Player negotiated digital multiplayer game experiences
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Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2016 Dr. Mitchell Owen Harrop
This thesis covers the negotiation of rules and experiences by players of digital multiplayer games. An examination of existing literature found that overall contemporary games studies can be seen to suffer from an over-emphasis on what mentalities and motivations players bring to games, rather than how they negotiate and change their experiences during play and over longer periods of time. To address these gaps, data was gathered in three qualitative studies that utilised interviews, observations, game paratexts and the researcher’s own experiences. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2006), Fine’s (1983) version of Goffman’s (1974) frame analysis was used to gain insight into the gathered data. The first of the three studies was exploratory, examining the case of Defence of the Ancients (DotA). DotA was a game modification that went through many versions and was selected for its known complexities in how players framed their playing experiences and utilised different social rules for play. The second study concerned the negotiation of loot distribution (in-game items) in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW). The final study focused primarily on fabrications such as pranks and farcical behaviours. Such activities were important to how players framed their changing gameplay across a multitude of games. As a core contribution, Fine’s version of frame analysis was used to explore how individuals fleetingly frame their game playing in a multitude of ways such as serious competitions, casual events, pranks and learning experiences. The nature of game technology was influential in this process and players often appealed to the form of the technology in their negotiations, even searching for a voice of an “absent designer” (Lantz-Andersson & Linderoth, 2011) as a rationale for their actions. Furthermore, such oscillating frames could operate under a pretence awareness context (Glaser & Strauss, 1964), not only between individuals, but also between different enacted selves. For example, an experienced player teaching a new player game mechanics and acting under the pretence they had not seen the location of their pupil’s avatar, thus effectively balancing their social and ludic roles of teacher and competitor respectively.
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