Dissertation: Chen, M. (2010). Leet Noobs

Mark Chen (2010) Leet NoobsTitle: Leet Noobs: Expertise en Collaboration in a World of Warcraft Player Group as Sociomaterial Practice
Author: Mark Chen
Year: 2010
Additional: Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington
Available at: https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/16275

Group expertise in socially-situated joint tasks requires successful negotiation and distribution of roles and responsibilities among group members and their material resources such that the group is a network of actors all in alignment on shared tasks. Using ethnographic methods, the author documents the life and death of a player group in the online game World of Warcraft as it engaged in a 40-person activity called raiding, which consisted of highly coordinated battles against difficult game-controlled monsters. The group took 7 months to master an in-game zone known as Molten Core, defeating all of the monsters within, including the last boss monster, Ragnaros. Part of the group’s success depended on its members’ ability to reconfigure their play spaces, enrolling third-party game modifications and external web resources into their activity. Before joining the group, the players had successfully built-up enough social and cultural capital to be recognized as expert players. Once joining the group, however, they had to relearn and adapt their expertise for this new joint task that required them to specialize, taking on different roles depending on the types of characters they chose to play, and structure themselves for efficient communication and coordination practices. They also needed to align themselves to new group goals and learn to trust each other. Thus, once-expert players became novices or noobs to relearn expert or leet gameplay, yet they were not true novices because they had a good understanding of the game system and ways to configure their individual play spaces to be successful players. Rather, they were “leet noobs” who needed to reconfigure and adapt their expertise for new norms of sociomaterial practice suited for joint venture. After 10 months, the group experienced lulls in performance due to a change in membership, and the group disbanded as members were unable to renegotiate and agree upon shared goals and responsibilities. Their network had been irreparably disrupted. Understanding how group success depends on alignment of goals and responsibilities helps us plan for future collaborative endeavors across both formal and informal settings.

Prologue: In the Fiery Depths
–> Learning and Expertise in Games?
–> Social and Cultural Capital
–> Why World of Warcraft
–> Description of Dissertation Chapters
–> The Major Assertions of the Dissertation
–> A World of Warcraft Primer
–> Setting, Group and Data Collection
–> A Note on Stance and Positionality
Pugging the Chicken Quest
Chapter 1: Expertise in World of Warcraft Players as Distributed Sociomaterial Practice
–> Expertise Understood Through Ethnography
–> Stage One: Leveling Up
–> Stage Two: Raiding
–> Reflections on Studying Expert Practice
Role-Playing Takes So Much Time; We Could Be Killing Things Instead
Chapter 2: Communication, Coordination, and Camaraderie
–> (Computer) Game Theory
–> A Typical Night in Molten Core
—-> Gathering and Chatting
—-> Pulling, Coordinated Fighting, and Division-of-Labor Roles
—-> Making Encounters Routine by Finding Balance
—-> Welcoming Failure in Golemagg and Other Boss Fights
—-> Socially Constructed Social Dilemmas
–> An Atypical Night in Molten Core
–> Issues and Conclusion
Reflection on Chat
Chapter 3: The Enrollment of a New Actor and the Redistribution of Responsibilities
–> Introduction
–> Mangles, Networks, Assemblages, and Arrangements
–> Roles, Responsibilities, and Aggro
–> Threat Management
–> KLH Threat Meter (KTM)
–> Using KTM as a Temporary Actor that Diagnosed Problems: April 28, 2006
–> Discussion
–> Conclusion
Walt and Thoguht “Theorycrafting” Amidst a Server Shutdown
Chapter 4: The Death of a Raid
–> Changing Schedules and Changing Roster
–> The Controversial Forum Thread
–> Making Sense of the Meltdown

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