Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture

For sale at MIT Press.

In Play Between Worlds, T. L. Taylor examines multiplayer gaming life as it is lived on the borders, in the gaps–as players slip in and out of complex social networks that cross online and offline space. Taylor questions the common assumption that playing computer games is an isolating and alienating activity indulged in by solitary teenage boys. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), in which thousands of players participate in a virtual game world in real time, are in fact actively designed for sociability. Games like the popular Everquest, she argues, are fundamentally social spaces.Taylor’s detailed look at Everquest offers a snapshot of multiplayer culture. Drawing on her own experience as an Everquest player (as a female Gnome Necromancer)–including her attendance at an Everquest Fan Faire, with its blurring of online-and offline life–and extensive research, Taylor not only shows us something about games but raises broader cultural issues. She considers “power gamers,” who play in ways that seem closer to work, and examines our underlying notions of what constitutes play–and why play sometimes feels like work and may even be painful, repetitive, and boring. She looks at the women who play Everquest and finds they don’t fit the narrow stereotype of women gamers, which may cast into doubt our standardized and preconceived ideas of femininity. And she explores the questions of who owns game space–what happens when emergent player culture confronts the major corporation behind the game.

T.L. Taylor

About T.L. Taylor

T.L. Taylor is Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and co-founder and Director of Research for AnyKey, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing fair and inclusive esports. She is a qualitative sociologist who has focused on internet and game studies for over two decades. Dr. Taylor’s research explores the interrelations between culture and technology in online leisure environments. Her book about game live streaming, Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming (Princeton University Press, 2018), is the first of its kind to chronicle the emerging media space of online game broadcasting and won the American Sociological Association’s CITAMS book award. She is also the author of Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming (MIT Press, 2012) which explores the rise of esports and Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture (MIT Press, 2006), an ethnography of the massively multiplayer online game EverQuest. In 2012 Princeton University published her co-authored book on conducting ethnographic research in online multi-user worlds, Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Dr. Taylor is a highly sought after speaker. Both the White House and the International Olympics Committee have invited her to special summits focused on gaming. And journalists for the New York Times, PBS, the Los Angeles Times, BBC, CBC, and many others often reach out to Dr. Taylor for her expertise. She also currently serves as a member of Twitch’s Safety Advisory Council, Riot’s Scholastic Association of America Board of Advisors, and the editorial boards of Social Media & Society, Games and Culture, American Journal of Play, and ROMChip. For more information about Dr. Taylor visit tltaylor.com.

 
 

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