Beyond Management: Considering Participatory Design and Governance in Player Culture

T.L. Taylor


This article explores relationships between players and the owners of the massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) they inhabit. Much of the language around these large scale communities currently focuses on “management.” Viewing these complex social systems as essentially mechanical in nature has led to a preoccupation with creating or retrofitting systems which can be constantly monitored, tuned, regulated, and controlled. Though the language often turns to things like “cheating,” “griefing,” and “disruption of the magic circle,” the underlying anxiety about unruliness, transgressiveness, and the emergent nature of these spaces as sites of culture needs to be more fully addressed, as well as the early formulations of the “imagined player” that shape the design process. Players are central productive agents in game culture and more progressive models are needed for understanding and integrating their work in these spaces. Drawing on the long tradition of participatory design this piece explores some alternative frameworks for understanding the designer/player relationship are proposed.

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