Periscopic Play: Re-positioning "the Field" in MMO Research.


  • Nick Taylor York University


Ethnographic research on Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) has begun to chart how these games impact ‘real world’ identities, practices and institutions. Far less attention has been paid in this emergent field, however, to the ways these games are always already situated in the everyday lives of those that play them – and how participants’ embodied subjectivities are therefore ‘in play’. This paper argues that recent MMO scholarship, in re-invoking a tired and unproductive dichotomy between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’, not only neglects the material and discursive contexts in which games are played, but also renders invisible the play-based participant observation of researchers themselves. I look to cyber-feminist theory, as well as certain strands of feminist ethnography, to call attention to how this kind of ‘periscopic play’ might limit our understandings of MMOs.

Author Biography

Nick Taylor, York University

Nick Taylor is a PhD candidate in York University’s Faculty of Education. His current research explores gender performativity in the ‘real’ spaces of public arcades lan cafes. Most recently, Nick has been working as a content developer and co-project manager on Suzanne de Castell and Jennifer Jenson’s Contagion educational video game.