(with Dr. Katarina Damjanov)
The Border Politics of Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games:
As a notion of place ‘the border’ has been deployed in a number of ways, of particular interest to this article is the way that ‘the border’ has been invoked as a shifting and immaterial boundary, and a metaphor for global mobility and hybridity. In this regard we wish to highlight two aspects of Pablo Vila’s (2000) work: his critique of a homogenous concept of ‘the border’; and his focus on uneven dynamics that borders impose.
The concept of the border will be used in this article to explore the exclusionary boundaries of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), both in regard to access to the games, and of access within the games themselves. This investigation elaborates on the established uneven power dynamic in MMORPGs between the corporate owners of the game, and the players of the game. The aim of the article is to open up the category of players of MMORPGs to explore stratification within, and between, games that is derived from an unevenness of access.
The article will examine the ways that this unevenness stems from economics, technology, and culture through an ethnographic investigation of MMORPG play in Belgrade, Serbia, Melbourne, Australia, and Caracas, Venezuela. The discussion will focus on games popular at all sites: Tibia (CipSoft, 1996), Flyff (AeonSoft, 2004), and Second Life (Linden Labs, 2003). Through an analysis of this empirical data, the notion of the border in relation to MMORPGs will be explored, to argue while this genre of videogames represents a form of international space, that the inequalities and unevenness that characterize the demarcation of borders between states are carried through to the virtual game worlds, replicating and reproducing off-line hierarchies. Of particular interest will be the stakes and status of playing these games for free, vis-à-vis a system that allows people who are free-players and fee-paying subscribes to both play together and co-produce a virtual economy.
Vila, P. (2000). Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders: Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier. Austin: University of Texas Press.