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Documenting virtual world cultures: Memory-making and documentary practices in the City of Heroes community

Olle Sköld (Department of ALM (Archival Studies, Library and Information Science and Museums and Cultural Heritage Studies), Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore how virtual world communities employ new media as a repository to record information about their past.


Using the notions of documentary practice and memory-making as a framework, a case study of MMORPG City of Heroes’ (CoH) virtual community on Reddit discussion board “/r/cityofheroes” was conducted. The study consists of an interpretative analysis of posts, comments, images, and other materials submitted to /r/cityofheroes during a period of approximately seven months.


The principal finding of the study is that the CoH community, with varying levels of intentionality, documented a range of pasts on /r/cityofheroes, relating to CoH as a game world, a site of personal experience, a product, a nexus of narratives, and a game. The analysis also lays bare the community’s memory-making processes, in which the documented conceptions of CoH’s past were put to work in the present, informing community action and viewpoints.


Games and gaming practices are increasingly prevalent in leisure and professional settings. This trend, which makes virtual environments and online media proxies for or augmentations of “real life”, makes it necessary for information scholars to understand how the full range of human information behaviours, including documenting, and memory-making, emerge or are replicated online. Additionally, few studies have examined the interplay between new media affordances, documentary practices, and memory-making in the context of virtual world communities.



The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers whose comments, suggestions, and criticisms helped to greatly improve this paper. Furthermore, the author is grateful to InfernalHibiscus, DjinnNJuice, and Jo_Nah for consenting to publish their screenshots.


Sköld, O. (2015), "Documenting virtual world cultures: Memory-making and documentary practices in the City of Heroes community", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 2, pp. 294-316.



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