Tag Archives: community


I am way behind on posting because in late summer I started a new job and moved myself and the family to a new city.  The job is interesting, challenging, and pays well, but it is 9-5ish and I am busy the whole time. Not much time for blogging.

But, now I have more incentive to resume because I’ve been accepted to a conference for next March and need to get my paper written by mid January.  🙂  And I’ve just seen a call for an online conference at which I could make a presentation on the same topic, only multimedia instead of just text.  So, yay.  🙂

The conference is Practicing Theory: Imagining, Resisting, Remembering; the annual conference of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA).

I submitted the following abstract:

Finding Balance Through Doubled Resistance: Piloting a Collaborative Ethnograpic Approach to Game Studies in the Clan Lord MMO

The tension between theory and practice is long-standing, but in recent years it has been brought into sharper relief by the work of scholars such as Henry Jenkins, who argue for study of popular culture from stance of engagement rather than distance. Jenkins resists the dismissive stance toward popular culture and fan communities that long held sway in academia and coined the term “aca-fan” to describe one working from such a position.  He has further argued for the recognition that fans themselves bring a critical eye to pop cultural texts that deserves recognition as having some scholarly value.

Jenkins has recently called for the development of “another set of critical practices which reflected different emotional and social relations to popular culture” than those of the scholar looking from a distance or an aca-fan looking only from inside. This brings us back to the question of resistance.  A scholar who is also a fan may try to study the cultural product of which she is a fan, resisting on the one hand theorizing from a distance, and on the other a perhaps over-enthusiastic engagement. Is an uneasy balance between the two the best we can hope for?  Or can these stances be in some way integrated into a more productive whole?

This case-study aims for just such a synthesis, using the community around a smaller Multi-Massive Online Game (MMO) in which the author participates to pilot a collaborative ethnographic approach.  While the author takes a traditional ethnographic approach, members of the MMO’s community are invited to add their voices, as are game theorists who stand entirely outside the MMO. The resulting poly-vocal work offers a possible model from which to develop a more balanced and integrated approach to pop cultural products and fan communities.

The MMO in question is Clan Lord, and so now I need to figure out the best way of inviting involvement of other players, GMs, etc.

Designing Cooperation

I said I’d have more to say…

So here are some ways Clan Lord pretty well forces people to cooperate:

  • The display is looking down from above, rather than heads up, and you can’t “run through” other players and most objects, so coordinating movement during a fight or hunt becomes a priority and requires agreement.  For example, that one of the stronger players will go out to lure creatures into the most favorable position for others to attack, or the weakest players will stay to one side or another, depending from which direction attacks usually come.
  • Most areas spawn creatures quickly and unpredictably enough that if a player is still gaining experience points and ranks from fighting those creatures, they need to hunt them in a group, or risk having their character fall and then have to await rescue. Depending on the area where they have been adventuring, this could take a very long time.
  • A related aspect is that you cannot just log off anywhere in the game safely.  If you leave the game when your character is in a dangerous region, you may log back in to find you are overwhelmed by dangerous creatures, or you character may already be dead.  Similarly, you cannot pause and leave the computer temporarily while playing for this reason.  Thus, you must somehow get back to a safe area before logging out or pausing the game play.  In the latter case, fellow players may be relied on to protect your character while you step away from the computer, but you will also have to help them achieve a managable state of play in the game first.
  • This game has a system through which players can “share experience.” While playing, each player gains experience (and thus strength and so forth) by playing against increasingly difficult creatures, or by sharing experience with another player doing this. In fact, of the three character classes, fighter, mystic, and healer, the latter two mainly advance through this method.  Further, players gain in other ways from sharing.  If you are sharing and fall to some creature, the players you’re linked with will see that you’ve fallen and to what, which will help them locate you.  If you are linked to a mystic before falling, they will be able to pinpoint your location exactly.  Further, if you are linked to other players, they will be more likely to return the favor by helping if you are in trouble. The share system also helps maintain connections between new players and much more advanced players.

I’ll have even more to add later!  Until then, here is another picture…

One of the other experienced players reminds younger ones (Eirian and Mchl) to thank a high-ranked fighter (Geotzou) for taking us hunting.

Games and Community

So I’ve been playing my first MMORPG ever, and surprise, have gotten a little addicted. But this one differs from most in being designed to require cooperation; it’s very difficult to play alone, and not as much fun.  The game is Clan Lord, by Delta Tao; the first ever MMORPG designed for Macs.

It first appeared in 1998 and over ten years later is still going.  It has a very small but intensely loyal user base.  I’ve been playing about four months now and while I originally wanted to just play it for fun, the game and the community around it seem really unique.  I might have to give in and write about it.  🙂

I’ll write in more detail soon but for now, a picture:

I am last in the line of fallen hunters being dragged back to town to be healed. I used to end most hunts this way, but it’s getting a little better now.  🙂

Arse Elektronika 2009

I gave a talk this year, along with my co-panelist Pepper Mint. It went very well and was I think pretty informative for the audience, though of course some said, oh, we all know this already.  –It was about how technology and the internet have been intertwined with the emergence of a polyamorous community, which represents a very interesting example of tech enabled identity formation and community creation.

Anyway, the talk was good and I had the chance to see a number of friends I see only rarely, including Pep, but also Johannes Grenzfurthner from Monochrom, Aaron Muszalski, and Susan Mernit, to name a few. The conference was spread out over four days and I saw regrettably little.  I had hoped to see more panels on Saturday, but got hung up on the BART in commuter traffic for the Lovefest.  Honestly, it could have been called “Hot Topic Fest” based on the appearance of the attendees I saw…

I’ll post links too our talk and to archival stuff when Monochrom puts it up.