The Expression and Constraint of Human Agency Within the Massively Multiplayer Online Games of World of Warcraft and Eve-Online: a Comparative Case Study
Keatinge, Max (2010) The Expression and Constraint of Human Agency Within the Massively Multiplayer Online Games of World of Warcraft and Eve-Online: a Comparative Case Study. Masters thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This research aims to explore the human and nonhuman means by which human agency in MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) is governed and negotiated. In this thesis a theoretical framework incorporating three theoretical perspectives is adopted to cope with the composite virtual, technical, and social 'spaces' of MMOGs. The spaces of the MMOG are situated within Bourdieu's theories of field and capital, while the strategies and position-taking by actors within these fields are framed in a post-Foucauldian dialectic of governance, with particular emphasis on themes of control and surveillance. Finally, the complexity and agency of MMOGs in comparison to the architecture of the traditional panoptic institution, as arrays of interrelated technical objects, is accounted for by incorporating an actor network (ANT) perspective on nonhuman agency, with specific reference to Madeline Akrich's 'De-Scription of Technical Objects'. Participant observation has been selected for the methodological approach to data collection for this study, conducted in two month-long participant observation periods in two vastly different MMOGs: 'World of Warcraft' (WoW) and 'Eve-Online' (Eve). Mixed methods are used in analysis, consisting of a grounded theory approach to open coding, supported by documentary sources. Findings are discussed in comparative mode, allowing for a greater level of understanding of the human and nonhuman forms of governance and the different impact the coded game environment has upon human agency. Key findings highlight that the most significant forms of player agency and governance in each case are those are those negotiated by players, through obtaining authorial control over the coded rules that define the gameworld, despite publishers' vast power to define the gameworld through inscribing the code itself. These player-mandated practices of governance are usually framed as game play, and as they may be negotiated, their form and function are complex and shifting. This study aims to illustrate this by contrasting players' practices of governance and with coded rules in each case.
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