Ritualistic Gaming… the start of a line of thought

Ever since I could talk/I was ordered to listen…

-Cat Stevens 

Today in community literacy class we had a special guest. I guess the fact that she was a special guest isn’t such a big deal.

What is important is that she’s a mixed-blood Cherokee (like myself) and in the middle of a presentation I was making on gaming literacies and group formation, something interesting was said.

A classmate, who I think is well-versed in gaming, made a point that some gaming guilds behave on a ritualistic fashion, using the “raid” as a ritual behavior. The special guest chimed in to point out how interesting this was. And I agree, the idea of clans/guilds/etc. becoming “tribal” or adhering to ritualistic behavior IS fascinating.

 I can think of a few examples.

But I don’t think a raid is one. Allow me to elaborate. When our guest—and native scholars—talked about ritual, she was talking about activities that are repeated in ceremonial ways due to the will of the tribe (group). These are usually traditional and in many cases are sacred acts.

This is not to say we can’t extrapolate the “raid” construction over. In fact my theoretical framework would actually push us to do so (I don’t think we can let ideology collide with theory in these cases, so “sacred” as an elevation of status vs. what a group of gamers might consider ritual is an unfair/unwise theoretical move).

The reason I claim we cannot look at a raid in this way is that raids are a software/developer construction. What I mean is this: if a guild’s tradition—their ritual behavior—was to attack a specific town at a specific time, that might fit the construction. But in a game like World of Warcraft (which is what we were discussing—that style of MMORPG), Blizzard Inc. establishes what can be raided, when, and sets a small pool of rewards.The tendency to behave as “raid” teams, then, is not classically “ritualistic.” It is following the lead of the software/game rule set.

I am fascinated by the idea of gamers being ritualistic, however. It warrants pursuit. I’ll dig into this deeper in the coming days. For now, though, sleep calls.

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