Living in a World Of Warcraft: The Complex Sociality of Virtual Worlds
Through the convergence of gaming, the internet and Web 2.0 technologies, the virtual worlds of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) have emerged: complex new social and cultural environments that bring with them tremendous opportunities for learning. This convergence of contexts, a defining feature of new media, combines the potential sociality of the internet with the fun and challenge of gaming, blurring the lines between entertainment, play, information and socialisation (de Freitas & Griffiths, 2008, p.11). Through fantasy-styled role-playing MMOG (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW), I will explore evidence of the benefits and drawbacks of these new forms of
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The virtual worlds of MMOGs - such as WoW's Azeroth - are “known for their peculiar combination of designed 'escapist fantasy' and emergent 'social realism'” (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006, p.887). Indeed, opportunities for socialisation in virtual worlds are incredibly diverse, evidenced by the unusual records WoW holds for the “Most People at a Virtual Funeral” and “Largest Virtual Beer Festival” (Guinness World Records, 2012). Real-world issues can impact the virtual world too, exemplified by WoW's annual “Running of the Gnomes”, where low-level pink-haired gnome avatars – most created or “rolled” specifically for the event - run through dangerous terrain to a designated location and, by grouping together, “form a heart for breast cancer awareness” (Iserloth, 2012). The event raises money for the Cleveland Clinic for vaccine research, and this year exceeded the $1,000 goal (O'Neal, 2012). Such events epitomise the unique social culture of MMORPGs: impervious to the physical boundaries of real-world events, creative player-instigated socialisation takes full advantage of the flexible social environment of the virtual world.
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