World of Warcraft and Getting out into the World

During the summer break of 2010, back when I was a 13-year-old student about to start his first year in high school, I decided to start playing World of Warcraft. I had no prior experience with a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) nor even the basic knowledge to understand the lore of the game. I chose to play in the Horde only because the idea of creating my own Orc seemed tempting, as they were bound to become fearsome warriors or living shields that would protect allies from danger. Continue Reading

Walter Ong’s World of Warcraft

Orality-Literacy Theory and Player Experience

Unfortunately, Walter Ong, S.J., an important rhetorical scholar, died on 12 August 2003, slightly more than one year before the 23 November 2004 initial release of Blizzard Entertainment’s MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW). Thus, we will never know whether Father Ong would have rolled a holy paladin or a discipline priest. Despite this, orality-literacy theory, of which he was one of the primary architects, can illuminate the player experience of WoW just as much as it shed light on the Homeric and other oral-traditional epics to which it was originally applied. The connection is through similarities in how audiences encounter what scholars refer to as “tradition” and players as “lore”. In this essay, I will show that the mechanisms by which players encounter lore in games follows a narrative and experiential pattern similar to how audiences encountered traditional mythology in oral societies, a subject on which Walter Ong did pioneering work. For the purposes of this essay, references to World of Warcraft are to Patch 6.2.3 of the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Much of this analysis would apply to similar game universes, but given the sheer size of its subscriber base and traction in popular culture, WoW is a useful example. Continue Reading

Procedural Ethics

Expanding the Scope of Procedures in Games

In this article I put forward the idea of procedural ethics. Procedural ethics is a way of studying videogames, videogame culture, and the videogames industry that focuses on both the computational and ethical aspects of gaming. This theory is born from the desire to move beyond some of the limitations of current theories used to study games, making questions of ethics and people central to any study of games. Procedural ethics argues that procedures are not just the in-game algorithms, images, and text that force the player to make a decision or to agree to participate in a particular world. Rather, they are made up of everything that went into that procedure being programmed, including the developer’s history, the community, and the player’s experiences, as well as the socio-cultural context surrounding the game and the player. Continue Reading

I Put on my Robe & Wizard Hat

A Brief Introduction to Erotic Role Play

At the heart of this post is an effort to define and explain the social phenomenon of erotic role play for those unfamiliar with the term. The post compares and contrasts erotic role play with other types of online sexuality and after arriving at a thorough definition, asks the dreaded ‘so what?’ question. Rather than summarise the findings of my research, as I have laboriously done in my recently-defended thesis, I would instead like to use this blog post as an opportunity to highlight some of the questions that arise from playing with erotic content in imaginary worlds. Although, through research, I have developed my own answers to some of these questions, they are presented here as a rhetorical exercise to illustrate not only the fruitfulness in studying how erotic role players play with sexuality, but also what this play might mean to our conceptualisation of role playing games, reality, and relationships. Answers, musings, and follow up questions are encouraged in the comments. Continue Reading