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Title: Mimetic rivalry in shared virtual environments: A study of conflict and imitation in World of Warcraft
Authors: Goren, Eli
Advisors: King, G
Self, W
Keywords: Mimetic theory;Videogames;MMORPG;Imitation in videogames;Conflict in videogames
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: Mounting evidence from neuroscience, clinical psychology and human development points to significance of imitation in human behaviour, interpersonal relationships and collectively pursued activities. These group activities include participation in online multiplayer computer games, massively multiplayer online games or other kinds of socially situated gaming. However, despite the growing salience of either subject, a wide-scale research of imitation in collective play is yet to be carried out. This study addresses this gap in knowledge by looking at imitative phenomena in massively multiplayer online gaming from the conceptual perspective of René Girard’s mimetic hypothesis. The hypothesis proceeds from the following assumptions: goal commitment is activated by reflexive imitation and regulated by goal proximity; extrinsic goal value is reciprocally accrued within the goal pursuing group; competing motivations towards collectively pursued goals result in intra-group aggression. Mimetic impulse is, therefore, formally equivalent to conflictual imitation. This thesis seeks to register how conflictual imitation may be encouraged by the game and reproduced by the players. The study applies a combination of formal and phenomenological approach to World of Warcraft player experience, specifically, that obtained at the highest difficulty of collective play. Subjective analytical outcomes are corroborated by evidence from fieldwork which took place over the period of two years and enabled the researcher to engage with the subject from the perspective of high competence and literacy. To offset the possible confirmation bias and support the analytical findings and field observations with quantitative data, the study introduces a comparative survey of World of Warcraft players. The 334 respondents include 164 Russian-speaking gamers: a representative sample for what is widely regarded as a hyper-competitive gamer community.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
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Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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