Analysis of the Narrative Structure and Techniques, Lore, World, Characters and Quests of the MMORPG
This essay will take a look at World of Warcraft [WoW] (Blizzard, 2004) through the use of autoethnographic research, by analysing the lore, world, characters and quests and how they fit into narrative structures and use certain narrative techniques. WoW was chosen as the focus of this essay because it has been running for 12 years and is still the most dominant MMO about today. Through analysis it is possible to identify how it has managed to stay so dominant and to identify why their player base has dropped recently. By using theories like The Eight Character Archetypes (Vogler, 2007), Serial vs Serialized (G. Allrath, 2005), Espen Aarseth’s Four Narrative Dimensions (Aarseth, 2012) and The Almost Magic Circle (Castronova, 2005) to compare the narrative structure and techniques used in modern day television, especially soap operas and how they fit into WoW. This analysis can give us insights to why WoW has experienced fluctuating subscribers and why including level boosts into the game have detached players from the lore and their characters. This analysis and comparison is important because by identifying where WoW went wrong in its design and narrative choices other MMOs and WoW can avoid these problems in the future.
WoW may be one of the most influential games to ever be created. It’s been the trend setter for the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing [MMORPGs] genre, for the past 6 years at least and with a record setting 12 million subscriptions in 2010 (Statista, 2015), WoW doesn’t look to be giving up its position as top dog anytime soon.
Due to its sheer size and depth it won’t be possible to analyse everything in WoW. For this very reason this essay will only be analysing a snippet of what WoW has to offer, using autoethnographic research. This research was gathered on a Role Playing [RP] server called Darkmoon Faire from the point of view of a Goblin Hunter named Gizet. This will tell us how WoW presents its world, characters, races and lore to the players also what narrative structures and techniques they use to do this and how they are effective are.
Some of the narrative structures used in this essay are Freytag’s Pyramid (Freytag, 1863) and Aarseth’s four narrative dimensions, it will also cover how this compares to the narrative structures used in serial television shows, such as soap operas like Coronation Street. Through researching the similarities between these two mediums, correlations have appeared that despite the games story rich world could explain WoWs fluctuating subscription numbers.
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