Motivations and sociality

I am finally getting a bit more used to doing things other than leveling on my own. It only took me 6 months.

Pugging instances and raids is still a challenge in some ways, because fundamentally, this game is social not achievement-oriented for me. I fit in Yee’s social motivations quite handily. I’m still not sure I completely buy his argument, I confess, but I’m beginning to recognize my own needs and fulfillments in WoW, that is certain.

The challenge of pugging remains a sort of insecurity about my prowess in this boy-world. Without avenues other than power (largely DPS logs) to make me feel valued, I find myself self-conscious because too much of my social image is oriented toward something I have very little immediate control over. Over time I can improve my DPS output, of course, but in any given group encounter, I am what I am, weaknesses completely unmitigated by personality.

This latter is what I generally depend on in social settings. If I don’t know the most advanced information, that’s okay, because I can be an interesting person anyway. If I’m not the most interesting, I can be nice; not nice? how about fun. Rapid adapatation of both my role and my strengths presented in a specific context help me feel valued in spite of any relevant weaknesses. In a pug, I rarely have the opportunity to do that.

Some interesting work on communities in this type of game has recently come to my attention. James Gee discusses affinity spaces, distinct from communities of practice. He notes that, “communities of practice”…[are] of little use to understand … forms of sociality that do not entail group membership or a sense of belonging…’affinity spaces’… are spaces in which people from a variety of backgrounds come together to pursue a common endeavour or goal.”

The point here is that in such spaces, especially MMOs, the achievements “take precedence over questions of racial, class or gender identity; [they are] a world with various routes to participation, informal leadership and status in which newbies and masters share the same space, and different kinds of knowledge (tacit, intensive, extensive, etc) are fostered and valued.”

Very interesting stuff, and intuitively spot on, except for that pesky notion of guild membership…


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