This paper is a collaboration with Stephanie Fisher and Jennifer Jenson. It began as a conference presentation in July 2011, went through a few rewrites, and now I’m pretty happy where we ended up.
Disavowing ‘That Guy’: Identity Construction and Massively Multiplayer Online Game Players
Abstract: Using Goffman’s ‘keys and frames’ as an analytical framework, this paper explores depictions of Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) players in newspaper coverage, popular media (South Park, The Big Bang Theory), and web-based productions (The Guild, Pure Pwnage), and player reactions to these largely stereotypical portrayals. Following this discussion, we present data from a longitudinal study of MMOG players, focusing on our study’s unintentional provoking of participants to react to (and ultimately reject) these stereotypes in their survey responses. We argue this is of particular interest to researchers studying MMOG players or members of other heavily satirized communities, as these stereotypes influence the ways study participants practice identity management and frame their own gaming practices, even in the context of an academic study that was explicitly not about addiction or the negative effects of digital game play.
The abstract provides an overview of the paper, but I think the take home message is best illustrated in the last two lines of the conclusion:
While game studies has matured into a field that can look past these stereotypes and position MMOGs as a venue for positive social interaction, it is hoped that this paper has drawn attention to the fact that this hospitality is not necessarily present in the lived realities of the gamers we study. It may well be that paying insufficient attention to the wider contexts of participants lives, as researchers we may inadvertently blinding ourselves to the stories our participants are attempting to share about their negotiations and renegotiations between stereotypical media portrayals, and their own everyday lived realities as MMOG gamers.
Once I get the final proofs back from the editors, I’ll update this post to include an author’s copy of the entire paper.