Citation
Identity within Destiny

Material Information

Title:
Identity within Destiny virtual selves in virtual worlds
Creator:
Carroll, Anne Elizabeth ( author )
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 electronic file (115 pages) : ;

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Sociology, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Sociology

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Destiny (Video game) ( lcsh )
Video games ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Review:
This thesis explores how players of the video game Destiny create and maintain salient identities within the game world. Additionally, it seeks to understand how the character creation process contributes to maintaining an online identity and demonstrates how the way in which Destiny, by facilitating and in some cases even requiring interpersonal interaction, contributes to allowing players to maintain an online identity in the virtual world. A content analysis of the game and player interviews show how the world is constructed to facilitate identity creation and how players interact with this world and with other players.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
System Details:
System requirements: Adobe Reader.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Anne Elizabeth Carroll.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver Collections
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
983797633 ( OCLC )
ocn983797633
Classification:
LD1193.L66 2016m C47 ( lcc )

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Full Text
IDENTITY WITHIN DESTINY: VIRTUAL SELVES IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
by
ANNE ELIZABETH CARROLL B.A., University of Colorado Denver 2014
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program
2016


2016
ANNE CARROLL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Anne Elizabeth Carroll has been approved for the Sociology Program by
Candan Duran-Aydintug, Chair Maren T. Scull
Date: April 29, 2016
in
Keith Guzik


Carroll, Anne Elizabeth (M. A. Sociology)
Identification within Destiny. Virtual Selves in Virtual Worlds Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
ABSTRACT
This thesis explores how players of the videogame Destiny create and maintain salient identities within the game world. Additionally, it seeks to understand how the character creation process contributes to maintaining an online identity and demonstrates how the way in which Destiny, by facilitating and in some cases even requiring interpersonal interaction, contributes to allowing players to maintain an online identity in the virtual world. A content analysis of the game and player interviews show how the world is constructed to facilitate identity creation and how players interact with this world and with other players.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Candan Duran-Aydintug
IV


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION................................................................1
Research Questions...........................................................1
Definitions..................................................................2
Videogame..................................................................2
Games......................................................................3
Player.....................................................................3
Character..................................................................3
Virtual World..............................................................3
Videogame World............................................................3
Identity/Self..............................................................4
Real-World Identity........................................................4
Virtual Identity...........................................................4
Console....................................................................5
Guilds.....................................................................5
NPCs.......................................................................5
ESRB.......................................................................5
Western/Traditional Gender Norms and Roles.................................5
Avatar.....................................................................6
Race.......................................................................6
Class......................................................................6
Raids.......................................................................7
v


Game Classifications
7
Action and Adventure.......................................................7
First Person Shooter.......................................................8
Role-Playing Games (RPGs)..................................................8
Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO)....................................8
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)....................8
Who is A Player?.............................................................9
II. WHY STUDY VIDEO GAMES?................................................... 10
Do Videogames Matter?.......................................................10
A History of Controversy....................................................12
The Legacy of Mortal Kombat and Violence in Videogames....................13
Violence on TV and in Movies..............................................14
Recent Literature on Videogames and Violence..............................15
Videogames and Sexuality..................................................19
Positive Impacts of Videogames............................................19
III. VIDEOGAMES AM) IDENTITY..................................................24
Background Identity Theory..................................................24
George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman: A Historical Perspective on Identity.24
Videogame Specific Identity Theory..........................................27
Sameness Identity vs Empathic Identity....................................27
Identity Through Interaction..............................................28
Goffmans Self in a Virtual Space.........................................29
vi


Post-Modern Identity
32
IV. PAST RESEARCH ON IDENTITY IN VIDEOGAMES...................................34
World of War craft..........................................................34
Participant Observers and Ethnographies....................................34
The Role of Guilds.........................................................35
Interviews and Content Analysis............................................37
Theoretical Assumptions: Identification with a Character....................38
V. WHY STUDY DESTINY?.........................................................42
The Story...................................................................44
Character Creation.........................................................44
Plot.......................................................................47
Earth and the Fallen.......................................................49
The Moon and the Hive......................................................51
Venus, the Vex, and the Awoken.............................................52
Mars and the Black Garden..................................................54
The Dark Below.............................................................55
House of Wolves............................................................58
The Taken King.............................................................60
The Future of Destiny......................................................62
Social Spaces...............................................................62
The Tower..................................................................62
The Reef...................................................................64
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Raids
65
The Impact of Destiny..........................................................68
VI. RESEARCH METHODS..............................................................69
Content Analysis...............................................................69
Character Creation Analysis..................................................69
Game Play Analysis...........................................................74
Social Space Analysis........................................................75
Interviews.....................................................................76
Sample.......................................................................76
VII. FINDINGS.....................................................................77
Character Creation Analysis....................................................77
World and Gender Constructions...............................................77
Gear Customization...........................................................79
Front and Back Stage Impression Management...................................80
Game Play Analysis.............................................................82
Gear.........................................................................83
Subclasses...................................................................83
Playing with Others..........................................................85
Player vs. Player............................................................87
Social Space Analysis..........................................................89
Interviews.....................................................................90
Race and Gender..............................................................90
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Creation of a Self....................................................91
Interactions with Others..............................................92
Future Interviews.....................................................93
IX. DISCUSSION............................................................94
Future Research.........................................................96
Limitations.............................................................96
X. CONCLUSIONS...........................................................98
REFERENCES................................................................99
IX


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
The study of videogames and online interactions are growing areas of research in sociology and social psychology (Newman, 2014). As technology progresses the line between what is real and what is virtual is continually blurred. Much videogame research has focused on a games potential to create violent reactions among players, however there is a growing interest in the interactions and other social phenomena that videogame players engage in. This thesis attempts to further research in this area by studying how videogame players can form and maintain identities through the popular videogame Destiny (Bungie, 2014).
Research Questions
This thesis is guided by three research questions. First, based on the premise that players create alternate and real identities for their characters, I decided to explore the process of creating identities within videogames and seek to understand how players maintain these identities within the world of Destiny. I drew this premise from the works of James Newman and Ross Haenfler (Haenfler, 2016; Newman, 2014). Second, I wanted to explore how the character-creation process contributes to the process of creating and maintaining virtual identities in the Destiny world. And finally, I wanted to investigate how player interactions contribute to the players game identities in the Destiny world.
All of these questions begin with the premise that players can create a virtual identity separate from their actual identity and that this virtual identity can be just as real as the players identity in the physical world. This assumption is echoed in the works of prominent videogame researchers James Newman, Ross Haenfler, and Bonnie Nardi, whose works will
1


be referenced throughout this study. It is clear that for some players, their videogame characters represent an important and separate self from their real world one. Haenfler specifically states that it is not uncommon for videogame players to create virtual selves that may or may not reflect their own presentation of self but are an essential part of who the player is as a person (Haenfler, 2016, p. 125). He goes on to say that the online lives of stereotypical computer nerds should never be discounted as trivial or unimportant as they are of critical importance to the players (Haenfler, 2016).
My research questions are intended not only to investigate the identity formation and maintenance process in Destiny, but also were formulated to apply to research into other videogames. The long term goal is to examine the videogame identity formation process as a macro phenomenon meaning that these questions will be applied to many other videogames and contribute to an overall understanding of videogames and identity. While limited to Destiny, this study intends to explore and introduce the emerging research into virtual identities and videogames.
Definitions
This thesis includes many terms particular to videogames and which, when used in this context, have slightly more specific meanings than they do colloquially. To clarify, this section will define several key terms used in this thesis.
Videogame
While this thesis refers to several different videogames, in general videogame refers to games played on a home console and are rated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) the United States government sanctioned rating entity for
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videogame content. The ESRB assigns a rating to all videogames sold in the United States (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016).
Games
Games is used interchangeably with videogames and shares the videogame definition.
Player
Player refers to the individual who actively pilots a character through a given videogame world.
Character
In a videogame, a character is the entity which the player pilots during playtime. Depending on the game, a character may be created by the player or is pre-made by the game developers. In the case of Destiny, characters are created by the players through the character-creation process which occurs at the games outset. Additionally, in Destiny, players are able to create up to three different characters though these characters cannot be played simultaneously.
Virtual World
The Virtual World refers to any world created by videogame developers that is populated by computer controlled non-player characters (NPCs) and human players. Videogame World
Videogame worlds are the developer-created universes within which players pilot their characters. These worlds are governed by physical boundaries such as the edge of playable areas as well as by rules and limitations set by game developers.
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Identity/Self
Identity in this context is drawn from George Herbert Meads definition of the Self which was later built upon by Erving Goffman. According to Mead, the self is the persona of an individual that is formed through interactions with others and with society (Mead, 1934). The self is influenced by society and by other selves and it has some influence over other selves and society. The creation of self is a lifelong process that begins when a child becomes self-aware and ends only at death (Mead, 1934). This thesis will refer to the self as identity and will refer to real-world identity and virtual identity separately though often in sociology self and identity can have different meanings.
Real-World Identity
Real-world Identity refers to the more traditional self as defined by Goffman and Mead. It is a self which is inexorably tied to the physical body and is therefore influenced by the physical bodys appearance, gender, and actions (Goffman, 1959). While an individual can present themselves in various ways in the real world, their identity is somewhat constrained by physical limitations.
Virtual Identity
In this context, virtual identity refers specifically to identity within videogame worlds and will not include other online identities formed through avenues such as social media, chat rooms, etc. Virtual identity is less constrained than real world identity because the individual player often has control over the physical appearance of their character and this is the case in Destiny.
4


Console
In this thesis, consoles include all Xbox (Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One), PlayStation (PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4), and Nintendo (Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, GameBoy, and Nintendo DS) home consoles. Arcade games are not included in this definition of console.
Guilds
Guilds will refer to organized groups of players who form virtual communities within a game in order to accomplish their chosen particular goals.
NPCs
NPC stands for Non-player character and refers to any character seen/interacted with in the game that is not piloted by an actual person but rather is created by the developers for the game.
ESRB
The ESRB is the abbreviation for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board the organization responsible for assigning content ratings to every videogame sold in the United States. The rating classifications are as follows: E Everyone; T Teen; M Mature; A -Adults Only. Ratings are assigned by a board who evaluates the sexual and violent content of each game in addition to considerations such as depictions of illegal behaviors and language. Destiny is rated T.
Western/Traditional Gender Norms and Roles
In this thesis, I will use the definitions of gender norms from the book The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender by Thomas Eckes and Hans Martin Trautner.
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These norms and roles apply to individuals in the Western world, namely Europe and North America. Eckes and Trautner describe male roles as those involving aggression, decisionmaking, and leadership while women are expected to be gentle, nurturing, and maintain social ties (Eckes & Trautner, 2000). Most important for this thesis is the idea that displays of aggression are valued in males while docility is expected of females (Eckes & Trautner,
2000).
Avatar
An avatar is a videogame character that is intended to represent the player. Avatars are used in games like Second Life where players are not intended to create different identities for their characters but rather use their avatar as an online representation of their real-world identity.
Race
In videogames, the term race is used to refer to different species of characters in the game rather than the different racial groups that exist in the real world. Destiny includes three races from which players can choose their character: Human, Exo, and Awoken.
Class
In videogames, a characters class refers to the type of combat style they use. In Destiny there are three classes: Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. Titans are designed to both deal and survive substantial amounts of damage. They are described as heroic defenders of the Light, channeling the gifts of the Traveler to wage war on the Darkness. Steadfast and sure, Titans face any challenge head-on, blunt force instruments of the Traveler's will. (Bungie, 2016).
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According to the game, Hunters stalk the wilderness beyond the City, harnessing the Light to reclaim the secrets of our lost worlds. They are daring scouts and stealthy killers, expert with knives and precision weapons. Hunters blaze their own trails and write their own laws. (Bungie, 2016).
Finally, Warlocks are magic wielders who use the elements to fight enemies and are Warrior-scholars of the Light, Warlocks devote themselves to understanding the Traveler and its power. A Warlock's mind is an arsenal of deadly secrets, balanced between godhood and madness. On the battlefield, those secrets can shatter reality itself. (Bungie, 2016).
Raids
Raids are group activities common in multi-player online videogames. The specifics of Raids vary by game but essentially they are difficult quests requiring multiple players, strategy, and effective communication to complete.
Game Classifications
Videogames fall into genre categories similar to books, movies, and television shows. Game classifications contribute to a purchasers understanding of a games gameplay style and allow vendors to categorize their videogame wares. Kate Berens and Geoff Howard compiled a list of the most commonly used videogame classifications by both players and vendors. The videogames classifications used in this thesis are taken from the works of Berens and Howard.
Action and Adventure
As a genre, these games involve a pre-set story in which the player adopts a particular character such as James Bond. The player engages in battles with NPCs and embarks on
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various quests in the games storyline. These games are most similar to action movies in that they rely on plenty of gunplay rather than on a complex plot (Berens & Howard, 2001).
First Person Shooter
The category of First-Person Shooter encompasses several hugely popular games including Call of Duty, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Battlefield. These games capitalize on a first person vantage point play style in which the player shoots to eliminate NPC or other player enemies (Berens & Howard, 2001). These games are all but devoid of plotline and lack intricate details about the world, characters, and events of the game and focus instead on statistics (e.g. a players kills to deaths ratio) (Berens & Howard, 2001).
Role-Playing Games (RPGs)
Role-Playing Games evolved from tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons (Berens & Howard, 2001). Recent videogame examples of popular RPGs include Skyrim (2011), The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt (2015), and Dark Souls II (2014). RPGs are story centered, often containing in-game books on lore, characters with extensive backstories, and detailed world-building. Players assume the persona of their character and make decisions based on how they assume their character would react to different situations (Berens & Howard, 2001).
Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO)
An MMO is a multiplayer game where players share space and can play with or against each other in the game world (Berens & Howard, 2001).
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)
An MMORPG is an MMO with the added element of role-playing. World ofWarcraft is the most popular MMORPG as it is an MMO but with the expectation that players will
8


engage in role-playing and act out a personality for their character other than the players real personality (Berens & Howard, 2001).
Who is A Player?
The subjects of this thesis are videogame players, and, more specifically, Destiny players. In order to study players of any videogame, it is important to define the group of individuals as clearly as possible. The ESRB compiles statistics about videogame players which help give insight into who plays video games. According to the most recent ESRB published statistics, the average player is 1) 34 years old 2) has been playing videogames for an average of 12 years and 3) 60% male versus 40% female (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016). This profile contradicts the stereotypical idea of a gamer primarily as an adolescent male (Haenfler, 2016). While adolescent males constitute an important target market for videogame developers, there has been a shift to market toward young children (e.g. Pokemon), families (e.g. numerous Wii games), and women (e.g. 2016 game Horizon: Zero Dawn) (Newman, 2002).
As videogames have grown in popularity, content, and types of protagonists, it has become increasingly difficult to define a typical gamer. This thesis will focus on Destiny players who, because of the content and rating of the game, tend to be young adult males as it was originally marketed as a First-Person Shooter game (Berens & Howard, 2001).
However, future researchers should note that videogame players are not easily defined but vary immensely in age, gender, and other demographics.
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CHAPTER II
WHY STUDY VIDEO GAMES?
Do Videogames Matter?
Videogames are a relatively new form of entertainment. The first true home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released in 1985 and todays leading consoles, the Xbox and PlayStation, have only been on the market since 2001 and 1995, respectively (Time Magazine, 2016). Relatively little research on the topic of videogames has been conducted in comparison to television and movies primarily because the videogame industry is so young. James Newman, prominent videogame researcher, attributes the dearth of academic literature on videogames to the common but false assumptions that videogames are a childrens medium and are consequently written off as trifles (Newman, 2014). There are several reasons why videogames deserve public and academic attention.
James Newman argues that there are three primary reasons why videogames are important academically and socially: the size of the videogame marketplace, the popularity of videogames, and gaining understanding of the impact of human-computer interactions (Newman, 2014). Videogames contributed $4.9 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product in 2009 and the industry is growing at a rate of 10.6 percent annually a much higher rate than television and movies (Newman, 2014). In 2015, the U.S. videogame industry was worth $15.87 billion and by 2019 is projected to be worth almost $20 billion (Statista, 2016).
The popularity of videogames is as important as the size of the industry. Today most U.S. households (67%) have at least one member who plays videogames (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016). Also, the variety of videogame content available to players
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means that players do not necessarily grow out of playing videogames as is often proposed by academics (Newman, 2014). In fact, as discussed earlier, the average player age is over thirty (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016).
Further, many individuals and groups including industry professionals, James Newman, and the United States Supreme Court have taken the stance that videogames are an art form and should not be discounted as trivial {Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011). In the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case argued before the Supreme Court in 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the Entertainment Merchants Association (parent organization to the ESRB) allowing videogames to continue to self-regulate content rather than have the government impose ratings on videogames {Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011). A key part of the Entertainment Merchants Associations argument was that videogames are an art form and should therefore be exempt from government censorship {Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011).
Finally, as technology becomes increasingly integrated into daily life, it is crucial to devote academic attention to human/computer interactions. Videogames are one of the most pervasive examples of human/computer interaction and therefore is a relevant area of study (Newman, 2014). As this thesis aims to demonstrate, videogame players are able to create fully real selves and communities within the online worlds of videogames. Players are forming relationships with the worlds and with other players that have many of the same dynamics as real-world relationships between people and between people and their environments. Discounting such relationships as childish or trivial, especially as they become increasingly common among the American population, is problematic because it prevents
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discovering any potential impacts of maintaining virtual rather than (or in addition to) real world relationships.
A History of Controversy
In the words of Lauren Gonzalez, a writer for the popular videogame website and forum, Game Spot, ...since the earliest days of pinball, someone somewhere has been determined to ban games our visceral companions and instigators of id-driven fun. (Gonzalez, 2004). As with any medium that targets children for its audience, videogames draw concern and objection from parents. One of the first opponents of videogames was a Long Island PTA president and mother, Ronnie Lamm. Lamm appeared on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1982 encouraging a ban on arcades claiming that they bred non-productivity among children and left them mostly unsupervised. Her movement gained momentum among concerned parents and resulted in local restrictions on arcades which prohibited arcades being located within certain proximities to schools and that limited the hours at which children were allowed to play at the arcades (Gonzalez, 2004). The invention of in-home consoles essentially eliminated the efficacy of such ordinances since children no longer had to play videogames in public spaces.
Lamm spearheaded the short-lived anti-gaming movement in the 1980s, though the first game to generate controversy was created earlier in 1976. Death Race was an arcade game which consisted of driving a pixilated car over a number of pixilated gremlins. It was a loose recreation of the movie Death Race 2000 a post-apocalyptic thriller during which drivers attempt to kill each other in a gladiator-esque car race (Gonzalez, 2004). Though this game is tame by todays standards, it marked the genesis of public concern related to violence in videogames.
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The Legacy of Mortal Kombat and Violence in Videogames
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s there were a variety of games that generated parental concern and controversy in the press. Some of this concern came from parents who worried about their children becoming lazy and sedentary (Gonzalez, 2004). More serious concerns arose after copies of violent videogames were found among the possessions of violent teens including the two young men who perpetrated the Columbine High School attack in 1999 (Gonzalez, 2004). Additionally, part of the heat was centered around the distrust of a new technology, specifically one aimed at children for reasons such as those originally cited by Ronnie Lamm. Videogame controversy reached a new level in 1992 with the release of the somewhat infamous game Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat, like various violent television shows and movies that preceded it, generated massive controversy because of its violent content coupled with its enormous popularity (to date, the Mortal Kombat series has sold over 35 million games) (Funk, Baldacci, Pasold, & Baumgardner, 2004; Makuch, 2015). The latest installment, Mortal Kombat X, (April 7, 2015) became the top selling videogame of the year by July 2015. The original Mortal Kombat had arguably the best graphics of any game of its time, giving graphic definition to characters that did not exist in any other game (Gonzalez, 2004). Mortal Kombat coupled this graphic detail with its over-the-top emphasis on gore and death; features that Mortal Kombat X expands and enhances with additional weapons, moves, and more realistic graphics. The premise of the game (which has remained virtually unchanged through all ten installments) is the fight to the death between two monstrous characters in a ring. Each character is equipped with a unique set of functions, or moves and weapons, with which to dispense its foe. The game can be played by two players or by one player against the computer. One of the signature trademarks of
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Mortal Kombat is for the winner of the final round to inflict a mortal blow to the opponent by ripping off its head. This level of violence generated so much public outcry that in 1994 the U.S. Congress passed the Video Game Rating Act which required gaming companies to create a universal rating system, thus the ESRB was born (Gonzalez, 2004).
Despite the creation of the ESRB and the implementation of a universal rating system, video game controversy reached an even greater level of intensity following the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. One of the shooters reportedly named one of his guns after a character from the then-popular shooting game, Doom (Gonzalez, 2004). In response, several of the victims families filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Nintendo and other game companies, though the suit was eventually thrown out by a federal judge (Gonzalez, 2004). The idea that there is a link between violent videogames and school shootings lives on. This link was originally established in research on violent television and was later applied to videogames (Bushman & Cantor, 2003).
Violence on TV and in Movies
According to the American Psychological Association, there have been concerns about the effects that television and movies have on children since their invention (American Psychological Association, 2014). Critics of violence on television and in movies often point to Albert Banduras work on Social Learning Theory which essentially states that children learn by watching adults and that they imitate the behaviors that they witness (Bandura,
1971). Bandura conducted the now-famous experiment with Bobo the inflatable clown doll in which one group of children viewed a video of adults hitting and kicking Bobo, a second group viewed adults acting kindly toward Bobo, and a third group viewed adults doing nothing with Bobo. Each group was allowed in a room with Bobo following viewing the
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video and those who had seen the adults act violently toward Bobo imitated this behavior themselves (Bandura, 1971; Plomin, Foch, & Rowe, 1981). This experiment has been replicated with similar results increasing the social concern that viewing violent behaviors will cause children to imitate these behaviors in real life (Plomin et al., 1981). As videogames became popular, critics began to apply this concern to videogames claiming that there is a link between playing violent videogames and committing acts of real violence (Ferguson, 2007). As with research regarding viewing violence on television and its causal relationship to committing acts of real life violence, there is no evidence that exposure to videogame violence directly correlates with individuals committing acts of actual violence (Ferguson, 2007).
Even as criticism increases, so too do the popularity and scope of videogames. Every year, videogame developers push the boundaries not only of what is allowed, but of what is possible. The worlds they create allow for complex interaction with the game and with other players.
Recent Literature on Videogames and Violence
When discussing videogames in any context, it is important to examine the academic and social debates over whether videogames cause individuals to become violent in real life. This debate is reignited in the media each time a mass shooting occurs (Ferguson, 2008). Despite the prolific nature of research on whether there is a correlation between playing violent videogames and committing real acts of violence, the matter appears to be far from settled (Ferguson, 2008). The literature in this area falls into three distinct areas: research that examines a link between game behavior and real life behavior, research that examines a link
15


between game behavior and real life desensitization to violence, and literature that examines the credibility of violent videogame literature as a whole.
Literature on videogames and violence is an off-shoot of similar literature on violence in television and movies. Methodologies used to investigate violence in other forms of media are often reused to study the causal link between playing violent videogames and committing acts of violence. Not surprisingly, findings in these videogame studies often mirror findings in television/movie violence studies (Bushman & Cantor, 2003). Most studies which propose a causal link between playing violent videogames and aggressive behavior focus on children and childhood markers of aggression such as behavior problems and inattention (Ferguson, 2007). One study found that repeated exposure to violent videogames is positively correlated with aggressive behavior, hostile personality traits, and a lack of empathy (Bartholow, Sestir, & Davis, 2005). Another experimental study showed an increase in aggressive thoughts and a decrease in prosocial behavior after playing violent videogames from which the authors concluded that playing violent videogames is correlated with aggressive behavior (Carnagey, Anderson, & Bushman, 2007). Though this study explored many different predictors of aggressive behavior, the authors did not show that participants ever committed violent acts as a result of their exposure to violent videogames.
The link between violent gaming and violent behavior is more difficult to research than that of desensitization to violence. This is because markers of desensitization (i.e. lower arousal levels when viewing violent games) are measurable immediately following violent game play while violent behavior occurs later and life and can be attributed to many other factors than exposure to violent videogames. Aggressive and violent behavior over the life course cannot necessarily be directly linked to videogame play due to the passage of time and
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intervening variables such as home environment and social norms. Because some studies draw a link between violent videogames and short-term desensitization toward violence, many researchers propose that desensitization will lead to aggressive thoughts and/or aggressive behavior (Camagey et al., 2007; Engelhardt, Bartholow, Kerr, & Bushman, 2011; Funk, 2005; Funk et al., 2004).
One Japanese study examined how childrens exposure to violent videogames weakened their association with Japanese societys anti-violence norms (Shibuya, Sakamoto, Ihori, & Yukawa, 2008). A similar study examined how gender and playing against other people rather than against NPCs increased aggressive thoughts (Eastin, 2006). Using the General Aggression Model (GAM) as a measure, this study found that players playing against male players generated the most aggressive thoughts while playing against an NPC was neutral and playing against a female player decreased aggressive thoughts (Eastin,
2006). Finally, some studies have sought to assess aggression and desensitization via physiological measures. One study measured the heart rate and galvanic skin response of participants in two groups: group 1 played a violent videogame then watched a ten-minute clip of real life violence while group 2 played a non-violent videogame followed by the same clip. The authors found that those who had played the violent game prior to viewing real-life violence had a lower heart rate and galvanic skin response than those in group 2. These researchers concluded that, at least in the short term, violent videogames desensitize players to real-life violence (Camagey et al., 2007).
In recent years, the lack of conclusive evidence regarding whether violence in videogames translates into acts of real world violence has drawn some criticism and created a separate field of research on videogames. One article cautioned against drawing links
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between aggressive thoughts and violent behavior and explained that there was no definitive research showing that violent videogames are correlated with actual behaviors (Dill & Dill, 1998).
Christopher J. Ferguson has been the most vocal researcher against the violent videogames/acts of violence correlation. In one study he listed nine flaws in research on this correlation which, in his opinion, demonstrate that there is no direct correlation (Ferguson, 2010). Ferguson pointed to some measurement and statistical problems with this research including that many of the aggression measures used are invalid measures and that these measures are not standardized, that there are small effect sizes which result in a lack of statistical significance, and that there are low standards of evidence resulting in a lack of internal validity (Ferguson, 2010). Additionally, Ferguson found that researchers generally do not account for what he terms the Third-Variable Effect which is where another, more important variable such as gender, history of family violence, or genetics are not considered when examining a correlation between playing violent videogames and committing acts of violence (Ferguson, 2010). He also criticized a lack of clinical cut-offs when it comes to aggression explaining that researchers assume aggression is always negative and do not consider any positive forms of aggression such as being assertive or standing up for oneself or others (Ferguson, 2010). In this same study as well as in another study he conducted, Ferguson found that there is both a citation bias among researchers who examine this correlation and a publication bias wherein research that demonstrates this correlation is published while research that disputes this correlation is often rejected by academic journals (Ferguson, 2007, 2010). Finally, Ferguson pointed out that this research amounts to evidence of a moral panic surrounding videogames rather than evidence for an increase in violence: as
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sales of videogames have increase, violent crime has been decreasing demonstrating that videogames are not having a drastic impact on acts of violence (Ferguson, 2010).
Videogames and Sexuality
As with television and movies, many critics are concerned with the hyper-sexuality of videogame characters, particularly female characters. One of the most controversial game series of all time, Grand Theft Auto, is held up as the worst offender for overt sexualization and violence against women. The game allows players to hire prostitutes and visit strip clubs. It also depicts sex acts, including rape, and rewards players for beating and killing women (Gonzalez, 2004). Concern over hyper-sexuality and violence against women spurred a body of research regarding how likely children are to be exposed to these themes and whether they could translate into real life behaviors. A content analysis (based on the top twenty bestselling videogames of 2003) found that female characters were underrepresented in most games and that females were disproportionately likely to be represented as nude or almost nude (Downs & Smith, 2009). This study aimed to show that public concern regarding over-sexualization of females in videogames is valid and this research reflects much of the literature on sexuality and videogames. One of the stated purposes of the ESRB rating system is to alert players and parents to nudity and sexual themes however the ESRB does not censor this material nor do laws restrict anyone from purchasing games with sexual content.
Positive Impacts of Videogames
Though there has been criticism over the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in videogames, there is also a growing field of research on positive sexual behavior within videogames. Merritt Kopas, writer and videogame developer, discussed sexuality in mainstream games and also in smaller, independently produced games. Kopas believes that
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an increasing number of newer videogames and many independent games (including those that she creates) have begun to present sexuality as a normal and healthy part of life for both men and women (Kopas, 2015). Additionally, many videogames including Skyrim allow players to choose partners of either sex rather than restricting players to heterosexual relationships. Kopas sees these changes as positive for the gaming community and for changing what she sees as damaging Western attitudes toward sex and same-sex relationships (Kopas, 2015).
Though she argues that positive changes are being made in the area of sexuality and videogames, Kopas believes that there is still a twofold problem with sexuality in mainstream games. First, mainstream videogames are male-dominated in terms of characters and include common dating tropes such as saying whatever is necessary to convince a woman to sleep with the players character (Kopas, 2015). She sees this as a detrimental theme in mainstream videogames which upholds standards of hegemonic masculinity that can be harmful to women in the real world (Kopas, 2015). Additionally, Kopas decries the censorship of sex acts in mainstream videogames. Developers frequently self-censor scenes involving sex by panning away from a couple or using other techniques to imply, rather than explicitly show, sex acts (Kopas, 2015). To Kopas, this self-censorship is another example of implying that sex is dirty and abnormal. Kopas lauds games such as Saints Row for making sex both visible a normal part of human interactions. She believes this is the direction that videogames should be, and are, going but expresses the hope that consumers will push for more normalized and egalitarian sexual relationships between videogame characters (Kopas, 2015).
As videogames begin to include more normalized sexual interactions, they also provide a space for experimenting with gender dynamics. Hilde G. Comeliussen explores
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how character creation within World of War craft allows female players to experiment with gender roles and expectations in ways that would be difficult in the real world.
Experimenting with gender in this context means that players can adopt roles traditionally assigned to the opposite gender without experiencing the stigma and consequences that they would encounter by doing this in the real world. For example, a female player can create a female character who is aggressive, muscular, and engages in traditionally male-dominated tasks while avoiding the body-shaming and speculation about her sexual identity that she might encounter in the real world if she were to engage in these sorts of activities (Comeliussen, 2011).
World ofWarcraft was one of the first games to give players the ability to customize their characters body and attire. Much of the criticism surrounding female videogame characters revolves around their over-sexualized physical forms and their lack of clothing. Female World ofWarcraft players who choose to play female characters (they can create male characters if they so choose) have the option to portray themselves in a sexualized way or they can create a more realistic and practically outfitted character such as an armor wearing warrior (Comeliussen, 2011). Female players can also abandon their female identity entirely and create a male character and adopt a male persona in the world of World of Warcraft. If they choose to play as a female character, female players can engage in stereotypical activities (cooking, healing, and making clothes) or in male-dominated activities (e.g. smithing) (Comeliussen, 2011).
Instead of restricting or objectifying women, World ofWarcraft allows female players to experiment with gender construction in a place where there are no real-life sanctions for violating gender norms. This, Comeliussen believes, is a positive development for feminism
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as it allows women a freedom that they often cannot experience in the real world. World of Warcraft creates a safe space both physically and emotionally for women who want to step outside the restrictive gender-norms of the real world. In the real world, women are often assigned roles of group maintenance and social concerns (i.e. cooking, cleaning, and establishing and maintaining social connections) while men are more task completion-oriented meaning that they have more autonomy in their actions and that their aggression is viewed as leadership rather than as a negative trait (Eckes & Trautner, 2000). Breaking out of these social constructions of gender is often met with social sanctions and criticism but in World of Warcraft both male and female players are freed from these sanctions and can engage in activities and assume attitudes that they enjoy rather than those they feel obligated to fulfill (Corneliussen, 2011; Eckes & Trautner, 2000). Comeliussen sees this as a victory for feminism because it signals a beginning of the breakdown of gender norms which she hopes will eventually began to occur in the real world as well (Comeliussen, 2011).
Feminism is not the only area where players can benefit from playing videogames: Christopher J. Fergusons research on videogames has also included several potential positive effects for players. Ferguson demonstrated that videogames increase visuospatial cognition and that this is becoming a valuable career skill in an increasingly computer-based workforce. He states: playing violent videogames is associated with higher visuospatial acuity, perception, processing, visual memory, and mental rotation demonstrating that even violent videogames can actually improve cognitive function and teach players skills which are valuable in other fields (Ferguson, 2010, p. 79). He also criticizes researchers and other groups which express concern over the potentially socially isolating effects of videogames by showing that players who engage in multi-player games actually build meaningful
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relationships with individuals who they may not have access to in any other way because of geographical distance (Ferguson, 2010). Finally, Ferguson believes that there is great potential for videogames in education wherein they might be used to teach certain skills to students who learn more effectively from a videogame format (Ferguson, 2010).
Kopas, Comeliussen, and Ferguson each demonstrate how playing videogames can have a variety of positive effects on players and that these effects are often more important to consider than the potential but tenuous negative effects so often researched.
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CHAPTER III
VIDEOGAMES AND IDENTITY Background Identity Theory
George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman: A Historical Perspective on Identity
In order to explain how a self might be created via videogames, I will draw on the work of George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman. Mead proposed that the creation of a self is a process rather than a set of characteristics inherent to people at birth (Mead, 1934). The self is created through interactions with others and by adapting to peoples reactions. Children learn from their peers and parents what is acceptable behavior. For example, a boy might receive a positive reaction when he comes home muddy from playing but a girl might be punished for the same action. The child will internalize this message and learn to act accordingly in the future. This process can be imitated through a videogame character within a videogame world. In any videogame world that includes multiple players, an individual player will interact with others and internalize their reactions to the original players actions, their characters physical appearance, and their in-game skills. Players might tailor how they interact with others, change their appearance, or work to improve particular skills based on how other players react to the original player in the game.
The idea that self and identity is created through interactions with other people is expanded upon by Goffman who added that individuals perform for others in every social situation and that this too contributes to a persons identity. While Mead focused on how the self is created, Goffman suggested that there are many dimensions to the self which are suited to different social situations (Goffman, 1959; Mead, 1934). The way that a person behaves with their friends versus the way they behave with their boss are often very different.
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Goffman accounts for this difference by explaining that individuals are actors and that they put on different performances for different groups of people (Goffman, 1959). The individual does not reveal their whole self to any one group of people but rather they engage in different roles that are each appropriate for specific situations (Goffman, 1959).
These performances occur on what Goffman called the Front stage, i.e. the public arenas people occupy (Goffman, 1959). The Front stage encompasses all areas of life where others can observe and react to an individual and where an individual performs different roles adapted to their particular audience (Goffman, 1959). Examples of Front stage areas are school, work, and social settings an individual performs different roles as a student, employee, or friend depending on the setting. In order to maintain identities within these roles, individuals engage in impression management, a term Goffman uses to define the process by which individuals engage in mannerisms that create the impression of themselves that they want others to see (Goffman, 1959). These mannerisms can include manner of dress, affects, physical presentation (i.e. standing strait versus slouching), and way of speaking (i.e. formally versus using slang or colloquialisms) (Goffman, 1959).
Opposite of the Front stage is the Back stage and here an individual is generally alone and does not have to perform a particular role for others (Goffman, 1959). The most common example of this is the home. In an RPG where a player is not playing with others, the videogame world is entirely Back stage: the player can perform their characters identity without having to present themselves in any particular way to others. Videogames like Destiny however include both a Front and a Back stage due to their multi-player and social elements.
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In Destiny, the player must perform a role on the Front Stage any time they are not in orbit waiting to travel to their next destination. While on any of the planets or in the social spaces of the game, other players can see one another necessitating a public performance.
The Emotes, or actions which exist for social purposes such as dancing, waving, etc. are an important part of these Front Stage performances. A player may use one of these interactions with another player before initiating verbal dialogue to show that they are friendly and want to engage with the other person. Players might also use Emotes to draw attention to themselves or to celebrate a win following a player-versus-player match. Many of the Emotes connote either celebratory bragging at a win or despair at a loss. These performances convey a players emotions to other players via their character without the player actually having to speak to other players. If the player is speaking to other players via the microphone, their Emotes provide a physical representation to what they are saying.
There is also a Back Stage in Destiny as there is in the real world. In Goffmans Back Stage, a person can be themselves free from societys expectations of how they must perform (Goffman, 1959). In Destiny, when the player is in orbit, they are invisible to other players. They can use this time to make changes to their gear and character, examine available quests, and make decisions about what they are going to do next. While these actions are also available in the social areas of the game, they represent an opportunity for the player to retreat into their Back stage and make adjustments to their character away from the prying eyes of other players.
In addition to having both a Front stage and Back stage, Destiny's world also allows for an identity creation process through performance. Part of the performance is the physical appearance that the player manipulates through the character-creation phase at the games
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outset. Players can modify the gender, race, and physical features of their character therefore managing the impressions other players have of them. For example, a male player may create a female character and portray themselves as female to others in the game. The actions of characters align with social gender norms familiar to Western players and this can be a reflection of how players want to perform in front of others in the game world. Additionally, players can create an identity in the Destiny world through their interactions with other players. One way they can do this is via microphone verbal communication during multiplayer events of the game. Players can use this communication to advocate for teamwork, taunt other players, or give other impressions of themselves and their character to others around them to the end of participating fully in the game and acting out the character on the Front Stage of Destiny.
Videogame Specific Identity Theory Sameness Identity vs Empathic Identity
Over the past few years, there has been some examination into how players relate to their videogame characters in order to better understand whether identification with violent characters creates violent tendencies in the real world (Camagey et al., 2007). Tronstad discussed this relationship in the context of World ofWarcraft using theories of Sameness Identity and Empathic Identity (Tronstad, 2011).
Sameness Identity refers to the experience of a player assuming the identity of their character as might be expected in an RPG in which the character is developed by the game developers rather than the player (Tronstad, 2011). A recent example of this is The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt which was released May 19, 2015 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms. The Witcher III is the third installment of a videogame series based off of the
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Witcher novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski (CD Projekt RED, 2015). The player pilots the main character, Geralt of Rivia, through the fantasy world of The Witcher battling monsters and attempting to save his long-lost foster daughter, Ciri, who is pursued by The Wild Hunt -an army of malevolent elves trying steal her time-bending powers (CD Projekt RED, 2015). While players can influence events in the game by choosing from multiple options presented to Geralt, ultimately the player is not intended to create their own unique identity through the game. If the player internalizes Geralts identity while playing (Tronstad explains that some players do this while others do not), they are engaging in Sameness Identity (Tronstad,
2011).
Empathic Identity occurs in multi-player games including World ofWarcraft and Destiny. Empathic Identity is the experience of seeing oneself as a separate individual from their character while simultaneously having a complete understanding of the experiences of the character (Tronstad, 2011). In games like World ofWarcraft and Destiny, players are not expected to adopt the identity of their character but rather to pilot a character who the player creates and understands yet is separate from the players real world identity. In this way, the player can create a character who embodies an identity separate from the one the player has in the real world.
Identity Through Interaction
This framework can certainly be applied to more games than World ofWarcraft and other theorists have taken a broader approach to videogame identity than Tronstad. One of the most prominent writers on the subject, James Newman, has written several papers and a book on the subject of videogames and identity. Newman emphasizes that videogames are different from any other media formats because videogames draw the player into another
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world through interaction (Newman, 2014). He sees videogame play as an interaction between player, character, console, and game world (Newman, 2002). To illustrate this point, he explains that players describe themselves as being in a world rather than controlling a character in one (Newman 2002).
Goffmans Self in a Virtual Space
Simon Gottschalk used Goffmans theories about identity presentation to explain some of the social interactions and identity formation that occurred in the online videogame Second Life. Second Life is a very different game from Destiny because it mimics real life and the real world rather than constructing an imaginary world and situation for players to engage in (Gottschalk, 2010). Second Life is similar to Destiny however, in the way that it allows character building and self-presentation. Gottschalk found that, as in real-life, Second Life allows a presentation of self in which players make assumptions about other players based on the self-presentation of their avatars (Gottschalk, 2010). Gottschalk says that Second Life allows players to free themselves of the constraints placed on their presentation of self in the real world such as body-type, gender, and ability to afford certain types of clothing, items, and realestate (Gottschalk, 2010). In Second Life, players can build fashionable avatars of either gender and any body type and even create a personality that is different from the one they have in the real world. Often, people assume that these characters are only characters and not actually a part of the player themselves. Gottschalk counters this presumption by citing numerous examples of how players have been affected by events that happened in the Second Life world. In some situations, events in Second Life had positive repercussions in the real world (i.e. a case where a woman was able to leave her abusive partner because she began to embody the stronger identity she had created for her Second
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Life character) (Gottschalk, 2010). Other times the real world repercussions were negative as happened when a female player was rejected during a romantic encounter that took place in Second Life but reported feeling heartbroken in the real world (Gottschalk, 2010). Reactions such as these show that the virtual identity created through videogames is separate from the physical world but may have repercussions on the players world.
An extremely important part of videogame identity is the concept of role-playing. It is generally accepted that role-playing originated with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons in 1974. Though a table-top game, Dungeons and Dragons created the idea of a game in which players acted out the personalities, thoughts, and actions of an imaginary character and videogames subsequently adopted this game style. As Ross Haenfler states in his book Goths, Gamers, and Grrrls, [Players] craft a virtual self that may or may not reflect their own presentation of self (Haenfler, 2016, p. 125).
Haenfler draws on the framework of Symbolic Interactionism and Postmodern Identity to explain how virtual identities are created and maintained through videogames. From the Symbolic Interactionist perspective, the self is created via process and is something that is created rather than something that simply exists. A videogame self is also something that is actively created and maintained by the player in that they are connected to other people and to other worlds in on-going and complex ways. Since the advent of videogames, critics have complained about the stereotypical computer nerd who shuts himself (this nerd being stereotypically male) in his bedroom and only engages in interactions with others through the internet. At best this person is seen as weird and, at worst, is seen as a drain or burden to society. Until recently, very few people considered whether these virtual interactions are relevant to the real world and if the bonds and communities formed therein
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are of any consequence. Today, it is important to consider whether these virtual worlds, and the individuals who inhabit them, are real in the sense that they can generate the same sorts of benefits and problems that occur in the real world and challenge its inhabitants.
Haenfler takes issue with the idea that virtual communities are not real. He defines virtual communities as communities of people who regularly interact and form ongoing relationships primarily via the internet (Haenfler p. 119, 2016). The only difference between this definition of community and one defining community in the real world is that these interactions occur over the internet and not in a face-to-face fashion. Given the rise of texting and social media, an increasing amount of real world interaction also occurs via media devices and less face to face. Haenfler believes that it is safe to assume that virtual communication follows the same basic principles as face to face interaction as it is the medium of communication that differs and not the content of the interactions (Haenfler, 2016).
In addition, it is important to understand that simply engaging in videogames does not necessarily mean that a gamer has a separate videogame identity. Haenfler points out that just playing a game does not make a gamer part of a gaming community. In order to meet Haenflers definition of a gamer who is part of a community, the gamer must be invested in the game and community, be in frequent contact with other members of the community, and invest in building relationships with other gamers through the game (Haenfler 2016). Essentially, identity and a self can be created through a videogame but must be actively created and maintained just like identity and self in the real world.
Mead wrote that the self emerges out of experience and out of the way that the individual engages in and experiences different actions in the world around them (Mead,
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1934). If a player does not engage with other players and only engages with the NPC areas of the game such as vendors and enemies, they are not truly experiencing the world around them. Additionally, they are not viewing their own actions towards other individuals which is an important part of self-building. Therefore, in order to create an identity within Destiny, players must engage with others.
Post-Modern Identity
Symbolic Interactionism explains how gamers can create an identity online through videogames by demonstrating that a significant part of the identity formation process occurs through a players interactions with other players and with the videogame world. Symbolic Interactionism demands that gamers engage in the process of actively maintaining an identity as well as interacting with the world and others in order to actually have an identity in the game beyond that of a player-steered avatar.
Further evidence of the existence of real online identities is illustrated by theories of Post-Modern Identity. The fundamental part of Post-Modern Identity according to Haenfler is that it is relational, fragmented and flexible (Haenfler, 2016). Haenflers ideas echo those of Kenneth J. Gergen who originally explored the idea that the self is fragmented and affected by media such as television, movies, and print news (Gergen, 1991). Gergen believed that there has been a shift in the way people relate to one another from having a few close relationships with people they are geographically close to, to having many relationships with people who they relate to via a global news network and the internet (Gergen, 1991). Videogames contribute to this fragmentation of self by providing people with a space in which they can not only have relationships with people who are not in close physical proximity to the player but also create a whole new body to house the players identity.
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Therefore, it is possible to maintain both a real world identity and have one or several videogame identities. Using World ofWarcraft as an example, a player who is heavily invested in their guild, character, and relationships in World ofWarcraft might be equally invested in their real life spouse, job, and community. Neither of these identities or roles necessarily negates the other, they simply inhabit different worlds.
Post-Modern Identity explains how individuals are able to maintain several roles and engage with several communities simultaneously. These roles can exist entirely in the real world (an individual might have a work identity and a home identity) but their roles can also encompass their videogame worlds and online friends.
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CHAPTER IV
PAST RESEARCH ON IDENTITY IN VIDEOGAMES World of Warcraft
Over the past few years, researchers including Newman have begun to explore the idea of identifying with ones character more thoroughly. Of these studies, research on World of Warcraft (WoW) is by far the most common because of the games popularity and its immersive qualities such as character building and communication among players. The methods used to study World of Warcraft guide the methods used in this thesis because WoW researchers have conducted studies using similar methods to my own regarding inter-player interaction in the WoW world.
Participant Observers and Ethnographies
In studies of World of Warcraft, at least one researcher typically is both observer and participant thus both watching interactions and establishing a direct link between the study and other players. For example, study author Mark Chen reports that he spent approximately twenty hours per week engaging in World of Warcraft play in order to collect data from and observe the communications among the other players in his group (Chen, 2009). Even in studies that take a quantitative approach, researchers spend time playing a game (and by necessity interacting with players) in order to understand its mechanics and world space prior to engaging in analysis (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2007). Researchers of World of Warcraft have dedicated many hours to playing WoW in order to understand the wide variety of factors they intend to analyze.
One of the most in-depth studies of World of Warcraft is Bonnie A. Nardis 2010 book, My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft.
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Inspired by students in her Social Aspects of Digital Technologies class at the University of California, Irvine, Nardi conducted an ethnography on World of War craft in order to better understand how players use social spaces in online videogames. Specifically, Nardi states, I believe World ofWarcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology,(Nardi, 2013, p. 5) Though a skeptic of the social value of videogames at the outset, Nardi determined that players established and maintained intricate social interactions while playing World ofWarcraft (Nardi, 2013).
Nardi contends that she began her ethnography with no specific hypothesis or research question, but rather in an effort to explore and observe World ofWarcraft in the same way that anthropologists explored and observed primitive cultures over a hundred years ago. Nardi approached the game space of the online world as a new frontier and attributed to it the characteristics of a fully salient social space in the same way that a researcher would to any culture. These characteristics included complex communication among players, collaboration on tasks, and adherence to certain social rules such as assisting players new to the game by giving them needed items or protection from difficult enemies (Nardi, 2013). Despite the fact that she conducted her research primarily from the comfort of her living room, Nardi claimed that the experience was just as immersive as visiting another land (Nardi, 2013).
The Role of Guilds
In order to fully immerse herself in the WoW experience, Nardi joined a guild, a group of players who generally share a similar goal or game play style, and made online acquaintances. To find a guild in which she felt comfortable, Nardi joined several and
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interacted with the players in each guild. She learned that not all guilds are the same and that finding a guild that suits an individual players personality, desire for interaction, and play style is critical to enjoying the game. Nardi explained that guilds are diverse and she encountered guilds that were comprised of typical gamers as well as guilds which were operated by players one might not expect. For example, Nardi points to a particular guild which was made of up players who identified themselves and their guild as Christian demonstrating that there are a wide variety of players and affiliations within WoW. Nardis guild, Scarlet Raven, consisted mostly of working adults, many of whom traveled for work or had children resulting in a more laid-back atmosphere (Nardi, 2013). This guild suited Nardi because players did not expect each other to play for extended periods of time and appreciated real-world responsibilities such as work and family. Additionally, while Nardi does not mention that there was any written code of conduct for guild members, certain actions were sanctioned by the guilds officers (players who create and regulate the guild). For example, one member posted a URL to a pornography site on the guilds page and this player was quickly reported and banned from the guild. Scarlet Raven functioned as a minisociety in which players subscribed to unwritten social rules and codes of conduct beyond what the game itself required. These norms were created by the guild members who shared similar social values. Scarlet Ravens adult members tended to reject profanity and other uncouth actions on the part of members because some of the members are children. Since several players in her guild played with their young children, Nardi noted that there was a higher standard of conduct than might be found in a guild made up of only adults (Nardi, 2013). Nardi was a member of this guild for over two years while she conducted her research.
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Nardi conducted her research as a participant observer not only because of her background in anthropology but also because it is impossible to play WoWwithout engaging in Raiding. Raiding involves multiple players joining together to battle an enemy. Enemies are generally too strong for one character/player to defeat alone and a strategically assembled group improves the odds of success for all players. Each member of the Raid party assumes certain tasks, assigned by guild leaders (players leading the Raid) and determined by the abilities of their race and class. For example, elves are often assigned healing and long range combat tasks due to their natural skills in magic while ores often are ordered to act as as tanks (characters which can withstand a lot of damage from an enemy while inflicting damage with their own bludgeoning weapons). Tasks players are assigned during Raids include: close combat, long-range use of weapons (e.g. bow and arrow), and field medical assistance (those who use healing powers to keep teammates or the Raiding party alive) (Nardi, 2013). Essentially, Nardi concludes that because the game requires cooperation among players to progress, WoW is a social world (Nardi, 2013).
Ultimately, Nardi studied basic social interactions, addiction, and gender among aspects present in the social space of WoW. Similarly, the present study employs some of Nardis methods (in particular that of participant observer) to examine the social spaces within Destiny, and interviews game players to ascertain their types of interactions, sense of identity, and motives within the game.
Interviews and Content Analysis
In the body of World of War craft research, interviews are arguably the most commonly used research method. As previously discussed, researchers typically engage in many hours of gameplay in order to establish themselves as characters in the game space and
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to sample their study participants. One study adopted this approach to gather a random sample of WoW players as a basis for semi-structured interviews regarding social capital, meanings, and networks within the game (Williams et al., 2006). By combining the interviews with the researchers understanding of game mechanics, the study illuminated many types of social interactions and the meaning and significance of each within the game. Williams found that social interactions in the game mimicked those in real life. Members of smaller guilds (under ten members) tended to have closer relationships with each other than members of larger guilds. Larger guilds frequently resorted to using outside message boards and blogs in order to communicate with their numerous members. Players often used these message boards or used voice chat to discuss non -WoW topics such as school, work, and real world relationships (Williams et al., 2006). Players created support systems and close friendships with one another via WoW which the authors believe demonstrated the idea that these relationships are of equal importance to real world relationships (Williams et al., 2006). Theoretical Assumptions: Identification with a Character
Throughout videogame literature, one of the most commonly made assumptions is that players identify with the character they are playing (Dill & Dill, 1998). This assumption can be tested in games in which a player must assume the role of a pre-set and defined character whose personality and other attributes such as race, gender, skills, and backstory are immutable. The identification with character assumption is harder to apply to games where the player creates their own character rather than just associating themselves with a developer generated personality. This is important to remember when discussing games like World of War craft and Destiny in which players create their own characters, backstories, and personalities.
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Further, the player may identify with their game character differently in different games. As mentioned previously, Ragnhild Tronstad identifies two types of identification that occur in videogames: Empathic Identity and Sameness Identity (Tronstad, 2011). Tronstad observed numerous cases of players engaging in Empathic Identity while researching WoW. Tronstad concluded that the online character and the human piloting it have two separate identities despite having a shared experience and only one individual piloting both identities (Tronstad, 2011). The player has an identity in the real world which they maintain through interactions with others and with their society. The player also has an identity in the WoW world which is represented physically by their character. The player may choose to create a character that is different from themselves in a variety of ways (physical features, gender, species, personality, etc.). The player can have two different presentations of self: one for the real world and the roles they play on the real-life Front stage, and another presentation for WoW and the roles they play in the games Front stage areas (Tronstad, 2011).
Tronstad argued specifically that Empathic Identity as experienced in World of Warcraft is caused by the inherent role-playing nature of the game. First, Tronstad states that role-play inherently assumes that the player and the character have different identities, both of which are real, but remain separate though players ultimately decide to what extent they will perform this separate identity in the game (2011). Tronstad points to Paul Ricoeurs idea of a Narrative Identity: a form of identity which draws from the experiences that we consider part of our stories, but not from all experiences we have ever had (Tronstad, 2011). Some experiences are not important and are forgotten while we retain others that then become part of our identities (Tronstad, 2011).
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Narrative Identity applies to World ofWarcraft characters: game designers provide a backstory based on the storyline and mythology of the game which fits a characters race and class (warlock, warrior, etc). Players build on this backstory through the guilds they join, the Raids they participate in, as well as their in-game actions, interactions with the world, and interactions with other players (Tronstad, 2011). Essentially, Tronstad argues that character identity formation occurs in World ofWarcraft through various avenues (guilds, Raids, and messaging/voice chatting with other players) and that character identity is not solely defined by the pilot-player. Certainly the player has control over many aspects (such as how the character looks and their personality in interactions with other players) but their character is not independent of the influences of the world and its inhabitants (Tronstad, 2011).
Videogame worlds, like the real world, include almost infinite factors that can influence a player and their character. Social groups like guilds have particular cultures, norms, and behaviors. This was a phenomenon that Nardi encountered in her study and was the reason that she explored several different guilds before choosing which one to join (Nardi, 2013). Players must adapt their character to the norms of their guild if they want to be accepted just as individuals must behave in particular ways to fit in with certain social groups in the real world (Tronstad, 2011).
Cooperative activities like Raiding also have an impact on how a characters identity is formed in a videogame. In WoW, Raids are scheduled and coordinated by guild leaders who decide when the Raid will occur and what role each participating player will take during the Raid (i.e. healer, long-range attacker, close range attacker). A Raid involves traveling as a group to a specific location within the game and engaging in a specific series of actions to lure out the enemy that the players intend to fight. In this way the game itself provides a
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narrative for the world state and why the players must fight a particular enemy while the guild provides a narrative for when this will occur and the role each player is expected to play (Tronstad, 2011). This is a key way in which Narrative Identity applies to videogame worlds the player has control over their individual character but in order to engage with other players and with the game world, they must conform to the plans of other players and to the backstory provided by the game. Conforming to these plans and to the story contributes to the identity embodied by the character.
The Narrative Identity perspective in World of War craft can be applied to characters in Destiny. Each race in Destiny has a backstory, as does the entire world state. At the outset of Destiny, players create the physical bodies of their characters and, as they progress through the game, players make decisions regarding their play style. Despite this initial autonomy, the world and other players are equally influential in creating the identity of the players character. In both WoW and Destiny, players choose the race, class, and gender of their character. Additionally, they can customize the facial features and body type of their character and choose from a selection of voices to use when their character speaks. Later in the game, they can win or buy shaders (color schemes that can be applied to their armor) to further customize the look of the character. As a result, each Destiny character is unique and personalized to the players preferences.
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CHAPTER V
WHY STUDY DESTINY?
Destiny is the first-ever videogame billed as a shared-world shooter, a new genre defined by Bungie, the developer of Destiny. By creating a new genre, developers hoped to create a new gaming experience, one that solo players could enjoy but one intended to create teamwork and camaraderie among players (Schreier, 2015a). Bungie created a new genre to attract MMO and First-Person Shooter players alike while eliminating the subscriptions that typically are required to play MMOs (Humphries, 2013). Unlike all other games, every facet of Destiny is geared toward social interaction and teamwork rather than accomplishing a set of goals.
Destiny was released on September 9, 2014 following aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns that successfully created great anticipation in the gaming community. Controversy quickly followed: was Destiny brilliant, new, and different, or was it the worst game ever produced? Debate continues today with very few gamers watching passively from the sidelines as evidenced by the numerous debates taking place on gaming forums and in videogame magazines (Kain, 2015). The sensation surrounding Destinys boundary-pushing shared-world shooter moniker makes it an excellent subject for study.
Bungie and Activision were contracted by Sony, the maker of PlayStation, to create a sensational new game for its next console release (the PlayStation 4). This creation story caused some gamers to claim that Destiny was a marketing ploy to sell PlayStation 4 consoles and compete with the simultaneous release of the Xbox One. Destiny was later released for Xbox consoles, however Sonys proprietary rights to the game meant later
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release dates and limited features for the Xbox version. As Destiny gained popularity, Sony gave players on both Xbox and PlayStation equal playing experiences.
Following the Game as Game versus Game as Sales Ploy debate between gamers, dedicated gamers attacked Destinys creators. Before developing Destiny, Bungie developers created the extremely popular Halo franchise. Halo fans argue that Bungie sold out to Sony and betrayed the fan base. This franchise issue is important because the Halo franchise is under Microsofts Xbox umbrella and in order to produce Destiny for Sony, Bungie developers severed their long-time relationship with Microsoft.
Despite the controversy and mixed reception of the game, Destiny was extremely successful in its first year. Destiny won 51 awards including a number of Game of the Year awards in 2014 (Destiny Official, 2016). The game was equally well received by thousands of players; five million copies grossing $325 million were purchased in its first week (Johnson, 2014). Game designers increased the hype related to the release by hiring Sir Paul McCartney write the music and record a single just for the game. This demonstrates the amount of money and marketing that was used to draw players attention before the game was released.
One of the biggest criticisms of Destiny remains that the story drops off almost completely after about thirteen hours of play time an extremely short amount of time in comparison to other story-based videogames which often boast over one hundred hours of story. A lack of plotline would be acceptable had the developers billed Destiny as a first person shooter but they instead marketed it originally as an MMO (the official change to shared world shooter was made upon the release of Hie Dark Below expansion). Thus Destiny was in the same category as story-intensive games like World ofWarcraft despite
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being a very different type of game. Even though developers changed Destinys genre to shared world shooter criticism did not stop. Destiny: The Taken King, the full-scale expansion that was released in September 2015, attempted to address the criticism by including more background story, cut-scenes, and bringing in Hollywood talent such as Nathan Fillion to voice some of the NPCs. Sony made this investment to add interest to the story and to the characters who had limited dialogue and little backstory.
The Story
It is impossible to discuss how the world of Destiny allows for the creation of virtual identity without an understanding of the story. This section discusses character creation, the storyline from the original release through The Taken King, the social spaces of the game, and the social activities of the game.
Character Creation
The first order of business in Destiny is to create a character, as it is in most games. Each player can create up to three characters allowing them to experience the game using different classes, races, and builds (a combination of abilities geared toward facilitating a particular play style). First, the player is asked to choose one of the three classes: Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. Titans are defined in Destiny's online Grimoire cards (virtual cards that give details on Destiny's lore), as blunt instruments and are a class built for taking and inflicting large amounts of damage (Destiny Grimoire, 2016). Hunters are a stealthier character build and specialize in knives and other precision weapons not available to other classes (Destiny Grimoire, 2016). Finally, Warlocks are given more magic-based skills -they are able to manipulate the environment to create powerful grenades and other weapons (Destiny Grimoire, 2016). Despite the differences in class, all players use guns and rely on
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their special abilities only in certain situations. For example, a Warlock has the ability to revive him or herself if a certain perk is selected by the player which is not an option given to players of other classes.
Following class selection, the player chooses the race and gender of their character. The race options are human, Awoken (an elf-like species) and Exo (sentient robots). When it comes to gender, the player may choose either male or female. The choice of gender is purely aesthetic and does not impact the characters abilities in the game. The choice of race also has no effect.
Players are offered variety of customization options for their characters including seven different facial structures, nine skin colors, eighteen lip colors, and nine eye colors. Additionally, players can choose from fifteen hairstyles and twenty-eight hair colors (for Exos, these are helmet styles and colors). Finally, there are a variety of makeup and tattoolike markings that players add to the characters face and body. Below are the three characters I created for this thesis:
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RACE/GENDER
HEAD FEATURE
MARKING
FINISH
O Dismiss
CUSTOMIZE YOUR APPEARANCE
Image: Male Exo Character (Destiny, 2016)
Image: Human character (Destiny, 2016d)
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Image: Awoken character (Destiny, 2016)
Plot
Destiny begins with a cinematic (a movie-like scene where the player only watches and does not engage with the game) of three astronauts landing on Mars for the first time. The astronauts discover a huge floating sphere (the Traveler) that is a benevolent sentient being who brings a 200-year golden age to humanity. During this golden age, technology increased exponentially, human life-span tripled, the sentient robots (Exos) were created, and space was broadly explored. The Traveler is pursued by a largely undefined force known as the Darkness. With the Darkness came four groups of hostile aliens: the Hive, the Fallen, the Vex, and the Cabal. In the fight against the Darkness and its denizens, Guardians were created by humanity with help from the Traveler. Despite the Travelers efforts and the Guardian's assistance, the Traveler began to die and, in its last breath, created Ghosts: small,
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geometric, sentient floating helpers which seek out new Guardians and assist them by navigating, teleporting, and providing information.
The cinematic then switches to Earth and follows a Ghost who searches a junkyard littered with scrap metal and old cars in an arid landscape. After scanning a few sun-bleached skeletons, the Ghost happens upon the players character and the perspective shifts to first-person. The character is not yet controllable but stands up, examines its hands, and listens to the Ghost who quickly informs the player that they have been chosen as a Guardian and have been brought back from the dead by their Ghost for this purpose. Based on the monologue, the player can infer that their character has been dead for a long period of time. Perhaps they died during the infamous Collapse when the Traveler was no longer able to fight off the Darkness or perhaps even before that. Whenever the death occurred, the player has been reborn as a Guardian whose first task is to pick up a gun and fight their way through Fallen warriors to a ship that will take them to the last safe place on Earth: The Tower.
The Tower is the venue for most of a players social interactions in addition to being the place to shop, upgrade gear, and engage with their factions should the player choose to join one. The Tower is also the site of various events put on by Bungie which are designed to entertain players and encourage them to engage with other players in a festive, social setting. There are often soccer balls lying around that players can kick, dribble, and play impromptu games with other players. The Tower will be discussed in more detail in the context of social spaces in the game.
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Image: Guardians (Destiny Grimoire, 2016d)
Image: Ghost (Destiny, 2016c)
Earth and the Fallen
Once at the Tower, a player is given some information about the Traveler, the history of the Guardians, and the fight between the Traveler and the Darkness. At this point, the
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game opens up and the player can choose from a variety of missions such as battling the Fallen and collecting materials from Earth. These missions can be completed solo or with a Fireteam of up to three players. If the player chooses to form a Fireteam instead of playing alone, the quests will be far easier to complete and in areas where spawning, (reviving after the character is killed) is prohibited, Fireteam members can revive their comrades instead of having to restart the entire mission as is required when the game is played solo. This is one of several ways in which Destiny's developers encourage multiplayer activity.
Image: The Traveler (Destiny Grimoire, 2016m)
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Image: Fallen warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016e)
The Moon and the Hive
After completing the Earth-based missions, the player/Guardian is sent to the Moon to find a missing NPC Guardian who disappeared almost without a trace. During the search, the Guardian discovers that the Hive has burrowed into the Moon and created a vast network of tunnels which can be accessed through a large Temple dedicated to the Hives leader/God, Crota. Once the player/Guardian and Ghost explore the Temple of Crota, they find the missing dead NPC Guardian and also discover that the Hive is planning a full-scale invasion of Earth. In order to stop the invasion, the Guardian must go even deeper into the Moons catacombs to locate a library containing the history and plans of the Hive. Additionally, the player/Guardian is instructed to destroy Crotas sword which would be instrumental in a hostile takeover of Earth. Finally, the Guardian discovers that the Hive is performing a ritual that is draining the Traveler of its remaining Light, its life force. The Guardian is dispatched
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to stop the ritual and just before they begin, a mysterious Exo female sends a message saying that the Guardian must seek her out on Venus if they survive the mission to disrupt the ritual.
Image: Hive warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016i)
Venus, the Vex, and the Awoken
The Guardian sets off for Venus after completing the Moon missions to seek out the mysterious Exo. The player/Guardian must engage in a variety of reconnaissance tasks in order to find the Exo and gather intelligence on the enemy, the Vex. The Vex are later explained to be a sentient machine race which share one mind between all units. The mysterious Exo appears after a battle with the Vex and she tells the Guardian to go to the Black Garden, the spawning point of the Vex, and destroy its heart in order to allow the Traveler to begin to heal. In order to find the Black Garden the Guardian must travel to the edge of the galaxy and contact the Awoken Queen.
The Awoken is a matriarchal society ruled by a Queen who has conquered a House of Fallen warriors who serve her. The Queen and her brother decide that they will assist the
Guardian in finding and entering the Black Garden if the Guardian brings her the head of a
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Vex Gate Lord as proof of their dedication and strength. This request initiates another series of quests on Venus which culminates in a final battle against a Gate Lord. Once the player/Guardian achieves victory, the Queen gives the Guardian access to the Black Garden.
Image: Vex warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016h)
Image: The Awoken Queen (Destiny Grimoire, 2016k)
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Mars and the Black Garden
The Awoken Queen informs the Guardian that the Black Garden is located on Mars and gives the Guardian the eye from the head of the Gate Lord to allow the Guardian to access the Black Garden. In order to reach the Black Garden, the Guardian must fight through the Cabal, a militaristic race that, like the Fallen, the Hive, and the Vex, allies with the Darkness.
Once on Mars, it becomes clear that these different denizens of the Darkness are not truly allies to each other but only to the Darkness. While the Guardian fights them, they are each engaged in militaristic actions against each other. After the player/Guardian has fought successfully through the Cabal and Vex, they are able to enter the Black Garden.
The Black Garden is an outdoor area filled with crumbling buildings that are being taken over by jungle-like vines and other plants. The player must find their way through its maze-like structure while fighting Vex enemies that attack along the way. Players can expect to spend approximately an hour fighting their way to the Heart of the Garden in order to destroy it. At this point the original game ends with celebrations at the Tower. The mysterious Exo woman appears once again and offers her congratulations to the player but also warns that the fight against the Darkness is only beginning.
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Image: Bracus Thoourg Cabal command (Destiny Grimoire, 2016a)
The Dark Below
The Dark Below is the first small-scale expansion to Destiny. It was released on December 9, 2014. It picks up where the original game ended. At the beginning of The Dark Below expansion, the player/Guardian meets Eris Morn, a former Guardian who descended into what she called The Pit, an area beneath the Moons surface, to battle Crota, the Hives god. Eris Moms companions were murdered and her own Light and Ghost were destroyed before she managed to escape with her life and spend several years blindly wandering the Hives tunnels.
The goal of The Dark Below is to complete the mission Eris could not finish: destroy Crota and thereby eliminate the Hive threat to Earth. Under the guidance of Eris Mom, the player/Guardian returns to the Moon and battles their way through the Hives tunnels toward Crotas sleeping soul. The Dark Below offers more insight into the Hive, its organizational structure, and its religion, which is inexorably tied to its warlord leaders including Crota.
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Though not fully explained, it is implied that Crota and his father Oryx are both political/military leaders and gods to the Hive. Father and son have apparently conquered innumerable worlds in their travels across the universe and employ a scorched earth policy to the worlds they subjugate. Though the game is not particularly detailed regarding this, it appears that the Hive strip a planet of its resources and kill anyone who stands in their way.
The Dark Below culminates with the player/Guardian interrupting a ritual to awaken Crotas soul, defeating several high-level Hive leaders and destroying the crystal which houses Crotas soul. Following this battle, Eris Mom sends the Guardian after Omnigul, a Hive female who alone has the power to resurrect Crotas soul. If Omnigul dies, there is no way for the Hive to resurrect Crota. The player kills Omnigul at the end of this expansion.
Image: Eris Mom (Destiny Grimoire, 2016b)
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Image: Omnigul (Destiny Grimoire, 2016f)
Image: Crota, Son of Oryx (Destiny Grimoire, 2016c)
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Image: Oryx (Destiny, 2016e)
House of Wolves
House of Wolves, the second small expansion, was released on May 19, 2015. Like The Dark Below, House of Wolves provides more plot detail to Destiny by enhancing the story of the Fallen and the Awoken. In the expansion, players have access to a new social space, the Reef, an Awoken stronghold in which players can shop, gain access to new quests, and interact with other players.
The story of House of Wolves begins with the Awoken Queen calling in a favor from the player/Guardian for her help accessing the Black Garden. The Awoken Queen orders the player/Guardian to hunt down the leader of the House of Wolves, Skolas. Skolas is trying to take over the House of Winter, House of Devils, and House of Kings and gain control of all
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the Fallen armies. At this point it becomes clear that the Fallen are divided into clan-like groups called Houses ruled by a groups of overlords called Kells. Skolas is one Kell who plans to conquer the other houses, unite them, and lead them against the Reef and the Awoken using not only Fallen troops but also stolen Vex technology. The player/Guardian learns that the Fallen have been weakened by their inter-house conflicts but a cohesive Fallen army could spell destruction for the Awoken and for Earth.
The player/Guardian must first thwart Skolas attempts to take over the other Houses and then proceed to track down and defeat Skolas. When Skolas has been weakened enough, the Awoken capture Skolas and bring him back to face the Queen who rewards the player/Guardian well.
Image: Skolas (Destiny Grimoire, 2016g)
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The Taken King
On September 15, 2015, Bungie released the full-length expansion, The Taken King. This expansion, as already mentioned, attempted to remedy many of the complaints of the original game and the first two expansions. New voice actors and more developed back stories were added. With this expansion, Bungie and Activision began actively promoting Destiny as a shared-world shooter rather than a MMO which is the classification World of Warcraft falls into. Bungie highlighted the combat elements of the game as well as the role-playing and teamwork aspects.
Game designers gave the story more attention than in the previous releases and the more linear story picks up where The Dark Below ends. Additional backstory provides the how and why Ghosts and Guardians were created by the Traveler. It becomes apparent that the Ghosts are each looking for a specific Guardian and that the players Ghost actually spent centuries looking for the right person.
The story of The Taken King begins with Eris Morn explaining that Crota, in his dying breath, called out across space to his father, Oryx, the supreme leader of all the Hive. Oryx is understandably angry over the death of his son and is bringing his fleet to Earth to avenge Crotas death. The Awoken are the first to clash with Oryxs fleet led by their Queen who figured prominently in the first installments of the game. The player watches a cinematic in which the Queen leads the Awoken against Oryx, uses her own telepathic powers to create a super weapon which wipes out all but Oryxs mothership. Unfortunately, Oryx is more powerful and fires his own super weapon which eliminates the Awoken fleet completely. Just before she is blown apart by the explosion, the Queen charges the Guardians with protecting both Earth and the remaining Awoken from Oryx.
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The player soon learns that Oryx is an entirely new kind of enemy; he has the power to possess other creatures and he does with Cabal, Vex, and Fallen troops. These possessed beings are called Taken and while they retain their corporeal forms, they turn black and gain additional powers (e.g. teleportation and increased strength). The player /Guardian must battle through Oryxs ship, The Dreadnought, and ultimately face Oryx. In the last moments of this battle Oryx is weakened but before he disappears, he gives the impression that he will return in later games. After the Guardian returns to Earth, the player views a cinematic in which Eris Mom is aboard The Dreadnought, talking to herself about a task she will not fail. She removes a crystal from Oryxs sword and then she too disappears. All of these final scenes indicate that another game is in design.
Image: The Taken (Destiny Grimoire, 20161)
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The Future of Destiny
Destiny is scheduled for another expansion in late 2016 and Destiny 2 (title as yet unconfirmed) is slated for early 2017. Presumably, developers will continue to address the early criticisms and expand on the idea of a shared world shooter. Developers continue to plan on creating a decade-long series of Destiny games and expansions.
Social Spaces The Tower
The Tower is the first social space that players can access in Destiny. When players travel to the Tower, they share this space with other players. If the player has a friend also playing Destiny and visiting the Tower, they are likely to encounter each other in this virtual space because of the matchmaking used by Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus networks. PlayStation and Xbox players can send and receive friend requests, and players can attach their PlayStation or Xbox accounts to their Facebook accounts allowing them to find Facebook friends on gaming platforms easily.
In Destiny players are identifiable by their gaming tags, the name they give themselves that is not specific to any particular game. Gaming tags are pseudonyms that players choose and attach to their Xbox or PlayStation accounts and are used in any online game the player plays. Their tag hovers in the air above their Guardians head and by clicking on another players tag, the first player can see the other players statistics, gear, and initiate either verbal or text communication.
In addition to viewing and speaking with other players, Destiny allows for other ingame interactions that serve no purpose other than initiating social interactions with others. One example of exclusively social interactions are Emotes actions such as dancing,
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pointing, sitting, etc. which can be done alone or directed at or done with another player.
With the release of The Taken King, players could purchase a greater variety of Emotes at the Eververse store in The Tower. Each player was given enough silver to pay for two Emotes but if players want to purchase additional Emotes, they must purchase more silver through either the Xbox or PlayStation stores. Developers added 12 new Emotes to The Taken King and included a variety of dances, handshakes, and actions (e.g. thumbs up, crying, laughing, etc.). All of these actions are accessible during regular gameplay. It is common for players on winning teams in the player-vs-player areas of the game to engage in dancing or other celebratory actions after the game. Also, these Emotes are changed every season so there is a limited time to purchase particular actions before they are no longer available. Emotes are a unique feature to Destiny that are not found in other videogames.
The Tower serves purposes for the game in addition to social ones. It is the venue where players go to purchase weapons, gear, armor shaders, and ships, and redeem quest items for experience and light points which are needed to increase the players level. The higher the players level, the stronger their character becomes and their character gains access to additional skills. Periodically, Bungie holds Iron Banner events: special, time-limited, player-vs-player events which include new areas (social and combat) and prizes for players who participate. During these events, a normally closed off section of the Tower is available and players have access to more shops than usual.
More recently, the Tower has been a stage for Festivals that occur coincident with popular American holidays. The Festival of the Lost took place around Halloween. Each player was given a mask they could put on their character and there were quests to go trick or treating among the shopkeepers. Treats could be traded in for game prizes such as armor and
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guns. Again around Christmas, the Tower was decorated with lights and festive decorations and each player received a legendary weapon as a gift. Shortly before Christmas 2015, players received a message from Bungie asking veteran players to go easy on those who would be getting the game for Christmas. The message was that the Destiny world should feel welcome to new players. This message was an attempt to encourage new players to become invested in the game something that might not happen if they were repeatedly killed by more experienced players.
Image: Tower decorations during the Festival of the Lost (Destiny Grimoire, 2016j) The Reef
The Reef is the Awoken home world nestled among asteroids and debris from past space battles. The Reef is similar to The Tower in that it is a social space where players can interact with others who happen to be there at the same time. Additionally, the Reef has
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several areas reserved for matchmaking activities. These separate areas currently include three arenas in which a three player team battles another three player team or a three player team battles NPC enemies. To complete the challenge, players must kill all of the enemies sometimes while performing certain tasks (dismantling a bomb, moving objects from one place to another, etc.). Players have the ability to revive their teammates when one dies, but if all three players die, they must begin the quest from the last checkpoint. Since a checkpoint can be quite far back from their current point, players must be aware of others when they are playing in the Reefs arenas. Many arena matches can last for over an hour depending on the Strike or arena and on the skill and teamwork of the players.
Also in the Reef, players may choose to undergo the Trials of Osiris. The Trials of Osiris are player-vs-player matches using teams of three. The Trials are only available Fridays through Tuesdays and do not use matchmaking algorithms meaning players must form their own teams to play. In arenas, if a player is not revived by another player, they will automatically revive after about thirty seconds. In the Trials of Osiris, there is no automatic revival and players must revive each other. The Trials of Osiris are only playable if a player makes connections either with other players in the game or has friends who are willing to join their team. Limiting players to self-generated teams is one way in which Destiny developers force players to interact. This is important to the shared world shooter structure of the game which depends on player interaction and teamwork.
Raids
The Trials of Osiris matches are similar to Raids in that both require teamwork for players to succeed. Players currently have access to only three raids: Vault of Glass, Crotas End, and Kings Fall. Raids require more time to complete than strikes (3 player vs NPC
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matches which use a matchmaking algorithm), arenas, or Trials. Many players report that Raids require two to four hours to complete during which players cannot leave or pause the game. As is the case in the Trials, there is no matchmaking available for Raids so players must form their own teams of two to six players. This requirement has led to the creation of websites (e.g. Destinytracker.com) that help players find team members who can play at the same times. In the three available Raids, players cannot revive themselves and must rely on others to be revived when they die. Vault of Glass takes the importance of teamwork to a higher level by requiring that players who are afflicted by a certain condition must alert another team member for a cure. If the afflicted player is not cured within a limited period of time, the player will die along with the entire Fireteam. Because players are incapable of detecting the affliction in others, players must talk to each other using microphones in order to successfully complete the Raid.
Raids necessitate social interaction between players. While many players engage in these Raids with their friends, others meet online through the game or through the aforementioned matchmaking websites. In other areas of the game, players do not necessarily need to speak to each other in order to succeed but the nature of Raids necessitates the use of microphones. The difficulty, duration, and cooperative nature of the Raids is intended to create bonds between players that supersede the scope of the game (Schreier, 2015a).
While it is theoretically possible to beat the Vault of Glass alone, only one player since the release of The Taken King has actually managed to do so. As of October 11, 2014 (one month after original release date), over one million players had attempted Vault of Glass on normal play mode (rather than on a higher difficulty level) and only four hundred thousand of these had beaten Vault of Glass, it is clearly exponentially more difficult for a
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single player to beat the Raid than it is for a team. Vault of Glass was first beaten fourteen hours after its release, however, the team that did so is so skilled that team members were subsequently interviewed by numerous gaming magazines and websites. This team is a clan (i.e. a gaming team who plays many games together) known as PrimeGaurd. Clan players tweeted that the Raid was the single most challenging gaming experience they had ever had. The number of deaths the players experienced in their quest to beat the Raid exceeded 1,600. Given that these professional gamers already have a strong working relationship, the difficulty of Destiny's Raids is clear.
The difficulty of the Raids is crucial to the level of interactions between players. Luke Smith, creative director of The Taken King, explained in a 2015 interview that this was intentional on the part of developers (Schreier, 2015a). One of the important aspects of a shared world shooter is that the relationships are not confined to the Destiny world. Smith stated that the difficulty of Raids is intended to function as a bonding mechanism for players who have met through the game and will hopefully build new relationships as a result of the Raid experience (Schreier, 2015a)
The third Raid, Kings Fall, was released in September 2015. In an interview with Game Informer, Luke Smith, The Taken King creative director, addressed some questions about Kings Fall specifically and the philosophy underlying Raids in general. According to Smith, Raids were intended to challenge players beyond pushing buttons and shooting monsters. While Destiny developers recognized that monster slaying is an important part of the game, they decided to push the boundaries of player coordination through Raids. To do so, they required players communicate and created room for players to experiment with the types of interactions and play style that best fit their group. Without revealing too many
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details about the Kings Fall raid, Smith explained that the creative team is developing something bigger than the three available Raids and hope to provide players a memorable experience based on successful teamwork rather than simply beating part of a game.
The Impact of Destiny
Destiny brought significant changes to the gaming world because of the popularity of its bigger, longer-lasting, and more cooperative elements as well as its high dollar sales. A contract leaked to the press revealed a ten-year plan for Destiny games and expansions fully supported by Bungie, Activision, and Sony (and therefore PlayStation). Gamers are still divided regarding whether they love or hate the game. A 2015 article details how Bungie was compelled to issue an apology to Destiny players after they revealed that there would be an $80 collectors edition of the game available at the release of The Taken King (Schreier, 2015b). This angered many players because the collectors edition included several items that were unavailable to players who already owned the game. This gave many players the impression that Bungie was only interested in making money off of new players rather than being loyal and rewarding current players (Schreier, 2015b). To remedy this, Bungie offered current players the option to purchase the special items in a $20 package, though many players still believed Bungie should have provided these items for free (Schreier, 2015b).
Though it continues to be a controversial game in the videogame world, Destiny is expected to bring in huge sales in the future while continuing to push the boundaries of videogames and the line between virtual and real.
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CHAPTER VI
RESEARCH METHODS
Content Analysis
I conducted a manifest content analysis of Destiny meaning that I engaged in the game and coded social interactions and elements of the game such as gender, player/game world interaction, and actual game play. The content analysis of Destiny began in 2014 (prior to the release of The Taken King) and continued through February 2016.1 used a PlayStation 4 home console to conduct the analysis. In separating the analysis into three parts (character creation, game play, and social spaces), I could examine how players experienced each aspect of the game as they played it. I played the game at least three days per week and my average play session lasted about two to three hours. I tried to play after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends in order to conduct my analysis during the times when the most players were online.
Character Creation Analysis
I created the maximum allowed three characters in order to explore the maximum amount of variations in the games character creation. The first character (the character I used for the game play and social space analysis) is a female Awoken Warlock. The second character is a female human Titan and the third is a male Exo Hunter. I analyzed differences in the physical structure of these characters as well as gender-specific differences in their actions. Each character took an average of thirty minutes to create as I spent time considering all of the cosmetic options for each character.
The primary physical differences between characters are gender-related. Female characters, regardless of race, class, or physical features, are smaller and have hourglass
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figures relative to the males of the same race. The male characters are taller, broad-shouldered and embodied typical hegemonic masculine traits such as confidence and aggression (Connell, 2005). The physical differences between male and female characters aligned with Western ideas of masculine and feminine traits (Eckes & Trautner, 2000). This alignment to commonly accepted traits adds a dimension for the player to either conform their character to their identified real-world gender and/or biological sex, or to identify as a different gender within the game and engage in experiencing the opposite gender role.
The characters actions also reflect Western gender norms. All players walk, jog, and sprint depending on the pressure the player places on the joy stick (the more pressure on the stick, the faster the character moves). Male characters take larger strides and are stiffer in their movements thus appearing as if they are somewhat muscle-bound. Female characters take shorter, more tip-toe like steps and their hips sway from side to side. Male and female characters can walk, run, and sprint equally quickly but how they appear when they walk, run, and sprint is markedly different.
In addition to the qualities of movement, there are also differences in the way characters sit based entirely on their gender. One of the default Emotes in the game is to sit. Male characters sit strait down, feet flat on the ground, knees bent, lean forward at the waist, and elbows encircle the knees. This posture is similar to the hegemonic masculine posture commonly known as man-spreading in which men consume a significant amount of space by spreading their legs. Socially, this is viewed as an acceptable show of aggression and dominance that is part of hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 2005).
Character alignment with hegemonic masculine traits allows players to embody, what Ross Haenfler calls, Nerd Masculinity. In Nerd Masculinity, one rejects hegemonic
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masculinity while simultaneously embracing some of its values (such as the sexual objectification of women and aggressive and violent behaviors) (Haenfler, 2016). Specifically, Haenfler says, a kid who could never hold his own in gym class or on the football field could be the king of Halo, Destiny, or Call of Duty rankings virtual status, to be sure, but appealing nonetheless (Haenfler, p. 124, 2016). Haenfler also identifies Destiny as one of many games in which a players characters gender can be different from real life gender.
The female sitting Emote is as stereotypically feminine as the male Emote is masculine. Females sit delicately on one hip, legs to the side, leaning back on the opposite arm. The male sitting position gives the impression that characters are taking a break from the action but could spring to standing up at any time. Contrast that with the female position: relaxed, open, and therefore vulnerable. While seated, the female characters torso is exposed and she appears ill-positioned to quickly jump up and reach for her gun. Though she is dressed and equipped for battle, the female characters sitting position is not conducive to quick action. Position coupled with the female characters thin, hourglass figure creates an impression of the physically perfect and docile woman. This impression contrasts with the violent and aggressive nature of the game play.
Image: Screenshot of my character sitting down at The Tower (Destiny, 2016f)
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Image: Screenshot of male characters sitting on Earth (Connors & Writer, 2014) Based on my analysis of characters, Destinys gender constructions appear much more egalitarian than gender constructions in games such as the Mortal Kombat series which has been heavily criticized for its hyper-sexual portrayal of female characters (Kopas, 2015). Female Destiny characters wear armor that appears functional in contrast to games like Mortal Kombat Xm which female characters are highly sexualized and wear non-functional clothing (WinkleFriday, 2015).
Image: Kitana Mortal Kombat X character (WinkleFriday, 2015).
The fact that female Guardians are not as scantily clad as their Mortal Kombat counterparts indicates a shift in popular videogames away from the hyper-sexualization of female characters. This is sociologically important because there has been so much focus on
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how portrayals of women in media impacts the status of women and girls (Grabe, Monique,
& Hyde, 2008). Multiple studies have found that photo-shopped images of women in magazines, body-shaming of celebrities, and videogame portrayals of disproportionate and sexualized women have a negative impact on the body image of women and girls (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009; Grabe et al., 2008; Turner, Hamilton, Jacobs, Angood, & Dwyer, 1997). Given that Destiny is both popular and lucrative for developers, female sexuality does not seem to be as important of a marketing factor as it has been in older games.
Gender does not play a part in actual game play meaning that regardless of which gender the player chooses for their Guardian, their experience playing through the game will be the same as a player who chose the opposite gender. The areas in which gender is most visible are social ones such as interacting with others in The Tower or in multi-player parts of the game.
While Destiny has made some changes in how gender is portrayed in videogames in that female characters are not inferior to males and they are not sexualized in the way that female characters have historically been, superficial gender differences still exist in the game. Female characters move, sit, and sound in manners that are more delicate and traditionally feminine compared to male characters. Players can expect their character to align with traditional gender norms in terms of these behaviors and this is something that impacts a players choices during character creation. Sociologically, it is important to consider that despite removing some of the more sexual gender differences in characters, Destiny upholds certain expectations for how males and females should behave in social spaces. By including these expectations, the Destiny world mimics elements of the real world.
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Game Play Analysis
In order to conduct the game play analysis, I played through the original game and all of its expansions {The Dark Below, House of Wolves, and The Taken King). This involved completing the story quests for each part of the story to gain an understanding of the world and the plot of the game. Additionally, I played through the multi-player areas: Strikes,
Raids, Trials of Osiris, and Reef Arenas. I also played in player-versus-player (Crucible) matches. The amount of time I spent on each of these activities varied by difficulty though my typical game session lasted two to three hours. I played through the quests primarily by myself though there were certain areas including battling Omnigul and the final battle against Oryx where I played with a friend because these were extremely difficult to complete on my own. For the multi-player and player-versus-player areas, I used both matchmaking to form teams and I formed my own teams with people I knew so that I could experience both methods of teambuilding.
Some of the players that I was matched with by the game I played with on multiple occasions despite never meeting them in real life. This demonstrates that the developers goal of facilitating new relationships between players is successful. I used my microphone to speak with other players while I was playing with them. Players often shared details about their lives with me as we played such as their real names, where they lived, how old they were, and what they did for work. Though the conversations took place in the context of the game, they were not always directly related to what we were doing in the game.
I used the aforementioned female Awoken Warlock for the game analysis. The character I created was based on 1) research into all options and 2) the play style that I prefer. Warlocks function well from long distances. Hunters, in particular, and to some degree
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Titans, are better for close-combat play styles. Additionally, Warlocks are similar to mage/wizard type characters in many videogames so players, including myself, accustomed to playing as these types of characters may find that using a Warlock is reminiscent of other gaming experiences.
Though I have experience playing videogames, I did not have much experience with the Destiny play style, especially the multi-player components. This made it possible for me to begin the game as an outsider and make unbiased observations about the content without comparing it to similar videogames.
Social Space Analysis
One of the unique features of Destiny are its social spaces, The Tower and The Reef. I specifically chose to conduct this analysis on Destiny rather than on another game because of these spaces. Mass-market games have not included a space in the world for players to meet one another and engage in social interactions outside of playing the game. In games like Call of Duty, players only have interaction with other players as they are playing in the player-versus-player arenas. Destiny encourages interaction with other players by creating spaces where players do not have to focus on game play and can focus instead on socializing.
I also used the female Awoken character for the social space analysis. I spent time observing the behavior of other players in The Tower and in The Reef. I interacted with the various shops and NPCs in this area. I also participated in matchmaking games (both player-vs-player and Strikes) to analyze how the matchmaking system and the multi-player elements of the game work.
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Interviews
The goal of the interview portion of this study is to examine how players react and interact with the Destiny game world.
Sample
This study utilized a snowball sample beginning with players known to the author. These were preliminary interviews for the purpose of understanding what types of questions are best to ask regarding how players form identities in games like Destiny. Players were asked a series of questions about the characters they created, the types of in-game activities they participated in, and most importantly how much they identified with their character(s).
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CHAPTER VII
FINDINGS
Destinys social spaces allow for players to interact as allowed in games such as World ofWarcraft but Destiny has made this interaction both optional and appealing. While there are areas of the game that are and will be inaccessible to the solo player, most of the game is playable alone.
Character Creation Analysis World and Gender Constructions
The female versions of each species are smaller than the males and even among the Exos take a form that is considered feminine by social standards. Female form includes an hourglass figure, breasts, and more angular facial structures. Some of the Guardians actions differ by gender as well. In the Tower, the Reef, and following completion of Strikes, Raids, and player-vs-player matches, the view of a players Guardian is third person and the player can watch their Guardian act out the Emotes selected by the player. While many of the Emotes are gender-neutral in execution, sitting is not. Female characters sit with their legs to the side as they might if wearing a dress or skirt and unable to spread their legs. Male characters sit with their weight equally distributed, their legs spread, hunched forward and arms circling their knees. Each position subscribes to the respective gender norms of Western society: women legs closed and posed to visual advantage; men legs spread, grounded, ready to move.
In Destiny there are opportunities for characters to either talk or make noises. Overall, there is not much dialogue for the Guardians as the player is expected to be speaking to others over the microphone or through the Xbox or PlayStation messaging system. There are
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a few cinematic scenes in which the player will speak to NPCs but otherwise the primary occasions in which the player will hear their Guardians voice is when they are either shot or injured. The female Guardians voice is much higher pitched than the males and is more of a squeak when injured than the males lower-pitched grunt.
While gender does not play a part in the game play itself, it does impact the players experience by subscribing to certain Western gender norms. When players select a gender for their character, they can expect the character to behave in ways that coincide with Western social views on gender. This alignment is important for identity creation because the player has some expectations for how they will be perceived by other players based on the gender they choose for their character. This is especially important for players who choose a character of the opposite gender than the players gender in the real world. A player who does this might do so in order to experience the game from a different genders perspective or, as Comeliussen found in her World ofWarcraft studies, players can use this as an opportunity to experiment with gender in a safe space (Comeliussen, 2011).
The representation of gender in Destiny contributes to the identity creation process within the game. First, because all characters are functionally attired, the player has a sense that they are in a world at war against the forces of evil. The characters appearance fits in with the appearance of the Destiny world: gritty, hardened, and dangerous. This fits into the idea of Narrative Identity wherein the world, the story, and the portrayal of the characters (both players and NPCs) contribute to a sense that the player is involved in an actual time, place, and situation (Tronstad, 2011). The storyline as well as the world gives the character a backstory on which the player can build a new identity for their character.
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Gear Customization
There are several ways to customize pieces of a characters gear that have no impact on the game but are visible to other players. While playing the game (i.e. not in a social space) the Guardian will always wear a helmet. In social spaces the player can choose to keep the helmet in place or remove it so other players can see their Guardians face. During holiday events like the Festival of the Lost, Guardians could wear the mask provided to them for the occasion. Players can also find and purchase armor shaders which change the color scheme of the Guardians armor. Certain color schemes are only available upon completion of particular quests and Raids or with purchases of particular versions of the game. The Legendary Edition of Destiny (released in September 2015) included the original game, first two expansions, and the newly released The Taken King. Players who purchased this edition of the game had access to shaders unavailable to others.
Players can also customize their ship, their sparrow, and their sparrows horn. The ships only function is to take a Guardian from planet to planet and does not have a game function other than this. There is no combat between ships so the ships design is purely aesthetic. Guardians all begin the game with the ship they first find during the initial escape from Earth. Later, players can either purchase or earn new ships which are available in a variety of styles and color schemes.
Sparrows are vehicles similar to motorcycles but capable of hovering that players can use on planets to travel quickly from one area to another. Sparrows also come in a variety of colors and capabilities such as faster speeds, tighter turning radii, and ability to move laterally. Each player is given a horn for their sparrow at the games outset that they can
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sound while riding. If the player wants a custom horn, they must pay for additional sounds either in game currency or using their credit card through the PlayStation or Xbox stores.
Being able to customize not only the appearance of the character but also all of the characters accessories further contributes to creating a physical form for a Destiny identity. These accessories can show affiliation to different factions or causes in the game and contribute to the impression management of the characters identity. To illustrate this, I customized my character with certain items which could be easily seen by other players that gave a particular impression of the roles I played in the game. The banner where my name is displayed is one which I earned by completing a particular quest for the Awoken Queen. As my character is an Awoken and completed a set of optional tasks for the Queen, I decided to apply this banner to show my affiliation to the Awoken.
Front and Back Stage Impression Management
This type of customization is an example of impression management within a videogame world where there is a distinct Front stage and Back stage. When my character is on the Front stage, I am aware that others can see me and I found myself being conscious of what my character is doing and how she looks. When I was in The Tower and needed to make adjustments to my gear between quests I would often walk to an out of the way area where other players would not have to walk around me to access shops or NPCs. Gear adjustments are made in a screen that only the player can view (this is one of the Back stages of Destiny) but while the player is doing this, others can still view their character. Because of this, I would often make my character sit down and I noticed that when I finished my adjustments and returned to the game screen, there would often be other players sitting around me engaging in similar activities. There appears to be a general consciousness of
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others in the game as evidenced by the fact that players will move to out of the way areas to avoid impeding anyone elses access and that they join others who are engaged in similar activities.
Image: Example of my characters Back stage the screen where I can make adjustments to my character and gear out of view of other players (Destiny, 2016f)
Players engage in impression management through their use of Emotes and their engagement in activities at The Tower. For example, players can start soccer games using the soccer ball that appears in The Tower and often times several players will start playing together. Players engage in this using the same rules applied to the game in real life wherein they pass the ball and sometimes use side areas as goals.
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Image: Destiny players interacting with a soccer ball in The Tower (Laughlin, 2014)
Players who want to interact with others often initiate a conversation or invitation to a Fireteam with Emotes like dancing, waving, or pointing at others. Players also frequently use either celebratory or disappointed Emotes when they either win or lose a player-versus-player match. The Emotes that they choose are a form of impression management because they convey different messages. For example, a player celebrating a win can choose to take a bow or clap politely which gives an impression of a sportsmanlike attitude. Conversely, a winning player can direct a thumbs down at a losing player or imitate the youre out gesture of a baseball umpire both of which convey a different impression of the characters personality. Game Play Analysis
To play through the game itself, I used the female Awoken Warlock. I completed all the story quests for the original game and all expansions.
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Gear
Each character, regardless of race or class has three weapon options: 1) a primary weapon a gun used for most battles that is typically automatic or semi-automatic, 2) a special weapon a weapon such as a sniper rifle for long range shots, shotguns, fusion rifles (energy powered guns), or sidearms, and 3) a heavy weapon such as rocket launcher, machine gun, or sword. Additionally, each player is equipped with a helmet, set of gauntlets, chest armor, leg armor, and class armor. Consistent with many games, the player must seek out increasingly better weapons which inflict greater amounts of damage and search for armor that affords better protection. Specific gear also comes with different upgrades and perks. For example, the sniper rifle called Hereafter can be upgraded so that it has a more predictable recoil and better stability. Different types of armor offer perks such as allowing the Guardian to carry more of a particular type of ammo for their weapons. The player decides which perks best suit the type of character they play. For example, if a player values defense over firepower, they might choose a set of armor which increases their defensive statistics. Another player might choose an armor set which allows them to carry more ammo for their guns instead of a higher level of protection. Depending on whether the player prefers to fight from close or long range, they will choose different perks for their weapons and armor.
Subclasses
Each class has three subclasses for players to choose from. As the Guardian gains experience, new options become available in their selected subclass. For example, all Guardians are equipped with a grenade that they can throw during combat. In the Warlock subclass, Stormcaller, one grenade upgrade calls down a lightning storm near where it is
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thrown. In another Warlock subclass, Sunsinger, the grenade can be made to stick to an enemy to cause bonus damage upon explosion. Players can choose their subclass based on the options that fit the way they play. This is similar to how players can customize their armor and weapon perks to benefit their play style.
While all weapons are visible, only some subclass actions are visible to other players. Each player has a supercharge ability, or technique that can be used once the player has saved up enough energy during game play. Supercharge abilities can be used to gain an advantage over an enemy. Hunters have the option of summoning a bow and arrow made of energy which packs a powerful punch. Warlocks can revive themselves when killed or shoot lightning from their hands at multiple enemies at once. These actions are visible to players around the Guardian using them.
Weapons and class choices are similar to gear customization and Emotes in terms of their contribution to impression management and Front stage performances. These choices are made on the Back stage in the screens that are only visible to the player but they are performed on the Front stage during combat game play. One of the options players have is to stabilize themselves for a short time while jumping through the air. I observed several players use this option during player-versus-player matches to shoot enemy players from above, catching them off-guard. Other players choose to remain hidden in one location and wait for enemies to come into their view. Interestingly, the first action (surprising an enemy from above) is considered acceptable by players as it requires some skill however, the second action (hiding and waiting) is looked down upon and is referred to in all videogames as camping. Camping is widely considered akin to cheating as the camping player puts themselves in a safe position, does not really contribute to the team effort, and demonstrates
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a lack of actual skill. The methods a player uses in player-versus-player matches is a form of impression management as it tells other players something about their characters personality. This may or may not accurately reflect the players personality; the player may be very honest and accountable in the real world but engage in activities like camping in the virtual one.
Playing with Others
In order to participate in much of the game, it is essential to play with other players. The first experiences most players have with Fireteams, or team play, is through either Strikes or Raids. Strikes employ a matchmaking algorithm meaning that the player only has to select that they want to play a Strike in the Vanguard section of the map and they will be matched with two other players. Alternatively, players can form their own Fireteam of two to three players who will either complete the Strike as a team (if there are three) or a third player will be added to their group. Strikes are easier to complete than Raids and while communication via microphone can make them better coordinated, it is possible to complete them without team member interaction.
During Strikes, the game automatically implements certain tactics to ensure players play as a team. If one player falls far behind the others, the game re-spawns that player further ahead to rejoin the team. Additionally, if a player is killed, that player must wait thirty seconds to revive unless another player comes and revives them sooner. While thirty seconds seems like a short amount of time, it is time enough for ones teammates to be killed. If this happens, the whole team must restart the Strike.
Raids function differently from Strikes in that, as of the release of The Taken King, players must form their own teams of six players. Because of the nature of the Raids,
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microphone communication is essential to successfully completing them. Players must heal and revive each other within certain time limits or the whole team will fail. While Raids are an optional part of the game, they are the part marketers hyped with much advertising and online discussion before their appearance.
Raids, Strikes, and other multi-player elements of Destiny contribute to the type of community building that James Newman discusses in his research. In order to be successful, players must form relationships with other players, develop meaningful communication methods, and find ways to work together efficiently. Though these actions occur in a virtual world, they are not inherently different than the actions required to be successful at work, in school, or in any other goal-oriented group setting. Newman discussed how face-to-face communication is not required to form a community but rather that it is building meaningful relationships that is most important (Newman, 2014).
I engaged in numerous difficult Strikes using the matchmaking algorithm to form a team. Through these Strikes I discovered how important a sense of team membership was to completing them successfully. If all three players die, everyone must restart at the last checkpoint which is often considerably far back from where the team was. However, teammates can revive each other and protect each other when their health is low. Difficult Strikes can take over an hour so oftentimes a team of players who were previously strangers develop a working relationship to accomplish the Strike in the shortest amount of time in order to reap the most rewards.
This sense of community can contribute to identity formation for the character. The player first manages the impression of their character and performs for their teammates. The other team members respond either positively or negatively to the original players actions
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and the original player changes their behavior in response to their reactions. This is exactly what Goffman described occurring in the Front stage areas of real-life: individuals manage the impression they want to give others of themselves, then they perform a particular role, and finally they change their behaviors based on the reactions others have to the performance (Goffman, 1959).
Player vs. Player
Multi-player and player-vs-player (PVP) sections of Destiny are not the same. Multiplayer team areas are characterized by a group of players facing off against NPCs. The PVP areas of the game are more typical, First-Person-Shooter-type games in which two teams of randomly assigned players face off against each other. As is characteristic of the multi-player areas, players may form Fireteams with friends and these Fireteams are assigned to one side of the PVP match so that these players can play together keeping the teamwork option available.
As originally categorized by developers as an MMO, Destiny contains the usual array of Shooter PVP options that are similar in play style and renamed for specific games. In Destiny there are two PVP areas: The Crucible (which also contains time limited Iron Banner events) and the Trials of Osiris. The Crucible contains several types of play styles: 6 vs. 6 players, 3 vs. 3 players, and a Free-For-All option. In each option the team (or individual in the case of Free-For-All) that wins are awarded gear and currency. Additionally, players can play Rift, a 6 vs. 6 match in which players must not only kill each other but must also collect a Spark, carry it to the opponents side and ignite the opponents Rift. Successful teams receive a significant amount of points. Another match is Control, which follows the same rules as capture the flag. There are three zones to be captured, and the more zones controlled,
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the more points players receive. Finally, there is Salvage: two teams of three race each other to capture and retain relics while killing opponents with the same goals. Crucible matches adhere to the same rules as PVP matches in other popular First-Person-Shooter games including Call of Duty and Star Wars: Battlefront. While Destiny is technically classified as a Shared-World Shooter, developers included these standard First Person Shooter matches knowing they are a huge draw for players.
Unique to Destiny are the Trials of Osiris. Though also PVP, the Trials of Osiris require players to form their own teams with players they meet through the game or know in real life. In contrast to Crucible matches in which players revive after a certain amount of time, in Trials of Osiris there is no automatic player revival so players must revive each other. Not surprisingly, teammate revival brings a more intense teamwork dynamic into these missions. Players must also be victorious in a short series of missions in order to earn a passage to the Trials meaning that only dedicated Destiny players have access. Additionally, the rewards for victory include much more currency and more unique and better gear than can be won during regular Crucible matches. If a team loses too many matches, access is denied and the player must re-eam a passage. The possibility of access denial encourages players to use teamwork and strategy to win Trials matches.
The Trials of Osiris reflect the gaming experience that developers hoped to create for Destiny. Developers hoped that Destinys world would provide a social experience that would reach beyond the scope of the game. For example, as with Raids, players who want to play through the Trials of Osiris must form relationships with others in the Destiny world and hone their communication skills in order to win. Generally, PVP games are considered to be mindless and plot-less in that they appeal to players who simply want to shoot each other for
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hours. Destiny certainly includes shooting enemies but developers have added numerous areas to satisfy players who want more from a Shooter-type game.
Social Space Analysis
The Tower and the Reef constitute the main social spaces in Destiny. They are hubs where players shop, redeem rewards, and meet other players. Players may purchase a variety of items in The Tower and the Reef. Items can be separated into two categories: essential and cosmetic. Essential items include weapons, armor, and faction gear (factions are associations that players can join in the game which distribute rewards that cannot be earned or bought elsewhere). These items are essential to gameplay and do not necessarily serve a social function. Cosmetic items change the appearance of a character for no other purpose than a presentation of self to others. These items include ships, armor shaders, name-badge shaders, and Emotes. None of these change any aspect of game play, but all show aspects of the character/player such as personal tastes and affiliations. For example, I chose the name badge for my character from a set collection representing the Queen of the Awoken. Badges in this collection signal to other players my characters affiliation to the Queen. I chose to signal this affiliation because my Guardian is an Awoken herself and would likely feel some connection to the ruler of her people. Cosmetic items contribute to Goffmans presentation of self in the world of Destiny. The color schemes of armor, a players name badge, and the ship that a player uses can tell other players something about how another player expects to be perceived within the game.
The social spaces in the game are also places to encounter other players and, if desired, communicate with them. Communication occurs via voice chat or, more graphically, by Emote. It is common for players to engage with others by dancing, waving, or pointing.
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Further, players can approach each other and send a chat request which, if accepted, allows players to speak to each other via microphones. Chats can include up to six players at one time.
Interviews
The interview process was exploratory and sought to identify the types of questions that would be useful when exploring virtual identity in videogames. The participants gave insight into how they played Destiny, how they used the social aspects of the game, and their criticisms of how they felt the game restricted potential social engagements.
The players interviewed all said that they originally purchased the game in part due to the pre-release media advertisements. Some players were fans of Bungles work on the Halo series and therefore had high expectations for Destiny. Others purchased Destiny because friends were planning on playing, and Bungie had marketed the multi-player aspects of the game. A common reaction however was disappointment with the original games lack of complexities in the plotline and relatively limited character creation options. Videogames such as Bethesdas Elder Scrolls and Fallout series in which players can adjust even the most minute facial-features of their characters have set a high standard for character creation. Players felt that Destiny fell far short. Despite these criticisms, players did report they were able to use their characters to represent themselves in ways they wanted to be perceived by other players in the game.
Race and Gender
Players chose the race and gender of their characters for various reasons. Some players wanted their character to be the same gender as they identify as in real life. One player chose not to play the Awoken male because he wanted his character to represent him
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and felt that the Awoken males appeared too feminine. Another male participant created two female characters simply because he felt that they looked better in the clothing than the male options. However, this same player did not adjust the way his characters behaved towards others to align with the gender difference between him and his female character. Instead he felt that the personality of his character was identical to his real-world personality albeit in a female body.
Creation of a Self
All of the participants had at least one character that differed from their real world self in either race or gender. One of the aspects of Destiny that players enjoyed was the ability to physically represent themselves differently than in the real world. One player explained why he created a non-human character: Well, Im human and whats the point of playing something else in a game if you cant dabble in other things besides your own race? This demonstrates a desire on the part of the player to explore different identities through different physical forms.
One player was surprised by how much he enjoyed playing a Titan. Originally, he eliminated this class from consideration because he saw it as the jock-type class and very different from how he perceives his actual personality. Generally, players believed that a greater number of customization options would allow them to more precisely build their identities within the game. Another player stated, .. .if they had more customization I probably could have tried to [build an identity] which would have been fun. Also in the game there wasnt a lot of dialogue options to the point where I could pursue the character as being myself. Both players indicated that they did experiment with different identities within the game but felt restricted by the games lack of options. One player noted that he was
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Full Text

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IDENTITY WITHIN DESTINY: VIRTUAL SELVES IN VIRTUAL WORLDS by ANNE ELIZABETH CARROLL B.A., University of Colorado Denver 2014 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the r equirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology Program 2016

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ii 2016 ANNE CARROLL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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iii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Anne Elizabeth Carroll h as been approved for the So ciology Program by Candan Duran Aydintug Chair Maren T. Scull Keith Guzik Date: April 29 2016

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iv Carroll, Anne Elizabeth (M.A. Sociology) Identification within Destiny : Virtual Selves in Virtual Worlds Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran Aydintug ABSTRACT This thesis explore s how players of the videogame Destiny create and maintain salient identities within the ga me world. Additionally, it seeks to understand how the character creation process contributes to maintain ing an online identity and demonstrates how the way in which Destiny by facilitating and in some cases even requiring interpersonal interaction, contributes to allowing players to maintain an online identity in the virtual world. A content analysis of the game and player interviews show how the world is constructed to facilitate identity creation and how players interact with this wo rld and with other players The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Candan Duran Aydintug

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v TABLE OF CONTE NTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 1 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 1 Definitions ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 2 Videogame ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 2 Games ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 3 Player ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 3 Character ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 3 Virtual World ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 3 Videogame World ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 3 Identity/Self ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 4 Real Worl d Identity ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 4 Virtual Identity ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 4 Console ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 5 Guilds ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 5 NPCs ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 5 ESRB ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 5 Western/Tra ditional Gender Norms and Roles ................................ ................................ 5 Avatar ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 6 Race ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 6 Class ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 6 Raids ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 7

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vi Game Classifications ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 7 Action and Adventure ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 7 First Person Shooter ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 8 Role Playing Games (RPGs) ................................ ................................ ............................ 8 Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) ................................ ................................ .. 8 Massive ly Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) ................................ .... 8 Who is A Player? ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 9 II. WHY STUDY VIDEO GAMES? ................................ ................................ ...................... 10 Do Videogames Matter? ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 10 A History of Controversy ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 12 The Legacy of Mortal Kombat and Violence in Videogames ................................ ........ 13 Violence on TV and in Movies ................................ ................................ ....................... 14 Recent Literature o n Videogames and Violence ................................ ............................ 15 Videogames and Sexuality ................................ ................................ .............................. 19 Positive Impacts of Videogames ................................ ................................ ..................... 19 III. VIDEOGAMES AND IDENTITY ................................ ................................ ................... 24 Background Identity Theory ................................ ................................ ............................... 24 George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman: A Historical Perspective on Identity ........ 24 Videogame Specific Identity Theory ................................ ................................ .................. 27 Sameness Identity vs Empathic Identity ................................ ................................ ......... 27 Identity Through Interaction ................................ ................................ ........................... 28 Goffman's Self in a Virtual Space ................................ ................................ .................. 29

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vii Post Modern Identity ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 32 IV. PAST RESEARCH ON IDENTITY IN VIDEOGAMES ................................ ................ 34 World of Warcraft ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 34 Participant Observers and Ethnographies ................................ ................................ ....... 34 The Rol e of Guilds ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 35 Interviews and Content Analysis ................................ ................................ .................... 37 Theoretical Assumptions: Identification with a Character ................................ ................. 38 V. WHY STUDY DES TINY ? ................................ ................................ ................................ 42 The Story ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 44 Character Creation ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 44 Plot ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 47 Earth and the Fallen ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 49 The Moon and the Hive ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 51 Venus, the Vex, and the Awoken ................................ ................................ .................... 52 Mars and the Black Garden ................................ ................................ ............................. 54 The Dark Below ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 55 House of Wolves ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 58 The Taken K ing ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 60 The Future of Destiny ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 62 Social Spaces ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 62 The Tower ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 62 The Reef ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 64

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viii Raids ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 65 The Impact of Destiny ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 68 VI. RESEARCH METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ 69 Content Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 69 Character Creation Analysis ................................ ................................ ........................... 69 Game Play Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 74 Social Space Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 75 Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 76 Sample ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 76 VII. FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 77 Character Creation Analysis ................................ ................................ ............................... 77 World and Gender Constructions ................................ ................................ .................... 77 Gear Customization ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 79 Front and Back Stage Impression Management ................................ ............................. 80 Game Play Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 82 Gear ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 83 Subclasses ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 83 Playing with Others ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 85 Player vs. Player ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 87 Social Space Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 89 Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 90 Race and Gender ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 90

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ix Creation of a Self ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 91 Interactions with Others ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 92 Future Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 93 IX. DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 94 Future Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 96 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 96 X. CONCLUSIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 98 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 99

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION The study of videogames and online interactions are growing areas of research in sociology and social psyc hology (Newman, 2014) As technology progresses the line between what is real and what is virtual is continu ally blurred. Much videogame research has focused on a game's potential to create violent reaction s among players however there is a growing interest in the interactions and other social phenomena that videogame players engage in. This thesis attempts to further research in this area by studying how videogame players can form and maintain identities through the popular video game Destiny (Bungie, 2014) Research Ques tions This thesis i s guided by three research questions. First, based on the premise that players create alternate and real identities for their characters, I decided to explore the process of creating identities within videogames and seek to understand h ow players maintain these identities within the world of Destiny I drew this premise from the works of James Newman and Ross Haenfler (Haenfler, 2016; Newman, 2014) Second, I want ed to explore how the character creation process contributes to the process of creating and maintaining virtual identities in the Destiny world. And finally, I wanted to investigate how player interactio ns contribute to the players' game identities in the Destiny world. All of these questions begin with the premise that players can create a virtual identity separate from their actual identity and that this virtual identity can be just as real as the pla yer's identity in the physical world. This assumption is echoed in the works of prominent video game researchers James Newman Ross Haenfler, and Bonnie Nardi, whose works will

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2 be referenced throughout this study It is clear tha t for some players, their vi deo game characters represent an important and separate self from their real world one. Haenfler specifically states th at it is not uncommon for video game players to create virtual selves that "may or may not reflect their own presentation of self" but are an essential part of who the player is as a person (Haenfler, 2016, p. 125 ) He goes on to say that the online lives of stereotypical computer nerds should never be discounted as trivial or unimportant as they are of critical importance to the players (Haenfler, 2016) My research questions are intended not only to investigate the identity format ion and maintenance process in Destiny but also were formulated to apply to research into other video games The long term goal is to examine the videogame identity formation process as a macro phenomenon me aning that these questions will be applied to man y other video games and contribute to an overall understanding of videogames and identity. While limited to Destiny, t his study intends to explore and introduce the emerging research in to virtual identities and video games. Definitions This thesis includes many te rms particular to videogames and which, when used in this context, have slightly more specific meanings than the y do colloquial ly To clarify, this section will define several key terms used in this thesis. Videogame While this thesis refer s to se veral different videogames, in general "videogame" refers to games played on a home console and are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating s Board (ESRB) the United States government sanctioned rating entity for

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3 videogame content The ESRB assigns a r ating to all videogames sold in the United States (Entertainm ent Software Rating Board, 2016 ) Games "Games" is used interchangeably with videogames" and shares the "videogame" definition. Playe r "Player" refer s to the individual who actively pilots a charact er through a given videogame world. Character In a videogame, a character is the entity which the player pilots during playtime. D epending on the game, a character may be created by the pla yer or is pre made by the game developers. In the case of Destiny characters are created by th e players through the character creation process which occurs at the game's outset Additionally, in Destiny, players are able to create up to three different ch aracters though these characters cannot be played simultaneously. Virtual World The Virtual World refers to any world created by videogame developers that is populated by computer controlled non player characters (NPCs) and human players. Videogame World Videogame worlds are the developer created universes within which players pilot their characters. These worlds are governed by physical boundaries s uch as the edge of playable areas as well as by rules and limitations set by game developers.

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4 Identity /S elf Identity in this context is drawn from George Herbert Mead's defini tion of the "Self" which was later built upon by Erving Goffman. According to Mead the s elf i s the persona of an individual that is formed through interactions with others and with soc iety (Mead, 1934) The s elf is infl uenced by soci ety and by other s elves and it has some influence over other s elve s and society. The creation of s elf is a lifelong process that begins when a child becomes self aware and ends only at death (Mead, 1934) This thesis will refer to the s elf as "identity" and will refer to real world identity and virtual i dentity separately though often in sociology "self" and "identity" can have different meanings. Real World Identity Real world Identity refers to the more traditional s elf as defined by Goffman and Mead. It is a s elf which is inexorably tied to the physic al body and is therefore influenced by the physical body's appearance, gender, and actions (Goffman, 1959) While an individual can present themselves in various ways in the real world, their identity is somewhat constrained by physical limitations. Virtual Identity In this context, virtual identity refer s specifically to identity within videogame worlds and will no t include other online identities formed through avenues such as social media, chat rooms, etc. Virtual identity is less constrained than real world identity because the individual player often has control over the physical appearance of their character an d this is the case in Destiny

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5 Console In this thesis, consoles include all Xbox (Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One), PlayStation (PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4), and Nintendo (Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Ente rtainment System, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, GameBoy, and Nintendo DS) home consoles. Arcade games are not included in this definition of "console." Guilds "Guilds" will refer to organi zed groups of players who form virtual communities within a ga me in order to accomplish their chosen particular goals. NPCs NPC stands for "Non player character" and refers to any character seen/interacted with in the game that is not piloted by an actual person but rather is created by the developers for the game. ESRB The ESRB is the abbreviation for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board the organization responsible for assigning content ratings to every videogame sold in the United States. The rating classifications are as follows: E Everyone; T Teen; M Mature; A Adults Only. Ratings are assigned by a board who evaluates the sexual and violent content of each game in addition to considerations such as depictions of illegal behaviors and language. Destiny is rated T. Western/Traditional Gender Norms and Roles In this thesis, I will use the definitions of gender norms from the book The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender by Thomas Eckes and Hans Martin Trautner.

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6 These norms and roles apply to individuals in the Western world, namely Europe and North America. Eckes and Trautner describe male roles as those involving aggression, decision making, and leadership whi le women are expected to be gentle, nurturing, and maintain social ties (Eckes & Trautner, 2000) Most important f or this thesis is the idea that displays of aggression are valued in males while docility is expected of females (Eckes & Trautner, 2000) Avatar An avatar is a videogame character that is intended to represent the player. Avatars ar e used in games like Second Life where players are not intended to create different identities for their characters but rather use their avatar as an online representation of their real world identity. Race In videogames, the term "race" is used to refer to different species of characters in the game rather than the different racial groups that exist in the real world. Destiny includes three races f rom which players can choose their character: H uman, Exo, and Awoken. Class In videogames, a character's cla ss refers to the type of combat style they use. In Destiny there are three classes: Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. Titans are designed to both deal and survive substantial amounts of damage. They are described as "heroic defenders of the Light, channeling the gifts of the Traveler to wage war on the Darkness. Steadfast and sure, Titans face any challenge head on, blunt force instruments of the Traveler's will." (Bungie, 2016)

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7 According to the game, Hunters stalk the wilderness beyond the City, harnessing the Light to reclaim the secrets of our lost worlds. They are daring scouts and stealthy killers, expert with knives and precisio n weapons. Hunters blaze their own trails and write their own laws." (Bungie, 2016) Finally, Warlocks are magic wielders who use the elements to fight enemies and are Warrior scholars of the Light, Warlocks devote themselves to understanding the Traveler and its power. A Warlock's mind is an arsenal of deadly secrets, balanced between godhood and madness. On the battlefield, t hose secrets can shatter reality itself." (Bungie, 2016) Raids Raids are group activities common in multi player online vide ogames. The specifics of Raids vary by game but essentially they are difficult quests requiring multiple players, strategy, and effective communication to complete. Game Classifications Videogames fall into genre categories similar to books, movies, and television shows. Game classifications contribute to a purchaser's understanding of a game's gameplay style and allow vendors to categorize their videogame wares. Kate Berens and Geoff Howard compiled a list of the most commonly used videogame classificati ons by both players and vendors. The videogames classifications used in this thes is are taken from the works of Berens' and Howard Action and Adventure As a genre, t hese games involve a pre set story in which the player adopts a particular character suc h as James Bond. The player engages in battles with NPCs and embarks on

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8 various quests in the game's storyline. These games are most similar to action movies in that they rely on plenty of gunplay rather than on a complex plot (Berens & Howard, 2001) First Person Shooter The category of First Person Shooter encompasses several hugely popular games including Call of Duty, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Battlefield These games capital ize on a first person vantage point play style in which the player shoots to eliminate NPC or other player enemies (Berens & Howard, 2001) These games are all but devoid of plotline and lack intricate details about the world, characters, and events of the game and f ocus instead on statistics ( e.g. a player's kills to deaths ratio ) (Berens & Howard, 2001) Role Playing Games (RPGs) Role Playing Games evolved from tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons (Berens & Howard, 2001) Recent videogame examples of popular RPGs include Skyrim (2011), T he Witcher III: The Wild Hunt (2015), and Dark Souls II (2014). RPGs are story centered often containing in game books on lore, characters with extensive backstories, and detailed world building. Players assume the persona of their character and make deci sions based on how they assume their character would react to different situations (Berens & Howard, 2001) Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) An MMO is a multiplayer game where players share space and can play with or against each other in the game world (Berens & Howard, 2001) Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) An MMORPG is an MMO wi th the added element of role playing. World of Warcraft is the most popular MMORPG as it is an MMO but with the expectation that players will

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9 engage in role playing and act out a personality for their character other than the player's real personality (Berens & Howard, 2001) Who is A Player? The subjects of this thesis are videogame players, and, more specifically, Destiny players. In order to study player s of any videogame, it is important to define the group of individuals as clearly as possible. The ESRB compiles statistics about videogame players which he lp give insight into who plays video games According to the most recent ESRB published statistics, the average player is 1) 34 years old 2) has been playing videogames for an average of 12 years and 3) 60% male versus 40% female (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016) This profile contradicts the stereo typical idea of a gamer primarily as an adolescent male (Haenfler, 2016) While adolescent males constitute an important target market for videogame developers there has been a shift to market toward young children ( e.g. PokÂŽmon ), families ( e.g. numerous Wii games), and women ( e.g. 2016 game Horizon: Z ero Dawn ) (Newman, 2002) As videogames have grown in popularity, content, and types of protagonists it has become increasingly difficult to define a typical "gamer". This thesis will focus on Destiny players who, b ecause of the content and rating of the game, tend to be young adult males as it was originally marketed as a First Person Shooter game (Berens & Howard, 2001) However, future researchers should note that videogame players are not easily d efined but vary immensely in age, gender, and other demographics.

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10 C HAPTER II WHY STUDY VIDEO GAME S? Do Videogames Matter? Videogames are a relatively new form of entertainment. The first true home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released in 1985 and today's leading consoles, the Xbox and PlayStation have only been on the market since 2001 and 1995, respectively (Time Magazine, 2016) Rel atively little research on the topic of videogames has been conducted in comparison to television and movies primarily because the videogame industry is so young. James Newman prominent videogame researcher, attributes the dearth of academic literature on videogames to the common but false assumptions that videogam es are a children's medium and are consequently written off as trifles (Newman, 2014) T here are several reasons why videogames deserve public and academic attention. James Newman argues that there are three primary reasons why videogames are important academically and socially: the size of the videog ame marketplace, the popularity of videogames, and gaining understanding of the impact of human computer interaction s (Newman, 2014) Videogames contributed $4.9 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product in 2009 and the industry is growing at a rate of 10. 6 percent annually a much higher rate than television and movies (Newman, 2014) In 2015, the U.S. videogame ind ustry was worth $15.87 billion and by 2019 is projected to be worth almost $20 billion (Statista, 2016) The popularity of videogames is as important as t he size of the industry. Today mos t U.S. households (67%) have at least one member who plays videogames (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016) Also, the variety of videogame content available to players

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11 means that players do not necessarily grow out of playing videogames as is often proposed by academics (Newman, 2014) In fact, as discussed earlier the average player age is over thirty (Entertainment Software Rating Board, 2016) Further, many individuals and groups including industry profess ionals, James Newman, and the United States Supreme Court have taken the stance that vi deogames are an art form and should not be discounted as trivial ( Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association 2011) In the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case argued before the Supreme Court in 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the Entertainment Me rchants Association (parent organization to the ESRB) allowing vid eogames to continue to self regulate content rather than have the government impose ratings on videogames ( Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association 2011) A key part of the Entertainment Merchants Association's argument was that videogames are an art form and should therefore be ex e mpt from government censorship ( Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association 2011) Finally, as technology becomes increasingly integrated into daily life, it is crucial to devote academic attention to human/computer interactions. Videogames are one of the most pervasive examples of human/computer interaction and therefore is a relevant area of study (Newman, 2014) As this thesis aims to demonstrate, videogame players are able to create fully real selves and communities within the online worlds of videogames. Players are forming relationships with the wor lds and with other players that have many of the same dynamics as real world relationships between people and between people and their environments Disco unting s uch relationships as childish or trivial, especially as they become increasingly commo n among the American population is problematic because it prevents

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12 discovering any potential impacts of maintaining virtual rather than ( or in addition to ) real world relationships A History of Controversy In the words of Lauren Gonzalez, a writer for the popular video game website and forum, Game Spot "...since the earliest days of pinball, someone somewhere has been determined to ban games -our visceral com panions a nd instigators of id driven fun (Gonzalez, 2004) As with any medium that targets children for its audience, videogames dra w concern and objection from parents. One of the first opponents of video games was a Long Island PTA president and mother, Ronnie Lamm. Lamm appeared on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1982 encouraging a ban on arcades claiming that they bred non productivi ty among children and left them mostly unsupervised. Her movement gained momentum among concerned parents and resulted in local restrictions on arcades which prohibited arcades being located within certain proximities to schools and that limited the hours at which children were allowed to play at the arcades (Gonzalez 2004). The invention of in home consoles essentially eliminated the efficacy o f such ordinances since child ren no longer had to play video games in public spaces. Lamm spearheaded the short l ived anti gaming movement in the 1980s, though the first game to generate controversy was created earlier in 1976. Death Race was an arcade game which consisted of driving a pixilated car over a numbe r of pixilated gremlins. It was a loose recreation of th e movie Death Race 2000 a post ap ocalyptic thriller during which drivers attempt to kill each other in a gladiator esque car race (Gonzalez 2004). Though this game is tame by today's standards, it marked the genesis of public concern related to violence in videogames.

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13 The Legacy of Mortal Kombat and Violence in Videog ames Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s there were a variety of games that generated parental concern and controversy in the press. Some of this concern came from parents who worried abou t their children becoming lazy and sedentary (Gonzalez, 2004) More serious concerns arose after copies of violent videogames were fou nd among the possessions of violent teens including the two young men who perpetrated the Columbine High School attack in 1999 (Gonzale z, 2004) Additionally, part of the heat was centered around the distrust of a new technology, specifical ly one aimed at children for reasons such as those originally cited by Ronnie Lamm. Video game controversy reached a new level in 1992 with the release of the somewhat infamous game Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat like various violent television shows and movies that preceded it, generated massive controversy because of its violen t content coupled with its enormous popularity (to date, the Mortal Kombat se ries has sold over 35 million games) (Funk, Baldacci, Pasold, & Baumgardner, 2004 ; Makuch, 2015) The latest installment, Mortal Kombat X, ( April 7, 2015 ) became the top selling videogame of the year by July 2015 The original Mortal Kombat had arguably the best graphics of any game of its time, giving graphic definition to characters that did not exist in any other game (Gonzalez 2004). Mortal Kombat coupled this graphic detail with its over the top emphasis on gore a nd death; features that Mortal Kombat X expands and enhances with additional weapons, moves, and more realistic graphi cs The premise of the game (which has remained virtually unchanged through all ten installments) is the fight to the death between two monstrous characters in a ring. Each character is equipped with a unique set of functions or moves and weapons with wh ich t o dispense its foe. The game can be played by two players or by one player against the computer. One of the signature trademarks of

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14 Mortal Kombat is for the winner of the final round to inflict a mortal blow to the opponent by ripping off its head. T his level of violence generated so much public outcry that in 1994 the U.S. Congress passe d the Video Game Rating Act which required gaming companies to create a universal rating system, thus the ESRB was born (Gonzalez 2004). Despite the creation of the ESRB and the implementation of a universal rating system, video g ame controversy reached an even greater level of intensity following the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. One of the shooters reportedly named one of his guns after a character from th e then popular shooting game, Doom (Gonzalez 2004). In response, several of the victims' families filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Nintendo and other game companies t hough the suit was eventually thrown out by a federal judge (Gonzalez 2004). T he idea that there is a link between violent video games and school shootings lives on. This link was originally established in research on violent television and was later applied to videogames (Bushman & Cantor, 2003) Violence on TV and in Movies According to the American Psychological Association, there have been concerns about the effects that television and movies have on children since their invention (American Psyc hological Association, 2014) Critics of violence on television and in movies often point to Albert Bandura's work on Social Learning Theory which essentially states that children learn by watching adults and that they imitate the behaviors that they witn ess (Bandura, 1971) Bandura conducted the now famous experiment with "Bobo" the inflat able clown doll in which one group of children viewed a video of adults hitting and kicking Bobo, a second group viewed adults acting kindly toward Bobo, and a third group viewed adults doing nothing with Bobo. Each group was allowed in a room with Bobo fo llowing viewing the

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15 video and those who had seen the adults act violently toward Bobo imitated this behavior themselves (Bandura, 1971; Plomin, Foch, & Rowe, 1981) This experiment has been replicated with similar results increasing the social concern that viewing violent behaviors will cause chi ldren to imitate these behaviors in real life (Plomin et al., 1981) As videogames became popular, crit ics began to apply this concern to videogames claiming that there is a link between playing violent video games and c ommitting acts of real violence (Ferguson, 2007) As with research regarding viewing violence on television and its causal relationship to committing acts of real life violence, there is no evidence that exposure to videogame violence directly correlates with individuals committing acts of actual violence (Ferguson, 2007) Even as criticism increases, so too do the populari ty and scope of videogames. Every year, videogame developers push the boundaries not only of what is allowed, but of what is po ssible. The worlds they create allow for complex interaction with the game and with other players. Recent Literature on Videogam es and Violence When discussing video games in any context, it is important to examine the academic and s ocial debate s over whether video games cause individuals to become violent in real life. This debate is reignited in the media each time a mass shooting occurs (Ferguson, 2008) D espite the pro lific nature of research on whether there is a correlation between playing violent videogames and committing real acts of violence, the matter appears to be far from settled (Ferguson, 2008) The literature in this area falls into three distinct areas: research that examines a link between game behavior and real life behavior, research that examines a link

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16 between game behavior and real life desensitizat ion to violence and literature that examines t he credibility of violent video game literature as a whole. Literature on video games and violence is an off shoot of similar literature on violence in television and movies. Methodologies used to investigate violence in other forms of media are often reused to stud y the causal link between playing violent video games and committing acts of violence Not surprisingly, findings in thes e video game studies often mirror findings in television/movie violence studies (Bushman & Cantor, 2003) Most studies which propose a causal link between playing violent video games and aggressive behavior focus on children and childhood markers of aggression such as behavior problems and inattention (Ferguson, 2007) One study found that repeated exposure to violent videogames is positively correlated with aggressive behavior, hostile personality traits, and a lack of e mpathy (Bartholow, Sestir, & Davis, 2005) Another experimental study showed an increase in aggressive thoughts a nd a decrease in prosocial behavior after playing violent videogames from which the autho rs concluded that playing violent video games is correlated with aggressive behavior (Carnagey, Anderson, & Bushman, 2007) Though thi s study explored many different predictors of aggressive behavior, the authors did not show that participants ever committed violent acts as a result of their exposure to violent videogames T he link between violent gamin g and violent behavior is more diff icult to resear ch than that of desensitization to violence This is because markers of desensitization (i.e. lower arousal levels when viewing violent games) are measurable immediately following violent game play while violent behavior occurs later and lif e and can be attributed to many other factors than exposure to violent videogames Aggressive and violent behavior over the life course cannot necessar ily be directly linked to video game play due to the passage of time and

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17 intervening variable s such as hom e environment and social norms. Because some studies dr aw a link between violent videogames and short term desensitization toward violence, many researchers propose that desensitization will lead to aggressive thoughts and/or aggressive behavior (Carnagey et al., 2007; Engelhardt, Bartholow, Kerr, & Bushman, 2011; Funk, 2005; Funk et al., 2004) One Japanese study examined how children's exposure to violent video games weakened their ass ociation with Japanese society's anti violence norms (Shibuya, Sakamoto, Ihori, & Yukawa, 2008) A similar study examined how gender and playing against other people rather than against NPCs increased aggressive thoughts (Eastin, 2006) Using the General Aggression Model (GAM) as a measure, t his study found that players p laying against male players generated the most aggressive thoughts while playing against an NPC was neutral and playing against a female player decreased aggressive thoughts (Eastin, 2006) Finally, some studies have sought to assess aggression and desensitization via physiological measures. One study measured the heart rate a nd galvanic skin response of participants in two groups: group 1 played a violent videogame then watched a ten minute clip of real life violence while group 2 played a non violent video game followed by the same clip. The authors found that those who had pl ayed the violent game prior to viewing real life violence had a lower heart rate and galvanic skin response than those in group 2 These researchers concluded that, at least i n the short term, violent video ga mes desensitize players to real life violence (Carnagey et al., 2007) In recent years, the lack of conclusive evidence rega rding whether violence in video games translates into acts of real world violence has drawn some criticism and created a separate field of research on video game s One article cautioned against drawing links

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18 between aggressive thoughts and violent behavior and explained that there was no definitive rese arch showing that violent video games are correlated with actual behaviors (Dill & Dill, 1998) Christopher J. Ferguson has been the most vocal researcher against the violent videogames/acts of violence co rrelation. In one study he listed nine flaws in research on this correlation which, in his opinion, demonstrate that there is no direct correlation (Ferguson, 2010) Ferguson pointed to some measurement and statistical problems with this research including that many of the aggression measures used are invali d measures and that these measures are not standardized, that there are small effect sizes which result in a lack of statistical significance, and that there are low standards of evidence resulting in a lack of internal validity (Ferguson, 2010) Additionally Ferguson found that researchers generally do not account for what he terms the "Third Variable Effect" which is where another, more important variable such as gender, history of family violence, or genetics are not considered when examining a correlation between playing violent videogames and committing acts of violence (Ferguson, 2010) He also criticized a lack of clinical cut offs when it comes to aggression explaining that res earchers assume aggression is always negative and do not consider any positive forms of aggression such as being assertive or standing up for oneself or others (Ferguson, 2010) In this same study as well as in another study he conducted, Ferguson found that there is both a citation bias among researcher s who examine this correlation and a publication bias wherein research that demonstrates this correlation is published while research that disputes this correlation is of ten rejected by academic journals (Ferguson, 2007, 2010) Finally, Ferguson pointed out that this research amounts to evidence of a moral panic surrounding videogames rather than evidence for an increase in violence: as

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19 sales of videogames h ave increase, violent crime has been decreasing demonstrating that videogames are not having a drastic impact on acts of violence (Ferguson, 2010) Videogames and Sexuality As with television and movies, many critics are concerned with the hyper sexuality of video game ch aracters, particularly female characters One of the most controversial game series of al l time, Grand Theft Auto is held up as the worst offender for overt sexualization and violence against women. The game allows players to hire prostitutes and visit strip clubs. It also depicts sex acts including rape and rewards players for beating and killing women (Gonzalez 2004). Concern over hyper sexuality and violence against women spurred a body of research regarding how likely children are to be exposed to these themes and whether they could translate into real life behaviors A content analysis (based on th e top twenty best selling video games of 2003 ) found that female characters were underrepresented in most games and that females were disproportionately likely to be represented as nude or almost nude (Downs & Smith, 2009) This study aimed to show that public concern regardi ng over se xualization of females in videogames is valid and this research reflects much of the li terature on sexuality and video games. One of the stated purposes of the ESRB rating system is t o alert players and parents to nud ity and sexual themes however the ESRB does not censor this material nor do laws restrict anyone from purchasing games with sexual content. Positive Impacts of Videogames Though there has been criticism over the objectification and hyper sexualization of women in videogames, there is also a growing field o f research on positive sexual behavior within videogames. Merritt Kopas, writer an d videogame developer, discussed sexuality in mainstream games and also in smaller, independently produced games. Kopas believes that

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20 an increasing numb er of newer videogames and many independent games (including those that she creates) have begun to present sexuality as a normal and healthy part of life for both men and women (Kopas, 2015) Additionally, many videogames including Skyrim allow players to choose partners of either sex rather than restrict ing players to heterosexual relationships. Kopas sees these changes as positive for the gaming community and for changing what she sees as damaging Western attitudes toward sex and same sex relationships (Kopas, 2015) Though she argues that positive changes are being made in the area of sexuality and vid eogames, Kopas believes that there is still a twofold problem with sexuality in mainstream games. First, mainstream videogames are male dominated in terms of characters and include common dating tropes such as saying whatever is necessary to convince a wom an to sleep with the player's character (Kopas, 201 5) She sees this as a detrimental theme in mainstream videogames which upholds standards of hegemonic masculinity that can be harmful to women in the real world (Kopas, 2015) Additionally, Kopas decries the censorship of sex acts in mainstream videogames Developers frequently self censor scenes involv ing sex by panning away from a couple or using other techniques to imply rather than explicitly show sex acts (Kopas, 2015) To Kopas, this self censorship is an other example of implying that sex is dirty and abnormal. Kopas lauds games such as Saints Row for making sex both visible a normal part of hum an interactions. She believes this is the direction that videogames should be and are going but expresses the hope that consumers will push for more normalized and egalitarian sexual relationships between videogame characters (Kopas, 2015) As videogames begin to include more normalized sexual interactio ns, they also provide a space for experimenting with gender dynamics. Hilde G. Corneliussen explores

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21 how character creation within World of Warcraft allows female players to experiment with gender rol e s and expectations in ways that would be difficult in t he real world. Experimenting with gender in this context means that players can adopt roles traditionally assigned to the opposite gender without experiencing the stigma and consequences that they would encounter by doing this in the real world. For exampl e, a female player can create a female character who is aggressive, muscular, and engages in traditionally male dominated tasks while avoiding the body shaming and speculation about her sexual identity that she might encounter in the real world if she were to engage in these sorts of activities (Corneliussen, 2011) World of Warcraft was one of the first games to give players the ability to customize their character's body and attire. Much of the criticism surrounding female videogame characters revolves around their over sexualized phys ical forms and their lack of clothing. Female World of Warcraft players who choose to play female characters (they can create male characters if they so choose) have the option to portray themselves in a sexualized way or they can create a more realistic a nd practically outfitted character such as an armor wearing warrior (Corneliussen, 2011) Female players can also abandon their female identity entirely and create a male character and adopt a male persona in the world of World of Warcraft If they choose to play as a female character, female players can engage in stereotypical activities ( cooking healing, and making clothes ) or in male dominated activities (e.g. smithing ) (Corneliussen, 2011) Instead of restricting or objectifying women, World of Warcraft allows female players to experiment with gender constructio n in a place where there are no real life sanctions for violating gender norms This Corneliussen believes is a positive development for feminism

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22 as it allows women a freedom that they often cannot experience in the real world. World of Warcraft creates a safe space both physically and emotionally for women who want to step outside the restrictive gender norms of the real world. In the real world, women are often assigned roles of group maintenance and social concerns (i.e. cooking, cleaning, and establis hing and maintaining social connections) while men are more task completion oriented meaning that they have more autonomy in their actions and that their aggression is viewed as leadership rather than as a negative trait (Eckes & Traut ner, 2000) Breaking out of these social constructions of gender is often met with social sanctions and criticism but in World of Warcraft both male and female players are freed from these sanctions and can engage in activities and assume attitudes that t hey enjoy rather than those they feel obligated to fulfill (Corneliussen, 2011; Eckes & Trautner, 2000) Corneliussen sees this as a victory for feminism because it signals a beginning of the breakdown of gender norms which she hopes wi ll eventually began to occur in the real world as well (Corneliussen, 2011) Feminism is not the only area where players can benefit from playing videogames: Christopher J. Ferguson's research on videogames has also included several potential positive effects for players. Ferguson demon strated that videogames increase visuospatial cognition and that this is becoming a valuable career skill in an increa singly computer based workforce He states: "playing violent videogames is associated with higher visuospatial acuity, perception, process ing, visual memory, and mental rotation" demonstrating that even violent videogames can actually improve cognitive function and teach players skills which are valuable in other fields (Ferguson, 2010, p. 79). He also criticizes researchers and other groups which express concern over the potentially socially isolating effects of videogames by showing that players who engage in multi player games actually build meaningful

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23 relationships with individuals who they may not have access to in any other way because of geographical distance (Ferguson, 2010) Finally, Ferguson believes that there is great potential for videogames in education wherein they might be used to teach certain skills to students who learn more effectively fr om a videogame format (Ferguson, 2010) Kopas, Corneliussen and Ferguson each demonstrate how playing videogames can have a variety of positive effects on players and that these effects are often more important to cons ider than the potential but tenuous negative effects so often researched.

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24 CHAPTER III VIDEOGAMES AND IDENT ITY Background Identity Theory George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman: A Historical Perspective on Identity In order to explain how a s elf might be created via videogames, I will draw on the work of George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman. Mead p roposed that the creation of a s elf is a process rather than a set of characteristics inherent to people at birth (Mead, 1934) The s elf is created through interactions with others and by adapt ing to people's reactions. Children learn from their peers and parents what is acceptable behavior. For example, a boy might receive a positive reaction when he comes home muddy from playing but a girl might be punished for the same action. The child will internalize this message and learn to act accordingly in the future. This process can be imitated through a videogame character within a videogame world. In any videogame world that includes multiple players, an individual player will interact with others and inte rnalize their reactions to the original player's actions, their character's physical appearance, and their in game skills. Players might tailor how they interact with others, change their appearance, or work to improve particular skills based on ho w other players react to the original player in the game. The idea that self and identity is created through interactions with other people is e xpanded upon by Goffman who added that individuals perform for others in every social situation and that this t oo contributes to a person's identity While Mead focused on how the self is created, Goffman suggested that there are many dimensions to the self which are suited to different social situations (Goffman, 1959; Mead, 1934) The way that a person behaves with their friends versus the way they behave with their boss are often very different.

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25 Goffman accounts for this difference by expl ain ing that individuals are actors and that they put on different performances for different groups of people (Goffma n, 1959) The individual does not reveal their whole self to any one group of people but rather they engage in different roles that are each appropriate for specific situations (Goffman, 1959) These performances occ ur on what Goffman called the Front stage i.e. the public arenas people occupy (Goffman, 1959) The Front stage encompasses all areas of life where others can observe and react to an individual and where an individual performs different roles adapted to their partic ular audience (Goffman, 1959) Examples of Front s tage areas are sch ool, work, and social settings a n individual performs different roles as a student, employee, or friend depending on the setting. In order to maintain identities within these roles, individuals engage in impression management, a term Goffman uses to define the process by which individuals engage in mannerisms that create the impression of themselves that they want others to see (Goffman, 1959) These mannerisms can include manner of dress, affects, physical presentation (i.e. standing strait versus slouching), and way of speaking (i.e. formally versus using slang or colloquialisms) (Goffman, 1959) Opposite of the Front stage is the Back stage and here an individual is generally alone and does not have to perform a particular role for others (Goffman, 1959) The most common example of this is the home. In an RPG where a player is not playing with others, the videogame world is entirel y Back stage: the player can perform their character's identity without having to present themselves in any particular way to others. Videogames like Destiny however include both a Front and a Back stage due to their multi player and social elements.

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26 In D estiny the pla yer must perform a role on the Front S tage any time they are not in orbit waiting to travel to their next destination. While on any of the planets or in the social spaces of the game, other players can see one an other necessitating a public performance. The Emotes, or actions which exist for social purposes such as dancing, waving, etc. are an important part of these Front Stage performances. A player may use one of these interactions with another player before initiating verbal dialogue to s how that they are friendly and want to en gage with the other person. Players might also use Emotes to draw attention to themselves or to celebrate a win following a player versus player match. Many of the Emotes connote either celebratory bragging at a win or despair at a loss. These performances convey a player's emotions to other players via their character without the player actually having to speak to other players. If the player is speaking to other players via the microphone, their Emotes provide a ph ysical representation to what they are saying. There is also a Back Stage in Destiny as there is in the real world. In Goffman's Back Stage, a perso n can be themselves free from society 's e xpectations of how they must per form (Goffman, 1959) In Destiny, when the player is in orbit, they are invisible to other players. They can use this time to make changes to their gear and character, examine available quests, and make decisions about what they are going to do next. While these actions are also available in the social areas of the game, they represent an opportunity for the player to retreat into their Back stage an d make adjustments to their character away from the prying eyes of other players. In addition to having both a Front s tage and Back s tage, Destiny 's world also allows for an identity creation process through performance. Part of the performance is the ph ysical appearance that the player manipulate s through the character creation phase at the game's

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27 outset Player s can modify the gender, race, and physical features of their character therefore managing the impressions other players have of them. For exampl e, a male player may create a female character and portray themselves as female to others in the game. The actions of characters align with social gender norms familiar to Western players and this can be a reflection of how players want to perform in front of others in the game world. Additio nally, players can create an identity in the Destiny world through their interactions with other players. One way they can do this is via microphone verbal communication during multi player events of the game. Players c an use this communication to advocate for teamwork, taunt other players, or give other impressions of themselves and their character to others around them to the end of participating fully in the game and acting out the character on the Front Stage of Dest iny. Videog ame Specific Identity Theory Sameness Identity vs Empathic Identity Over the past few years, there has been some examination into how players relate to their videogame characters in order to better understand whether identification with violen t characters creates violent tendencies in the real world (Carnagey et al., 2007) Tronstad discussed this relationship in the context of World of Warcraft using theories of Sameness Identity and Empathic Identity (Tronstad, 2011) Sameness Identity refers to the experience of a player assuming the identity of their character as might be expected in an RPG in which the character is developed by the game developers rather than the player (Tronstad, 2011) A recent example of this is The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt which was released May 19, 2015 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms. The Witcher III is the third installment of a videogame series based off of the

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28 Witcher novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski (CD Projekt RED, 2015) The player pilots the main character, Geralt of Rivia, through the fan tasy world of The Witcher battling monsters and attempting to save his long lost foster daughter, Ciri, who is pursued by The Wild Hunt an army of malevolent elves trying steal her time bending powers (CD Projekt RED, 2015) While players can influence events in the game by choosing from multiple options presented to Geralt, ultimately the player is not intended to create their own unique identity through the game. If the player internalizes Geralt's identity while playing (Tronstad explains that some players do this while others do not), they are engaging in Sameness Identity (Tronstad, 2011) Emp athic Identity occurs in multi player games including World of Warcraft and Destiny Empathic Identity is the experience of seeing oneself as a separate individual from the ir character while simultaneously having a complete understanding of the experiences of the character (Tronstad, 2011) In games like World of Warcraft and Destiny pla yers are not expected to adopt the identity of their character but rather to pilot a character who the player creates and unders tand s yet is separate from the player's real world identity. In this way, the player can create a character who embodies an identity separate from the one the player has in the real world. Identity Through Interaction This framework can certainly be applie d to more games than World of Warcraft and other theorists have taken a broader approach to v ideo game identity than Tronstad One of the most prominent writers on the subject, James Newman, has written several papers and a book on the subject of videogames and identity Newman emphasizes that video games are different from any other media formats because videogames draw the player into another

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29 world through interaction (Newman, 2014) He sees video game play as an interaction between player, character, console and game world (Newman, 2002) To illustrate this point, he explain s that players describe themselves as being in a world rather than controlling a character in one (Newman 2002). Goffman's Self in a Virtual Space Simon Gottschalk used Goffman's theories about identity presentation to explain some of the social interacti ons and identity formation that occurred in the online videogame Second Life Second Life is a very different game from Destiny because it mimic s real life and the real world rather than constructing an imaginary world and situation for players to engage i n (Gottschalk, 2010) Second Life is similar to Destiny howev er, in the way that it allows character building and self presentation Gottschalk found that as in real life, Second Life allows a presentation of s elf in which players make assumptions ab out other players based on the s elf presentation of their avatars (Gottschalk, 2010) Gottschalk says that Second Life allows p layers to free themselves of the constraints placed on their presentation of self in the real world such as body type, gender, and ability to afford certain typ es of clothing, items, and real estate (Gottschalk, 2010) In Second Life players can build fashionable avatars of either gender and any body type and e ven cr eate a personality that i s different from the one they have in the real world. Often people assume that these characters are only characters and not actually a part of the player themselves. Gottschalk counters this presumption by cit ing numerous examples of how player s have been affected by events that happened in the Second Life world. In some situations, events in Second Life had positive repercussions in the real world (i.e. a case where a woman was able to leave her abusive partner because sh e began t o embody the stronger identity she had created for her Second

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30 Life character ) (Gottschalk, 2010) Other times the real world repercussions were negative as happened when a female player was rejected during a romantic encounter that took place in Second Life but reported feeling heartbroken in the real world (Gottschalk, 2010) Reactions such as these show that the virtual ide ntity created through videogames is separate from the physical world but may have repercussions on the player's world. An extremely important part of videogame identity is the concept of role playing. It is generally accepted that role playing originated with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons in 1974. Though a table top game, Dungeons and Dragons created the idea of a game in which players acted out the personalities, thoughts, and actions of an imaginary character and videogames subsequently adopted th is game style. As Ross Haenfler states in his book Goths, Gamers, and Grrrls "[Players] craft a virtual self that may or may not reflect their own presentation of self" (Haenfler, 2016 p. 125 ) Haenfler draws on the framework of Symbolic Interactionism and Postmodern Identity to explain how virtual identities are creat ed and maintained through video games. From the Symbolic I nteractionist perspective, the s elf is created via process and is somet hing that is created rath er than something that simply exists A videogame self is also something that is ac tively created and maintained by the player in that they are connected to other people and to other worlds in on going and complex way s Since the advent of videogames, critics have complained about the stereotypical computer nerd who shuts himself (this n erd being stereotypically male) in his bedroom and only engages in interactions with others through the internet. At best this person is seen as weird and at worst is seen as a drain or burden to society Until recently, very few people considered whe the r these virtual interactions are relevant to the real world and if the bonds and communities formed therein

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31 are of any consequence. Today, it is important to consider whether these virtual worlds and the individuals who inhabit them are real in the sense that they can generate the same sorts o f benefits and problems that occur in the real world and challenge its inhabitants Haenfler takes issue with the idea that virtual commu nities are not real. He defines virtual communities as "communities of people who regularly interact and form ongoing relationships primaril y via the internet" (Haenfler p. 119, 2016). The only difference between this definition of community and one defining community in the real world is that these interactions occur over the inter net and not in a face to face fashion. G iven the rise of texting and social media, an increasing amo unt of real world interaction also occurs via media devices and less face to face. Haenfler believes that it is safe to assume that virtual communication fo llows the same basic principles as face to face interaction as it is the medium of communication that differs and not the content of the interactions (Haenfler, 2016) In addition, it is important to understan d that simply engaging in video games does not necessarily mean that a gamer has a separate vi deo game identity. Haenfler points out that just playing a game does not make a gamer part of a gaming community. In order to meet Haenfler's definition of a gamer who is part of a community, the gamer must be invested in the game and community, be in frequ ent contact with other members of the community, and invest in building relationships with other gamers through the game (Haenfler 2016). Essentially, identity and a self can be created through a video game but must be actively created and maintained just l ike identity and self in the real world. Mead wrote that the s elf emerges out of experience and out of the way that the individual engages in and experiences different actions in the world around them (Mead,

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32 1934) If a player does not engage with other players and only engages with the NPC areas of th e ga me such as vendors and enemies they are not truly experiencing the world around them. Additionally, they are not viewing their own actions towards other individuals which is an important part of s elf building. Therefore, in order to create an identity within Destiny players must engage with others. Post Modern Identity Symbolic I nteractionism explains how gamers can create an iden tity online through videogames by demonstrating that a significant part of the identity formation process occurs through a player's interactions with other players and with the videogame world. Symbolic Interactionism demands that gamers engage in the process of acti vely maintaining an identity as well as interacting with the world and others in order to actually have an ide ntity in the game beyond that of a player steered avatar. Further evidence of the existence of real online identities is illustrated by theories of Post Modern Identity. The fundamental part of Post Modern Identity according to Haenfler is that it is rela tional, fragmented and flexible (Haenfler, 2016) Haenfler's ideas echo those of Kenneth J. Gergen who origina lly explored the idea that the s elf is fragmented and affected by media such as tel evision, movies, and print news (Gergen, 1991) Gergen believed that there has been a shift in the way people relate t o one another from having a few close relationships with people they are geog raphically close to, to having many relationships with people who they relate to via a global news network and the internet (Gergen, 1 991) Videogames contr ibute to this fragmentation of s elf by providing people with a space in which they can not only have relationships with people who are not in close physical proximity to the player but also create a whole new body to house the player 's identity.

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33 Therefore, it is possible to maintain both a real world identit y and have one or several video game identities. Using World of Warcraft as an example, a player who is heavily invested in their guild, character, and relationships in World of War craft might be equally invested in their real life spouse, job, and community. Neither of these identities or roles necessarily negates the other, they simply inhabit different worlds. Post Modern Identity explains how individuals are able to maintain se veral roles and engage with several communities simultaneously These roles can exist entirely in the real world ( an individual might have a work identity and a home identity ) but their roles can also encompass their videogame worlds and online friends.

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34 CHAPTER IV PAST RESEARCH ON IDE NTITY IN VIDEOGAMES World of Warcraft Over the past few years, researchers including Newman have begun to explore the idea of identifying with one's character more thoroughly Of these studies, research on World of Warcraft ( WoW ) is by fa r the most common because of the game's popularity and its immersive qualities such as character building and communication among players. The methods used to study World of Warcraft guide the methods used in this thesis because WoW re searchers have conducted studies using similar methods to my own regarding inter player interaction in the WoW world. Participant Observers and Ethnographies In studies of World of Warcraft at least one researcher typically is both observer and pa rticipant thus both watching interactions and establishing a direct link between the study and other players. For example, study author Mark Chen reports that he spent approximately twenty hours per week engaging in World of Warcraft play in order to colle ct data from and observe the communications among the other players in his group (Chen, 2009) Even in studies that take a quantitative approach, re searchers spend time playing a gam e (and by necessity interacting with players) in order to understand its mechanics and world space prior to engaging in analysis (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2007) Researchers of Worl d of Warcraft have dedicate d many hours to playing WoW in order to understand the wide variety of factors they intend to analyze One of the most in depth studies of World of Warcraft is Bonnie A. Nardi's 2010 book, My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthro pological Account of World of Warcraft

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35 Inspired by students in her Social Aspects of Digital Technologies class at the University of California, Irvine, Nardi conducted an ethnography on World of Warcraft in order to better understand how players us e soci al spaces in online video games. Specifically, Nardi states, "I believe World of Warcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology," (Nardi, 2013 p. 5 ) Though a skeptic of the social value of video games at the outset, Nardi determined that player s established and maintained intricate social interactions while playing World of Warcraft (Nardi, 2013) Nardi contends that she began her ethnography with no specific hypothesis or research question, but rather in an effort to explore and observe World of Warcraft in the same way that anthropologists explored and observed primitive cultures over a hundred years ago. Nardi approached the game space of the online world as a new frontier and attributed to it the characteristics of a fully salient social space in the same way that a researcher would to any culture These chara cteristics included complex communication among player s, collaboration on tasks, and adherence to certain social rules such as assisting players new to the game by giving them needed items or protection from difficult enemies (Nardi, 2013) Despite the fact that she conducted her research primarily from the comfort of her li vin g room, Nardi claimed that the experience was just as immersive as visiting another land (Nardi, 2013) The Role of Guilds In order to fully immerse herself in the WoW experience, Nardi joined a guild, a group of players who generally share a similar goal or game play style, and made online acquaintances. To find a guild in which she felt comfortable, Nardi joined several and

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36 interacted with the players in each guild She learned that not all guilds are the same and that finding a guild that suits an individual player's personality, desire for interaction, and play style is critical to e njoying the game. Nardi explained that guilds are diverse and she encountered guilds that were comprised of typical gamers as well as guilds which were operated by players one might not expect. For example, Nardi points to a particular guil d which was made of up players who identified themselves and their guild as Christian demonstrating that there are a wide variety of players and affiliations within WoW Nardi's guild, Scarlet Raven, consisted mostly of working adults, many of whom travele d for work or had children resulting in a more laid back atmosphere (Na rdi, 2013) This guild suited Nardi because players did not expect each other to play for extended periods of time and appreciated real world responsibilities such as work and family. Additionally, while Nardi does not mention that there was any written c ode of conduct for guild members, certain actions were sanctioned by the guild's officers (p layers who create and regulate the guild). For example, one member posted a URL to a pornography site on the guild's page and this player was quickly reported and b anned from the guild. Scarlet Raven functioned as a mini society in which players subscribed to unwritten social rules and codes of conduct beyond what the game itself required. These norms were created by the guild members who shared similar social values Scarlet Raven's adult members tended to reject profanity and other uncouth actions on the part of members because some of the members are children. Since several players in her guild played with their young children, Nardi noted that there was a higher s tandard of conduct than might be found in a guild made up of only adults (Nardi, 2013) Nardi was a member of this guild for over two years while she conducted her research.

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37 Nardi conducted her research as a participant observer not only because of her background in anthropology but also because it is impossible to play WoW without engaging in R aiding Raiding involves mul tiple players joining together to battle an enemy. Enemies are generally too strong for one character/player to defeat alone and a strategically assembled group improves the odds of success for all players Each member of the Raid party assumes certain tasks, assigned by guild leaders (players leading the R aid ) and determined by the abilities of their race and class. For example elves are often assigned healing and long range combat tasks due to their natur al skills in magic while orcs often are ordered to act as as "t anks" (characters which can withstand a lot of damage from an enemy while inflicting damage with their own bludgeoning weapons). Tasks players are assigne d during R aids include: close combat, l ong range use of weapons (e.g. bow and arrow) and field me dical assistance (those who use healing powers to keep teammates or the R aiding party alive) (Nardi, 2013) Essentially, Nardi concludes that because the game requires cooperation among players to progress, WoW is a social world (Nardi, 2013) Ultimately, Nardi studied basic social interactions, addiction, and gender among aspects pre sent in the social space of WoW Similarly, the present study employs some of Nardi's methods ( in particular that of participant observer ) to examine the social spaces within Destiny, and interviews game players to ascertain their types of interactions, se nse of identity, and motives within the game. Interviews and Content Analysis In the body of World of Warcraft research, interviews are arguably the most commonly used research meth od. As previously discussed, researchers typically engage in many hours of gameplay in order to establish themselves as characters in the game space and

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38 to sample their study participants. One study adopted this approach to gather a random sample of WoW players as a basis for semi structured interviews regarding social capital, meanings, and networks within the game (Williams et al., 2006) By combining the interviews with the researchers' understanding of game mechanics, the study illuminated many types of social interactions and the meaning and significance of each within the game. Williams found that social inte ractions in the game mimicked those in real life. Members of smaller guilds (under ten members) tended to have closer re lationships with each other than members of larger guilds. Larger guilds frequently resorted to using outside message boards and blogs i n order to communicate with their numerous members. Players often used these message boards or used voice chat to discuss non WoW topics such as school, work, and real world relationships (Williams et al., 2006) Players created support systems and close friendships with one another via WoW which the authors believe demonstrated the idea that these relationships are of equal importance to real world relationships (Williams et al., 2006) Theoretical Assumptions: Identification with a Character Throughout video game literature, one of the most commonly made assumptions is that players identify with the c haracter they are playing (Dill & Dill, 1998) This assumption can be tested in games in which a player must assume the role of a pre set a nd defined character whose personality and other attributes such as race, gender, skills, and backstory are immutable. The identificati on with character assumption is harder to apply to games where the player creates their own character rather than just as sociating themselves with a developer generated personality This is important to remember when discussing games like World of Warcraft and Destiny in which players create their own characters, backstories, and personalities

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39 Further, the player may iden ti fy with their game character differently in different games. As mentioned previously, Ragnhild Tronstad identifies two types of ide ntification that occur in video games: Empathic Identity and Sameness Identity (Tro nstad, 2011) Tronstad observed numerous cases of players engaging in Empathic Identity while researching WoW. Tronstad concluded that the online character and the human piloting it have two separate identities despite having a shared experience and only one individual piloting both identities (Tronstad, 2011). The player has an identity in the real world which they maintain through interactions with others and with their society. The player also has an identity in the WoW world which is represented physic ally by their character. The player may choose to create a character that is different from themselves in a variety of ways (physical features, gender, species, personality, etc.) The player can have two different presentations of self: one for the real w orld and the roles they play on the real life Front stage, and another presentation for WoW and the roles they play in the game's Front stage areas (Tronstad, 2011) Tronstad argued specifically that Empathic Id entity as experienced in World of Warcraft is caused by the inherent role playing nature of the game. First, Tronstad states that role play inherently assumes that the player and the character have different ident ities, both of which are real but remain s eparate though players ultimately decide to what extent they will perform this separate identity in the game (2011). Tronstad points to Paul Ricoeur's idea of a Narrative Identity: a form of identity which draws from the experiences that we consider part o f our stories, but not from all experiences we have ever had (Tronstad, 2011) Some experiences are not important and are forgotten while we retain others that then become part of our identities (Tronstad, 2011)

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40 Narrative Identity applies to World of Warcraft characters: game designers provide a backstory based on the storyline and mythology of the game which fit s a character's race and class (warlock, warrior, etc). P l ayers build on this backstory th r ough the guilds they join, the Raids they participate in, as well as their in game actions, interaction s with the world, and interaction s with other players (Tronstad, 2011). Essentially, Tronstad argues that character iden tity formation occurs in World of Warcraft through various avenues ( guilds, R aids, and messaging /voice chatting with other players) and that character identity is not solely defined by the pilot player. Certainly the player has control over many aspects ( s uch as how the character looks and their personality in interactions with other players ) but their character is not independent of the influences of the world and its inhabitants (Tronstad, 2011). Videogame worlds, like the real world, include almost infi nite factors that can influence a player and their character. Social groups like guilds have particular cultures, norms, and behaviors. This was a phenomenon that Nardi encountered in her study and was the reason that she explored severa l different guilds before choosing which one to join (Nardi, 2013) Players must adapt th eir character to the norms of their guild if they want to be accepted just as individuals must behave in particular ways to fit in with certain social groups in the real world (Tronstad, 2011) Cooperative activ ities like Raiding also have an impact on how a character's identity is formed in a videogame. In WoW, Raids are scheduled and coordinated by guild leaders who decide when the Raid will occur and what role each participating player will take during the Rai d (i.e. healer, long range attacker, close range attacker). A Raid involves traveling as a group to a specific location within the game and engaging in a specific series of actions to lure out the enemy that the players intend to fight. In this way the gam e itself provides a

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41 narrative for the world state and why the players m ust fight a particular enemy while the guild provides a narrative for when this will occur and the role each player is expected to play (Trons tad, 2011) This is a key way in which Narrative Identity applies to videogame worlds the player has control over their individual character but in order to engage with other players and with the game world, they must conform to the plans of other playe rs and to the backstory provided by the game. Conforming to these plans and to the story contributes to the identity embodied by the character. The Narrative Identity perspective in World of Warcraft can be applied to characters in Destiny Each race in De stiny has a backstory as does the entire world state. At the outset of Destiny, players create the physical bodies of their characters and as they progress through the game, players make decisions regarding their play style. Despite this initial autonomy the world and other players are equally influential in creating the identity of the player's character. In both WoW and Destiny players choose the race, class, and gender of their character. Additionally, they can customize the facial features and body type of their character and choose from a selection of voices to use when their character speaks. Later in the game, they can win or buy "shaders" ( color schemes that can be applied to their armor ) to further customize the look of the character. As a resul t, each Destiny character is unique and personalized to the player's preferences.

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42 CHAPTER V WHY STUDY DESTINY ? Destiny is the first ever videogame billed as a shared world shooter ", a new genre defined by Bungie, the deve loper of Destiny By creati ng a new genre, developers hoped to create a new gaming experience, one that solo players could enjoy but one intended to create teamwork and camaraderie among players (Schreier, 2015a) Bungie created a new genre to attract MMO and First Person Shooter players alike while eliminating the subscriptions that typically are required to play MMOs (Humphries, 2013) Unlike all other games, every facet of Destiny is geared toward social interaction and teamwork rather than accomplishing a set of goals. Destiny was released on September 9, 2014 following aggressive marketing and adv ertising campaigns that successfully created great anticipation in the gaming community. Controversy quickly followed: was Destiny brilliant, new, and different, or was it the worst game ever pr oduced? Debate continues today with very few gamers watching p assively from the sidelines as evidenced by the numerous debates taking place on gaming forums and in videogame magazines (Kain, 2015) The sensation surrounding Destiny's boundary pushing shared world shooter moniker makes it an excel lent subject for study. Bungie and Activision were contracted by Sony, the maker of PlayStation, to create a sensational new game for its next con sole release (the PlayStation 4) This creation story caused s ome gamers to claim that Destiny was a marketin g ploy to sell PlayStation 4 consoles and compete with the simultaneous release of the Xbox One Destiny was later released for Xbox consoles, however Sony's proprietary rights to the game meant later

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43 release dates and limited features for th e Xbox version As Destiny gained popular ity, Sony gave players on both Xbox and PlayS tation equal playing experiences. Following the Game as Game v er s us Game as Sales Ploy debate between gamers dedicated gamers attacke d Destiny's creators. Before developin g Destiny Bungie developers created the extremely popular Halo franchise. Hal o fans argue that Bungie sold out to Sony and betrayed the fan base This franchise issue is important because the Halo franchise is under Microsoft's Xbox umbrella and in order to produce Destiny for Sony, Bungie developers severed their long time relationship with Microsoft. Despite the controversy and mixed reception of the game, Destiny was extremely successful in its first year. Destiny won 51 awards including a number of Game of the Year awards in 2014 (De stiny Official, 2016) The game was equally well received by thousands of players; five million copies grossing $325 million were purchased in its first week (Johnson, 2014). Game designers increased the hype related to the release by hir ing Sir Paul McCa rtney write the music and record a single just for the game. This demonstrates the amount of money and marketing that was used to draw players' attention before the game was released. One of the biggest criticisms of Destiny remains that the story drops of f almost completely after about th irteen hours of play time an extremely short amount of time in comparison to other story based videogames which often boast over one hundred hours of story A lack of plotline would be acceptable had the developers bille d Destiny as a first person shoote r but they instead marketed it originally as an MMO (the official change to "shared world shooter" was made upon the release of The Dark Below expansion) Thus Destiny was in the same category as story intensive games like World of Warcraft despite

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44 being a very different type of game Even though developers changed Destiny's genre to shared world shooter criticism did not stop. Destiny: The Taken King the full scale expansion that was released in September 2015 attempted to address the criticism by including more background story, cut scenes, and bringing in Hollywood talent such as Nathan Fillion to voice some of the NPCs. Sony made this investment to add interest to the story and to the characters who had limited dialogu e and little backstory. The Stor y It is impossible to discuss how the world of Destiny allows for the creation of virtual identity without an understanding of the story. This section discusses character creation, the storyline from the original release thr ough The Taken King the social spaces of the game, and the social activities of the game. Character Creation The first order of business in Destiny is to create a character, as it is in most games. Each player can create up to three characters allowing t hem to experience the game using different classes, races, and builds (a combination of abilities geared toward facilitating a particular play style) First, the player is asked to choose one of the three classes: Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. Titans are defi ned in Destiny 's online Grimoire cards (virtual cards that give details on Destiny 's lore), as "blunt instruments" and are a class built for taking and inflicting large amounts of damage ("Destiny Grimoire," 2016) Hunters are a stealthier character build and specialize in knives and other precision weapo ns not available to other classes ( "Destiny G rimoire 2016). Finally, Warlocks ar e given more magic based skills they are able to manipulate the environment to create powerful grenades and other weapons ("Destiny Grimoire", 2016). Despite the difference s in class, all players use guns and rely on

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45 their special abilities only in certain situations. For example, a Warlock has the ability to revive him or herself if a certain perk is selected by the player which is not an option given to players of other cl asses. Following cla ss selection, the player chooses the race and gender of their character. The race options are human, Awoken (an elf like species) and Exo (sentient robots). When it comes to gender, t he player may choose eithe r male or female. The choic e of gender is purely aesthetic and does not impact the character's abilities in the game. The choice of race also has no effect. Players are offered variety of customization options for their char acter s including seven different facial structures, nine s kin colors, eighteen lip colors, and nine eye colors. Additionally players can choose from fifteen hairstyles and twenty eight hair colors (for Exos these are helmet styles and colors). Finally, there are a variety of makeup and tattoo like markings that players add to the character 's face and body Below are the three characters I created for this thesis:

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46 Image: Male Exo Character (Destiny, 2016 ) Image: Human character (Destiny, 2016d)

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47 Image: Awoken character (Destiny, 2016) Plot Destiny begins with a cinematic (a movie like scene where the player only watches and does not engage with the game) of three astronauts la nding on Mars for the first time. The astronauts discov er a huge floating sphere ( the Traveler ) that is a benevolent sentient being who brings a 200 year golden age to humanity. During this golden age, technology increased exponentially, human life spa n tr ipled, the sentient robots ( E xos ) were created and space was broadly explored. T he Traveler is pursued by a largely undefined force known as the Darkness With the Darkness came four groups of hostile aliens: the Hive, the Fallen, the Vex, and the Cabal In the fight against the Darkness and its denizens, Guardians were created by humanity with help from the Traveler Despite the Traveler's efforts and the Guardian's assistance the Traveler began to die and in its last breath created Ghosts: small,

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48 ge ometric, sentient floating helpers which seek out new Guardians and assist them by navigating, teleporting, and providing information. The cinematic then switches to Earth and follows a Ghost who searches a junkyard littered with scrap metal and old cars i n an arid landscape. After scanning a few sun bleached skeletons, the Ghost happens upon the player's character and the perspective shifts to first person. The character is not yet controllable but stands up, examines its hands, and listens to the Ghost wh o quickly informs the player that they have been chosen as a Guardian and have been bro ught back from the dead by their Ghost for thi s purpose. Based on the monologue the player can infer that their character has been dead for a long period of time. Perha ps they died during the infamous Collapse when the Traveler was no longer able to fight off the Darkness or perhaps even before that. Whenever the death occurred, the player has been reborn as a Guardian whose first task is to pick up a gun and fight their way through Fallen warriors to a ship that will take them to the last safe place on Earth: The Tower. The Tower is the venue for most of a player' s social interactions in addition to being the place to shop, upgrade gear, and engage with their factions sh ould the player choose to join one. The Tower is also the site of various eve nts put on by Bungie which are designed to entertain players and encourage them to engage with other players in a festive, social setting There are often soccer balls lying aroun d that players can kick, dribble, and play impromptu games with other players. The Tower will be discussed in more detail in the context of social spaces in the game.

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49 Image: Guardians (Destiny Grimoire, 2016d) Image: Ghost (Destiny, 2016c) Earth and the Fallen Once at the Tower, a player is given some information about the Traveler, the history of the Guardians, and the fig ht between the Traveler and the Darkness. At this point, the

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50 game opens up and the player can choose from a va riety of missions such as battling the Fallen and collecting materials from Earth. These missions can be completed solo or with a "Fireteam" of up to three players. If the player chooses to form a Fireteam instead of playing alone the quests will be far easier to complete and in areas where spawning, (reviving after the character is killed) is prohibited, Fireteam members can revive their comrades instead of having to re start the entire mission as is required when the game is played solo. This is one of several ways in which Destiny 's developers encourage multiplayer activity Image: The Traveler (Destiny Grimoire, 2016m)

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51 Image: Fallen warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016e) The Moon and the Hive After completing the Earth based missions, the player/ Guardian is sent to the Moon to find a missing NPC Guardian who disappeared almost without a trace. During the search, the Guardian discovers that the Hive has burrowed into the Moon and created a vast network of tunnel s which can be accessed through a large Temple dedicated to the Hive's leader/God, Crota. Once the player/ Guardian and Ghost explore the Temple of Crota, they find the missing dead NPC Guardian and also discover that the Hive is planning a full scale invas ion of Earth. In order to stop the invasion, t he Guardian must go even deeper into the Moon's catacombs to locate a library containing the history and plans of the Hive. Additionally, the player/ Guardian is instructed to destroy Crota's sword which would b e instrumental in a hostile takeover of Earth. Finally, the Guar dian discovers that the Hive is performing a ritual that is draining the Traveler of its remaining Light, its life force. The Guardian is dispatched

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52 to stop the ritual and just before they beg in, a mysterious Exo female sends a message saying that the Guardian must seek her out on Venus if they survive the mission to disrupt the ritual. Image: Hive warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016i) Venus the Vex, and the Awoken The Guardian sets off for Venus after completing the Moon missions to s eek out the mysterious Exo. The player/Guardian mu st engage in a variety of reconnaissance tasks in order to find the Exo and gather intelligence on the enemy, the Vex. The Vex are later explained to be a sentient machine race which share one mind between all units. The mysterious Exo appears after a battle with the Vex and she tells the Guardian to go to the Bla ck Garden, the spawning point of the Vex, and destroy its heart in order to allow the Traveler to begin to heal. In order to find the Black Garden the Guardian must travel to the edge of the galaxy and contact the Awoken Queen. The Awoken is a matriarchal society ruled by a Queen who has conquered a House of Fallen warriors who serve her. The Queen and her brother decide that they will assist the Guardian in finding and entering the Black Garden if the Guardian brings her the head of a

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53 Vex Gate Lord as proo f of their dedication and strength. This request initiates another series of quests on Venus which cu lminate s in a final b attle against a Gate Lord. Once the player/Guardian achieves victory the Queen gives the Guardian access to the Black Garden. Image : Vex warriors (Destiny Grimoire, 2016h) Image: The Awoken Queen (Des tiny Grimoire, 2016k)

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54 Mars and the Black Garden The Awoken Queen informs the Guardian that the Black Garden is located on Mars and gives the Guardian the eye from the head of the Gate Lord to allow the Guardian to access the Black Garden. In order to r each the Black Garden, the Guardian must fight through the Cabal, a militaristic race that, like the Fallen the Hive, and the Vex, allies with the Darkness. Once on Mars, it becomes clear that the se different denizens of the Darkness are not truly allies to each other but only to the Darkness. While the Guardian fights them they are each engaged in militaristic actions against each other. After the player /Guardian has fought successfully through the Cabal and Vex they are able to enter the Black Garden. The Black Garden is a n outdoor area filled with crumbling buildings that are being taken over by jungle like vines and other plants. The player must find their way through its maze like structure while fighting Vex enemies that attack along the way. P laye rs can expect to spend approximately an hour fighting their way to the Heart of the Garden in order to destroy it. At this point the original game ends with celebrations at the Tower The mysterious Exo woman appears once again and offers her congratulatio ns to the player but also warns that the fight against the Darkness is only beginning.

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55 Image: Bracus Tho'ourg Cabal command (Destiny Grimoire, 2016a) Th e Dark Below The Dark Below is the first small scale expansion to Destiny. It was released on December 9, 2014. It picks up where the original game ended. At the beginning of The Dark Below expansion, the player/ Guardian meets Eris Morn, a former Guardian who descended into what she called "Th e Pit", an area be neath the Moon's surface to battle Crota, the Hive's god. Eris Morn's companions were murdered and her own Light and Ghost were destroyed before she managed to escape with her life and spend several years blindly wandering the Hive's tunnels. The goal of The Dark Below is to comp lete the mission Eris could not finish : destroy Crota and thereby eliminate the Hive threat to Earth. Under the guidance of Eris Morn, the player/ Guardian returns to the Moon and battles their way through the Hive's tunnels toward Crota's sleeping soul. The Dark Below offer s more insight into the Hive, its organizational structure and its religion which is inexorably tied to its warlord leaders including Crota.

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56 Though not fu lly explained, it is implied that Crota and his father Oryx are both political/military le aders and gods to the Hive. Father and son have apparently conquered innumerable worlds in their travels across the universe and employ a scorched earth po licy to the worlds they subjugate Though the game is not particularly detailed regarding this, it appears that the Hive strip a planet of its resources and kill anyone who stands in their way. The Dark Below culminates with the player/ Guardian interrupting a ritual to awaken Crota 's soul, defeating several high level Hive leaders and destroying the crystal which houses Crota's soul. Following this battle Eris Morn sends the Guardian after Omnigul, a Hive female who alone has the power to resurrect Crota's soul If O mnigul dies there is no way for the Hive to resurrect Crota. The player kills Omnigul at the end of this expansion. Image: Eris Morn (Destiny Grimoire, 2 016b)

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57 Image: Omnigul (Destiny Grimoire, 2016f) Image: Crota, Son of Oryx (Destiny Grimoire, 2016c)

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58 Image: Oryx (Destiny, 2016e) House of Wolves House of Wolves the second small expa nsion was released on May 19, 2015. Like The Dark Below, House of Wolves provides more plot detail to Destiny by enhancing the story of the Fallen and the Awoken. In the expansion players have access to a new social space, the Reef, an Awoken stronghold in which players can shop, gain access to new quests, and interact with other players. The story of House of Wolves begins with the Awoken Queen calling in a favor from the player/Guardian for her help accessing the Black Garden. The Awoken Queen orders the player/ Guardian to hunt down the leader of the House of Wolves, Skolas. Skolas is trying to take over the House of Winter, House of Devils, and House of King s and gain control of all

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59 the Fallen armies. At this point it becomes clear that the Fallen are divided into clan like groups called Houses ruled by a groups of overlords called Kells. Skolas is one Kell who plans to conquer the other houses unite them, and lead them against the Reef and the Awoken using not only Fallen troops but also stolen Vex t echnology The player/Guardian learns that the Fallen h ave been weakened by their inter house conflicts but a cohesive Fallen army could spell destruction for the Awoken and for Earth. The player /Guardian must first thwart Skolas' attempts to take over th e other Houses and then proceed to trac k down and defeat Skolas. When Skolas has been weakened enough, the Awoken capture Skolas and bring him back to face the Queen who rewards the player/Guardian well. Image: Skolas (Destiny Grimoire, 2016g)

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60 The Taken King On September 15, 2015, Bungie released the full length expansion, The Taken King This expansion, as already mentioned, attempted to reme dy many of the complaints of the original game and the first two expansions. New voice acto rs and more developed back stories were added. With this expansion, Bungie and Activision began actively promoting Destiny as a share d world shooter rather than a MM O which is the classification World of Warcraft falls into Bungie highlighted the combat ele ments of the game as well as the role playing and teamwork aspects. Game designers gave the story more attention than in the previous releases and the more linear story picks up where The Dark Below ends Additional backstory provides the how and why Ghosts and Guardians were created by the Traveler. It becomes apparent that the Ghosts are each looking for a specific Guardian and that the player's Ghost actually sp ent centuries looking for the right person. The story of The Taken King begins with Eris Morn explaining that Crota, in his dying breath, called out across space to his father, Oryx, the supr eme leader of all the Hive Oryx is understandably angry over the death of his son and is bringing his fleet to Earth to avenge Crota's death. The Awoken are the first to clash with Oryx's fleet led by their Queen who figured prominently in the first installments of the game. The player watches a cinematic in which the Queen leads the Awoken against Oryx, uses her own telepathic powers to create a super weapon which wipes out all but Oryx's mothership. Unfortunately Oryx is more powerful and fires his own super weapon which eliminates the Awoken fleet completely. Just b efore she is blown apart by the explosion the Queen charges the Guardian s with protecting both Earth and the remaining Awoken from Oryx.

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61 The player soon learns that Oryx is an entirely new kind of enemy; he has the power to possess other creatures and he doe s with Cabal, Vex, and Fallen troops. These possessed beings are called Taken and while they retain their corporeal forms, they turn black and g ain additional powers (e.g. teleportation and increased strength ) The player /Guardian must battle through Oryx's ship, The Dreadnought and ultimately face Oryx In the last moments of this battle Oryx is weakened but before he disappears, he gives the impression that he will return in later games. After the Gu ardian returns to Earth the player views a ci nema tic in which Eris Morn is aboard The Dreadnought talking to herself about a task she will not fail. She removes a crystal from Oryx's sword and then she too disappears. All of these final scenes indicate t hat another game is in design Image: The Taken (Destiny Grimoire, 2016l)

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62 The Future of Destiny Destiny is scheduled for another expansion in late 2016 and Destiny 2 (title as yet unconfirmed) is slated for early 2017. Presumably, developers will continue to address the early criticisms and expand on the idea of a shared world shooter. Developer s continue to plan on creating a decade long series of Destiny games and expansions. Social Spaces The Tower Th e Tower is the first social space tha t players can access in Destiny When players travel to the Tower, they share this space with other players. If the player has a friend also playing Destiny and visiting the To wer, they are likely to encounter each othe r in this virtual space because of the matchmaking used by Xbox Live and PlayS tation Plus networks. PlayS tation and Xbox players can send and receive friend requests, and players can attach their PlayS tation or Xbox account s to their Facebook accounts allo wing them to find Facebook friends on gaming platforms easily. In Destiny players are identifiable by their gaming tag s the name they give themselves that is not specific to any particular game. Gaming tags are pseudonyms that players choose and attach t o their Xbox or PlayS tation account s and are used in any online game the player plays Their tag hovers in the air above their Gua rdian's head and by clicking on another player's tag, the first player can see the other player's statistics, gear, and initia te eithe r verbal or text communication In addition to viewing and speak ing with other players, Destiny allows for other in game interactions that serve n o purpose other than initiating social interactions with others One example of exclusively social i nteractions are "Emotes" actions such as dancing,

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63 pointing, sitting, etc which can be done alone or directed at or done with another player. With the release of T he Taken King players could purchase a greater variety of Emotes at the Eververse store i n T he Tower Each player was given enough silver to pay for two Emotes but if players want to purc hase additional Emotes, they must purchase more silver through either the Xbox or PlayS tation store s Developers added 12 new Emotes to T he Taken King and incl uded a variety of dances, handshak es, and actions (e.g. t humbs up, crying, laughing, etc. ). All of these actions are accessible during regular gameplay. It is common for p layers on winning teams in the player vs p lay er areas of the game to engage in dancin g or other celebratory actions afte r the game. Also, these E motes are changed every season so there is a limited time to purchase particular actions before they are no longer available. Emotes are a unique feature to Destiny that are not found in other vid eogames. The Tower serves purposes for the game in addition to social ones. It is the venue where players go to purchase weapons, gear, armor shaders, and ships and redeem quest items for experience and light points which are needed to increase the player 's level The higher the player's level, the stronger their character becomes and their character gains access to additional skills. Periodically, Bungie holds Iron Banner events : special, time limited player vs player events which include new areas (soci al and combat) and prizes for players who participate. During these events, a normally closed off section of the Tower is available and players have access to more shops than usual. More recently, the Tower has been a stage for Festivals that occur coincid ent with popular American holidays. The Festival of the Lost took place around Halloween. Each player was given a mask they could put on their character and there were quests to go trick or treati ng among the shopkeepers. Tr eats could be traded in for game prizes such as armor and

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64 guns. Again around Christmas, the Tower was decorated with lights and festive decorations and each player received a le gendary weapon as a gift. S hortly before Christmas 2015, players received a message from Bungie asking veteran players to go easy on those who would be getting the game for Christmas. The message was that the Destiny world should feel welcome to new players. This message was an attempt to encourage new players to become invested in the game something that might n ot happen if they were repeatedly killed by more experienced players. Image: Tower decorations during the Festival of the Lost (Destiny Grimoi re, 2016j) The Reef The Reef is the Awoken home world nestled among asteroids and debris from past space battles. The Reef is similar to T he Tower in that it is a social space where players can interact with others who happen to be there at the same tim e. Additionally, the Reef has

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65 several areas reserved for match making activities These separate areas currently include three arenas in which a three player team battles another three player team or a three player team battles NPC enemies To complete the challenge, p layers must kill all of the en emies sometimes while performing certain tasks (dismantling a bomb, moving objects from one place to another, etc ). Players have the ability to revive their teammates when one dies but if all three players die, t hey must begin the quest from the last checkpoint Since a checkpoint can be quite far back from their current point, players must be aware of others when they are playing in the Reef's arenas Many arena matches can last for over an hour depending on the S trike or arena and on the skill and teamwork of the players. Also in the Reef, players may choose to undergo the Trials of Osiris. The Trials of Osiris are player vs player matches using teams of three. The Trials are only available Friday s through Tuesd ay s and do not use matchmaking algorithms meaning players must form their own teams to play. In arenas, if a player is not revived by another player, they will automatically revive after about thirty seconds. In the Trials of Osiris, there is no automatic revival and players must revive each other. The Tr ials of Osiris are only playable if a player makes connections either with other players in the game or has friends who are willing to join their team. Limiting players to self generated teams is on e way in which Destiny developers force players to interact This is important to the shared world shooter structure of the game which depends on player interaction and teamwork. Raids The Trials of Osiris matches are similar to Raids in that both require teamwor k for players to succeed. Players currently have access to only three raids: Vault of Glass, Crota's End, and King's Fall. Raids require more time to complete than strikes (3 player vs NPC

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66 matches which use a matchmaking algorithm), arenas, or Trials. Many players report that Raids require two to four hours to complete during which players cannot leave or pause the game. As is the case in the Trials, there is n o matchmaking available for Raids so players must form their own teams of two to six players This requirement has led to the creation of websites (e.g. Destinytracker.com ) that help players find team members who can play at the same times. In the three available Raids, p layers cannot revive themselves and must rely on others to be revived when they di e. Vault of Glass takes the importance of teamwork to a higher level by requiring that players who are afflicted by a certain condition must alert another team member for a cure. If the afflicted player is not cured within a limited period of time, the pla yer will die along with the entire Fireteam Because players are incapable of detecting the affliction in others, players must talk to each other using microphones in order to successfully complete the Raid. Raids necessitate social interaction between p layers. While many players engage in these Raids with their friends, others meet online through the game or through the aforementioned matchmaking websites In other areas of the game, players do not necessarily need to speak to each other in order to succ eed but the nature of Raids necessitates the use of microphones. The difficulty, duration, and cooperative nature of the Raids is intended to create bonds between players that supersede the scope of the game (Schreier, 2015a) While it is theoretically possible to beat the Vault of Glass alone, only one player since t he release of The Taken King has actually managed to do so As of October 11, 2014 (one month after original release date) over one million players had attempted Vault of Glass on normal play mode (rather than on a higher difficulty level) and only four h undred thousand of these had beaten Vault of Glass it is clear ly exponentially more difficult for a

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67 single player to beat the Raid than it is for a team Vault of Glass was first beaten fourteen hours after its release however, the team that did so is so skilled that team members were subsequently interviewed by numerous gaming magazines and websites This team is a clan ( i.e. a gaming team who plays many games together) known as PrimeGaurd. Clan players tweeted that the Raid was the "single most challengi ng" gaming experience they had ever had The number of deaths the players experienced in their quest to beat the Raid exceeded 1,600 Given that these professional gamers already have a strong working relationship, the difficulty of Destiny 's Raids is clea r. The difficulty of the Raids is crucial to the level of interactions between players. Luke Smith, creative director of The Taken King explained in a 2015 interview that this was intentional on the part of developers (Schreier, 2015a) One of the important aspects of a shared world shooter is that the relationships are not confined to the Destiny world. Smith stated that the difficulty of Raids is intended to function as a bonding mechanism for players who have met through the game and will hopefully build new relationships as a result of the Raid experience (Schreier, 2015a) The third R aid, King's Fall was released in Septembe r 2015 In an interview with Game Informer Luke Smith, The Taken King creative director, addressed some questions about King's Fall specifically and the philosophy underlying Raids in general According to Smith, Raids were intended to challenge players b eyond pushing buttons and shooting monsters. While Destiny developers recognized that monster slaying is an important part of the game, they decided to push the boundaries of player coordination through Raids. To do so, they required players communicate an d created room for players to experiment with the types of interaction s and play style that best fit their group. Without revealing too many

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68 details about the King's Fall raid, Smith explained that the creative team is developing something bigger than the three available R aids and hope to provide players a memorable experience based on successful teamwork rather than simply beating part of a game. The Impact of Destiny Destiny brought significant changes to the gaming world because of the popularity of its bigger, longer lasting, and more cooperative elements as well as its high dollar sales. A contract leaked to the press revealed a ten year plan for Destiny games and expansions fully supported by Bungie, Activision, and Sony (and therefore PlayStation) G amers are still divided regarding whether they love or hate the game. A 2015 article details how Bungie was compelled to issue an apology to Destiny players after they revealed that there would be an $80 collector s edition of the game available at the rel ease of The Taken King (Schreier, 2015b) This anger ed many players because the collector's edition included several items that were unavailable to players who already owned the game. This gave many players the impression that Bungie was only interested in making money off of new players rather than being l oyal and rewarding current players (Schreier, 2015b) To remedy this, Bungie offered current players the option to purchase the special items in a $20 package, though many players still believed Bungie should have provided these items for free (Schreier, 2015b) Though it continues to be a controversial game in the videogame world, Destiny is expected to brin g in huge sales in the future while continuing to push the boundaries of videogames and the line between virtual and real.

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69 CHAPTER VI RESEARCH METHODS Content Analysis I conducted a manifest content analysis of Destiny meaning that I engaged in the ga me and coded social interactions and elements of the game such as gender, player/game world interaction, and actual game play. The content analysis of Destiny began in 2014 ( prior to the release of The Taken King ) and continued through February 2016. I use d a PlayStation 4 home console to conduct the analysis. In separating the analysis into three parts ( character creatio n, game play, and social spaces), I could examine how players experienced each aspect of the game as they play ed it. I played the game at least three days per week and my average play session lasted about two to three hours. I tried to play after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends in order to conduct my analysis during the times when the most players were online. Character Creation Analy sis I created the maximum allowed three characters in order to explore the maximum amount of variations in the game's character creation. The first character (the character I used for the game play and social space analysis ) is a female Awoken Warlock. Th e second character is a female human Titan and the third is a male Exo Hunter. I analyzed differences in the physical structure of the se characters as well as gender specific differences in their actions. Each character took an average of thirty minutes to create as I spent time considering all of the cosmetic options for each character. The primary physical di fferences between characters are gender related. Female characters, regardless of race, class, or physical features, are smaller and have hourglass

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70 figures relative to the males of the same race The male char acters are taller, broad shouldered and embodied typical hegemonic masculine traits such as confidence and aggression (Connell, 2005) The physical differences between male and female characters aligned with Western ideas of masculine and feminine traits (Eckes & Trautner, 2000) This alignm ent to commonly accepted traits adds a dime nsion for the player to either conform their character to their identified real world gender and/or biological sex, or to identify as a different gender within the game and engage in experiencing the opposite gend er role. The characters' actions also reflect Western gender norms. All players walk, jog, and sprint depending on the pressure the player places on the joy stick (the more pressure on the stick, the faster the character moves) Male characters take larg er strides and are stiffer in their movements thus appearing as if they are somewhat muscle bound. Female characters take shorter, more tip toe like steps and their hips sway from side to side. Male and female characters can walk, run, and sprint equally q uickly but how they appear when they walk, run, and sprint is markedly different. In addition to the qualities of movement, there are also differences in the way characters sit based entirely on their gender. One of the default Emotes in the game is to si t Male characters sit strait down, feet flat on the ground, knees bent, lean forward at the waist and elbows encircle the knees. This posture is similar to the hegemonic masculine posture commonly known as "man spreading" in which men consume a significa nt amount of space by spreading their legs. Socially, this is viewed as a n acceptable show of aggression and dominance that is part of hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 2005) Character alignment with hegemonic masculine traits allows players to embody what Ross Haenfler calls Nerd Masculinity. In Nerd Masculinity one rejects hegemonic

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71 masculinity while simultaneously em bracing some of its values ( such as the sexual objectification of women and aggressive and violent behaviors ) (Haenfler, 2016) Specifically, Haenfler says, "a kid who could never hold his own in gym class or on the football field could be the king of Halo, Destiny, or Call of Duty rankings virtual s tatus, to be sure, but appealing nonetheless" (H aenfler, p. 124, 2016) Haenfler also identifies Destiny as one of many game s in which a player's character's gender can be different from real life gender. The female sitting Emote is as stereotypically feminine as the male Emote is masculine Females s it delicately on one hip, legs to the side, leaning back on the opposite arm. The male sit ting posi tion gives the impression that characters are taking a break from the action but could spring to standing up at any time. Contrast that with the female posit ion: relaxed, open, and therefore vulnerable. While seated, t he female character's torso is exposed and she appears ill positioned to quickly jump up and reach for her gun. Though she is dressed and equipped for battle, the female character's sitting posit ion is not co nducive to quick action. Position coupled with the female characters' thin, hourglass figure creates an impression of the physically perfect and docile woman. This impression contrasts with the violent and aggressive nature of the game play. Image: Screenshot of m y character sitting down at The Tower (Destiny, 2016f)

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72 Image: Screenshot of male characters sitting on Earth (Connors & Writer, 2014) Based on my analysis of characters, Destiny's gender constructions appear much more egal itarian than gender constructions in games such as the Mortal Kombat series which has been heavily criticized for its hyper sexual portrayal of female characters (Kopas, 2015) Female Destiny characters wear armor that appears functional in contrast to games like Mortal Kombat X in which female characters are highly sexualized and wear non functional clothing (WinkleFriday, 2015) Image: Kitana Mortal Kombat X character (WinkleFriday, 2015) The fact that female Guardians are not as scantily clad as their Mortal Kombat counterparts indicates a shift in popular videogames away from the hyper sexualization of fema le characters This is sociologically important because there has been so much focus on

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73 how portrayals of women in media impacts the status of women and girls (Grabe, Monique, & Hyde, 2008) Multiple studies have found that photo shopped images of women in magazines, body shaming of celebrities, and videogame portray als of disproportionate and sexualized women have a negative impact on the body image of women and girls (Behm Morawitz & Mastro, 2009; Grabe et al., 2008; Turner, Hamilton, Jacobs, Angood, & Dwyer, 1997) Given that Destiny is both popular and lucrat ive for developers, female sexuality does not seem to be as important of a marketing factor as it has been in older games. G ender does not play a part in actual game play meaning that regardless of which gender the player chooses for their Guardian, their experience playing through the game will be the same as a player who chose the opposite gender. The areas in which gender is most visible are social ones such as interacting with others in The Tower or in multi player parts of the game. While Destiny has made some changes in how gender is portrayed in videogames in that female characters are not inferior to males and they are not sexualized in the way that female characters have historically been, superficial gender differences still exist in the game. Fem ale characters move, sit, and sound in manners that are more delicate and traditionally feminine compared to male characters. Players can expect their character to align with traditional gender norms in terms of these behaviors and this is something that i mpacts a player's choices during character creation. Sociologically, it is important to consider that despite removing some of the more sexual gender difference s in characters, Destiny upholds certain expectations for how males and females should behave in social spaces. By including these expectations, the Destiny world mimics elements of the real world.

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74 Game Play Analysis In order to conduct the game play analysis, I played through the original game and all of its expansions ( The Dark Below, House of Wo lves, and The Taken King ) This involved completing the story quests for each part of the story to gain an understanding of the world and the plot of the game. Additionally, I played through the multi player areas: Strikes, Raids, Trials of Osiris, and Ree f Arenas. I also played in player versus player (Crucible) matches. The amount of time I spent on each of these activities varied by difficulty though my typical game session lasted two to three hours. I played through the quests primarily by myself though there were certain areas including battling Omnigul and the final battle against Oryx where I played with a friend because these were extremely difficult to complete on my own. For the multi player and player versus player areas, I used both matchmaking to form teams and I formed my own teams with people I knew so that I could experience both methods of teambuilding Some of the players that I was matched with by the game I played with on multiple occasions despite never meeting them in real life. This d emonstrates that the developers' goal of facilitating new relationships between players is successful. I used my microphone to speak with other players while I was playing with them. Players often shared details about their lives with me as we played such as their real names, where they lived, how old they were, and what they did for work. Though the conversations took place in the context of the game, they were not always directly related to what we were doing in the game. I used the aforementioned female Awoken Warlock for the game analysis. The character I created was base d on 1) research into all options and 2) the play style that I prefer. Warlocks function well from long distances. Hunters in particular and to some degree

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75 Titans are better for clos e combat play styles. Additionally, Warlocks are similar to mage/wizar d type characters in many video games so players including myself, accustomed to playing as these types of characters may find that using a Warlock is reminiscent of other gaming experie nces. Though I have experience playing video games, I did not have much experience with the Destiny play style, especially the multi player components. This made it possible for me to begin the game as an outsider and make unbiased observations about the c ontent without comparing it to similar videogames. Social Space Analysis One of the unique features of Destiny are its social spaces, The Tower and The Reef. I specifically chose to conduct this analysis on Destiny rather than on another game because of t hese spaces. Mass market games have not included a space in the world for players to meet one another and engage in social interactions outside of playing the game. In games like Call of Duty, players only have interaction with other players as they are pl aying in the player versus player arenas. Destiny encourages interaction with other players by creating spaces where players do not have to focus on game play and can focus instead on socializing. I also used the female Awoken character for the social spa ce analysis. I spent time observing th e behavior of other players in The Tower and in T he Reef. I interacted with the various shops and NPCs in this area. I also participated in matchmaking games (both player vs player and S trikes ) to analyze how the match mak ing sy stem and the multi player elements of the game work.

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76 Interviews The goal of the interview portion of this study is to examine h ow players react and interact with the Destiny game world. Sample This study utilized a snowball sample beginning wit h players known to the author. These were preliminary interviews for the purpose of understanding what types of questions are best to ask regarding how players form identities in games like Destiny. Players were asked a series of questions about the charac ters they created, the types of in game activities they participated in and most importantly how much they identified with their character(s).

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77 CHAPTER VII FINDINGS Destiny's social spaces allow for players to interact as allowed in games s uch as World of Warcraft but Destiny has made this interaction both optional and appealing. While there are areas of the game that are and will be inaccessible to the solo player, most of the game is playable alone. Character Creation Analysis World and Ge nder Constructions The female versions of each species are smaller than the males and even among the Exos take a form that is considered feminine by social standards. Female form includes an hourglass figure, breasts, and more angular facial structures. So me of the Guardian's actions differ by gender as well. In the Tower, the Reef, and following completion of Strikes, Raids, and player vs player matches, the view of a player's Guardian is third person and the player can watch their Guardian act out the Emo tes selected by the player While many of the Emotes are gender neutral in execution sitting is not. Female characters sit with their legs to the side as they might if wearing a dress or skirt and unable to spread their legs. Male characters sit with thei r weight equally distributed, their legs spread, hunched forward and arms circling their knees. Each position subscribe s to the respective gender norms of Western society : women legs closed and posed to visual advantage; men legs spread, grounded, read y to move. In Destiny there are opportunities for characters to either talk or make noises. Overall, there is not much dialogue for the Guardians as the player is expected to be speaking to others over the microphone or through the Xbox or PlayStation mes saging system. There are

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78 a few cinematic scenes in which the player will speak to NPCs but otherwise the primary occasions in which the player will hear their Guardian's voice is when they are either shot or injured The female Guardian's voice is much hig her pitched than the male's and is more of a squeak when injured than the male's lower pitched grunt While gender does not play a part in the game play itself, it does impact the player's experience by subscribing to cert ain Western gender norms. When pl ayer s select a gender for their character, they can expect the character to behave in ways that coincide with Western social views on gender. This alignment is important for identity creation because the player has some expectations for how they will be pe rceived by other players based on the gender they choose for their character. This is especially important for players who choose a character of the opposite gender than the player's gender in the real world. A player who does this might do so in order to experience the game from a different gender's perspective or, as Corneliussen found in her World of Warcraft studies, players can use this as an opportunity to experiment with gender in a safe space (Corneliussen, 2011) The representation of gender in Destiny contributes to the identit y creation process within the game. First, because all characters are functionally attired, the player has a sense that they are in a world at war against the forces of evil. The character's appearance fits in with the appearance of the Destiny world: grit ty, hardened, and dangerous. This fits into the idea of Narrative Identity wherein the world, the story, and the portrayal of the characters (both players and NPCs) contribute to a sense that the player is involved in an actual time, place, and situation (Tronstad, 2011) The storyline as well as the world gives the character a backstory on which the player can build a new identity for their character.

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79 Gear Customization There are several ways to customize piec es of a character's gear that have no impact on the game but are visible to other players. While playing the game (i.e. not in a social space) the Guardian will always wear a helmet In social spaces the player can choose to keep the helmet in place or rem ove it so other players can see their Guardian's face. During holiday events like the Festival of the Lost, Guardians could wear the mask provided to them for the occasion Players can also find and purchase armor shaders which change the color scheme of t he Guardian's armor. Certain color schemes are only available upon completion of particular quests and Raids or with purchases of particular versions of the game. The Legendary Edition of Destiny ( released in September 2015 ) included the original game, fir st two expansions, and the newly released The Taken King Players who purchased this edition of the game had access to shaders unavailable to others. Players can also customize their ship, their "sparrow ," and their sparrow's horn. The ship 's only functi on is to take a Guardian from planet to planet and does not have a game function other than this. There is no combat between ships so the ship's desig n is purely aesthetic. Guardian s all begin the game with the ship t hey first find during the initial escap e from Earth. Later, players can either purchase or earn new ships which are available in a variety of styles and color schemes. Sparrows are vehicles similar to motorcycles but capable of hovering that p layers can use on planets to travel quickly from o ne area to another. Sparrows also co me in a variety of colors and capabilities such as faster speeds tighter turning radii and ability to move lateral ly Each player i s given a horn for their sparrow at the game's outset that they can

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80 sound while riding. I f the player wa nts a custom horn, they must pay for additional sounds either in game currency or using their credit card through the PlayStation or Xbox stores. Being able to customize not only the appearance of the character but also all of the charac ter's accessories further contributes to creating a physical form for a Destiny identity. These accessories ca n show affiliation to different factions or causes in the game and contribute to the impression management of the character's identity. To illustr ate this, I customized my character with certain items which could be easily seen by other players that gave a particular impression of the roles I played in the game. The banner where my name is displayed is one which I earned by completing a particular q uest for the Awoken Queen. As my character is an Awoken and completed a set of optional tasks for the Queen, I decided to apply this banner to show my affiliation to the Awoken. Front and Back Stage Impression Management This type of customization is an example of impression management within a videogame world where there is a distinct Front stage and Back stage. When my character is on the Front stage, I am aware that others can see me and I found myself being conscious of what my character is doing and how she looks. When I was in The Tower and needed to make adjustments to my gear between quests I would often walk to an out of the way area where other players would not have to walk around me to access shops or NPCs. Gear adjustments are made in a screen that only the player can view (this is one of the Back stages of Destiny ) but while the player is doing this, others can still view their character. Because of this, I would often make my character sit down and I noticed that when I finished my adjustment s and returned to the game screen, there would often be other players sitting around me engaging in similar activities. There appears to be a general consciousness of

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81 others in the game as evidenced by the fact that players will move to out of the way area s to avoid impeding anyone else's access and that they join others who are engaged in similar activities. Image: Example of my character's Back stage the screen where I can make adjustments to my character and gear out of view of other players (Destiny, 2016f) Players engage in impression management through their use of Emotes and their engagement in activities at The Tower. For example, players can start soccer games using the soccer ball that appears in The Tow er and often times several players will start playing together. Players engage in this using the same rules applied to the game in real life wherein they pass the ball and sometimes use side areas as goals.

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82 Image: Destiny players interacting with a socce r ball in The Tower (Laughlin, 2014 ) Players who want to interact with others often initiate a conversation or invitation to a Fireteam with Emotes like dancing, waving, or pointing at others. Players also frequently use either celebratory or disappointed Emotes when they either win or l ose a player versus player match. The Emotes that they choose are a form of impression management because they convey different messages. For example, a player celebrating a win can choose to take a bow or clap politely which gives an impression of a sport smanlike attitude. Conversely, a winning player can direct a thumbs down at a losing player or imitate the "you're out" gesture of a baseball umpire both of which convey a different impression of the character's personality. Game Play Analysis To play th rough the game itself, I used the female Awoken Warlock. I completed all the story quests for the original game and all expansions.

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83 Gear Each character, regardless of race or class has three weapon options: 1) a primary weapon a gun used for most batt les that is typically automatic or semi automatic, 2) a special weapon a weapon such as a sniper rifle for long range shots, shotguns, fusion rifles (e nergy powered guns), or sidearms and 3) a heavy weapon such as rocket launcher, machine gun, or sword Additionally, each player is equipped with a helmet, set of gauntlets, chest armor, leg armor, and class armor. Consistent with many games, the player must seek out increas ingly better weapons which inflict greater amounts of damage and search for armor t hat affords better protection. Specific g ear also comes with different upgrades and perks. For example, the sniper rifle called Hereafter can be upgraded so that it has a more predictable recoil and better stability. Different types of armor offer perks su ch as allowing the Guardian to carry more of a particular type of amm o for their weapons. The player decide s which perks best suit the type of character they play. For example, if a player values defe nse over firepower, they might choose a set of armor whi ch increases their defensive statistics. Another player might choose an armor set which allows them to carry more ammo for their guns instead of a higher level of protection. Depending on whether the player prefers to fight from close or long range, they w ill choose different perks for their weapons and armor. Subclasses Each class has three subclasses for player s to choose from. As the Guardian gains experience, new options become available in their selected subclass. For example, all Guardians are equip ped with a grenade that they can throw during combat. In the Warlock subclass, Stormcaller, one grenade upgrade calls down a lightning storm near where it is

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84 thrown. In another Warlock subclass, Sunsinger, the grenade can be made to stick to an enemy to ca use bonus damage upon explosion Players can choose the ir subclass based on the options that fit the way they play. This is similar to how players can customize their armor and weapon perks to benefit their play style. While all weapons are visible, only s ome subclass actions are visible to other players. Each player has a supercharge ability or technique that can be used once the player has saved up enough energy during game play. Supercharge abilities can be used to gain a n advantage over an enemy Hun ters have the option of summoning a bow and arrow made of energy which packs a powerful punch. Warlocks can revive themselves when killed or shoot lightning from their hands at multiple enemies at once. These actions are visible to players around the Guard ian using them. Weapons and class choices are similar to gear customization and Emotes in terms of their contribution to impression management and Front stage performances. These choices are made on the Back stage in the screens that are only visible to the player but they are performed on the Front stage during combat game play. One of the options players have is to stabilize themselves for a short time while jumping through the air. I observed several players use this option during player versus player matches to shoot enemy players from above, catching them off guard. Other players choose to remain hidden in one location and wait for enemies to come into their view. Interestingly, the first action ( surprising an enemy from above) is considered acceptabl e by players as it requires some skill however, the second action (hiding and waiting) is looked down upon and is referred to in all videogames as "camping". Camping is widely considered akin to cheating as the camping player puts themselves in a safe posi tion, does not really contribute to the team effort, and demonstrates

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85 a lack of actual skill. The methods a player uses in player versus player matches is a form of impression management as it tells other players something about their character's personali ty. This may or may not accurately reflect the player's personality; the player may be very honest and accountable in the real world but engage in activities like camping in the virtual one. Playing with Others In order to participate in much of the game it is essential to play with other players. The first experiences most players have with Fireteams, or team play, is through either Strikes or Raids. Strikes employ a matchmaking algorithm meaning that the player only has to select that they want to play a Strike in the Vanguard section of the map and they will be matched with two other players. Alternatively players can form their own Fireteam of two to three players who will either complete the Strike as a team (if there are three) or a third player wi ll be added to their group. Strikes are easier to complete than Raids and while communication via microphone can make them better coordinated it is possible to complete them without team member interaction During Strikes, the game automatically impleme nt s certa in tactics to ensure players pla y as a team. If one player falls far behind the others, the game re spawns that player further ahead to rejoin the team. Additiona lly, if a player is killed, that player must wait thirty seconds to revive unless ano ther player comes and revives them sooner. While thirty seconds seems like a short amount of time, it is time enough for one's teammates to be killed. If this happens, t he whole team must restart the S trike. Raids function different ly from S trikes in that as of the release of T he Taken King, players must form their own teams of six players. Because of the nature of the Raids,

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86 microphone communication is essential to successfully completing them. Players must heal and revive each other within certain time limits or the whole team will fail. While Raids are an optional part of the game, they are the part marketers hyped with much advertising and online discussion before their appearance Raids, Strikes, and other multi player elements of Destiny contribute to the type of community building that James Newman discusses in his research. In order to be successful, players must form relationships with other players, develop meaningful communication methods, and find ways to work together efficiently. Though thes e actions occur in a virtual world, they are not inherently different than the actions required to be successful at work, in school, or in any other goal oriented group setting. Newman discussed how face to face communication is not required to form a comm unity but rather that it is building meaningful relationships that is most important (Newman, 2014) I eng aged in numerous difficult Strikes using the matchmaking algorithm to form a team. Through these Strikes I discovered how important a sense of team membership was to completing them successfully. If all three players die, everyone must restart at the last checkpoint which is often considerably far back from where the team was. However, teammates can revive each other and protect each other when their health is low. Difficult Strikes can take over an hour so oftentimes a team of players who were previously s trangers develop a working relationship to accomplish the Strike in the shortest amount of time in order to reap the most rewards. This sense of community can contribute to identity formation for the character. The player first manages the impression of their character and performs for their teammates. The other team members respond either positively or negatively to the original player's actions

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87 and the original player changes their behavior in response to their reactions. This is exactly what Goffman de scribed occurring in the Front stage areas of real life: individuals manage the impression they want to give others of themselves, then they perform a particular role, and finally they change their behaviors based on the reactions others have to the perfor mance (Goffman, 1959) Player vs. Player Multi player and player vs player (PVP) sections of Destiny are not the same M ulti player team areas are characterized by a group of players facing off against NPCs. The PVP areas of t he game are more typical, First Person Shooter type games in which two teams of randomly assigned players face off against each other. As is c haracteristic of the multi player areas, players may form Fireteams with friends and these Fireteams are assigned to one side of the PVP match so that these players can play together keeping the teamwork option available. As originally categorized by dev elopers as a n MMO Destiny contains the usual array of Shooter PVP options that are similar in play style and renamed for specific games. In Destiny there are two PVP areas: The Crucible (which also contains time limited Iron Banner events) and the Trials of Osiris. The Crucible contains several types of play styles: 6 vs. 6 player s, 3 vs. 3 players, and a Free For All option. In each option the team (or individual in the case of Free For All) that wins are awarded gear and currency. Additionally, players c an play Rift a 6 vs. 6 match in which players must not only kill each other but must also collect a Spark, carry it to the opponents' side and ignite the opponents' Rift Successful teams receive a significant amount of points. Another match is Control w hich follows the same rules as capture the flag There are three zones to be captured and the more zones controlled,

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88 the more points players recei ve. Finally there is Salvage : two teams of three rac e each other to capture and retain relics while killing opponents with the same goals. Crucible matches adhere to the same rules as PVP matches in other popular First Person Shooter games including Call of Duty and Star Wars: Battlefront. While Destiny is technically classified as a Shared World Shooter, develo pers included these standard First Person Shooter matches knowing they are a huge draw for players. Unique to Destiny are the Trials of Osiris. Though also PVP, the Trials of Osiris require players to form their own teams with players they meet through the game or know in real life. In contrast to Crucible matches in which players revive a fter a certain amount of time, in Trials of Osiris there is no automatic player revival so players must revive each other Not surprisingly, teammate revival brings a more intense teamwork dynamic into these missions. Players must also be victorious in a short series of missions in order to earn a passage to the Trials meaning that only dedicated Destiny players have access. Additionally, the rewards for victory include muc h more currency and more unique an d better gear than can be won during regular Crucible matches. If a te am loses too many matches, access is denied and the player must re earn a passage. The possibility of access denial encourages players to use teamwork a nd strategy to win Trials matches. The Tria ls of Osiris reflect the gaming experience that developers hoped to create for Destiny Developers hoped that Destiny's world would provide a social experience that would reach beyond the scope of the game For ex ample, as with Raids, players who want to play through the Trials of Osiris must form relationships with others in the Destiny world and hone their communication skills in order to win. Generally, PVP games are considered to be mindless and plot less in th at they appeal to players who simply want to shoot each other for

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89 hours Destiny certainly includes shooting enemies but developers have added numerous areas to satisfy players who want more from a Shooter type game. Social Space Analysis The Tower and th e Reef constitute the main social spaces in Destiny They are hubs where players shop redeem rewards and meet other players. Players may purchase a variety of items in T he Tower and the Reef. Items can be separated into two categories: essential and cosm etic Essential items include weapons, armor, and faction gear (factions are associations that players can join in the game which distribute rewards that cannot be earned or bought elsewhere) These items are essential to gameplay and do not necessarily se rve a social function. Cosmetic items change the appearance of a character for no other purpose than a presentation of s elf to others. These items include ships armor shaders, name badge shaders, and Emotes. None of these change any aspect of game play b ut all show aspects of the character/player such as personal taste s and affiliation s. For example, I chose the name badge for my character from a set collection representing the Queen of the Awoken Badges in this collection signal to other players my char acter's affiliation to the Queen. I chose to signal this affiliation because my Guardian is an Awoken herself and would likely feel some connection to the ruler of her people. Cosmetic items contribute t o Goffman's presentation of s elf in the world of Dest iny The color schemes of armor, a player' s name badg e, and the ship that a player uses can tell other players somethin g about how another player expects to be perceived within the game. The social spaces in the game are also places to encounter other pl ayers and if desired, communicate with them. Communication occurs via voice chat or, more graphically by Emote It is common for players to engage with others by dancing, waving, or pointing

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90 Further, players can approach each other and send a chat reque st which, if accepted, allows players to speak to each other via microphones. Chats can include up to six players at one time. Interviews The interview process was exploratory and sought to identify the types of questions that would be useful when explor ing virtual identity in videogames. Th e participant s gave insight into how they played Destiny, how they used the social aspects of the game, and their criticisms of how they felt the game restricted potential social engagements. The players interviewed all said that they originally purchased the game in part due to the pre release media advertisements Some players were fans of Bungie's work on the Halo series and therefore had high expectations for Destiny Others purchased Destiny because fri ends were planning on playing, and Bungie had marketed the multi player aspects of the game. A common reaction however was disappointment with the original game's lack of complexities in the plotline and relatively limited character creation options Videogames such as Bethesda's Elder Scrolls and Fallout series in which players can adjust even the most minute facial features of their characters have set a high standard for character creation Players felt that Destiny fell far short. Despite these criticisms player s did report they were able to use their characters to represent themselves in ways they wanted to be perceived by other players in the game. Race and Gender Players chose the race and gender of their characters for various reasons. Some players wanted the ir character to be th e same gender as they identify as in real life. One player chose not to play the Awoken male because he wanted his character to represent him

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91 and felt that the Awoken males appeared too feminine. Another male participant created two fe male characters simply because he felt that they looked better in the clothing than the male options. However, this same player did not adjust the way his characters behaved towards others to align with the gender difference between him and his female char acter. Instead he felt that the personality of his character was identical to his real world personality albeit in a female body. Creation of a Self All of the participants had at least one c haracter that differed from their real world self in either rac e or gender. One of the aspects of Destiny that players enjoyed was the ability to physically represent themselves differently than in the real world. One player explained why he created a non human character: "Well, I'm human and what's the point of playi ng something else in a game if you can't dabble in other things besides your own race?" This demonstrates a desire on the part of the player to explore different identities through different physical forms. One player was surprised by how much he enjoyed playing a Titan Originally, he eliminated this class from consideration because he saw it as the "jock type" class and very different from how he perceives his actual personality. Generally, players believed that a greater number of customization options would allow them to more precisely build their identities within the game. A nother player stated, "if they had more customization I probably could have tried to [build an identity] which would have been fun. Also in the game there wasn't a lot of dialogue options to the point where I could pursue the character as being myself." Both players indicated that they did experiment with different identities within the game but felt restricted by the game's lack of options. One player noted that he was

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92 frustrated with what he called the Bungie games "hero complex in which the player cannot deviate as far from the norm for character's personality Players expressed a common desire to experiment with different personalities which was unfulfilled by Destiny Interact ions with Others All of the players interviewed visited the social spaces in the game and took part in Raids. They all discussed how they used Emotes after multi player or PVP games to celebrate victory or bemoan defeat. Few players purchased additional E motes generally citing them to be overpriced and a waste of money. Players formed Raid parties in several ways Two participants recruited several real world friends who played the game to form online parties to engage in the Raids. All of the players us ed PlayStation or Xbox microphones to communicate during the Raids. One participant played several Raids with players they did not know in real life. This player was approached on several occasions by another player in T he Tower who initiated a chat and as ked if he would join their party for the Raid and the interviewed player accepted this invitation each time The social aspects of Destiny appear to be instrumental in holding players' interest. Those players who continue to play regularly do so because they have friends who also play. Others have moved on to other games, most notably Tom Clancy's The Division because their friends have switched to that game instead. Aggressive marketing toward Destiny players and several months without new Destiny conte nt has resulted in some players becoming bored and wanting to try new games until the next expansion release for Destiny. As Destiny continues to be developed, Bungie continues to try and re engage players through their friend networks and through adding n ew social aspects to the game.

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93 Future Intervie ws These interviews gave me insight on the types of questions that should be asked in future research on identity formation through videogames. I believe it is important to direct further study into the reasons that some players create characters of the opposite gender Additionally, future research should look at how players customize their characters in different games, especially those games which include more options than Destiny. In particular, researchers should examine how dialogue options in videogames contribute to identity formation as this was a complaint of one of the participants about Destiny I learned that there is a desire to experience videogame worlds using a different identity and, in particul ar, participants expressed a desire to play with different experiences and personalities in the safe space of a virtual world.

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94 C HAPTER IX DISCUSSION Destiny has clearly changed some important aspects of gaming. It introduced the idea of a Sha red World Shooter rewarded social interaction, and consciously promoted social interaction as a feature desired by players. As players made clear through the interview process, their continued interest in Destiny relies on their interest in a soci al netwo rk of players who have relationship s either in the real world or online. I was able to answer each of the research questions stated at the beginning of this thesis as well as make some projections for future research. In answer to the first research qu e stion ( regarding the game features that enable players to create and maintain game identities ) I found that the character creation process, character customization options, the storyline, and the social spaces each contribute to identity formation within t he game world I n answer ing the second question ( regarding how character creation contributes to identity formation within the game ) I found that the body type, race, class, and gender of a player's c haracter contributes to how the players perceive themsel ves as well as how other players perceive them. For example, one of the respondents reported that he originally felt that the Titan class was too jock like for his personality type but later decided that it fit his play style better than the other classes. Another respondent felt that the male Awoken character he made was too feminine and did not represent the masculine persona he wanted his character to embody. A nother player reported that they enjoyed playing non human races because it allowed them to dab ble in alternate forms and explore other non human identities These player responses address the second question about how cha racter customization contributes to a sense of identity

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95 Being able to present as a differe nt species is one of the Front s tage draws of Destiny The character creat ion process occurs on the Back s tage, out of view of other players. When the player does present their character on the Front s tage, they have created the image they want others to see. The character customization opt ions (i.e. changing the armor, weapons, ship, and name plate of the character ) all contribute to how a player can customize their Guardian and make them unique. This individuality allows for a realistic feeling game world in which players are not simply pi loting identical characters. Customization also allows players to make more nuanced presentations of self through their character s a nd inform others of how they perceive themselves in the game world. The storyline of Destiny though heavily criticized for being simple upon original release, did give background and details to each Guardian. This personal history allows players to build a three dimensional character who has a self, an identity, a personality, and a personal history. The social spaces of th e Destiny world are one of the most important aspects of creating and maintaining a character's identity. The social spaces allow players to perform on a Front Stage and present themselves to others. Mead, Go ffman, and Gottschalk's theories regarding the s elf and identity demonstrate that the s elf cannot exist in a vacuum but must be part of a larger social context (Goffman, 1959; Gottschalk, 2010; Mead, 1934) The soc ial spaces in Destiny provide this social context in which players can create a virtual self. The third question focused on how player interactions contribute to the creation of a virtual identity. Goffman theorized that interactions between peo ple are a key piece of identity creation (Goffman, 1959) The multiple avenues in which players interact with one

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96 another ( social spaces, multi player Raids, and PVP) and the required communication and teambuilding built into the game opens up opportunities for the creation of s elves via interaction with others. Future Research One of the main problems with Destiny is the p erceived lack of customization options and how this scarcity limits a player's ability to construct the Self that they desire Future research should apply these same research questions to videogames that offer a larger array of customization options durin g the character creation process. Additionally, each of these question s should be broadened to examine more than one particular game and address videogames in general. This broader focus would facilitate an exploration of whether there are themes that emer ge around how players build identities in virtual worlds and how developers are building worlds to support that behavior Once there is a better academic understanding of how virtual identities are created through videogames, research should be directed a t how a player's multiple identities interact with and impact the real world and real people. As demonstrated by Gottschalk, virtual interactions can have real world consequences and the l ine between virtual and real world experiences is increasingly blurr ed (Gottschalk, 2010) In order to understand the interaction s between the virtual and real worlds, it is important to explore how videogames allow for identity creation in virtual spaces. Limitations There were a few limitations to my research which can hopefully be overcome in future studies on videogames and ide ntity. One limitation was that due to time constraints, only one game could be studied in depth and therefore the results are not entirely

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97 generalizable to a wide variety of videogames. Additionally, the lack of customization options available for characte r creation and the lack of dialogue choices limited players' ability to engage in identity formation to the extent that they desired. Due to the fact that this was an exploratory study, the sample size was very small and, likely due to the game's genre, participants were a fairly homogenous group (all participants were single males in their twenties). Because of this, I was not able to learn about the Destiny experience that different groups of people might have.

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98 CHAPTER X CONCLUSIONS De stiny is a controversial game in the media and among videogame players which made it a poignant game to research. It has also defined a new genre of games: Shared World Shooters. The advent of Shared World Shooters signals a change in videogame play in whi ch world building and social interactions are becoming the central part of the game rather than high scores and other personal accomplishments. Destiny marks a change in how players see virtual worlds and their virtual characters. The types of interactions and character building once restricted to pay to play niche games like World of Warcraft is expanding to attract a broader, more mainstream audience. This is occurring simultaneously with a rapidly expanding videogame industry with an equally rapidly expa nding customer demographic base. Videogames are now part of most American's lives and the interactions that occur in virtual worlds will inevitably collide with the real world. This thesis has attempted to answer some basic questions about how players for identities within one popular videogame but hopes to raise more questions as to the broader scope of videogames and identity.

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