Surprisingly, she’s a lot like me. Twenty-one years old, a college student in Germany, Claire never really was one for video games. “I learned Everquest from my boyfriend,” she told me upon our first meeting, “I also keep playing for him.” Claire and I are surprisingly similar despite our cultural differences. I was pleased to find out that she is not a fanatic player, in fact she later disclosed to me that the only reason she agreed to allow me to interview her was because she saw me as an ally in the game, with almost equal experience. We first met in Norrath where I play as a Neutral Human Monk, she as a Neutral Half-Elf Templar. I had been exploring Norrath for a while before I saw her, one of the first female characters I had seen in the last few minutes, I decided to take a chance and send her a tell. She responded to me and immediately I could tell that she was in the game for socializing.
Claire currently attends a college for health care and health management located in Cologne, Germany. She originally went to a different college but later transferred there after some confusion with money and living situations. Claire explained to me that she only has to go to the college campus every four to six weeks for a couple of days, otherwise she studies at home in Verne where she currently lives with her family in the house she grew up in. Although she enjoys the time she can now spend with her family, Claire told me that it was difficult to move back home after attending college and living away from home for two years, a feeling I can easily relate to. Outside of school, Claire works for a fitness club four times a week for about seven hours each day. Claire is interested in fitness because she trains as a triathlete in Germany. Outside of school, work, and triathlon workouts, Claire enjoys other recreational activities. For instance, her favorite movie to watch is The Hangover (2009), which she told me she has seen six times! I was surprised to learn that that was her favorite movie since it was made and released first in America. She explained to me that she usually only watches American movies although they are often dubbed in German. As far as music taste, Claire likes a lot of artists I have heard of such as Usher and Rhianna. Claire was fairly forthcoming with her personal information and I enjoyed learning about her favorite activities and entertainment.
When I asked Claire about the social and cultural context of Germany, she had little to say. She explained to me that they currently have a female Kanzlerin or President, named Angela Merkel. Claire told me she thinks it is nice to have a female leader in Germany and that is makes her feel as though Germany is even more progressive than the United States in some aspects. I agreed with her there. In relation to gaming, Claire knew very little about any regulations in the industry. However, after doing some of my own research I found that in 2002 there was an act called The Protections of Young Persons Act, which stated that in order for a game to be publically accessible it needed to be appropriately labeled for its age group. This is similar to legislature passed in the United States; there is still a concern with remaining a free and open society while continuing to protect children against violence.
Claire told me that “in Germany almost every guy is playing a video game, most of the time they play Fifa, WoW, or Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, these are the most popular video games.” Claire told me that she did not know many other people who played Everquest because she only began playing when her boyfriend, Maik, who lives about an hour away from her encouraged her to start playing. Claire explained to me that she feels that Everquest provides an interesting way for her to keep in touch with her boyfriend even though they are far away. She told me that she enjoys playing because it provides a fun way to interact and talk rather than just emailing or talking over the phone. One interesting aspect about Claire’s video game habits is that she normally plays and spends time with people who play console games such as on the Wii or games such as Super Mario Bros. Typically, in Germany she said that people either go to video game stores or shop online for games, similar to people’s habits in America. She also said that there are superstores, for example one called Saturn, where people may purchase video games. Claire feels that it is perfectly acceptable for people to play video games in Germany as long as they do not spend all of their time doing so. Also, she explained to me that many of her friends had video games and game consoles and that they are, for the most part, affordable to many people in the country.
As I noted above, I saw almost immediately that Claire was a socializer in video games. She plays in order to talk with and spend time with her boyfriend; she also enjoys meeting people on occasion. As Richard Bartle describes, for socializers, the game is merely a backdrop for things to happen to players. This perfectly describes the way Claire played, she was in the game, walking around and completing the tasks, however she did this in order to socialize and stay in contact with her boyfriend. She also told me that usually when she plays she is with her boyfriend, they often chat outside of the game and decide when to log on and off. However, she has begun to play alone now more. Claire said at one point she met someone from America who was playing and needed some help on a quest. When she began talking with them the American player became frustrated with her English since she has been away from the states for a while. Claire told me, “that made me sad in the game, but I think it made me more sad for my English; since I’ve been back it is much worse.” She also felt that it was sad that this other player would discount her so quickly, she expressed to me that she had anticipated that he would be very friendly and interested in talking with her, however it was the complete opposite, he only wanted to advance in the game and needed her help for that. This made it very clear to me that Claire was a socializer.
Claire studied abroad in America when she was 18 years old, she told me that that experience and the fact that it is very easy to travel to other countries in Europe from where she lives, has lead her to become interested in other cultures. However, she had not necessarily thought of Everquest as a means for socialization with other cultures. At this point I mentioned to Claire an article I had found which related abroad experiences to MMOG’s in that they provided environments in which intercultural and international exchanges can happen. After hearing that, she seemed to think that this connection was very accurate. Claire obviously has had the abroad experience and was welcome to the idea of MMO’s providing the same experience, especially for people who do not have the means to study abroad. Outside of Everquest, Claire had an interesting perspective of how interconnected the world has become. She explained to me that she has been to Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Hungary, America and many other places and all of the people in these countries are not really any different than her. She said, “In our time there are not so many differences any more because of globalization…almost everything you have in America exist[s] somewhere in Germany, or you can find similarities from the Chinese culture almost anywhere.” When I asked her how this applied to games she simply said, “Look as us now, you in America, me in Germany but in the same place in this game, right now!” Claire had high hopes for the future of communication between players of all nationalities and was interested to hear what I had to say.
After picking over some suggestions for improving transnational interactions in virtual worlds, I narrowed it down to a couple ideas I find most interesting. These being, the idea of forcing players into situations where they must interact while giving them the proper tools to do so, and the idea of creating servers that are dedicated to international play. After sharing these suggestions with Claire, she seemed to agree. However, she also felt that if you were to force players into communicating with each other you would most likely need to be on a server where this was obviously going to be the main goal. Therefore, she said that these ideas need to be combined and in order for them to work best. This reminded me of a posting from the site We Fly Spitfires-MMORPG blog by Gordon in which he explained that being forced to interact with players of different nationalities can be fun. This posting even made mention that the varying degrees of English that the players spoke were not a barrier to the enjoyment of the game. Claire agreed that it is not all about the ability to perfectly communicate with each other, most of the time the message can be made. Furthermore, I shared with Claire an idea that I had read about and was further intrigued by after reading an article on Gamasutra, which recommends a globalized team of game developers as a means to make a game more accessible. Claire had not thought of that and saw it as a very good means of making a game more international. Finally, Claire suggested to me that it would be a good idea to market a game as an intercultural communication tool. She told me that in her opinion people do not know enough about the intercultural communication that can occur in these types of games and that to advertise them would bring a greater interest an possibly change the scope of many of these already existing MMO’s. I found that to be a very interesting and thoughtful idea that may work very well.
All in all I enjoyed meeting Claire very much. It is really only until you see what useful means of communication these games can be that you can truly appreciate their importance in globalizing the world. I think that for both of us our experience meeting each other has provided opportunities to not only learn about another culture, but also an incentive to continue playing. I hope that through our friendship Claire will be encouraged to get out there and play even when her boyfriend is not around!
Here is a screen shot of the spot where Claire and I first met. I was disguised as a skeleton and standing on the roof of a nearby building.
 For the purposes of keeping anonymity, I will refer to my player as Claire throughout this document.
 This information was obtained on a site called Game Politics, under an article called ‘German Video Game Laws Explained.’ (2008, August 4). http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/08/04/german-video-game-laws-explained.
 Bartle, Richard. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: Players who suit muds. The Journal of Virtual Environments, (1,1). Retrieved from TLearn on November 1, 2010.
 Dobson, Jason. (2006, July 14). SGS Feature: ‘Peace, Games and International Efforts. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/10090/SGS_Feature_Peace_Games__International_Efforts.php . Retrieved November 1, 2010.
 Gordon. (2009, July 1). We Fly Spitfires-MMORPG Blog. The Multicultural Aspect of MMORPG’s. Retrieved from TLearn November 1, 2010.
 Dunniway, Troy. (2009, September 23). Globalizing Production for the Future. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4142/globalizing_production_for_the_.php . Retrieved November 2, 2010.