Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The Community in DaoC: first awareness

One of the first things that we are told about community is that in order for it to exist it has to construct its boundaries. In order to do that it has to define who is in the community and who is out side of it. Usually such definitions will follow a series of 'codes'. Codes are not a set of rules but are basic communication distinctions that are used to simply distinguish between those who are in the community and those who fall outside it.

By now you should see that in fact any one MMOPRG will have multiple lines for defining multiple communities and such groups will form and break on the codes they use to identify themselves. Its why the idea of a 'community manager' is in some senses an anathema. Communities don't by definition have manager's they form and collapse all the time depending on how they are able to maintain their boundaries. Their boundaries depend on the maintenance of codes that people identify with.

Now if the definition of codes holds true then strictly speaking everyone on any server is a member of a community because they are distinguished by the fact that they play there. So whilst in many respects 'community manager' can be an anthema and is a conflictual role it does have some grounding in the semantics of communication. Anyway the server versus other servers is the first distinction and therefore the first code you tend to encounter i.e. the name of the server (in this case Prydwen) versus all other 'undefined' servers. It is important - why for example does a community like Prydwen.net persist long after the server has merged and changed name? Long after most people have moved away? Because they identify with the Prydwen code. It might seem odd but as you can see codes are persistent.

Now we have three kinds of codes:
Objects - where the other side of the distinction is not specified i.e. Prydwen versus all other servers.
Distinctions - where the other side is specified i.e. Prydwen versus Excalibur a well known distinction
Second order distinctions - this one is complicated. A second order distinction is a distinction that can re-enter itself. Such distinctions enable a high degree of social organisation i.e. government and opposition, there is the basic distinction government and the opposition but then there is also a more sophisticated aspect to this. You can be in government but within the government there will be an an opposition and a government. Most governments have a ruling elite and an opposition within you can see this in any political party.

Second order distinctions are really not seen in MMOPORGs or at least I haven't noticed any as yet - mostly because the codes that people use to communicate tend to either be objects or distinctions.

Now at the time I didn't really think of this but now when I reflect back I can see that in fact these distinctions were happening all the time in the game. They are used to demarcate groups. Communities within a community as it were. The rest of my story is about how I gradually became aware of the various distinctions being used to communicate group boundaries. I am a naturally curious person and you can bet I tried to experience all of these distinctions as best I could. Anyway back to the story - the distinctions at this stage are fairly basic.

When Aithne and I first started to go out into RvR in Molvik we had some memorable experiences. We acted on the basis of the distinction between us as a duo and them the opposition. We duoed for many days in both Molvik and Lervik. Back then we did not have a buff bot - you can guess that my degree of ignorance of anything to do with the game was pretty conclusive. Instead we would run out in both BG's and get chewed and zerged, but we were a duo and we won a fair proportion of fights as well.

RvR in battlegrounds is ok but going out into the old frontiers well that was what we were living for back then. The opportunity came when Hibernia announced an epic relic raid at the end of old frontiers. I had never been on one but as a level 42 Nightshade you can be sure I was going. The only distinction I was aware of was us versus them. Once more a very crude distinction but I was going to do my best.

Now I had to prepare for the fight. I printed out all the maps of the frontier in a state of fervour. I liked the maps that had the animals on them because you could look at the mobs around you and guess where you were. Back then old Emain as we are still told on the forums was apparently where men where men and boys were boys and sheep where very frightened. There was no online map and you had to pick your way through without any guidance.

I had loads of printed maps on my lap and was sitting in skype trying to find my way around. I got lost very quickly because my laptop could not cope with the lag of the raid. So I ended up trying to find where the main BG was all the time talking to Aithne who also managed to get lost. After dying loads of times to high level stealthers at the milegates we eventually got through to Midgard. It took ages to get to the keep.

The Hibbies got the relic then had to hold the keep from Midgard who to all intense purposes were ferocious. Jupiter was constantly talking in the BG telling people to calm down to hold their position to wait then to charge. To pull back to hold out of line of sight and wait then to charge. It was the raid where he screemed that infamous slogan "DON'T PANIC! WE'VE GOT SHROOMS!" These words are iconic to us.

I was lost out in Midgard - the closest I got to the relic keep was the slope outside where my screen went black and I died to lag and a Mid zerg.

It was an epic raid and in the end we lost the relic before the timer had gone but it was awesome. I was amazed and delighted to be part of such a group of people. Even now we remember those infamous words and they bring back fond memories of the night we shared. Virtually all of those people have gone from the server now. Its not even a shadow of what it once was.

The first meaningful distinction you come across in DaoC is your realm versus others. That is the point when you truly start to identify with 'the community'. Note that my point of reference was certainly not everyone else on the server. I could not communicate with them after all because of the way the game is designed. This point is deeply significant for the way in which people experience the game. It necessitates what some call 'the metagame' i.e. the forums.

7 comments:

Lieva said...

ahh THAT infamous comment :)

Been wracking my brains trying to work it out :D

Lieva said...

*pokes*

Sharkith said...

lol give me a break I am building something in Eve... why don't you join us in there?

Lieva said...

ive snuck back on wow actually ;p

and a break!! been two weeks now :p
i dont normally get that much break from work :p

Anonymous said...

classic world on an classic raid
when i first went on such an raid i was lvl32 , after this raid i took a 4-5 break from the game....realising it was really to early to go on it :-)

Anonymous said...

ALEX

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