Nardi – My Life as a Night Elf Priest

My Life a a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft [Prologue & Chapter 2]

by Bonnie A. Nardi

[ Nardi, Bonnie. 2010. My Life a a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. University of Michigan Press ]

Points & Quotes:

“I believe World of Warcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology.” (5)

Aims:

My Life As a Night Elf Priest

  1. “The first aim of the book is to develop an argument about World of Warcraft that examines play as active aesthetic experience, drawing on activity theory (Leontiev 1974) and the work of philosopher John Dewey. […]
  2. “Understanding play in its contemporary digital manifestations is a second aim of the book. I argue that video games such as WoW are a new visual-performative medium enabled, and strongly shaped, by the capacities of digital technology, in particular the execution of digital rules powerful enough to call forth complex worlds of activity. […]
  3. “A third aim of the book is ethnographic reportage—interpreting experiences of playing World of Warcraft for those who will never play but wish to understand something of the role of video games in our culture.” (6-7)

Cool Thoughts about Ethnography

“Unlike research in most academic disciplines, where investigation proceeds according to a scientific procedure involving hypothesis generation and testing, ethnography moves in a “go with the flow” pattern that attempts to follow the interesting and the unexpected as they are encountered in the field.” (27)

Quote from Marylin Strathern:

“Ethnography is . . . the deliberate attempt to generate more data than the researcher is aware of at the time of collection . . . Rather than devising research protocols that will purify the data in advance of analysis, the anthropologist embarks on a participatory exercise which yields materials for which analytical protocols are often devised after the fact. (2004)” (28)

Marilyn Strathern, Partial Connections, 2004

Specifically Digital Ethnography:

“Most anthropological fieldwork requires a budget for foreign travel and the necessity to leave home. It often requires living under difficult circumstances. The cost of entering a virtual world is very low—in the case of World of Warcraft 50 dollars for the game CDs and 14 dollars a month for the subscription. No research grants or struggles with a foreign language were necessary to initiate the research. Nor was there a need to cope with disturbing food, large insects, filth, dangerous diseases, or homesickness. My entry point to the field site was a computer on my dining room table where I sat in a comfortable chair and played for many hours. And yet this fieldwork was nearly as immersive as the fieldwork I conducted for my postdoctoral research in Western Samoa or Papua New Guinea, where I accompanied my husband for his doctoral research. I typically played about 20 hours a week. I read fewer novels and slept a bit less. In addition to game play, I read my guild’s website nearly every day and spent considerable time reading about World of Warcraft on the Internet.” (29)

However…

“Most of the interviews were conducted face-to-face; I find I learn more when I sit down with someone for an unhurried conversation.” (30)

“Many guild members were parents with small children. It was not unusual for game play to stop as a player settled an infant who had awakened or took time out to bandage a skinned knee. Part of the guild ethos was that members had real lives, so such actions were to be tolerated politely and patiently.” (33)

“One difference in studying WoW was that the research inclined toward the participant end of participant-observation. I learned to play the game well enough to participate in a raiding guild. I looked just like any other player. For many practical purposes, I was just another player. I could not have studied raiding guilds without playing as well as at least an average player and fully participating in raids. By contrast, when I was walking around villages in Papua New Guinea or Western Samoa, I was obviously an outsider whose identity required explanation.” (34)

“Blending in, however, is not necessarily characteristic of research in virtual worlds; it does not distinctly identify “digital ethnography.” In research I conducted in Second Life with IBM, my participation as a researcher was made clear to others to the point of having a halo over my character’s head to identify my special status. Boellstorff (2008) and Pearce (2009) were identified as researchers in the virtual worlds they studied. It may be more natural to set up shop as an anthropologist in non-game worlds; in a game world, the overwhelming need to play dominates interaction much of the time.” (35)

Annotation Summary for My Life as a Night Elf Priest

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Prologue”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I have given many hours to the study of World of Warcraft”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I believe World of Warcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology.”

Page 3, Underline (Blue):
Content: “I believe World of Warcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “While video games might seem a frivolous footnote to modern technology (and video games researchers still get pitying stares from colleagues), the games have penetrated unlikely arenas of human activity, stirring interest in education, business, the military, and even reli- gious organizations. Educators argue that video games have pedagogical value (Gee 2003; Squire 2005; Steinkuehler 2006; Barab et al. 2007; Fields and Kafai 2007; Ang and Zaphiris 2008; Hayes and Games 2008; Polin 2008; Sharritt 2009).”

Page 3, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Gee 2003; Squire 2005; Steinkuehler 2006; Barab et al. 2007; Fields and Kafai 2007; Ang and Zaphiris 2008; Hayes and Games 2008; Polin 2008; Sharritt 2009).”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Some readers will have encountered WoW through media accounts that report the unusual, the sensational, the surprising—addicted players, Chinese gold farmers, online marriages, griefers, hackers, gender swappers. While these memes are not without interest, they do not embody the tex- ture of the everyday experiences and emotions of the millions of players who constitute World of Warcraft.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “The first aim of the book is to develop an argument about World of Warcraft that examines play as active aesthetic experience, drawing on activity theory”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The first aim of the book is to develop an argument about World of Warcraft that examines play as active aesthetic experience, drawing on activity theory”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “(Leontiev 1974) and the work of philosopher John Dewey.”

Page 4, Underline (Red):
Content: “John Dewey.”

Page 4, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Leontiev 1974)”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “(Leontiev 1974) and the work of philosopher John Dewey.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Understanding play in its contemporary digital manifestations is a sec-ond aim of the book. I argue that video games such as WoW are a new visual-performative medium enabled, and strongly shaped, by the capacities of digital technology, in particular the execution of digital rules powerfulenough to call forth complex worlds of activity.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Understanding play in its contemporary digital manifestations is a sec-ond aim of the book. I argue that video games such as WoW are a new visual-performative medium enabled, and strongly shaped, by the capacities of digital technology, in particular the execution of digital rules powerfulenough to call forth complex worlds of activity”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A third aim of the book is ethnographic reportage—interpreting expe- riences of playing World of Warcraft for those who will never play but wish to understand something of the role of video games in our culture.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “A third aim of the book is ethnographic reportage—interpreting expe- riences of playing World of Warcraft for those who will never play but wish to understand something of the role of video games in our culture.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The research was carried out in three locales: the virtual world of the game itself; Southern California, where my students and I conducted inter- views; and China, where my research assistants and I spent a month observ- ing players in Internet cafes and talking to them about World of Warcraft.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “chapter two An Ethnographic Investigation of World of Warcraft”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “Unlike research in most academic disciplines, where investigation proceeds according to a scientific procedure involving hypothesis generation and testing, ethnography moves in a “go with the flow” pattern that attempts to follow the interesting and the unexpected as they are encountered in the field.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Unlike research in most academic disciplines, where investigation proceeds according to a scientific procedure involving hypothesis generation and testing, ethnography moves in a “go with the flow” pattern that attempts to follow the interesting and the unexpected as they are encountered in the field.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” The blockage created by diminished opportunities to study cultures untouched by cosmopolitan markets and states has left contempo-rary anthropology somewhat unsettled. It is not surprising, then, that some turn to what appear to be new cultural forms emerging in virtual worlds. These social milieux offer up a chance to cast an anthropological gaze on fresh sets of natives and their exotic ways (e.g., Miller and Slater 2000; Wilson and Peterson 2002; Golub 2007, 2009; Williams 2007; Boellstorff 2008; Ito 2008; Malaby 2009; Pearce 2009). “

Page 7, Underline (Red):
Content: “(e.g., Miller and Slater 2000; Wilson and Peterson 2002; Golub 2007, 2009; Williams 2007; Boellstorff 2008; Ito 2008; Malaby 2009; Pearce 2009).”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As anthropologist Marilyn Strathern wrote: Ethnography is . . . the deliberate attempt to generate more data than the researcher is aware of at the time of collection . . . Rather than devis- ing research protocols that will purify the data in advance of analysis, the anthropologist embarks on a participatory exercise which yields materials for which analytical protocols are often devised after the fact. (2004)”

Page 7, Underline (Red):
Content: “(2004) Marilyn Strathern”

Page 7, Stamp (c_A4659461-3314-40C2-A8CD-56CF6AE081EF_quote_)

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Most anthropological fieldwork requires a budget for foreign travel and the necessity to leave home. It often requires living under difficult circum- stances. The cost of entering a virtual world is very low—in the case of World of Warcraft 50 dollars for the game CDs and 14 dollars a month for the subscription. No research grants or struggles with a foreign language were necessary to initiate the research. Nor was there a need to cope with disturbing food, large insects, filth, dangerous diseases, or homesickness. My entry point to the field site was a computer on my dining room table where I sat in a comfortable chair and played for many hours. And yet this fieldwork was nearly as immersive as the fieldwork I conducted for my postdoctoral research in Western Samoa or Papua New Guinea, where I accompanied my husband for his doctoral research. I typically played about 20 hours a week. I read fewer novels and slept a bit less. In addition to game play, I read my guild’s website nearly every day and spent considerable time reading about World of Warcraft on the Internet.”

Page 8, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “Most anthropological fieldwork requires a budget for foreign travel and the necessity to leave home. It often requires living under difficult circum- stances. The cost of entering a virtual world is very low—in the case of World of Warcraft 50 dollars for the game CDs and 14 dollars a month for the subscription. No research grants or struggles with a foreign language were necessary to initiate the research. Nor was there a need to cope with disturbing food, large insects, filth, dangerous diseases, or homesickness. My entry point to the field site was a computer on my dining room table where I sat in a comfortable chair and played for many hours. And yet this fieldwork was nearly as immersive as the fieldwork I conducted for my postdoctoral research in Western Samoa or Papua New Guinea, where I accompanied my husband for his doctoral research. I typically played about 20 hours a week. I read fewer novels and slept a bit less. In addition to game play, I read my guild’s website nearly every day and spent considerable time reading about World of Warcraft on the Internet.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “My research methods were the standard methods of anthropology: interviews, observations, participant-observation, informal conversations, and document analysis. Most of the interviews were conducted face-to-face; I find I learn more when I sit down with someone for an unhurried conver- sation. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Some interviews were conducted online. The interviews utilized a fixed set of questions, but, like most ethnographic interviews, they opportunistically followed the con- tours of the conversation. If the study participant said something interest- ing, the topic was pursued. I also read many WoW-related websites, blogs, forums, wikis, and news articles and watched WoW-related videos.”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Most of the interviews were conducted face-to-face; I find I learn more when I sit down with someone for an unhurried conver- sation.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “How does an anthropologist go about describing and analyzing a field site? There are two strategies. The first is through the application of theory. In this book I analyze World of Warcraft using activity theory and the closely related ideas of John Dewey. The second strategy is the accretion of a mul- titude of details that impart a sense of the everyday texture of experience in a culture. I present the details of the game in descriptions of the game itself, in specific episodes of activity, and through the words of players them- selves.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “My guildmates were incurious about my research. I told them about it, conducted short interviews online with some members, and posted mes-“

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “sages on the guild website. I did not meet any guild members offline. Myresearch was not salient in my guild interactions. I hope making this point goes some way toward answering the question anthropologists are often asked: are you perturbing the culture you are studying by your very pres-ence? As far as I can tell, I have caused virtually no perturbations in World of Warcraft apart from stimulating some players to reflect a bit more on their play experiences as a result of having been interviewed. I can identify no risks the research posed. “

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As so often happens in WoW guilds, interpersonal conflict, i.e., drama, reared its ugly head. One day Loro disappeared without a word. The school- teacher took over but then broke up with her boyfriend who had gotten her into the game, and left WoW. The guild sadly disbanded.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Many guild members were parents with small children. It was not unusual for game play to stop as a player settled an infant who had awak- ened or took time out to bandage a skinned knee. Part of the guild ethos was that members had real lives, so such actions were to be tolerated politely and patiently. In hardcore guilds, this would not be the case.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “One difference in studying WoW was that the research inclined toward the participant end of participant-observation. I learned to play the game well enough to participate in a raiding guild. I looked just like any other player. For many practical purposes, I was just another player. I could not have studied raiding guilds without playing as well as at least an average player and fully participating in raids. By contrast, when I was walking around villages in Papua New Guinea or Western Samoa, I was obviously an outsider whose identity required explanation.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “I looked just like any other player. For many practical purposes, I was just another player. I could not have studied raiding guilds without playing as well as at least an average player and fully participating in raids. By contrast, when I was walking around villages in Papua New Guinea or Western Samoa, I was obviously an outsider whose identity required explanation.”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Pearce (2009) suggested the term participant-engagement to describe this style of work in which the researcher is deeply immersed in native practices.”

Page 14, Underline (Red):
Content: “Pearce (2009)”

Page 14, Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “participant-engagement”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Blending in, however, is not necessarily characteristic of research in vir- tual worlds; it does not distinctly identify “digital ethnography.” In research I conducted in Second Life with IBM, my participation as a researcher was made clear to others to the point of having a halo over my character’s head to identify my special status.”

Page 14, Stamp (c_A4659461-3314-40C2-A8CD-56CF6AE081EF_quote_)

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Boellstorff (2008) and Pearce (2009) were identified as researchers in the virtual worlds they studied. It may be more natural to set up shop as an anthropologist in non-game worlds; in a game world, the overwhelming need to play dominates interaction much of the time.”

Page 14, Underline (Red):
Content: “Boellstorff (2008) Pearce (2009)”

Page 14, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “It may be more natural to set up shop as an anthropologist in non-game worlds; in a game world, the overwhelming need to play dominates interaction much of the time.”

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