Emergent Perspectives on Multiplayer Online Games: : A Study of Discworld and World of Warcraft
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AbstractThis thesis is a study of gaming in multiplayer online games. On the overall scale, it focuses on how the players, the game medium and the producers work together as a system. On a more concrete level, it consists of smaller empirical analyses, primarily focusing on the players' use of the games and the developers' strategies when creating them. The study is comparative and consists of two cases, the MUD Discworld and the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The methodological approach is a combination of media ethnography and structural analysis of the games.
Viewed as a system, a multiplayer online game consists of a specific relationship between producers, users and the medium itself. Designing such a game is a collaborative process where the users and the developers work together as a whole. The relationship is not balanced with regard to influence, as the designers make, by far, the most important decisions. The players do, however, influence the medium in several ways: first, through the possibility of creating new game conventions; second, by influencing how the designers plan further development of the game; and third, by enhancing the technology through inventions like mods. In this respect, the rules of the game are not elements embedded into a fixed game design, but dynamic elements over which the players and developers are negotiating. The aim with this thesis has been to explore this relationship empirically and theoretically, to uncover some of the mechanisms it relies on. The empirical analyses show how the power relation between the players and developers are only partly manifested in game design and that socially instigated rules and conventions play an equally important role.
This thesis also challenges some of the theoretical concepts of the player found within game studies. In general, it provides a more nuanced description of how different motivation factors influence playing practices, which again influence the development of gaming conventions and game design.