Week 22: Reading Notes

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7 Apr 2011
Week 22:
FROM TREE HOUSE TO BARRACKS—The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft
Players of multiplayer online game (World of Warcraft) was interviewed to map out
the social dynamics of guilds
oTo develop a typology of players of guilds
oTo explore player behaviours, attitudes, and opinions
oThe meanings they make, the social capital they derive, the networks they
Results players use the game to extend real-life relationships, meet new people, form
oGames encouraging some kinds of interactions while discouraging others
The growing role of code in shaping social interactions
The number of online player had risen to 37% in 2003
They are increasingly playing with others
This paper focus on the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft
This research is concerned with the social dynamics of players within the in-game
organizations known as player guilds
Social Capital and Online Games
Media have become an important part of the lives of individuals, family members, co-
workers and community members—chiefly television
The question is whether media impacts social capital—the loose connections
between relative strangers that lead to diverse networks and information streams—or
bonding social capital, which is traditional social, emotional, and substantive support
MMOs are places” in which social interaction might occur
oThey are unique because they collect and mix people pursuing goals in three-
dimensional space
oThis makes them more place like than a standard text-based chat room
WoW—populated with a range of social experiences ranging from impersonal groups
to deep relations that extend offline
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Similarly to real-world spaces, there are social rules and the equivalent of laws that
govern and impact behaviours in MMO space
Every game features “mechanics” as the incentives of gameplay—e.g.capture the
oGame mechanics and social architectures have an immense impact on the
resulting social formations and interactions within these spaces
oThey govern how large groups are and the roles necessary for group success
The structure and tule set of the game worl have a clear impact on what kinds of
people play, what they do, and how and why they interact with one another
Research Questions
What kinds of social organizations do players create in MMOs such as Wow?
indeed these games encourage the formation of persistent player associations
oThe establishment of a basic typology of guilds—their members objectives
and the groups environment, the groups size, its practices and the impact of
these variables
The research is trying to understand the effects of this particular medium on social
capital, the individuals experience within them
oWhat kinds of roles and social relationships do players develop within guilds
and what were the social consequences
Particular interest in the frequency and length of contact between
players, how much social support they found in guilds and how
invested players were in the life of their online community
How social the game is overall, how different guild types affect social
dynamics and the relationship between online relationship and their
offline counterparts
To what extent does the WoW social interface impact social interactions?
oPrevious research results: stronger connections and more social capital
overall, whereas other strands of research suggest that: users adapt
communications media quickly to manage their social connections
Group-Level Patterns
A Typology of Guilds
60% of interviewees: they belonged to a social guild
People join in guilds for social needs
An issue of personal style: the player wanted to play with others of similar personality,
real-life demographics, or even sense of humor
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The most common reason to seek a particular guild type out was to accomplish game
golas—a powerful case of the game mechanic influencing social decisions with
unintended consequences
oPlayers of small guilds seeking to join a raiding guild
Without membership, a player cannot have access to the games most challenging
oMany players at adequate levels normally join large guilds to have access to
high-end content (equipment, weapons and exciting monsters)
oSmaller guilds cannot field enough players to gain access to this content
Size Matters
Smaller guilds tend to focus on social bonds, whereas larger guilds focused more on
game goals
oBecause it became impractical for them to know well or care about each
member of a large group (same pattern in social offline groups)
Small guilds represent strong real-world bonds that have extended into WoW rather
than formed there
oPreviously unknown people were also more likely to extend their relationships
outside of WoW by talking on the telephone
oIn this case, the game functioned as a way to maintain real-world bonds
Medium size guilds: still an emphasis on social bonds, bur tiwh more members there
is a higher chance of a conflict in styles or ethics
oInstances of players being kicked out for violating guild ethics such as racist
Larger guilds: less sociability
oThere is a sudden need for formal organization, the need for leadership,
rules, attendance policies
Faction Differences
The primary conclusion is that the two factions have almost no systematic differences
in their social dynamics
Formal Practices
The most common formal practices within the guilds: the use of mission statements,
recruitment and expulsion policies, and external Web sites—more likely as guild size
Guild Churn
Guilds appeared to be fragile institutions
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