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Title: MMOG players' sense of place in virtual worlds
Authors: Alvarez, Katrina Paola Banas
Keywords: Social sciences::Communication::Communication theories and models
Social sciences::Sociology::Communities, classes and races
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Alvarez, K. P. B. (2021). MMOG players' sense of place in virtual worlds. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: This project explores how game players develop sense of place, the perception that a space has meaning (Bott, 2000; Hummon, 1992) as they interact with the virtual spaces of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). Researchers have long proposed that people relate to mediated people, objects, and places as they do to those physically experienced (Reeves & Nass, 1996), to the extent that the experience is as though unmediated (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). While this proposition has been extensively tested with mediated human-to-human and human-to-computer interactions, the mediated human-to-place relationship is taken for granted and understudied, particularly when it comes to virtual worlds. Researchers have discussed how one might feel present in a virtual world (Lee, 2004), how virtual worlds might be experienced as third places (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006), and how communities and cultures develop in virtual places as they would in physical ones (Boellstorff, 2008; Pearce & Artemesia, 2009; Taylor, 2006; Yee, 2014). Yet researchers have only recently begun to investigate how people come to perceive virtual environments as places at all. Place is the broad concept geographers have for a mere space that people have invested with meaning (Cresswell, 2015; Low & Altman, 1992; Tuan, 1975, 1977). As people perform the activities of their lives in a space, the structures of that space—its natural, built, and eventually, sociocultural elements—become associated with the meanings of those activities, turning space into place. In the process of conducting these place-making practices, people develop their own sense of place, the perception that the space has meaning (Bott, 2000; Hummon, 1992), based on a personal understanding of how the place’s various parts work together to produce its unique rhythm and character (Relph, 1997; 2007). This project aimed to build a new conceptual framework to understand sense of place in MMOG communities through a series of studies that developed variables and quantitative measures to unpack the factors that influence sense of place. It first uncovered the factors that influence MMOG players’ sense of place in virtual worlds through literature review and observations of online discussions in MMOG communities. Through mixed-methods content analysis and large-scale text analysis, it then identified specific place-making practices that influence sense of place in virtual worlds. The theoretical model that explains the factors and their respective influence on sense of place was finalized via an online survey. The survey included a taxonomy of the common place-making practices based on the results of the content analyses, a catalog of game design elements or patterns (Björk & Holopainen, 2005), and measures of spatial presence (Hartmann et al., 2015) and sense of place (Bott, 2000; Cottrell & Cottrell, 2015). Results showed that place-making practices involving regular social interaction with other players as well as exploration and developing familiarity and knowledge of the virtual world can predict MMOG players’ sense of place. Game design patterns that embody players’ actions through avatars and enable them to participate in narrative also influence sense of place. Players who spent a longer time playing the MMOG and experienced greater spatial presence also tended to have greater sense of place. This study contributes to related literature both theoretically and methodologically.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/154528
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:WKWSCI Theses

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