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

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

Celia Pearce, Artemesia

Language: English

Pages: 343

ISBN: 2:00023941

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"[Celia Pearce's] background as a games designer is evident in the way she respectfully engages readers in clear, vivid prose structured in an original and—can we say it?—entertaining way. From its thoughtful analyses of play and community to its authoritative contextualization of games and virtual worlds, this book repays study on many levels. Enjoy!"
—from the foreword by Bonnie Nardi

Play communities existed long before massively multiplayer online games; they have ranged from bridge clubs to sports leagues, from tabletop role-playing games to Civil War reenactments. With the emergence of digital networks, however, new varieties of adult play communities have appeared, most notably within online games and virtual worlds. Players in these networked worlds sometimes develop a sense of community that transcends the game itself. In Communities of Play, game researcher and designer Celia Pearce explores emergent fan cultures in networked digital worlds—actions by players that do not coincide with the intentions of the game’s designers.

Pearce looks in particular at the Uru Diaspora—a group of players whose game, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, closed. These players (primarily baby boomers) immigrated into other worlds, self-identifying as "refugees"; relocated in, they created a hybrid culture integrating aspects of their old world. Ostracized at first, they became community leaders. Pearce analyzes the properties of virtual worlds and looks at the ways design affects emergent behavior. She discusses the methodologies for studying online games, including a personal account of the sometimes messy process of ethnography.

Pearce considers the "play turn" in culture and the advent of a participatory global playground enabled by networked digital games every bit as communal as the global village Marshall McLuhan saw united by television. Countering the ludological definition of play as unproductive and pointing to the long history of pre-digital play practices, Pearce argues that play can be a prelude to creativity.

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subjected herself to numerous lengthy interviews, but also contributed to the study by doing some supplemental research and helping me navigate the group’s archives; Lynn, who generously gave of her time and attention to make sure I got what I needed, including a kick in the pants from time to time; Leesa, the mayor and founder of TGU, the group’s amazing leader, who welcomed me into her community; Wingman, my friend, guide, and navigator; Nature_Girl the Wise for being my go-to gal on all things

able to observe the system’s dynamics, as well as their outcomes, in progress. Capturing their evidence exclusively after the fact, either through surveys or forensic evidence, such as artifacts, will not allow a complete understanding of patterns of emergence. In addition, we are faced with the problem of observing the relationship between the play community and the play ecosystem, which can only really be understood as a lived practice. As Bar-Yam points out, “One of the problems in thinking

science fiction author William Gibson characterized “cyberspace” as a “consensual hallucination.” When we enter an online game or virtual world, we enter a space of the imagination, and as researchers, we take on the task of studying consensual hallucinations populated by real people, all of whom share in this performative and productive act. The ethnographer is no exception, and very quickly will find that she is drawn into the play space. Yet she also stands outside the magic circle to some

alerted Cyan and a representative of the company came and viewed the Atmosphere hood, but did not contact him further. Erik took this as an indication that it was safe to proceed. In an interview, Erik cited his favorite aspect of Uru: “the water . . . that was the genius of the hood—as well as other places (in Uru). Placing a fountain in the hood meant that people would gather there . . . because people are drawn to water— esp running water.” Architects and urban planners are aware that water,

singular) group to which a player belongs. Individuals are generally drawn to these groups by common friendships and shared play styles and play values, and often create their own web sites or other mechanisms for intragroup communication. A play community will often design its own logo or crest, create a mission statement that defines the ethos of the group, and employ a set of metarules that relate to their style of play, social conduct, or desired standing in the community, such as Leesa’s

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