Role is an under-studied topic in research on virtual game worlds, despite its centrality in the ubiquitous term “massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).” In this article, we report on a study of the role concept and its relevance to virtual worlds, with emphasis on the MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW). In particular, we focus on the concept of structural role, a term introduced to delineate a certain kind of social actor that carries greater-than-average responsibility for facilitating the diffusion of culture across interlocking groups. Beginning with a brief discussion of structural roles, this paper draws on ethnographic research in a raiding guild and interviews with hardcore WoW players to investigate the roles of guild and raid leaders in building and maintaining collaborative group play. Our study explores not only the expectations and obligations for players in key structural positions, but also specific processes through which they are embodied in everyday life online. Data show that an interest or willingness to learn the intricacies of gameplay, to take responsibility for players’ emotional well-being, and to manage a shared definition of the situation are all basic components of the guild and raid leaders’ roles, and guild or raid success is often reducible to the extent to which leaders master these components.
Williams, J., Kirschner, D. and Suhaimi-Broder, Z. (2014), "Structural Roles in Massively Multiplayer Online Games: A Case Study of Guild and Raid Leaders in World of Warcraft", Symbolic Interaction and New Social Media (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 43), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 121-142. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620140000043016Download as .RIS
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