Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM)

Graduate Group

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Asif Agha

Second Advisor

Dr. John Jackson

Abstract

Every day millions of video gamers flip a switch and disappear into a virtual world, striving to exchange the reality of everyday life for the fulfillment of computer generated dreams. World of Warcraft, a Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game, is the most popular internet outlet for this gamer crowd, allowing players to create and inhabit a character in an extensive, realistic environment. The world created by this game not only invokes social patterns that parallel non-virtual culture, the game itself creates a unique mass-mediated form of culture among its players. The connection between the World of Warcraft participants is more than a bond between players; participation in the game results in ‘sediments of personhood,’ internalizable emblems of self that are created by the game and become available as portable emblems of personhood to players. The specialized lexicon used by the players and their extensive self-abstraction - they discard all major real-world characteristics to participate in the Warcraft world - infiltrate their own sense of identity and as well as the identities of the millions of other players. These internalized traits thus become shared forms of self-identification through which the players establish a group solidarity. The players of World of Warcraft embody a “public” that is both self-creating and self-organized within a “social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse” (Warner, 2002: 62), and whose mode of social existence takes both virtual and real-world forms in ways discussed in this paper.