Coordinated action in the massively multiplayer online game world of warcraft
Williams, J. Patrick.
Date of Issue2012
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
In tandem with the technological advancement of immersive virtual environments, digital games have evolved into complex social worlds where people play collaboratively to achieve individual- and group-oriented goals. The massively multiplayer online games genre has received international attention for the large numbers of users that commit a significant amount of time and effort to online play. Play styles within such game worlds are diverse, but “raiding” is generally considered among gamers and scholars alike to be the most challenging form of collaborative play. Like other forms of social activity, raiding is predicated on players' abilities to successfully coordinate individual lines of action. Yet the vast majority of raiders are not physically copresent during their collaborative efforts. Using Couch's theory of coordinated action as an interpretive frame, we explore the computer-mediated process of raiding in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft by analyzing ethnographic data and audio/visual recordings of gameplay. Our study expands Couch's theory of coordinated action in two ways. First, we demonstrate how individuals and groups simultaneously engage in multiple forms of coordinated activity (e.g., conflict and cooperation). Second, we reveal two semiotic layers of coordinated action—the “subject-subject” (i.e., intersubjective) layer that is facilitated through the game's user interface, and the “subject-object” layer that comprises players' interactions with the user interface itself. Our study thus considers the potential of Couch's theory for the study of computer-mediated communication and nonhumans in interaction.
© 2012 Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.