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Playing on the edge

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Presentation given at IR11.+

Presentation given at IR11.+

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  • Much interest in mmos and mmo communities Productive, away from passive consumer – creating norms, intricate practices for organizing themselves, diving goods and keeping dicipline. Emergent play. In this presentation I will look at player practices in WoW in realtion to the design. The title is not about the edgy play that Faltin eller Stefano/kerr presented, which is on the edge of the norms – but instead a kind of play that is on the edge of the design.
  • ” Empirical ontology” aka the game as played This is a bit of a disclaimer, to position myself. Egefeldt and Nielsen list 3 types of approaches: Rules, experience and culture. I guess I fall into the culture part as I look at the metaculture of WoW. Looking at how it is played, and defining it’s boundaries and play based on what the players actually do. STS background – wont say too much about it. But its worth mentioning : Interpretative flexibility: Technologies have the potential to be used in many different ways. Its not a linear progression from prod to user. Many times users have different ideas, they use the flexibility : like SMS, MEANING as part of the creation No apriory differentiation between designer and user: Because of this we need to investigate who is actually creating the artefact. If the designer made a lamp, but it is used as a toilet cleaner – who is actually the designer? The one making the artefact? That means, need to look at use. So how to conceptualize design and use, or gamedesign and gameplay?
  • Since script struggles to really capture the users activities, I use it in combination with the domestication framework. Cognitive: Learning Practical: Routines, systems Symbolic: Meaning Seeing the potential for a collective practice, individual/groupbased understandings of appropriation
  • What type of material I gathered: journal, chatlog, videorecordings, just being at the various sites that were in use: blogs, forums
  • I will focus on just one of these subsets: Raiding To show how that particular playstyle is performed in different ways
  • My focus here Emergence to mainstream is both a player and designchange. From a few percent to the majority of players either involved in raiding or using raidinstances. Raiding starts when the character has reached its maximum level, and can only be further enhanced by gaining magical items – which incidentally is kept by these really large and hard-to-beat monsters. So, the idea behind raiding is that you get several players together in order to defeat a really big and tough monster, for a really big and phat reward. So, r aids are defined as groups of players banding together that are large then 5. What size such raidgroups are have varied depending on the content the game has put foward, but for the last few years its been groups of 10 or 25. Raiding as a playing phenomenon - first came about in the MMO Everquest where some players decided that if they just got enough people together in game, perhaps they could kill some of the allmighty dragons that were about. This was not intended from the designers, so it started out as an emergent type of play (Malaby 2009?). In WoW however, it has been been part of the design from day one – and as more and more content is added it has been modelled so that more and more players should have access to this – making it one of the games biggest selling points. While raiding and raiding communities initially was seen as an elite activity, it is now a commonplace activity. In the last 3 years it have gone from a primarily powergamer type of play, to something engaging a large amount of the playerbase. Thought it seems that the instrumental type of play that was promoted by powergamers, have been normative and is defining for all those involved (Taylor 2008)
  • Å spille var Tidsfordriv / alternativ til TV – det skulle ikke ta presedens. Flere hadde lang historie bak seg, så det var et bevisst valg. Ønsker å se content. Nytt innhold og endringer som de vil se og oppleve. En måte å være sosial på. En informant hadde fast onsdagspilling der han hadde kontakt med barndomsvenner fra andre landsdeler, par som spilte sammen, venner og søsken Guildet Venner av venner: Måte å inviteres på Mer tilfeldige rammer: Raiding ikke nødv. Til faste tider. Ikke sanksjoner mot de som ikke kan møte opp. Gjerne allianser med andre guild for å få nok folk. Sterke RL bånd: Forum, skype etc. brukes til å holde kontakt. Bryllupsbilder, RL meets etc. Ressurser utenfor spillet På eget initiativ: Ikke regler i guildet Foretrekker å spørre andre: heller enn å søke utenom, liker gjerne å følge med likevel
  • The frustration of struggeling with a game design
  • ENSIDIA Å spille var : Utfordring Konkurranse - ingen greie om at ”må ikke ta over RL” selv om alle påpekte at det ikke tok så mye tid som mange trodde. Er ikke logget på 24/7 Guildet Søknad for å bli medlem – alle hadde lang erfaring bak seg fra prestigefylte guild, gjerne også hatt kontakt med folk i Ensidia. 3-4 siders app. Krever ca 100% tilstedeværelse, raidtider bestemmes av ranking – nytt innhold, alt er på maks. Folk tar ut fridager. Når på farm, et par timer i uken. Mål om å være best i verden – sier seg selv at det preger guildet. Alle påpekte at det var gode venner, kjernen har spilt sammen i mange år og det er mye tøys på VT. Likevel, prestasjon går over alt. Ressurser utenfor spillet: Ingen krav fra guildet, forventet at du stiller så godt forberedt som mulig: Ofte ikke klart når de møter kontent. Tar ikke andres ord for gitt. Prøve selv. Var i stor grad de som skrev slike guider/strategier. Mange lesere – kjendiser. Ensidia.com som social networking site
  • Ill quickly explain my theoretical framework
  • There are many scripts in raiding, including each individual encounter. But looking broadly at it, I have here identified scripts that relate to the community aspects They are by and large followed by the player groups. However, this design does cause some trouble. The way in which the players appropriate the game, how they domesticate it – additional scripts are created.
  • There are many scripts in raiding, including each individual encounter. But looking broadly at it, I have here identified scripts that relate to the community aspects They are by and large followed by the player groups. However, this design does cause some trouble. The way in which the players appropriate the game, how they domesticate it – additional scripts are created.
  • Som egenfeldt boken sier: både samhold og konflikt Overkommet felles utfordringer Tilbrakt mye tid sammen Både online og offline Vanskelig å kombinere vennlig atmosfære med kompetitiv spilling: hvordan skal en takle at gode venner ikke holder helt mål? Ulike meninger om hvordan nå målet : forlater guild, splittelser, merger – alle historiene er full av dem

Playing on the edge Playing on the edge Presentation Transcript

  • Playing on the edge Users, design and communities in MMORPG. Kristine Ask PhD Student Centre for Technology and Society www.kristineask.com
  • Appropriating World of Warcraft
    • My approach:
      • ” Empirical ontology” or
      • the game as played
      • Interpretative flexibility
      • No apriory differentiation
      • between designer and user
    • How do player practices and design relate in WoW?
  • Domestication
    • Silverstone et al (1992):
      • The home as the prime context for media
    • Sørensen & Lie (1996):
      • Domestication as a framework for appropriation of technology in general.
        • Cognitive
        • Practical
        • Symbolic
    • Sørensen (2006):
      • Domestication as a collective practice
  • Methodology
    • 1 year ethnographic study of a player community in World of Warcraft (WoW)
      • Between 20 and 50 hours play pr week
    • Interviews with 19 WoW players at varying levels of progression
  • One design, many ways of playing
    • WoW: A platform
      • Levling/Questing
      • PvP
      • Arena
      • Twinking
      • AH-ing
      • Achievements
      • Roleplay
      • Chatting
      • Raiding
    • Williams et al (1996):
      • RP-guild
      • Social-guild
      • PvP-guild
      • Raiding-guild
  • Raiding
    • Large groups of players fighting challenging monsters
    • From emergence to mainstream
      • Set times
      • Team effort
      • Complicated
      • Little reward
      • for much input
      • Organized
  • Domesticating raiding
    • The same design challenges were dealt with differently
    • All informantas were involved with raiding
    • Divided into three groups:
    • Casual: Relaxed
    • Softcore: Combining
    • Hardcore: Competative
  • Casual
    • Playing was (symbolic)
      • Killing time
      • Want to see content
      • A way to be social
    • The guild (practical)
      • Friends of friends
      • Relaxed, use of alliances
      • Strong real life ties
    • Learning (cognitive)
      • On own initiative
      • Prefer to ask others
    • ” I was in a raid last week, but had to interrupt as one [of the players] had a little one who fell out of bed. It happens”.
    • ” I experience a good raidingenvironment in the guild. I like to read up [on strategies] in advance, but at the same time I will ally myself with a ”mentor” if it’s a new instance. Preferably of the same class … Get to hear a bit about what happens there and when it happens. Have also mentored new people myself. I think its really nice and very social!”
  • Softcore
    • Playing was (Symbolic)
      • Killing time
      • A challenge
    • The guild (practical)
      • Had to apply to become member, friends got in easier
      • 4 nights pr week, 50% attendance requirement
      • Goal of being in the server’s top 20
      • Want to balance RL and gametime
    • Learning (cognitive):
      • Is required to read strategies before raids
      • Forums used as a place to discuss in game events as well as random stuff
    • I have enjoyed being here [in the guild]. Most of the people are laidback, but still take the raiding semi-seriously. People can talk shit and usually don’t take it [bad] if there is some friendly mocking around. … But, because it’s a friendly guild I realize that the raiding isn’t pro and sometimes it also doesn’t feel so nice.
    • ” If I can’t figure stuff out for myself or if my friends are out of ideas. There’s only one place to look; elitistjerks.com. Well it’s the only forum I found, where most of the ppl know what they are talking about. Sure you can look at other places but there you have to screen out 90% of the posts”
  • Hardcore
    • Playing was (symbolic):
      • Challenging
      • Competition
    • The guild (practical)
      • Apply for membership
      • Requires ca 100% attendance, raidtimes decided by progress
      • Goal: Be in the world elite
    • Learning (cognitive):
      • No formal rules from the guild. It’s expected that everyone is at their peak.
      • Had their own theories about how to do things, and were among those who produced guides etc.
    • ” Ensidia’s players are pretty much hand picked from the entire playerbase itæs the creme de la creme so to say”
    • ” If it wasn’t for the fanbase I’m quite sure a lot of us wouldn’t be playing anymore. … it’s a bit scary that whatever I write, I’ll have 100k people reading it”
    • ” To be hardcore haha! It’s not what most people think. We play in a hardcore guild, but dont have to play 24/7 to make it work. It’s almost a mathmatical formula behind it all; The better the guild = the faster you can do X,Z etc”
  • Scripts and user scripts
    • Akrich (1992):
    • Script
      • A semiotic approach to user/technology relationships
      • Ideas about the user is materialised in the design
      • The design contains "ques" for use
      • Problem:Design heavy
    • Gjøen and Hård (2002): User script
      • Users create other scripts by giving new meaning to artefacts
      • Problem: Individual readings have little effect on the "general" script
  • Scripts in raiding
    • Size: 10 or 25 players
      • Must be a large group
    • Continuity: Resets weekly
      • Must repeat weekly
    • Time intensive: Even when ”on farm” it takes hours to clear
      • Must be dedicated
    • Synchronous: Requires everyone to be online at the same time
      • Must be organized
    • Difficulty: The same for everyone
      • Must be of equal skill-level
  • User-scripts in raiding
    • Must be a large group
      • Make alliances (Casual), recruits more (Softcore), small group with high attendance (Hardcore)
    • Must repeat weekly
      • When enough people (Casual), keeps plugging on (Softcore), effective to save time (Hardcore)
    • Must be dedicated
      • When it suits them (Casual), punished if not attending (Softcore), removed if not attending (Hardcore)
    • Must be organized
      • No real structure (Casual), many meetings and much effort (Softcore), strict hierarchy (Hardcore)
    • Must be of equal skill-level
      • Dont care (Casual), attempts mentorships and training (Softcore), if you are not the best you are out (Hardcore)
  • Cooperation and conflict
    • Overcome shared challenges
    • Much shared time
    • Both online and offline relations
    • Difficult to combine a friendly attitude with competative gaming. Is it a choice between the two?
    • Difference of opinion of how to reach their goals
  • Final words
    • The Casual, Softcore and Hardcore domesticated the game in different ways
    • Created user-scripts that were local for that particular group
    • Instrumetal play as tool