World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most popular massively multiplayer games (MMOs) to date, with more than 6 million subscribers worldwide. This article uses data collected over 8 months with automated “bots” to explore how WoW functions as a game. The focus is on metrics reflecting a player’s gaming experience: how long they play, the classes and races they prefer, and so on. The authors then discuss why and how players remain committed to this game, how WoW’s design partitions players into groups with varying backgrounds and aspirations, and finally how players “consume” the game’s content, with a particular focus on the endgame at Level 60 and the impact of player-versus-player-combat. The data illustrate how WoW refined a formula inherited from preceding MMOs. In several places, it also raises questions about WoW’s future growth and more generally about the ability of MMOs to evolve beyond their familiar template.
Abstract from Building an MMO With Mass Appeal
Rather than simply identifying “emergence” as a prime property of massively multiplayer online game life, a better understanding of the complex nature of player-produced culture is needed. Life in game worlds is not exempt from forms of player-based regulation and control. Drawing on ethnographic and interview work within World of Warcraft, the author undertakes initial inquiries on this subject by looking at three areas: nationalism, age, and surveillance. This case study shows systems of stratification and control can arise from the bottom up and be implemented in not only everyday play culture but even player-produced modifications to the game system itself. Due to the ways these systems may simultaneously facilitate play, there is often an ambivalent dynamic at work. This piece also prompts some methodological considerations. By discussing field site choice, the author argues that context is of utmost importance and needs to be more thoughtfully foregrounded within game studies.
Abstract from Does WoW Change Everything?
A representative sample of players of a popular massively multiplayer online game (World of Warcraft) was interviewed to map out the social dynamics of guilds. An initial survey and network mapping of players and guilds helped form a baseline. Next, the resulting interview transcripts were reviewed to explore player behaviors, attitudes, and opinions; the meanings they make; the social capital they derive; and the networks they form and to develop a typology of players and guilds. In keeping with current Internet research findings, players were found to use the game to extend real-life relationships, meet new people, form relationships of varying strength, and also use others merely as a backdrop. The key moderator of these outcomes appears to be the game’s mechanic, which encourages some kinds of interactions while discouraging others. The findings are discussed with respect to the growing role of code in shaping social interactions.
Abstract from From Tree House to Barracks
Player-created game movies have been an outlet for creative expression by World of Warcraft (WoW) players since the beta version of the game. The proliferation of players, clans, Web sites, and community forums for creating, consuming, and commenting on WoW movies is remarkable. Linking multiplayer game communities and the making of animated movies is not unprecedented. It has been a characteristic of machinima for more than a decade. In this article however, the author hopes to show that the context, content, and consumption of game movies based on massively multiplayer games raises new questions about contributions game-based performances make to player communities. The author connects the brief history of WoW movies to the history of machinima and other game movies, illustrates the variety of impulses behind WoW movies through three quickly recounted examples, and gathers together salient themes around one movie in particular: Tristan Pope’s Not Just Another Love Story.
Abstract from Storyline, Dance/Music, or PvP?
One of the pleasures of playing in the “World” of Warcraft is becoming part of its pervasive mythology. This article argues that to understand the game’s formal, aesthetic, and structural specificity, its pleasures and potential meanings, it is essential to investigate how the mythic functions. The author shows that the mythic plays a primary role in making a consistent fantasy world in terms of game play, morality, culture, time, and environment. It provides a rationale for players’ actions, as well as the logic that under- pins the stylistic profile of the game, its objects, tasks, and characters. In terms of the “cultural” environments of the game, the presence of a coherent and extensive myth scheme is core to the way differences and conflicts between races are organized. And, as a form of intertextual resonance, its mythology furnishes the game with a “thickness” of meaning that promotes, for players, a sense of mythological being as well as encouraging an in-depth textual engagement.
Abstract from Blood Scythes, Festivals, Quests, and Backstories
With the immense popularity of massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft (WoW), other media as well as game research have discovered gaming as a topic of discussion and study. These discussions, however, tend to ignore the history of both games and of game studies. This article addresses the connections between one of the old and, today, obscure forms of using computers for multiplayer gaming—the text-based Multi-User Dungeon (MUD)—and the current, highly visible and massively used graphic interface game World of Warcraft. These connections range from player style through game-play options to social interaction and player-controlled social modifiers within both types of games. The comparison is based on play, observation, and interviews with players in MUDs and in WoW.
Abstract from WoW is the New MUD