Classes are done and the weather is nice, and finally, I have some time to work on my game studies work – that is essentially, for myself… It has been very hard to write for myself, seeing as I am so used to trying to fulfill someone else’s criteria to finish a paper on this or that subject – It is nice to actually work towards writing something that is purely about what I want to say.
So, here is an abstract that i have been working on the last few days. It speaks to my avatar research that I started doing in my Research Methods class – and will, i hope, develop over the next few years [Honour’s and Master’s i hope]
Keep in mind, it is not my finished abstract – but the gist of it. – any feedback would be greatly appreciated – would you want to read a full paper based on these few paragraphs?
Five years after its introduction, EverQuest is one of the longest running massively multi-user online role playing games. Still being played by an estimated 400,000 players, EverQuest maintains its impressive presence. Beyond its unique game design revolving around quests, role playing opportunities and intricate fantasy storylines, there are other factors that play into the game’s longevity, notably player-created characters represented through avatars and the communities created by players outside of the predetermined game structure.The relationship between an individual and their avatar is one of the player-constructed elements that create a level of depth within the pre-determined game world of EverQuest. This relationship can only be created and sustained by the individual player, from the initial process of the avatar’s physical creation to the long term commitment required to the avatar in order to progress within the designed game world. The relationship between the player and their avatar plays an important role in determining how emotionally invested one is to the overall game experience. Therefore, it can be said that the game experience is partially dependent on these player/avatar relationships. The question then becomes how do varying degrees of the player/avatar relationship influence the overall gaming experience?
The primary factor considered throughout this research is the player’s role in identifying with their avatar within the game of EverQuest and its impact on the overall quality of the game play. Identity issues in virtual worlds have been commonly approached via socio-psychological perspectives, exploring the impact of virtual identity on the individual’s perception of ‘everyday’ self. [Kolko, 1998; Stone, 1991; Taylor, 2002; Turkle, 1995]. While it is important to understand how virtual identity affects everyday life, so is the insight into how it functions within an MMORPG as well as the effects virtual identity has on the game play.
Because of the participant observation I have engaged in within the game as a high level character, I have observed that the relationship with one’s avatar appears to have an important impact on game quality. This hypothesis was further reinforced by way of interviews I conducted with other long term players. By combining the results of the various research methods, I have worked towards formulating a deeper understanding of the link between the player/avatar relationship and its affect on the perceived idea of game play quality.
This research has the potential to affect many communities – from social theorists interested in exploring another facet of virtual identity, social communication and construction of community in video games, to game designers and programmers looking to improve the current state of MMORPG’s. Most of all, this research has the potential to influence the individual’s perception of a game, quality and understand what their role is in making the game successful in terms of both commercial and personal success.
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