I have to say this may be my dissertation topic too. I would like to write the final paper as a preparation for my dissertation.

I’m interested in Multiplayer Online Games (MOGs)in general. Especially, I want to know the dynamic between gamers’ collaborative behaviors and their intimate relationships. Many game researchers (e.g. Benford et al., 2001; Brown & Bell, 2005) have noted that collaboration is the practical dynamic to play online games, and most MOGs can be understood as collaborative virtual environments. HCI designers (e.g. Pace et al., 2010) have also noticed the convergence between the increased emphasis in experience design in HCI and sociability in Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), which makes MOGs support and encourage sophisticated collaboration. But there is a gap: Little work has been done to investigate the intimate, affection-driven and small-scale collaboration in MOGs, such as those mediated via romantic relationships — in-game marriage, which is distinct from large-scale, organized and task-driven collaboration.

So the purpose of my research is to examine how in-game marriage is related to MOG players’ collaborative behaviors, endeavoring to re-conceptualize in-game marriage as a new source of computer-mediated collaboration. A MOG named Audition was chosen as the data for analysis for the following reasons: 1) Although Audition was originally released in South Korea in 2004, it has been localized by various publishers around the world, and attracted over 300 million players worldwide. 2) Audition is a generally non-violent, feministic (but with enough male players) and “soft” game with colorful design, cute avatars, and pleasant melodies (See the snapshot of login screen), which is very unique comparing to “hard”, violent or fantasy based games (e.g. WOW, EverQuest). 3) Audition is a highly engaging game embedded with various coupling features (e.g. matching cards, date planner, couple certificate, and couple garden), which can mediate and develop couple-related collaborative behaviors based on technological affordance. In this game, players control their avatars by pressing the arrow keys and spacebar on the keyboard in accordance to the arrows on the screen, which show the rhythm of the played song. In this way, they compete and/or collaborate with other players in dancing battles: The more accurately and coordinately they press keys, the higher scores they can get.

Snapshot - 1

I have collected some preliminary data by in-game participatory observation (login via North American server) and from out-game public game forum. Now I’m at the stage of “waiting for more data”, structuring the theoretical framework and polishing my research question(s). All types of suggestion is welcome. Especially, I think literatures/theories related to personal informatics, intimacy, etc. may be very helpful.

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