There are some very well known WoW-based studies out there, and we’ve probably all filled in at least one poll or questionnaire about our favourite pastime. There are reports on our avatar choices, our “addictions”, our online relationships and a lot else besides.
What you may not know is that we’re harbouring one of these research types on our very own realm. Not one of those reactionary negative types we hear so much about, but someone who genuinely enjoys the game and just happens to have an opportunity to delve a little deeper. I present to you…Monava.
Firstly then, tell us a bit about yourself
My real name is Ladan and I’m in my second year of a research PhD in the Geography Department at Durham University (located in the beautiful Northeast of England). My professional background is in writing and editing (my undergraduate degree is in English and Chinese literature) but one of my hobbies is gaming. I was even a GameMaster for another online game for a number of years. This love of gaming, fascination with the people who play, interest in all sides of online gaming, combined with my professional skills as a researcher, editor, and writer led me to want to put a “real face” on what MMOs are like and why we play them. I was getting tired of a lot of assumptions being made about gamers by non-gamers and a lot of broad, sweeping research that didn’t apply to all game situations.
This interview makes me look very serious but the reality is that I get to spend 3 years having fun studying a game that is part of something big. I feel really lucky and grateful to be doing this.
And a quick intro to your project
My research project relates to studying the MMO raiding culture and how it navigates game space, utilises game functionalities (such as convergent media, addons or UI design), and what broader societal norms it engages to function (such as concepts of team work, competitiveness, and rules) as a subculture. Basically, what this means is that I am trying to study how raiders do things like interact, function, and pursue success in a game like World of Warcraft.
While other researchers have studied how we play MMOs, the negative impacts of games, or how we make decisions as gamers, there hasn’t been much done on actual raiding or raiding culture and sadly much of the research is done by researchers who dabble in the game during their research period and stop once they have collected some data. I feel that as a gamer and raider already myself I get access to more and, hopefully, learn things that mainstream researchers might have a harder time learning.
You transferred from your original realm to ED in early 2007. Was this a conscious decision to find a suitable realm to study or was the decision to base your research on our realm taken after the move?
The latter. While I had been quietly thinking of ways to study and write about gaming for quite some years, I didn’t formally begin my PhD plans until after I had moved to ED. I was on Draenor and it is a great server. I moved for strictly personal reasons relating to friends moving server. I am actually in contact with a few gamers from Draenor and hope to speak to them
a little as well in the course of my research.
How did you choose a guild to study?
Choosing to work with Chi was strictly pragmatic. I helped establish Chi over a year ago (the guild was started for those raiders who had less time to raid but still wanted to actively engage in the end content–sort of a casual raiding guild, though I am still not sure if such a thing can exist!) and have been with them ever since. I put out feelers earlier this year to see if they’d be ok with my doing this research and many members were very open-minded and supportive. Basically, I wanted to pick a guild that was working on endgame content and considered itself a raiding guild above all else. The rank of the guild is important, but not crucial to the research. I felt that picking a more “mainstream” guild (rather than trying to work with one of world’s top guilds) would give me a clearer picture of the average raider.
Does knowing they’re being written about affect the raids with Chi, specifically the performance of others when you’re present?
It was a bit of an issue at first! The way the guild members dealt with it was to make jokes by asking me if I was going to use the information against them. (I won’t, of course!) But I suppose over time, it’s just become less of an issue. I did explain my plans on the guild’s site and keep nagging them to go to my research site, though, and some of them are contributing.
Does it affect YOUR performance, for example have you been known to stand in the fire while watching others?
This is a fantastic question. It’s been strange trying to be a player who is researching herself and the gamers alongside her. While I haven’t found myself making too many noobish mistakes because of my research (I make noobish mistakes no matter what I’m doing sadly ), I have found myself struggling with when and how to document observations in the heat of the moment. Originally I wanted to use a recording software or recorder to “speak through” things as I was doing them and it proved too difficult. I realised that I’m no good to a raid if I’m not doing my job, and I realised early on that to be a good researcher of raiding, it required that I be as good a good raider as possible, too.
What is the most interesting thing you feel you’ve learned in the course of your research so far?
So far I’ve found the variation in how people approach raiding to be extremely interesting. This exhibits itself in how we set up our UIs, use addons, use VOIP (or not), and even create our raiding space. And I’m also particularly interested in how strongly raiders feel about this.
And personally I love the fact that we finally have a place where men seem more obsessed with what they are wearing than women.
So how can interested people help?
Right now I’m eager to speak with anyone who would like to discuss their raiding experiences and perspectives with me. I’m also hoping to spend a bit more time with other raiding guilds on the server, observing their raiding, listening to their planning and organizing, and even joining them on a raid or two. I’m really hoping to connect with some Horde guilds, so if any are interested in contributing to my research, I’d love to hear from them. I promise I am very unobtrusive; you won’t even notice me.
Below is my research website and I am looking forward to sharing more tidbits on this fantastic blog, too.
Is there anything else you’d particularly like to add?
I have created a website for people to contribute their thoughts and, hopefully, upload screenshots or other media. Please visit it at www.raidingresearch.co.uk.
I am glad to talk to people in game if they would like. I generally play the characters Monava and Siyma. Throw me a whisper; I don’t bite!
Also, in the spring I am planning to do some in-person focus groups and interviews with raiders around the UK. If you are interested in being interviewed, let me know.
Thanks to the geniuses of Emerald Dreamers for this opportunity to share what I’m doing with the fine people of ED. This is a lovely site and I’m particularly attuned to its sense of humour.
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