The Words of Warcraft: relational text analysis of quests in an MMORPG


As the growth in popularity of massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds has correspondingly increased research interest in investigating culture in synthetic environments. One representation of culture in games is the narrative provided in MMORPGs’ quest sets. Quests -tasks given to players- provide a window into the traits of artificial cultures created for these environments, and researchers have used specific quests to advance arguments about game cultures. We expand on this work by trying to discern cultural traits expressed in the complete quest set for the MMORPG World of Warcraft, We subdivide this set into three corpora: two for the quests intended for players in one of the two in-game factions, one for those that can be completed by members of either faction. We then performed relational text analysis on these corpora, looking across them for shared textual relationships. We find that while all three corpora employ diverse terms, locations, and organizations, the only relationships present in any of the corpora at least 5% of the time are those emphasizing the relationships between players, enemies, and quest giving computer-controlled characters. Given the simplicity of these relations, we suggest that text is currently not a method used for sophisticated themes in game worlds, and designers should either rethink their use of it or rely on alternate methods if they wish to convey such themes.