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Posts with tag sociology

15 Minutes of Fame: Anthropologist Bonnie Nardi on WoW culture and art

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

We've written before at WoW.com and even here in 15 Minutes of Fame about attempts to study World of Warcraft culture from a sociological, psychological or anthropological point of view. In all of these cases, the researchers in question have logged time playing WoW as part of their research, albeit some with greater degrees of immersive success than others.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Bonnie Nardi, a University of California-Irvine expert in the social implications of digital technologies and author of the rather blithely titled My Life as a Night Elf Priest, not only rolled the token raiding character in order to observe the curious behavior of the raiding animal -- she actually enjoys WoW in its own right. Rather than cautiously sniffing WoW culture only to generate another wide-eyed, ZOMG-look-at-this-funny-lingo report from the digital field, Nardi dove deep enough to play in four different guilds: a casual raiding guild; a raiding guild composed of fellow academics; a small, casual guild; and her own friends-and-family guild. Our two-part interview with Nardi, packed with opinion and cultural analysis, reveals a witty approach to WoW culture that successfully combines academic insight with the familiarity of a seasoned player.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

WoW.com on NPR

This Tuesday morning while everyone else was lamenting weekly maintenance, I headed down to the local NPR studios to sit in a very quiet, empty studio -- and chat about World of Warcraft with illustrious individuals in distant lands on WBUR's On Point. I joined William Sims Bainbridge (author of The Warcraft Civilization, which is available in stores today) and host Tom Ashbrook for an hour-long discussion on the meaning behind World of Warcraft.

Can we really use events in WoW predict the future? Is WoW the first real afterlife? Is the game world dangerous and addicting -- or a great place to connect with friends and co-workers?

If you're interested in catching our discussion, it's available for streaming online or you can download it (as well as past and future editions of On Point) as a podcast on iTunes.

Filed under: WoW Insider Business

Sociologists using Warcraft to predict the future of human civilization; sell books

When I was younger, I was in a perpetual war with my parents over video gaming. I suppose I still am in a way -- they still ask me when I'm going to "grow" out of them.

Because of this, I'm always on the lookout for ways to justify spending so much of my free time on my electronic hobby. Back in the days of the Super Nintendo, I insisted that I was building hand-eye coordination. Thankfully, I now have new ammunition: I am a participant in a "virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups will engage in combat over declining natural resources." One that scientists are actively studying and using to learn about our real-world society.

Those are the words of MIT Press, the publisher of a new book by sociologist Williams Sims Bainbridge, The Warcraft Civilization. The book is a product of over 2300 hours worth of game play by the author. New Scientist's Culture Lab has a fascinating interview with Bainbridge, giving insight into Warcraft and religion, Warcraft as the next afterlife, and Warcraft as a predictor of the future of Western civilization.

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Filed under: News items

"My Life as a Night Elf Priest"

A University of California Irvine anthropologist named Bonnie Nardi has been studying one of the strangest cultures known to man lately, and she's going to be presenting her findings in a book called "My life as a Night Elf Priest" -- that's right, she's been taking notes on the weird sociological experiment known as Azeroth. It sounds pretty interesting -- she's been examining the way Chinese and American players play the game (and of course the differences between them), and she's also looking into how games like WoW can bring us closer together rather than isolating us socially.

It's funny -- as a genre and a technology, MMO games are actually in the absolute earliest phases of their history. Socoiologists and psychologists have been studying real humans for thousands of years, and yet it's only in the past few decades that they've gotten access to MMO games, like little petri dishes of condensed human behavior. Nardi may be one of the first to try and scientifically examine how players use (and are affected by) this technology, but she'll definitely be far from the last.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Faith and World of Warcraft at Colorado University

Buckle your seatbelts on this one -- if you aren't concerned with the bigger picture behind a virtual world like Azeroth and would rather hear about dragons fighting each other or the latest class changes, best look elsewhere on the site. But a student at Colorado University has a theory about World of Warcraft that might sound a little out there: he believes the game is a new religion.

Not necessarily in the sense that you should skip church to raid (though lots of people probably do that anyway). But in the sense that it meets a sociologist's definition of religion: it provides community, ethics, culture, and emotion. And it's hard to argue with that: we're living proof of the community around the game, there's definitely plenty of culture and emotion, and... ethics? CU student Theo Zijderveld is proposing that even if the game itself doesn't promote ethical behavior, the push is there -- we're rewarded for doing the right thing, and often punished for doing wrong. Work with others in a group, get better loot. Camp someone's corpse, and their guildie or alt shows up to camp you.

Intriguing idea, even if it does sound like something cooked up for a college student's thesis (which is in fact what it is). It's certainly not a religion in that there is no higher power involved (unless you believe that Ghostcrawler is in fact a god) -- obviously, we all believe that everything in Azeroth was made by men and women, or at least hard-working Gnomes. But as for what playing World of Warcraft creates in us and makes us feel, those results and ideas are very close in many ways to what organized religion does. Quite a theory.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

New Daedalus data: girls heal and play elves, kids play Horde



This has been the common wisdom, or at least a stereotype, for quite some time, but apparently female players really are more likely to prefer healing than male players are. The Daedalus Project, one of my favorite sites about MMOs, has published some new results. The site focuses on sociological research about MMOs and MMO players, and among other things, the new results look at the gender and age breakdowns of how MMO players would respond to various hypothetical questions.

There were four questions asked, although one of them is only slightly applicable to WoW. For nice charts (as seen above) and full data, see the site, but I'll summarize the interesting points here, question-by-question. Note that it's possible that this data, being an aggregate of players of different MMOs, does not represent WoW well. I doubt it, however; given WoW's market dominance, most of the respondents probably are WoW players. Edit: note that in my summaries below, I'm merely point out trends, not causes. I'm not trying to say (for instance) that girls heal because they're girls; there are many other factors at play here.

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Filed under: Virtual selves

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