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theory: The Third Place
Posted on Wednesday, September 20 @ 17:28:02 CEST by julian

Papers
While I've never been to South Korea, I've heard that the extremely popular MMO Lineage is often referred to as a 'third place' there, next to those other places of regular occupation, work and home. In the western-world however it is still uncommon to hear of MMOs as referred to as a place as all, in fact they aren't even a considered a location in themselves, despite being common sites of great public interest. Tasty Research (my first time there) posts a link to a paper called Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name: Online Games as “Third Places”, that directly situates MMOs as places in their own right.

The essay looks at the societal value MMOs hold and the wider roles they play in the context of everyday life, particularly in the production of diverse social outlooks otherwise innaccessible to us due to imposed social delimiters in the corporeal world.

While this is certainly true, anyone that's spent time playing any one of the great majority of MMOs will know that Class, in the traditional sense of social power derived from capital status, often manifests in game as a character's 'level', even so much as governing your freedom of movement and right of social access throughout the game world itself. Sure, this status isn't granted or inherited as it is in the corporeal social world, but it does makes the author's use of the term 'Leveler' - to describe third-places as a common plane for social interaction - a little ironic.

Nonetheless the paper offers some valuable research, much of which is derived from study done in the game they're talking about - as opposed to decidedly outside of it, something all too common amongst many videogame theorists today. Alot of the time what's considered videogame theory might actually be a branch of the increasingly popular 'Immaculate Research', a discipline where great insight is instantaneously transferred to the researcher by means of spiritual injection, perhaps from a great bearded academic living on divine tenure just behind the clouds.

For your interest, my take on MMO's as public places is here: Proxy Life and Public Space in the MMORPG.

 
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