Mortal Voyage: An Ethnography

This is the final paper of four that I wrote for my final course in Cultural Anthropology.

Once considered the realm of the socially inept, video games have become a significant source of entertainment that rivals Hollywood in sales (Chatfield, 2009).  With over two-thirds of American households playing video games, and nearly two-thirds of those playing socially, clearly these attitudes are outdated and require recalibration (ESA, as cited by Barnett & Coulson, 2010).  One type of game, the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG or MMO), is expressly designed with social activity in mind.  These games often have both large- and small-scale groupings of members who play together or have similar ideals.  One of these groups, founded in 2007, is the Mortal Voyage Permadeath Guild (MV) in the game Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO).  Identity formation and role-taking will be analyzed through symbolic interactionism to explore the world inhabited by these “Mortals.”

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Online Gaming: Anonymous Communication

Online Gaming: Anonymous Communication


“Drink pots if you got ‘em [sic].  I’m down to echoes and having trouble keeping the tank healed.”  The previous statement was recorded during a session of Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMO).  Each of the words in the statement is a recognizable term in English, though the usage is not customary.  Each segment of society has its own language and jargon for the world around it.  Online gaming is no exception, and while some terms, such as “tank” are common across an entire genre (MMOs), others like “echoes” are specific to one game or another.  Language, however, is not only about the words that are used, but a number of details, some more subtle than others, which provides the context necessary to understand a particular utterance.  With the understanding that not all potential readers readily understand gaming terminology, and to minimize the amount of space spent in explanation of terms, each highlighted term is explained in the Glossary of Terms prior to the Reference page.  By analyzing several hours of communication taking place within the contexts of two very different video games, one can discover the differences and similarities between the languages of each of the games and the general population. Continue reading

MMO Free-to-Play vs Paid

I thought about typing up all the differences between the games for paid subscription, “premium” (typically spending some money, but not a subscription) and free, but then I realized that just linking the information would be easier and more effective… especially once I realized that SWTOR makes it freakin’ impossible to understand. Continue reading

Free-to-Play Hour 2

So today, I’d like to talk about instances. As I may have mentioned in my previous post, I love that DDO is totally instanced. It means that not only are you (and your party) the only people fighting your baddies, you can also determine how difficult you want that adventure to be, and because of the inherent stability of the adventure, you can feel free to complete it as you like. I’ve made many characters with zero fighting ability because I knew that my guildmates would be there to kill things and I could just be a straight-up pacifist healer. You can also go through some dungeons without killing a thing (and get extra XP for it to boot!) if your rogue is a good sneak or your arcane can cast Invisibility. There are many ways to get through an adventure, and it is rarely as simple as “run in, shoot everything as you see it” as it seems to be in most of these other games. So… on to the 2nd hour! Continue reading

The Free-to-Play MMO Gauntlet

It’s been a while, huh? I’ve been very busy with a full plate of gaming (Black Ops 2 multiplayer, NCAA Football 13 dynasty, Madden 13 coach career, & Epic Mickey 2 are the typical ones right now), an official college course and two Coursera courses, a three year old and a short vacation to the in-laws. I am currently planning yet another final paper using gaming as the focus (in this case, the linguistic analysis of Black Ops II players), and briefly considered a comparison. The language used by gamers is different depending on the context, such as competitive vs cooperative, shooter vs MMO. I thought I might do a comparison between Black Ops and my former Permadeath guild in DDO. In Black Ops, a player is not likely to ever play with that group again, unless they are friends or added to the friends list. In DDO, our guild never met in person, but we still got to know one another well enough, even with aliases, and had friendships come from it. It is not surprising then how infrequently hostile, offensive, or abusive language (like that common in Call of Duty multiplayer) was heard in DDO. The mask of anonymity can lead to actions that someone might otherwise oppress. Continue reading