Social regulation of online multiplayer games

TitleSocial regulation of online multiplayer games
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsMuramatsu, J
PublisherUniversity of California, Irvine, PhD Thesis
Keywordse-communities, game communities, game worlds, MUDs, online communities, social regulation

Social regulation of user behavior is a key aspect of the community maintenance required to ensure the continued success and well-being of virtual worlds as “Third Places” (Oldenburg, 1989). Accordingly, this dissertation focuses on social regulation within two fantasy-based game MUDs (Multi-user Dungeons) which will be referred to as Illusion and Odyssey. Briefly, social regulation can be defined as “social arrangements employed to keep the behavior of some people in line with the expectations of others” (Hewitt and Hewitt, 1996). One key focus of the work is on providing an ethnographic account of the work performed by the games' administrators, immortals, in order to regulate player behavior. Immortals were observed to use both situated and typified reasoning in order to evaluate situations in a tractable and manageable manner. Such evaluation differs between virtual and physical spaces with respect to both the fluidity of identity and the visibility of information cues.The second key focus of this work is on the role of software code in regulating behavior. On the two studied systems, code is not merely used as a passive tool by the immortals in the form of specialized commands to monitor player behavior and issue punishments but it also plays a much more active, autonomous role. Both systems utilize specialized software routines that automatically enforce restrictions on behavior that were previously enforced by the immortals. Such code serves as the active agent of regulation by continuously monitoring behavior within the game world and taking regulatory action accordingly. The analysis of the use of coded rules for regulation focuses on differences in the ways in which immortals and coded rules perform regulation. These differences rest primarily in the range and type of information cues used; code was observed to use a narrow set of cues, while immortals considered a much wider set of cues including issues of intent and extenuating circumstances.In summary, this dissertation presents a detailed account of the regulatory work performed directly by system administrators and by autonomous code so that virtual “third places” might continue to thrive and prosper.