Contextualizing Gaming Practices: MMORPG Players and 'Real Life'
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From a game studies perspective this thesis takes a closer look at the way Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) players construct and make use of the concept ‘real life’ in their communication with other players. The terminology, used by both players and researchers, to discuss online gaming experiences depart from presupposed notions of ‘real life’, ‘real world’, ‘ordinary life’ or ‘everyday life’ which are contrasted to the game world. An analysis of player communication on a role-play discussion forum of the MMORPG World of Warcraft shows that concepts used to communicate about online gaming experiences indicate a separation between an online game environment and an offline non-game environment. While the concepts used to communicate imply a separation, the issues discussed by these concepts show the strong interrelation between game and non-game environments and refute a clear separation. While the increasing move away from the concept of the magic circle in game theory towards an acknowledgement of games as not separated from the ‘rest of the world’ and as not separated in space and time is in line with the findings of the empirical data, terminology used by game researchers still indicates a dichotomy between a game world and a non-game world. ‘Real life’, ‘real world’ and ‘ordinary life’ or ‘everyday life’ are normalized concepts for both players and researchers and can hold (normative) connotations which underplay actual gaming practices. In order to account for the situatedness of players, their experiences and the increasing mundane activity of playing online games I will argue that theoretically there is a need to be conscious of presupposed concepts and terminology used. Furthermore, instead of separating play and game from ‘ordinary life’ the aspects of space and time show that gaming is not a bounded off practice. Terminology, players, games and gaming practices, therefore, need to be contextualized in time and space.