The last issue of academic journal Game and Culture is focused on World of Warcraft. Lots of good papers here, for instance:
Nicolas Ducheneaut, Nick Yee, Eric Nickell, and Robert J. Moore
Building an MMO With Mass Appeal: A Look at Gameplay in World of Warcraft
Abstract: World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most popular massively multiplayer games (MMOs) to date, with more than 6 million subscribers worldwide. This article uses data collected over 8 months with automated “bots” to explore how WoW functions as a game. The focus is on metrics reflecting a player's gaming experience: how long they play, the classes and races they prefer, and so on. The authors then discuss why and how players remain committed to this game, how WoW's design partitions players into groups with varying backgrounds and aspirations, and finally how players “consume” the game's content, with a particular focus on the endgame at Level 60 and the impact of player-versus-player-combat. The data illustrate how WoW refined a formula inherited from preceding MMOs. In several places, it also raises questions about WoW's future growth and more generally about the ability of MMOs to evolve beyond their familiar template.
illiams, Nicolas Ducheneaut, Li Xiong, Yuanyuan Zhang, Nick Yee, and Eric Nickell
From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft
Abstract: A representative sample of players of a popular massively multiplayer online game (World of Warcraft) was interviewed to map out the social dynamics of guilds. An initial survey and network mapping of players and guilds helped form a baseline. Next, the resulting interview transcripts were reviewed to explore player behaviors, attitudes, and opinions; the meanings they make; the social capital they derive; and the networks they form and to develop a typology of players and guilds. In keeping with current Internet research findings, players were found to use the game to extend real-life relationships, meet new people, form relationships of varying strength, and also use others merely as a backdrop. The key moderator of these outcomes appears to be the game’s mechanic, which encourages some kinds of interactions while discouraging others. The findings are discussed with respect to the growing role of code in shaping social interactions.
Torill Elvira Mortensen
WoW is the New MUD: Social Gaming from Text to Video
Abstract: With the immense popularity of massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft (WoW), other media as well as game research have discovered gaming as a topic of discussion and study. These discussions, however, tend to ignore the history of both games and of game studies. This article addresses the connections between one of the old and, today, obscure forms of using computers for multiplayer gaming--the text-based Multi-User Dungeon (MUD)--and the current, highly visible and massively used graphic interface game World of Warcraft. These connections range from player style through game-play options to social interaction and player-controlled social modifiers within both types of games. The comparison is based on play, observation, and interviews with players in MUDs and in WoW.