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Online Gaming as a Virtual Forum

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Due to concerns over its perceived ills, especially to children, most social science research on video gaming has focused on behavioral effects and content analysis. Meanwhile, surprisingly little qualitative research has been conducted on the social aspects of videogame culture. In their article, "Television as a Cultural Forum," Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch argue that television raises more questions than its narratives’ conclusions answer. In doing so, television becomes a cultural site for discussing contemporary social issues. Likewise, multiplayer online games (e.g., MMORPGs) attract thousands of gamers, thus constituting sizable virtual communities. By adapting Newcomb and Hirsch’s framework for online gaming communities, researchers may begin to explore how games are virtual forums in which "expression" thrives. The inter-game communication, the sharing of fan fiction, and the variety of videogame modifications testify to the ways in which gamers speak about, and through, their media.
Contact: Matthew Payne, Dept. of Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas at Austin,
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