Communities of Play: The Social Construction of Identity in Persistent Online Game Worlds

I played the open-source version of Uru with my daughter for a few weeks when she was about six or seven. I enjoyed the opening tutorial game, but after that found little to do and found the learning curve was too steep to keep my daughter interested. She was happy running around and endlessly re-dressing up her avatar, but I soon switched to DDO Online, something that I, my son, and daughter all found enjoyable. About a year ago, my son said he was tired of DDO and switched to military and Star Wars games. (He and his sister both still play the Lego games together — Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Star Wars.) Although I never got very far into the world of Urdu, I did find this history of the closing of the initial commercial release to be very interesting.

20140408-100206.jpgThe Uru Live server ran for less than a year. Even the last three months, which occurred after the game was released commercially in November 2003 – the period when most of the players joined – were characterized as a “public beta.” In spite of the game’s short life, the closure of the server was a highly distressing event for Uru players. Members of The Gathering, many of whom reported weeping as the clock struck midnight and the avatars on the screen froze in place, reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Much to their own surprise, players grieved not only the loss of their community but also the loss of their individual avatars. The shared trauma of the server shutdown served as a catalyst for fortifying the group identity, which evolved into a sort of fictive ethnicity. This shared group identity created both the necessity and the substrate for migrating their individual avatar identities into to other virtual worlds. –Celia PearceElectronic Book Review.

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