Experiencing Azeroth: a narrative inquiry into playing the massive multiplayer online role-playing game (mmorpg) World of Warcraft
DeFusco, Elise K.
In this thesis I explore the following question: what are players experiencing in World of Warcraft? I examine this question through narrative inquiry. I begin by looking at the history of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) and factors that have influenced their widespread success. I then move into my research rationale and gaming literature review. Next, I look at literature surrounding ideas on reality and virtual reality as I discuss my ontology (social constructionism) and epistemology (interpretivism). I also look at literature on ludology, narrative and fantasy narratives and how they are relevant in understanding and interpreting human experience as I move into my methodology (narrative inquiry) and methods (computer mediated semi-structured interview). I relay my participants’ narrative accounts through reconstructed tales, each of which highlights a specific trope that captures the sense of the narrative as I have interpreted it. I touch upon why fantasy narratives can be particularly conducive for personal exploration and understanding experience, whether through literature or gaming. I link my participants narratives to existing literature on experiences of gameplay to shed light on the complex and unique relationships people experience with (and within) MMORPGs. The goal of this thesis is to broaden understanding on the experience of online gaming and the role it can play in people’s lives, which is highly relevant to the field of psychotherapy. Through my participants’ stories I strive to understand and convey the complexities of their experiences, including the sense of joy, friendship, love, loss, and accomplishment that was discovered in this strange and wonderful digital landscape. It is my hope to contribute my work to the therapeutic body of knowledge.