Internet Migration In the modern era, we are seeing mass human migrations that are taking place all

over the world. People are moving out of their distraught homelands and into “lands of opportunity” in order to find a better life; but little does the public there is also mass migration taking place in the digital community as well. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games or MMORPG’s are drawing in people not by the thousands, but by the millions with games such as “World of Warcraft (WoW)”, “Lineage II”, “Everquest II”, and “Second Life”. According to Lisa Nakamura (2009), the online gaming community has created “immensely profitable, skillfully designed, immersive and beautiful detailed virtual worlds that enable both exciting game play and the creation of real time digitally embodied communities” (p. 130). By creating a comprehensive understanding of not only the world’s themselves, but also attempting to shed some light on the allure of these worlds, I will focus primarily on the “World of Warcraft” using both the media dependency theory and the uses and gratifications theory, coupled with other supporting theories, to not only analyze the lighter sides of these burgeoning digital worlds, but also the darker repercussions that some people are experiencing from playing. In technical terms, there have been “MMO’s” around since the late 70’s, running on obscure servers with high hourly costs, but it was not until in the late 1990’s that the original “big three” of the online community arose, which are “Ultima Online”, “EverQuest”, and “Asheron's Call”. With a few hundred thousand subscribers between the three of them, these games were not much to speak of in terms of a real “cultural identity” and were limited mostly to early gamers who had not only the time, but also the money to play these extensive and immersive games. Although limited in the number of subscribers, these games provided the platform for which most fantasy MMORPG’s were subsequently based off of, and it wasn’t until the “World of Warcraft” was created that we saw the first truly exponential online migration begin. The “World of Warcraft” has over fifteen million users worldwide and according to mcvuk.com is the highest grossing entertainment franchise of all time, will a current intake of over three billion dollars and growing exponentially. The next two on the list are “Titanic” the late 1990’s romance film, with an estimated gross of 1.9 billion dollars, and Michael Jackson’s album from the 1980’s “Thriller”. The primary difference between the “World of Warcraft” and the rest of the other franchises on the list is that the “World of Warcraft” continues to grow and expand and earn at a rate of (15 million x $14.95/month)+(15 million x $60(for every expansion to the world released as a “new game” at a rate of about one every year and a half)+(all of the extra weapons, armor, etc. you can buy from Blizzard Interactive’s online stores), and this is only looking at the world without the predicted exponential and continual growth in population that it experiences every year. The uses-and-gratifications, according to Stanley J. Baran (2009) of the “Mass Communication Theory” textbook states that the theory focuses, “on the uses to which people put media and the gratifications they seek from those uses”(p. 232) Relaxation, entertainment, escapism-pass time, social-interaction, and control, are all methods of previous, source dominated medium outlets, which translate in different ways into the MMO universe. In this new medium, not only is the audience a part of the communication process, the audience has direct control and influence of not only how they experience the medium, but also on what actually appears in the world itself. The “World of Warcraft” website describes the game as a chance to, “Join the fifteen million players (and counting) currently adventuring in Azeroth as well as beyond the Dark Portal, and see what journeys await for those who would plumb the many secrets of this ancient realm. As a massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft enables thousands of players from across the globe to come together online - undertaking grand quests and heroic exploits in a land of fantastic adventure.”

The previous basis for what was on television, radio, print, and other mass communication mediums was the amount of viewers, readers, and listeners and based off of those numbers, the source is able to manipulate the content to appeal to the largest audience possible. Now, in this world, with the ability to change the game environment so quickly, the programmers are able to listen to the people and give them what they want. By reading their complaints, comments, and criticisms on blogs, in news articles, and on comment boards, if enough people desire change, they make it so, which in turn creates a “truly active” audience. The Uses-and-gratifications theory, according to our text book focuses on the, utility: media [has] uses for people, people can put that media to use, intentionality: media consumption can be directed by prior motivations, selectivity: [people’s use of media might reflect their existing interests and preferences, and imperviousness to influence: audience members are often obstinate, [and] actively avoid certain types of media influence” (Baran & Davis, p. 239). In her article “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft”, Lisa Nakamura states that, ‘‘avatars (which is the name of the digital representation of one’s self in a virtual world) ‘are much more than a few bytes of computer data*they are cyborgs, a manifestation of the self beyond the realms of the physical, existing in a space where identity is self-defined rather than pre-ordained’’ (p. 141). We also see that “Millions of people participate in multiplayer online role-playing games, inhabiting these simulated environments not to escape but to experience the complexities of organized society” (Balkan and Noveck 2006). On a psychologically gratifying level, the online society is not controlled “by small elites, power is earned one action, quest, or experience at a time”

“The Previous research examining players of Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) suggests that players form meaningful relationships with each other. Other research indicates that people may derive social support from online sources and this social support has been associated with greater wellbeing”
THE STATE OF PLAY: LAW, GAMES, AND VIRTUAL WORLDS.

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