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Playing Styles. The Differentiation of Practices in Online Video Games

Abstract : Our collaborative work started as a reaction to some of the core assumptions of the newly developed discipline of “Game Studies”. Most of the time, the study of games as mere formal systems of rules does not document what players actually do while playing. The studies which do so, in precise, thorough ethnographies (Taylor 2006; Pearce 2009), depict a particular way of playing, but rarely the diversity of play styles. Video games ask for a form of cultural consumption distinct from that of television, books or music. Since they are intrinsically interactive, what matters is what people do with games rather than what they think about them. We thus use the expression play styles to designate ways players interact with video games. The purpose of our research is to describe those styles (Boutet 2012a), trace them back to their origins (Coavoux 2010b; Berry 2009), and study their relations, i.e. how each takes place in a social space (Bourdieu 1991), where they are linked by ties of power and conflict (Coavoux 2010a). The intention of this chapter is to demonstrate that no one style can by itself characterize what it is “to play the game”. We base this article on our various studies of online video games, and more specifically of World of Warcraft (WoW). WoW is a game where players control a character in a vast simulated social world. We used both qualitative and quantitative methods, but the empirical aspect of the current chapter is composed of a self-administered online survey of the game players conducted in early 2009.
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Vincent Berry, Manuel Boutet, Samuel Coavoux. Playing Styles. The Differentiation of Practices in Online Video Games. Frédéric Lebaron; Michael Grenfell. Bourdieu and Data Analysis. Methodological Principles and Practice, Peter Lang, pp.165-180, 2014. ⟨halshs-00974288⟩

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