Social dimensions of expertise in World of Warcraft players

Mark Chen


Expertise development in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004) depends greatly on a player's use of social skills to gain access to expert player groups and accrue social and cultural capital. Drawn from ethnographic research, this paper maps out various forms of expert practice and highlights the social aspects of game play that often eclipse the importance of game-mechanics knowledge. At the time of this research, playing World of Warcraft and developing expertise in the game happened roughly within a two-stage process: (1) leveling up, or advancing one's character or avatar while learning the mechanics of the game, and (2) drawing on social capital gained during the first stage to join a group of up to 40 players to partake in high-end or endgame content.


Digital game; Ethnography; Expertise; Games; Learning; MMOG

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