Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Amazon, How I Love Thee

Ok, so this is not the Amazon I was referring to. But you've gotta admit... pretty spectacular, isn't it?

Anyway, the Amazon that I was referring to is the handy-dandy Amazon.com, where I hunt around every Christmas for good books to buy as presents. A few days ago, one of my professors, Gideon Burton, suggest that I look at the book Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds by Celia Pearce, a game designer. This book has a chapter on identity, which relates nicely to my studies on how multiple online identities can be unified in a way to form a more whole, singular sense of self. Virtually flipping through this book on Amazon, I did learn some things about identity. Probably one of the most important things I learned is that games, throughout history, have been multiplayer, and therefore tied to group identity. Think about it. Mahjong, mancala, senet.... these games involve more than one person. So do new online games today. So the issue of group identities and the formation of alternate identities is really not a new issue. Interesting!

I looked at some of the books that people usually buy along with Communities of Play. By looking at the tags and using Amazon's rather convenient search feature, I could tell that most of these books, while discussing the interesting cultures of online games, which I really don't know very much about, didn't deal so much with identity.

But then I found Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture by T. L. Taylor. The beginning of this book describes the author's attendance of an EverQuest convention held in Boston. Taylor states that
"This event, a "Fan Faire," presents some unique experiences in blurring the boundaries between game and nongame space, off- and online lives, avatars and "real" identities and bodies. The longer I have spent with EQ the more I have come to believe that this boundary work is at the heart of massively multiplayer games, and indeed internet life in general."

Taylor watches a man who usually hands out virtual flowers on the game give out roses in real life. She notes that people usually only go by their online names: even couples refer to each other by their game names. But, people do talk about their offline jobs and lives.

I do think that these observances are very pertinent for what I'm studying. Is a muliplicity of identity demonstrated here? Yup. Most definitely. But, although people utilize their alternate game identities to their advantage, they do mesh their offline selves with what they create. Does this give them a more sure sense of self? I think so. These people show a desire to bring together their different identities by attending a conference of this nature. The act of going to the conference demonstrates, in my view, a confidence in an aggregate offline and online identity, an identity that is formed by both worlds.


  1. I've been spreading this article by Henry Jenkins around to a few of our classmates, and I think there are some points in it that might be useful for you as well:


    "Participatory culture" is something that Jenkins talks a lot about, and you might start by looking at p. 7, where Jenkins talks about the difference between kids and adults these days.

    You also might look at what Jenkins says about "role playing", on p. 30. In general, this article talks about the way new media should be used to educate, but it's got a lot of parallels to the things you're talking about here.

    Also, on p. 39, Jenkins explains that "collective intelligence" offers the "ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal," something clearly important in communities of play.

  2. Heather! You are fabulous! Great research on Amazon= ) As I've been reading your blog, I have a suggestion for you. Push your original "so what" a bit further. What does it matter that there are multiple identities coming together? Why is that so important?

    As I was thinking about answering that question myself I came across a book on Amazon which helped me form one possible answer. "Grown Up Digital" the BYU library has it, call #QA 76.9 .C66 T37x 2009
    It discusses how youth today have a much more powerful role in the world today. For the first time in history, youth are the authorities on something really important. And they're changing every aspect of our society-from the workplace to the marketplace, from the classroom to the living room, from the voting booth to the Oval Office. The multiple identities offered by the internet creates an authoritative position for these children and suddenly they are more than just children with an inferior position, socially, to adults. They have the power. These identities allow them to have a force. Just something to consider!

  3. Ah, yes here I am again. I found a book JUST for you which addresses directly multiple identities online. BYU library has online access. Search "Being Virtual" and look at pages 222-223! I just read them and think you would like them!