Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Online Games and Virtual Worlds



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Communities of Play:

Emergent Cultures in Online Games and Virtual Worlds


Celia Pearce



Version .06

Editorial Notes

  • An overview of what I’m trying to do here: This book is meant to be “academic but accessible.” The writing style is designed to be somewhat formal and academic yet at the same time readable and accessible, not obtuse. It is not a mass-market book like some of the recent Second Life books that have come out; but it might be comparable to something like “Guns, Germs and Steel” in that it makes an academic argument in a way that the average, reasonably well-educated reader can understand. I am also grappling with the challenge of giving people who have no prior experience with MMOGs an overview without talking down to the more knowledgeable reader. I anticipate the audience will be the following:


    • Academics interested in MMOGs and fan culture

    • A text book for MMOG design and ethnographic methods classes

    • Anthropologists and Sociologists with no prior exposure to MMOGs

    • MMOG designers their industry counterparts

    • MMOG gamers who like to read about game culture

    • An educated, curious general public
  • About 2/3 of the text is finished in “Draft” form, although I expect to do one more pass to refine further and add a few minor sentences and references.


  • The Introduction and Part V are not yet written.


Main editorial questions (from my perspective anyway):

  • Does the current sequence and flow make sense?

  • Is the tone even throughout, except whre it’s not supposed to be (Part IV)

  • Are there redundancies of ideas that seem repetitive rather than reinforcing?


Notes on formatting/style

  • A number of the references have been left out of this draft and have been noted as “REF” because I am having a lot of trouble with Endnote slowing me down horrendously; so I will add those in once the main text is completed.

  • The original thesis had to be “anglicized” for British readers, so in some places you will see single quotes, commas and quotations reversed, etc. I am de-anglicising it peacemeal as I’m writing and wil eventually do a pass for just that. The entirety of Part II has not been de-anglicized at all. I am not expecting you to de-anglicize but just wanted you to know why you are seeing such inconsistent formatting; it’s not that I’m a complete dunce.

  • Note that the “final” draft that I submit will be proofread by the publisher but not copy-edited. To whatever extent you can suggest improvements to the writing, please do.

  • Re page formats: The page formatting is as per MIT, i.e., 12 pt Palatino double-spaced with one-inch margins all around.

  • There are also editorial notes throughout where relevant

Table of Contents (REVISED 4/13/08)


Editorial Notes: The TOC does not quite jibe with the contents of the ms.
Acknowledgements
Preface (two facing pages; one page by each author)

Stephen Johnson



& one of the following (others can be reviewers)

  • Tom Boellstorff

  • T.L. Taylor

  • Janet Murray

  • George Marcus


Introduction

  • Overall description of book and its contents

  • Suggestions for different types of readers, e.g., academic, pleasure, journalists, students, etc.


PART I: Games, Community and Emergent Cultures
1. Communities of Play: Past & Present (about 15-20 pages total)

  • Multiplayer Games: The Next Big Thing Since 3500 BCE: a history of multiplayer games; a return to the “natural order of things”

  • A brief history of game research, both analog and digital

  • Definitions of the concept of community


2. Emergence

  • Principles of emergence

  • Methodologcial challenges of studying cultural emergence


3. Reading, Writing and Playing Cultures

  • Traditions in anthropology

  • Philosophical orientation towards the work: feminist ethnography, post-colonial multi-cited cyberethnography

  • Issues around writing about cultures



PART II: The Uru Diaspora
4. An Imaginary Homeland

  • History & Context: Myst, Uru and Beyond

  • The Uru Diaspora: Immigration to New Worlds

  • The Inner Lives of Avatars (Book II, Sec. 7)

  • Communities and Cultures of Play (Book II, Sec. 8)


5. Patterns of Emergence

  • Play Ecosystems (Book II, Sec. 3.2)

  • Communities of Play (Book II, Sec. 3.3)

  • The Social Construction of Avatar Identity (Book II, Sec. 3.4)

  • Intersubjective Flow (Book II, Sec. 3.5)

  • Play Styles as an Engine for Emergence (Book II, Sec. 9)

  • Productive Play (Book II, Secs. 3.6 and 10)

  • Porous Magic Circles and the “Ludisphere” (Book II, Secs. 3.7 and 11)


PART III: Method: Playing Ethnography


PART IV: The Social Construction of the Ethnographer

  • Personal account of ethnographer’s experience, written in the style of a novella

  • Chronicles the messy aspects of the research and the ways in which the community itself dictated the research method

  • Description of how I got involved in Uru re-opening, and the subsequent Uru re-closing


PART V: Beyond Uru: Communities of Play on Their Own Terms

  • The Uru closure

  • Uru’s future

  • Larger ramifications of the research

  • Implications for design and community management, and the integral relationship between the two

  • Notion of emergence as a design material

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