Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Productive players and their disruptions to conventional media practices.

Humphreys, Alison M. (Sal) (2005) Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Productive players and their disruptions to conventional media practices. QUT.


Summary This thesis explores how massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), as an exemplary new media form, disrupt practices associated with more conventional media. These intensely social games exploit the interactivity and networks afforded by new media technologies in ways that generate new challenges for the organisation, control and regulation of media. The involvement of players in constituting these games – through their production of game-play, derivative works and strong social networks that drive the profitability of the games – disrupts some of the key foundations that underlie other publication media.

MMOGs represent a new and hybrid form of media – part publication and part service. As such they sit within a number of sometimes contradictory organising and regulatory regimes. This thesis examines the negotiations and struggles for control between players, developers and publishers as issues of ownership, governance and access arise out of the new configurations.

Using an ethnographic approach to gather information and insights into the practices of players, developers and publishers, this project identifies the characteristics of the distributed production network in this experiential medium. It explores structural components of successful interactive applications and analyses how the advent of player agency and the shift in authorship has meant a shift in control of the text and the relations that surround it. The integration of social networks into the textual environment, and into the business model of the media publishers has meant commerce has become entwined with affect in a new way in this medium.

Publishers have moved into the role of both property managers, of the intellectual property associated with the game content, and community managers. Intellectual property management is usually associated with the reproduction and distribution of finished media products, and this sits uneasily with the performative and mutable form of this medium. Service provision consists of maintaining the game world environment, community management, providing access for players to other players and to the content generated both by the developers and the other players.

Content in an MMOG is identified in this project as both the ‘tangible’ assets of code and artwork, rules and text, and the ‘intangible’ or immaterial assets of affective networks. Players are no longer just consumers of media, or even just active interpreters of media. They are co-producing the media as it is developed. This thesis frames that productiveness as unpaid labour, in an attempt to denaturalise the dominant discourse which casts players as consumers.

The regulation of this medium is contentious. Conventional forms of media regulation – such as copyright, or content regulation regimes are inadequate for regulating the hybrid service/publication medium. This thesis explores how the use of contracts as the mechanism which constitutes the formal relations between players, publishers and developers creates challenges to some of the regimes of juridical and political rights held by citizens more generally.

This thesis examines the productive practices of players and how the discourses of intellectual property and the discourses of the consumer are mobilised to erase the significance of those productive contributions. It also shows, using a Foucauldian analysis of the power negotiations, that players employ many counter-strategies to circumvent the more formal legal structures of the publishers. The dialogic relationship between players, developers and publishers is shown to mobilise various discursive constructions of the role of each. The outcome of these ongoing negotiations may well shape future interactive applications and the extent to which their innovative capacities will be available for all stakeholders to develop.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 6571
Item Type: Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Computer Games, Massively Multiplayer Online Game, MMOG, interactive media, interactive software, players, labour, intellectual property, contract, End User Licence Agreement, EULA, media ownership, media production, new media, ethnography
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100) > Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified (200199)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Screen and Media Culture (200212)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Department: Media and Communication Studies
Institution: QUT
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 (Please consult author)
Deposited On: 19 Mar 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 19 May 2010 16:28

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