Zackariasson Ph.D. defense

HUMlab friend Peter Zackariasson will defend his Ph.D. thesis on June 5 at 1.15 pm in Lecture Hall G in the Humanities building here at Umeå University. The title is “World Builders: A Study on the Development of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”. Great news!


This dissertation is a study of the development of a video game called Anarchy Online. This game was developed by the Funcom company between 1995 and 2001, and is a so-called Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). This genre of video games differs from traditional games in that it offers a persistent virtual world that gamers can access at all hours of the night or day. It is also a world where gamers make avatars that play with or against each other. All in all, it is as much a social sphere as a game. The popularity of MMORGPGs has continued to increase, and today there are several million gamers worldwide who participate in these virtual worlds. Because virtual worlds are places where many people socialize, play, and spend a great deal of time, there is a need to form an understanding of them. In this thesis, I am studying how Anarchy Online was produced in order to understand the assumptions behind the rules governing the interaction in this specific virtual world were selected and organized. In doing so, I am using material from two sources: the developers and the game itself. This material was gathered through interviews, documents, and virtual ethnographic observations.

Ultimately, games consist of codes; but in order to program the code, they need to be specified by a game content. The analysis shows that the content of the game is defined by the developers’ view of a good society – the belief in a human being’s need for self-actualization and social interaction. The thesis thus concludes with the observation that the need to select the discourses and/or philosophies for content and possible gamers’ actions requires the development of games and virtual worlds such as Anarchy Online to be more than the creation of an entertaining product. Rather, discourses were recreated from the physical world in which the developers live. In the end, gamers are locked into a discoursive prison created by the developers.

Pdf version of the thesis available from here. Bibliographic information here.