank you spacelegoman, for making me shoot Pepsi out my nose.

If you were actually drinking Pepsi at the time, then this statement is much less special.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:50 AM on December 7, 2005

Let me second the "virgin" stereotype. Those who continue to throw it out there for the sake of humor are probably those who spend a whole afternoon watching a bunch of men in armor run at each other, slapping each other on the behind, and taking glory in the destruction of the opposing team. I mean, has everyone lost any self-reflection ability?

I am 35, married, play WoW a few hours a week (Yabe on Feathermoon), and probably have slept with more women than everyone in this thread combined. Unless some of you stop with the video-game stereotypes, you'll end up the brunt of one yourself someday. These things have a habit of biting you in the ass.

I heard over 40% of WoW players are female anyway.
posted by Dantien at 10:40 AM on December 7, 2005

« Older An Unlikely Friendship   |   Timelapse Typeface Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments