homeresources & publications › from tree house to barracks: the social life of guilds in world of warcraft


From tree house to barracks: the social life of guilds in World of Warcraft


In 1999, 8% of all Americans (not adolescents) said they played games online. By 2003 that number had risen to 37%, and it continues to climb (Fallows, 2004). These numbers would be less noteworthy if players were going on to networks to play alone, but they are increasingly playing with others. It follows that in an online networked world, games matter socially (Williams, 2006b). Yet despite public curiosity, intense play patterns and press interest, there is surprisingly little empirical research on the social dynamics of game players. When "games" are reduced further by platform or genre, there is less still. In the current work, we focus on the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game "World of Warcraft," (WoW) the most popular such game in North America. Our research is concerned with the social dynamics of players within the in-game organizations known as player "guilds." By focusing on player behavior, attitudes and opinions, we explore the meanings they make, the social capital they derive and the networks they form. And, with the use of a representative sample and in-depth interviews, we explore these areas with both breadth and depth.


Williams, D.; Ducheneaut, N. ; Xiong, L.; Zhang, Y. ; Yee, N. ; Nickell, E. From tree house to barracks: The social life of guilds in World of Warcraft. Games & Culture. 2006 October; 1 (4): 338-361.