Critically Approaching the Playful and Participatory Genealogy of MOBAs


DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG
Dundee, Scotland: Digital Games Research Association and Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games, August, 2016
Number: 1
Volume: 13
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

This paper gives close attention to the term ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’ (MOBA), establishing what it implies in popular discourses as a term with specific generic connotations and more critically, what its short but eventful history represents alongside wider participatory trends across the Internet. Despite its far reaching influence and now commonplace usage, MOBA is not a neutral term and it signals a precise transitional moment towards a new normalisation of playful, cultural and economic control for the genre. Through adapting Foucault’s term of the ‘dispositif’ and applying a genealogical approach towards mapping the transition from the mod of Defense of the Ancients (DotA) to the genre of MOBA, this paper argues that MOBAs continue to be laced in significant bottom-up movements and characteristics. It is these lingering characteristics of playful and participatory residue that many of the genres most notable game design and paratextual aspects can be found. However, it is also here that critical questions surrounding the platformed state of these relations also make themselves evident.