The WoW Factor: A Virtual Ethnographic Study of Sacred Things and Rituals in World of Warcraft

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  • This paper describes the method of complete participant observation-style virtual ethnography and how it was used to study sacred objects and rituals in the virtual world of Azeroth, from the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW). Drawing heavily from the work of Hine (2000), Gold (1958), and Durkheim (1912), and utilizing a case study of the author's MA thesis titled The WoW Factor: The Development of Social Solidarity in Azeroth, this paper provides a detailed description of the unique challenges that a researcher must overcome when planning, and carrying out, an ethnographic study in an MMORPG. Key topics of discussion include: ethical considerations and concerns, recording observations through the use of video-capture and screen-shots, the importance of maintaining the proper balance between being an 'insider' and an 'outsider', and spatial and temporal displacement between the virtual and the real.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International