As a result of technological advancement and exponential increases in global access, cross-disciplinary research has recently turned to digital online video games. Most anthropological research within this area has centered around player self-identification, gender construction, and gaming communities. Yet many interactions occur at nodes of dynamic conflict where agentic players navigate intersections of power, which are unaddressed in the scholarly corpus. By utilizing ethnographic methods in World of Warcraft's player versus player events, I examine resources, relationships, and tools that underpin player actions and understandings. My findings reveal layered and dynamic patterns of sociotechnical conflict. Players' geographical location impacts access to infrastructure while hardware and software constrain in-game action in fundamental and inescapable ways. Player versus player events add additional restrictions and create fluid situations where players continually negotiate fluctuating social tensions while event-dependent dispersions of power fluctuate between groups and individuals. Players become leaders by legitimizing power in contextually unique ways, and competing imaginaries generate conflicts that are interpreted through game-specific subjectivities. In exploring these occurrences and utilizing theoretical explanations within World of Warcraft contexts, this research contributes to disciplinary understandings and discussions addressing conflict, leadership, and power, and to methodological techniques utilized in virtual world study. By foregrounding how players navigate power differentials in conflict situations, this research informs broader conceptions of how individuals and groups manage social disputes within and outside digital social events, informs game design, and has policy implications for resolving virtual world conflicts in real world courts.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Root, Rachael, "Navigating Sociotechnical Power Structures: Dynamics of Conflict in World of Warcraft's Player versus Player Events" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 4863.