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«media matters Battlefields of Negotiation Control, Agency, and Ownership in World of Warcraft rené glas amsterdam university press Battlefields of ...»

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8. The term MUD now stands for multi-user dungeon, domain or dimension, describing a very diverse variety of virtual worlds that are possible through the online, text-based format.

9. As Reid points out, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between the two if they contain both a fantasy setting and a strong social structure. That is because categorizing MUDs depends on the styles of interaction that they encourage, and not the way they are designed and programmed (1999: 109).

Richard Bartle famously proposed four main player types – ‘Achievers’, ‘Explorers’, 10.

‘Killers’ and ‘Socializers’ – each representing a different approach to game play (Bartle 1996, 2004). Achievers see virtual worlds as games, Socializers see them as social entertainment, Explorers view them as pastimes and Killers see them as a sport (2004: 136, 137). Players are not limited to one type: as they become accustomed to the game over time, players move from Killer to Explorer to Achiever to, ultimately, Socializer in what Bartle calls the main sequence of player type drift (2004: 165). While there certainly is some truth in these descriptions, Bartle’s approach to player types suggests that players are always in an either/or situation at any given time. In reality, players are constantly moving between different play practices and therefore play types, even during one single play session. Psychologist Nick Yee, who has conducted extensive research into player motivations, comes to a similar conclusion, pointing out that Bartle’s types force players to have primary motivations which might exclude other motivations (Yee 2005b, 2005c). Another issue with Bartle’s types is highlighted by game designer and early MMORPG commentator Raph Koster. He thinks it is strange that (representational) role-players are not among Bartle’s types even though they have a strong presence in these games: ‘under this system, they are merely a variant of socializers, and the line between in fiction chatting and out of character chatting is blurred’ (1998). While I do not wish to enter into a discussion about the different types Bartle could or should have included, Koster’s remark is interesting for the distinction he makes between in-fiction and out-of-character chatting. It reminds us that players are not just playing differently but also moving in and out of different frames of engrossment.

11. An extensive case study on ignoring group play in order to speed up progress is introduced in chapter five.

The term “casual” can mean many things in terms of game culture. As game scholar 12.

Jesper Juul points out, there is nonetheless an identifiable stereotype of the “casual player”: ‘this player has a preference for positive and pleasant fictions, has played few videogames, is willing to commit little time and few resources toward playing video games, and dislikes difficult games’ (2010: 8).

It was actually Blizzard’s own lead content designer Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan who coined 13.

the term (and subsequently caused a controversy) at the 2007 Blizzard Entertainment Conference (Paul 2010: 158).

182 battlefields of negotiation

14. Shane M. McGee, speaking during the panel on ‘The rules of play: Copyright and fair use in Machinima’, Play Machinima Law conference, Stanford University, 24 April 2009.

15. It must be noted that not all members of World of Warcraft’s participatory culture are also active players. There is a considerable amount of ex-players who still follow developments of the game and its players, as well as people with a general interest in fantasy, MMORPGs, the Warcraft series and so on. Depending on their participation level, most of them will be at the lower or tail end.

16. The notion of play as an always productive form of participation fits well with what new media scholar Mirko Tobias Schäfer calls implicit participation, a design-channelled form of participation which ’does not necessarily require a conscious activity of cultural production, nor does it require users to choose from different methods of problem-solving, collaboration, and communication with others’ (Schäfer 2011: 51).

Rather, he explains, it is ‘a design solution that takes advantage of certain habits users have’ (ibid. 51).

17. The overly optimistic views inherent in Jenkins’ work on convergence culture closely mirrors less academic Web 2.0 business manifestos on the co-creative consumer which, as media scholars Van Dijck and Nieborg have pointed out, makes it unclear if Jenkins offers a cultural or business model, as ‘the distinction between the two is rendered entirely irrelevant because [user and creator] converge beyond distinction’ (Van Dijck & Nieborg 2009).

18. A growing body of work on the appropriation of free labour by the game industry and related issues is forming (Postigo 2003, 2008; De Peuter & Dyer-Witheford 2005;

Humphreys 2005; Nieborg 2005, 2011; Kücklich 2005, 2009; Balkin & Noveck 2006;

Prügl & Schreier 2006; Taylor 2006a; Nieborg & Van der Graaf 2008; Dyer-Witheford & De Peuter 2009).

19. MMORPG designer Raph Koster sees managing an online community – whether a non-commercial MUD or commercial MMORPG – as an act of governance; ‘Just like it is not a good idea for governments to make radical legal changes without the period of public comment, it is often not wise for operators of online worlds to do the same’ (quoted in Jenkins 2006: 160).

20. In Europe, on the server zone I played, there are close to one hundred separate World of Warcraft realms, each with a unique IP address with which clients can communicate.

They are distributed over physical locations in Paris, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stockholm. The first part of each realm’s IP address refers to one of these locations, with the latter part indicating the unique realm itself. For a European realm list including dedicated data centres and IP addresses, see: http://www.wowwiki.com/EU_English_Realms_Info.

21. Blizzard defines third-party software as ‘any third-party software, including without limitation any add-on, mod, hack, trainer, or cheat, that in Blizzard’s sole determination: (i) enables or facilitates cheating of any type; (ii) allows users to modify or hack the game interface, environments, and/or experience in any way not expressly authorized by Blizzard; or (iii) intercepts, mines, or otherwise collects information from or through the game’ (2004c).

22. Hoglund eventually created a piece of third-party software called the Governor, which spied on the Warden. While it does nothing more than look at the Warden’s activities, notes it remains unknown if using the Governor will get you banned, as no bans caused by this programme have been reported (Gilbert & Whitehead II 2007). Others have argued for less-intrusive server-based detection methods (Mitterhofer, et al. 2009).

23. Mob is an umbrella term for all the creatures roaming around in the virtual world. The term is derived from “mobiles” or “mobile objects” and dates back to MUD1 (Bartle 2004: 102).

24. These so-called RP realms exist both in PvE and PvP varieties. RP-PvP realms did not exist upon the game’s release. The first RP-PvP realms were added in patch 1.8 in October 2005.

Eventually, Blizzard made it possible to migrate characters from one realm to another if 25.

certain conditions are met (including a payment of 20 euros per character). For the full official character migration FAQ, see http://www.wow-europe.com/en/info/faq/ paidcharactertransfer.html.

From wowwiki.com (http://www.wowwiki.com/Server:Agamaggan_Europe).


27. The initial game offered nine classes: the druid, hunter, mage, paladin, priest, warrior, shaman, rogue and warlock. A tenth class, the death knight, was added to the game with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion (Blizzard Entertainment 2008), and an eleventh, the monk, will be introduced in the Mists of Pandaria expansion (Blizzard Entertainment 2012). Such class types are not unique to World of Warcraft or the MMORPG genre; many of them can be found throughout fantasy culture, and most of them having been a staple in role-playing games since the early titles (McCubbin 2006).

28. The Alliance’s draenei and worgen and the Horde’s blood elf and goblin races were added to the game world with the The Burning Crusade and Cataclysm expansion packs (Blizzard Entertainment 2007d, 2010).

While the features to configure a character’s gender – or more precisely the lack of 29.

them – have been the subject of much discussion in the discipline of cultural analysis (see for instance Cassell & Jenkins 1999; Kennedy 2002; Kafai et al. 2008), this discussion is beyond the scope of this book. Research on gender in MMORPGs, including World of Warcraft, is available, however. Taylor, for instance, assesses that while the hypersexualization is the same for male and female characters, in many cases women experience more hesitation in accepting this fixed perfection, perceiving conflicting meanings instead. Many female players active in Everquest, the MMORPG investigated by Taylor, had the feeling they had to ‘bracket’ or ignore character appearances to be able to enjoy the game (2006c: 110). For more views on characters, identity play and gender issues in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs, see (Corneliussen 2008; Hagström 2008; Tronstad 2008; Massie 2011).

30. Male players especially appear prone to choose a female character as their favourite character to play. According to survey-based research by psychologist and game researcher Nick Yee, 23% of male players prefer a female character as their main character as opposed to 3% of female players preferring a male character. Coupled with the gender distribution data, this results in a 55% chance of a female character being played by a male while less than 1% of all male characters are played by a real-life

female (2005e). As one student following a game studies course I taught once put it:

‘If I'm going to play this game for such a long time, why not pick something nice to look at’. It must be noted here that in some cases, male players actively choose female 184 battlefields of negotiation players for beneficial reasons, as male players tend to help female characters more easily than they would male characters. Thus, actively or passively fooling other male players into believing you are female can actually result in rewards (Yee 2001).

31. Adding to the basic naming policies, characters in role-playing realms are not supposed to include partial or complete sentences (Inyourface, Welovebeef, Howareyou), real-world references (Britneyspears, Austinpowers, Newyork), ‘Leet’ or ‘Dudespeak’ (Roflcopter, xxnewbxx, Roxxoryou) and immersion breaking titles (Privatemike, Knightpotatoe, Masteroftheworld). These can be deemed ‘mildly inappropriate’ and, among other penalties, result in a forced name change. In most cases, players report other players for using inappropriate role-playing names but in the end, what is deemed inappropriate is left to those who enforce the naming policy rules. All examples come from the official role-playing realm policy (Blizzard Entertainment 2005a).

32. This sudden appearance in the world is actually preceded by a short, introductory “cut-scene” – a non-playable moment, often in the form of a short movie – with a voiceover introducing the race, its history and your place and goal within it. The moment this cut-scene stops, play may begin.

The primary attributes World of Warcraft incorporates and keeps track of are strength, 33.

agility, stamina, intellect and spirit. Other attributes are found on gear or through upgrades like enchantments like (ranged) attack power, critical strike rating and hit rating. All these attributes are given numerical values which, through computational calculation, result in a certain amount of health (the amount of hit points a character can sustain before it “dies”); armour (the more, the higher the chances are that you can withstand physical damage); mana (the amount of magical power for spell casting); dodge chance; critical strike chance (the chance that you inflict double damage);

hit chance and dps or damage-per-second. The importance (and even existence) of the attributes mentioned here varies between patches and expansion packs, with Blizzard constantly adjusting them for game balance purposes.

Many of World of Warcraft’s attributes and the way they compare to each other originate 34.

from classic wargaming, where the strengths and weaknesses of army units were also articulated through attributes (see for instance Fine 1983). This system allowed referees to calculate the outcome of battles on the basis of these numerical values, a process taken over by the computer in a game like World of Warcraft. Like in wargames’ units, the attribute numbers of a character will tell you much about his strength and potential weaknesses. Each class, for instance, benefits from certain attributes more than from another.

An even more dressed-down definition proposed by Aarseth for the quest game is ‘a 35.

game which depends on the mere movement from position A to position B’ (2005: 2).

36. Blizzard even accommodated players uninterested in the quests’ stories by changing the way the quest UI pop-ups function. In the initial version of the game’s design, quest text would slowly appear to players, forcing them to take the time to read it before being able to accept a quest. From patch 1.7 (September 2005) onwards, the slow scrolling quest text could be disabled, allowing players to ignore the story bits entirely. For players uninterested in the reasons why their characters were actually sent on quests, this transformed NPC quest-givers from storytellers into purely instrumental task-providers.


37. When a character dies, his ghost is transferred to the nearest graveyard. Returning the character’s ghost back from this graveyard to the spot where the dead body lies in order to resurrect it, a practice known as corpse running, is the most common way to revive a character. Some classes like the priest can also resurrect dead characters.

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