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Running Head: GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

Gaming and the role of online communities Savneet Singh February 8, 2013 Dr. Datta Kaur Khalsa California State University East Bay

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

Introduction According to a new study from market research company Parks Associates, the number of people playing video games in the U.S. has risen 241 percent since 2008 (Lipsman,2008). The fastest-growing US company in 2007 was WildTangent Network which makes online and downloadable games. Their website attracted 11.5 million unique visitors in May 2007 only. The company reports that their website has an average 12.2 visits per visitor monthly (Lipsman, 2007). These games are gaining popularity not only because of their marketing, but most of the players are attracted towards the online gaming communities. These virtual communities are imperative for the commercial success of any online game because many of these games are massively multiplayer online (MMO) that require social interaction (Jarett & Estanislao, 2002). Thus, game developers, producers and designers have begun to recognize the dynamics of online game communities and the need of fostering their formation and growth (Cothrel & Williams, 1999). What are the gaming communities Online communities are the groups of people who come on a single platform for a common purpose, and who are guided by policies (including norms and rules) and supported by software(de Souza & Preece, 2004; Maloney-Krichmar & Preece, 2005; Preece, 2000). The members of an online community share an informal relationship having intense feelings of camaraderie, empathy, support, endurance, and emotions (Hiltz,1985; Preece, 2000). The online community members usually overcome the boundaries of geography, economy, culture, and family traditions (Jacobs, 2008). These communities provide a place where people with strong cultural identities, work together within a virtual society. These communities make the members

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

tolerant and acceptant of the variety of cultures found within the online community (Jacob, 2008). The members benefit from the creation and sharing of knowledge (Khalsa, 2010). Also, Khalsa emphasizes that online communities features Virtual unification of interests, understanding and discoveries as they apply to individual and collective identity and goals is anchored (2010). Internet is the home for different types of communities based on business, education, research, and leisure (Leiner et al., 2003).The members of these communities interact using seven internet facilities (Khalsa, 2013):

Thus, gaming communities provide a living social context that revolves around a particular game (Eliens et al., 2007). They offer a platform for social interaction, where new game enthusiasts come to gain knowledge of everything related to a game (Hau & Kim, 2011). But, functioning of a gaming community is not as simple as it seems to be. A gaming community can sometimes generate highly technical discussions and content related to the features, installations, serve issues, system requirement, characters, strategies, rules, levels, progression, economy(virtual assets) and many more. Online gaming covers a sizable portion of the total

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

video game market, contributing a large portion in the economic activities of the entertainment industry (CNET.Com, 2004). Why are gaming communities important? Game enthusiasts share gaming experiences, find team mates, form teams/guild/clans and plan games using virtual communities. The importance of a gaming community can be realized from the fact that MMORPG such as World of Warcraft may require up to 40 players to co-ordinate at once to advance to the next level (Ducheneaut et al., 2007). Many online games, by their very nature, require players to engage themselves in a multi-layered system of collaboration and carefully co-ordinate strategies to move on in the game (Smith, 2004). Thus, intrinsic motivation, shared goals, and social trust are key strengths of these communities (Yong & Young, 2011). These communities are very helpful and inclusive toward new members, where newbies can send messages to the old gamers to get human touch and understand the ins and outs of the games (Kendall, 2002). They are also free to exchange email addresses and meet beyond these virtue communities. Companies create and support these communities to keep the players engaged and enthusiastic about their games and extend brand loyalty (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). They provide customers with the essential tools to interact and express themselves in an online gaming forum. Players visit online gaming communities for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common ones are to: 1. Receive support: Gaming communities offer a social environment where players offer and receive support. There exists a sense of camaraderie, which makes the members feel gratitude and emotional attachment (Long & Schiffman, 2000) towards the community, in case, they get their questions answered successfully. This leads to the development of

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

trust among the members, which is the solidifying force, keeping the virtual communities together (Khalsa, 2005; Preece, 2002, Putnam, 2000). Schott and Kambouri argue that, The culture of game playing involves the ongoing social construction of an 'interpretive community' (2006, p.121-122). 2. Build a Reputation: The elite or the high rankers in the games offer solutions/answers to show their expertise in the game. Sometimes, the one who has been around the longest or who has the maximum number of posts, is the most senior and gives community a sense of leadership. This gives the members a desire fulfillment (Murphy, 1999) and transfer of knowledge. 3. Feel good : The members of a community invest a lot of time, money, and effort to build a positive online image, expecting others to see them as the images they present (Schau & Gilly, 2003). Thus, the online communities provide a place where players can express their self-identity through self-presentation (in form of an avatar) bringing a sense of belonging towards the group (Shamir, 1990). Also, when people see others succeed with their advice and receive praises for that input, they gain more confidence and feel motivated. The other side of game communities The online gaming communities have hierarchical leadership structure (Chen, Sun & Hsieh, 2008) those are largely based upon who has been playing for the longest. This advocates seniority and provides new players with leadership. Community members often have very divergent interests, leading to potential conflict (de Moor and Weigand 2004). Some people abuse the seniors to acquire the leaders role while others only wish to distract and create confusion. Some power abusers try to acquire role of the leader even when they do not qualify.

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

This leads to spamming offensive messages, threats, taunting, teasing and harsh words while the players are texting or having a voice chat, and violent clashes between the game avatars. Another big issue in online communities is that female players are harassed by the male players(Gray, 2012). This makes female players really upset and uncomfortable while playing and some of them find themselves turned off from gaming altogether. Some more criticism comes from the outsiders who dont understand why players spend so much time within MMOs and virtual communities. Sometimes the time spent in a virtual communities is significant as opposed to the real-life communities making people say that Internet communities are nothing but pseudo communities (Beniger, 1987) and that people will get so engulfed in a simulacrum virtual reality, that they will lose contact with real life (Wellman & Gulia, 1999, p. 2).

GAMING AND THE ROLE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

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