In the world of videogame studies there has been a lot written about Wow and MUDs and MOOs and fairly little written about FPS players so I’ve looked at the MMORPG stuff to see where it is similar to or different from my research interests.
I was listening to the latest episode of the podcast, A Life Well Wasted the other day and it got me thinking. If you don’t know, A Life Well Wasted is kind of like the This American Life of videogame podcasts. It is really good even if it doesn’t come out as often as I would like.
The latest episode is “Artists, Fans, & Engineers” has some great interviews with cosplayers and fanfic authors. Felicia Day’s work on The Guild has also been getting a lot of attention and in particular her song “Do You Want to Date My Avatar.”
Back in the 90s I participated in a comic book APA and did a little bit of comic book fanfic and I’ve read Henry Jenkins so I am familiar with fandom. I’ve never played WoW but I have played a little bit of City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings Online and I’m currently playing the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons Online. Through none of this experience, however, have I done much team questing and never joined a guild. My experiences with anime, manga, and jrpgs is also pretty limited. I’ve seen a few anime shows (I grew up with Robotech), I’ve read Lone Wolf and Cub, and I’ve played Final Fantasy 7 and part of 8. However, when it comes to a lot of these less popular jrpgs I am clueless.
I got to say, this kind of cosplay and fanfic just doesn’t happen in First-Person Shooters. Sure, there is some but it just isn’t at the level it is among the mmorpg and jrpg players. There are certainly reasons for this, more story, a different perspective so you can see your character and character customization, and so on. But because of this they really seem to attract different kinds of people. There is overlap of course but the hardcore mmorpg and jrpg players don’t tend to be hardcore fps players and vice-versa.
I think that perhaps we really need to stop thinking about “videogames” as a monolithic thing and about “gamers” as belonging to a single monolithic group. Just as figure skating fans and hockey fans don’t tend to be the same people despite the superficial similarities of the two, neither are mmorpg, jrpg, and fps players (there’s some gendered aspects to those sports and I don’t think it is a coincidence that female mmorpg and jrpg players are much more common than female fps players. However, that is a matter for another post at another time.).
I guess what I’m saying is that videogames aren’t the same and neither are the players.