Virtual Sense of Community in a World of Warcraft® Storytelling Open Forum Thread

Dean Anthony Fabi Gui


World of Warcraft® (WoW), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) extends to its members a virtual landscape of live gaming opportunities through such platforms as “dice” rolled character stats, open-ended story development, and interactive AI. These affordances are underpinned by a kind of virtual sense of community bringing players together in order to develop relationships and the self, adventure together, build up wealth, and overcome obstacles in order to complete quests. In addition to live game-play (or “in-world”) communities, WoW residents create alternative communities through rich online forums—here, new members are recruited into guilds, disputes are spawned and slayed, and seasoned warriors reminisce over worlds and lives that once- were. However, a third type of community is also evident through particular threads crafted within forums specifically for collaborative storytelling (or roleplaying). This paper examines sense of community—a sense of “belonging to, importance of, and identification with a community”—through one particular thread, “The Darkening Grove Tavern” under the forum World’s End Tavern using an adaptation of McMillan and Chavis’ theory and Boellstorff, Nardi, Pearce & Taylor’s ethnographic data collection methodology for qualitative analysis of virtual worlds . Findings from players’ story text (or “turns”) suggest that online storytelling forum threads exhibit a linguistically and semiotically branded sense of virtual community. 


World of Warcraft®; sense of community; storytelling

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