My transnational player profile will focus on an MMORPG player who I will be referring to by their in game character name-T’charr. During our interview within the virtual world “Champions Online” T’charr told me that she is 27 years old woman from Paris, France and is currently working as a CG artist with a number of small, part-time jobs in between. Upon asking for further information on her various hobbies and interests T’charr politely declined to answer in full, saying simply that she is an avid gamer with a variety of interests.
Social and Cultural Context
When asked about the social and cultural context of France T’charr responded that the current political atmosphere of France is not very good. She’s been hearing a lot on the news about the frequent number of riots and strikes in a few of France’s cities like Lyon and Marseille in response to a potential raise in the national retirement age. Instances of intermittent clashes between rioters and police across France have been reported all throughout October. On the 19th the protests had taken an increasingly radical turn as masked demonstrators began to set fires within several cities, causing hundreds of flights to be canceled. Strikes by oil refinery workers sparked fuel shortages that forced at least 1,000 gas stations to be shut down. Disruptions on the national railway also caused train services in many regions to be cut in half. As of now, though, there has been a significant decline in the number of the strike’s supporters since the lower house of Parliament gave final approval on the 27th to increase the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 and the age to receive a full pension to 67 from 65. While many union leaders were quoted to say that they would keep fighting, it appeared that President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government had won an important victory against the demonstrators. T’charr said that although a few people are still fine with the decisions of France’s leaders she doesn’t think that many French people are very happy at all with the current state of their government.
Political economy and cultural dimensions of the gaming landscape
When I asked T’charr about the state of the video game industry in France she responded that France is home to a few decent video game developers and publishers, but not many as compared to the United States or Japanese gaming industries. She listed Ubisoft which is famous for games such as “Assassin’s Creed”, “Far Cry”, “Myst” and “Prince of Persia”, Quantic Dream and their development of the popular game “Heavy Rain”, the independent game developer Arkane Studios (which was recently acquired by the company Zenimax) and their development of “Arx Fatalis”, “Dark Messiah of Might and Magic” and work on “Bioshock 2” as well as Infogrames Entertainment, SA (which is moving toward changing its name to Atari, SA). T’charr noted that most of the video game industry in France is currently focused on mobile games and the iPhone.
On the subject of where she plays and buys her games, T’charr responded that she usually plays video games at home on either her own video game console or computer and occasionally plays on other friends’ various gaming devices. As for buying games, T’charr usually picks a new game up from the most convenient or affordable place possible such as a major retail stores or even by ordering online. T’charr also considers gaming computers generally affordable in France, believing that although one won’t have a powerhouse machine if they don’t choose to spend money on it, gamers can still enjoy games on an average computer.
When questioned on how gaming is viewed within France, T’charr responded that the mainstream perceptions of people who play video and computer games are essentially the same as in most other countries with a developed gaming population-that the people who play them are primarily obsessed shut-ins who have lost control over their ability to distinguish between reality and virtual reality. Indeed, this common stereotype is often perpetuated by such stories as reported in May of a French video game fanatic who stabbed another player who had killed his character in the online war game “Counter Strike”. According to the account, the attacker had plotted his revenge against the player for seven months after being killed in a knife fight online, located the rival player several miles from his home and plunged a kitchen knife into his chest when he answered the door, missing his heart by less than an inch. Even in cases not directly involving video games, T’charr believes that society often uses gaming as a scapegoat to blame a variety of social ills on.
Motivations for gaming
When I asked about her motivations for playing MMORPGs T’charr responded that she began playing “Champions Online” by chance after she and a friend had grown increasingly frustrated and uninterested with the popular MMORPG “World of Warcraft” and out of boredom tried the free trial for “Champions Online”. They really liked it and decided to buy the full game after playing it. T’charr believes that “Champions Online” has some very interesting ideas for the genre and that it provides a welcome break to the Tolkien high fantasy motif of many MMORPGs. As for her motivations for playing MMORPGs in general, T’charr told me that she doesn’t play MMO type games necessarily because she is a very devoted fan of the concept of an MMORPG, but rather because single player games provide a very limited amount of playability that generally lasts only a few hours. MMORPGs on the other hand provide a far more expansive game experience which, when interconnected with the social aspects of the game’s community, creates a far more entertaining experience in T’charr’s opinion. As explored in the Strangers and Friends reading, this interconnectedness within the online community often gives “the game variety, novelty, and surprise” and creates “a richly textured space in which play flows between community-based and lighter weight collaborations.” Overall, T’charr puts a strong emphasis on the ability of a game to keep her entertained while playing and believes that socialization is an essential component to this process.
Perspectives on transnational play
When I asked T’charr on her perspectives on transnational play she was incredibly supportive of it. She said that she has many friends both online and offline across multiple nationalities and that any MMORPG wishing to develop strong relationships within their communities shouldn’t hesitate to cultivate international collaboration. Throughout her experiences in playing various MMORPGs T’charr has found most people from other countries to be very pleasant and supportive to play with (she elaborated by saying that the only disrespectful players that she’s ever encountered where all from France). This sentiment is also echoed in the “We Fly Spitfires” reading in which the author describes their own enjoyable experiences with multicultural collaboration, saying “I found myself playing with people from a huge variety of different countries all with varying degrees of English. Strangely enough, it was actually very enjoyable and one of my fondest memories is grouping in the Tomb of Mithra with a fully multi‐national group and having to have every instruction to our Latvian Cleric translated by another group member.” As with the more general social aspects of MMORPG’s, during our interview T’charr stressed that the multicultural characteristics of “Champions Online” kept the game from growing stale and repetitive by adding an additional layer of complexity to the game’s community, thereby increasing the quality of the game as a whole.
Perspectives on concrete recommendations for fostering transnational play
After reading off some of the suggestions from the Worldplay recommendation document to T’charr, there were two suggestions in particular that she considered the most invaluable for international play. The first one was the increased availability of built in chat and translation tools within MMORPGs. T’charr said that although many players should strive to learn the language of other cultures on their own if they wish to participate within it, an inability to comprehend a language can act as a serious obstacle for many people who wish to enter a game. T’charr related that she had many friends who can’t speak any English and that this distinction barred them from participating in a variety of online gaming experiences. She believes that if a basic translational tool was, at least, offered to international players, this would open the game up to a much broader audience. The other suggestion that T’charr supported was the usage of only one global server within MMORPGs. T’charr said that one of the main reasons that she burned out on World of Warcraft was the strict region locking of people from different countries into separate servers. She believes that this separation drastically increased the homogeneity of the game’s community as well as the gameplay which eventually led her to quit and join games with single servers like “Champions Online” and “Eve Online”. T’charr stated that she understood the technical difficulties of creating a single server for an MMORPG to be played on, but maintained that such a design is vital for promoting international play among players. When I asked T’charr for her own suggestions she proposed the development and maintenance of relationships between the players and MMORPG developers, saying that it is important that developers are able to continually hear and respond to the needs of the player community.
 Charlton, Angela. (2010). Riots in france; hundreds of flights canceled. CBS News, Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/19/travel/main6972237.shtml
 Sayare , Scott. (2010). Numbers diminish at protests in france. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/world/europe/29france.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=French%20strike&st=cse
 Video game fanatic hunts down and stabs rival player who killed character online. (2010). Telegraph, Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/7771505/Video-game-fanatic-hunts-down-and-stabs-rival-player-who-killed-character-online.html
 Nardi, Bonnie and Harris, Justin. 2006. Strangers and friends: collaborative play in world of warcraft. In Proceedings of the 2006 20th Anniversary Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (Banff, Alberta, Canada, November 04 – 08, 2006). C PDF document
 Gordon (2009) “The multicultural aspect of MMORPGs,” We Fly Spitfires. PDF document