A World of Warcraft Ethnography
Here is a little background of the World of Warcraft for those new to it. “World of Warcraft (commonly acronymed as WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). It is Blizzard Entertainment's fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. World of Warcraft takes place within the world of Azeroth, four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard's previous release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001. The game was released on November 23, 2004, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise. With more than 10.9 million monthly subscribers, World of Warcraft is currently the world's largest MMORPG in those terms and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG. In April 2008, World of Warcraft was estimated to hold 62% of the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) market.” (Wikipedia)
Mass multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGS) have drawn in millions of online players from many different countries across the globe into gaming worlds in which people socialize and dialogue as if they were located in the same room next to each other. This virtual relationship exists despite not being in close proximity and is an interesting concept. Also interesting is the societies that are created and upheld by these games. Imagine a man from Arkansas, a wife from China and a boy from France all “hanging out”, in a virtual sense, together as a new society. These games allow for a person to represent themselves virtually as they actually are or how they wish they could be. Most MMORPGs contain human and non human characters which allows for further diversity. In addition to the racial aspect, there is a choice of “class” options which alter how the user interacts with the game in the virtual world. This choice of class is a permanent one unless the user chooses to recreate a new character and significantly influences one's gameplay in a number of key ways. Maybe the most obvious of these is the way in which one's class affects gameplay in the role of combat, an aspect of most games. A player's role in nearly all MMORPGs is centered of the concept of how they support a group in combat. In every group there are healers and warriors. Warriors are the front line soldiers, the hack and slash fighters, they are the shield that protects their groups from harm. Healers are near polar opposites of warriors, they keep every alive and ready to keep fighting, they essentially support and supplement others. Accounting for this vast difference in functionality of these classes, it indicates some self projection of one's idea of their identity when choosing a role. There is a clear relationship between one's social perception of one's self and the class chosen, possibly even some gender bias is present in class representation.
Largely populated virtual online environments like World of Warcraft (WoW) are not just entertaining places to game, they are also a good place to examine social psychology. Gender bias is not by any means a new subject of interest, it has been the target of research for many people. In general, it is accepted that men and women tend to treat each other differently in games and are also motivated by other reasons. “The differences in MMOG player gender, typically biased in favor of the overwhelming male majority, even reflect in the real world economic market of MMOG characters in which male avatars fetch loftier prices than females of the same level.” (Castronova) There is a tangible link between gender and class choice and the motivation behind it.
Although maintaining a level head during combat, being able to hold concentration for long instances of time and having good hand-eye coordination are all desired traits of a good a gamer, Taylor points out that “chatting, connecting...
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