Surveillance and Community: Language Policing and Empowerment in a World of Warcraft Guild

Lauren B. Collister


A case study of a World of Warcraft guild explores the relationship between participatory surveillance, public discipline, empowerment, and fun. The guild under investigation in this paper is a self-labeled "safe space" guild for female, LGBT, and other minority members of the gaming population. To promote the safe space environment, the guild's members actively enforce prohibitions against offensive language. A comparison is made between the participatory surveillance model employed by the members of the guild and the top-down policies and discipline enacted by the parent company, Blizzard Entertainment; this comparison demonstrates the effects of co-existing models of surveillance in the game community. Furthermore, the effects of the guild's practice of public discipline of rule breakers are analyzed as a method of shaming that enhances the effects of the guild's rules. Finally, by examining reactions from members of the guild, personal and community empowerment are the outcomes of participation in the system. Recommendations are made to incorporate elements of participatory surveillance into games in conjunction with unilateral surveillance typically employed by game developers.


Participatory Surveillance; Digital Gaming; World of Warcraft; Empowerment; New Technologies

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