Online Gaming Communities: A Virtual Ethnography of StarCraft II




Flyte, Kelly

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This thesis follows a group of gamers who regularly play StarCraft II together, and explores how gaming communities are created, sustained, and dissolved in cyberspace. Offered first is an introduction to the StarCraft franchise, websites dedicated to custom content creation, and the unique technical requirements of online gaming. Next, arcade maps and StarCraft II as an eSport are specifically investigated to demonstrate how content creators and professional players are key to the sustainability of online games. Finally, examples of cultural and technological catalysts of and barriers to community building are provided, with an extended focus on national cultures, the relationship between consumers and producers, and the permeability of online communities. Using primarily qualitative methods, including participant observation, interviews, and textual analysis, this research illustrates how online gaming communities are both inclusionary and exclusionary, homogenous and diverse, but ultimately constrained by the limitations of modern technology and the actions of game producers and developers.



Online communities, StarCraft, Video games, Virtual ethnography