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Play Spaces / Military Spaces

And despite the resistance of many players to Talon's comments, it does take highly-organized and highly-managed organizational structures to achieve the high-end encounters in many current MMOs - a degree of organization that many guilds lack. Yet even as many players resist that militaristic structure, it is clear that MMOs (like WoW) are structured such that these high-end raids are meant as the pinnacles of achievement. Those epic drops from Ragnaros or Onyxia are the carrots at the end of stick. It's what your supposed to be working towards, right? Has your guild cleared Molten Core yet?

So what does it mean when game spaces become military spaces? But, of course, this is exactly the reverse of what's really happened. Gaming technologies (computers, graphics, networking) are technologies that all emerged from military applications (many during the WWII and Cold War eras). So it's not the case that our current play spaces are becoming military spaces, but rather, digital gaming has always been deeply-rooted in a military logic that traces back to the Cold War - command, control, and conquer - even in fantasy worlds of elves and dwarves. It is that underlying logic that necessitates military structures of command and organization. And thus, the irony is that even as we resist military structures in play spaces, the deep-rooted military logic of digital gaming necessitates their existence.


Posted on October 17, 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


Interesting, and from some perspectives almost commonsensical, when one considers the gameplay of a large portion of games that attempt to emulate some aspects of RL.

MMORPGs in particular tend to be structured with combat as a major factor, yet with the social aspect of dealing with other players as the prime differentiator when compared with single-player games. That kind of design logic naturally lends itself to military thinking, at least as long as combat, or even competition, is a key part of gameplay.

I'd imagine that in non-traditional MMORPGs, ones without combat, that the military structure would be weaker, though.

Posted by: unangbangkay on October 27, 2005 10:41 AM

As the Legate of a legion in Ultima Online (strictly a fighters guild with tradtional Roman cohort legion structure) I can clearly say that those who served under me with military experience did not need my careful orders. With plans to go into the USMC (United States Marine Corps) and with no real previous training, I cannot actually comment on it from a personal view. However I can say that it's clear that military structured enviroments offer much more through cooperation and coordination which ultimately leads to greater goals.

Posted by: Etz on November 4, 2005 5:59 PM

Active Duty Air Force (over 6 years now), and a member of a casual WoW Guild which has enough vets, National Guard, Reserve, and Active members to give it better than average organization, and the military member's DON'T run the guild - if anything, we just behave as we normally do, and some of the smarter things - organization, "tactical and concise comm" during fights, mutual support during raids and PvP has been picked up on and just made part of everybody's style.

Watching some of the different guilds clear dungeons and play PvP, it becomes pretty obvious early on who's got something like military experience (and I mean actual experience, like a few years, in their background, and didn't just graduate basic a few weeks ago).

Posted by: MOGS on December 4, 2005 7:55 PM

I would argue that the popularity of many of these games is a direct result of their militaristic appeal. The human body and central nervous system are uniquely adapted for combat, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of us never get to experience it IRL leaves a void that we seek to fill with other adrenaline-producing activities. MMORPGs simply give us an outlet for all that highly evolved aggression potential.

As an active-duty military member, I can assure you that combat is the ultimate rush. That the tactics, techniques and procedures of those who kill for a living have direct application with those who kill for fun should come as no surprise.

Do current and former military members have an advantage in MMOs? Perhaps. However, some of the most accomplished PvPers I have met online had no military background. PvP does not just reward organization and tactical proficiency; at the higher levels it also rewards unconventional approaches and tactical devices that persons with military experience might not think of. I would say military training provides skills that can give individuals or teams an advantage, but that leadership that reacts in unconventional ways will provide a better egde.

In short then, I would argue that military members make great "soldiers" in their guilds or corps, and that the most proficient make decent leaders by virtue of their organizational skills and tactical knowledge. But what makes MMOs so appealing is that, at the end of the day, every person with a connection can battle it out and learn from their mistakes. After-action reviews, another military innovation, are the greatest teaching tool ever developed when used correctly.

Posted by: beau606 on August 21, 2007 6:32 AM

I have been in the military for 10 years, and I definitely find that a lot of what we do carries over to MMORPG. I was at first surprised to find how many other military-affiliated players there were, but after more experience, I now think that it makes a lot of sense.

When it comes to pulling off a successful run in MMO, tactics, planning, and organization are keys to success. One time I was leading a group in a mission and before we fought the main boss, I wanted to review our battle strategy, contingency plans, rechecking everyone's gear and items, macros, etc. We'd call this Pre-Combat Checks and Pre-Combat Inspections.

You don't want to find out that someone didn't have medicines that they would need at the time that they needed them crucially. You'd want to find out in advance, determine if you could reshuffle some resources between members and cover the shortages, and make a final decision if the plan can work, if you need to resupply, or if you just want to go for it and cross your fingers.

One of the members asked me "Aren't you being a bit anal about the details?" And I responded by assuring him that I had done this before, and that if we followed my plan, we'd not only win, but we'd kick butt. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later we had set a new server record for the battle.

Definitely being in the military mindset helps with things like: planning and preparation, paying attention to even the smallest details, having contigencies in place, making decisions under pressure, etc. Also, a good after-action review is always a helpful tool in future planning.

Posted by: Aramina on April 23, 2008 2:53 AM

What do the numbers look like when you factor in raid/casual guild membership?

Posted by: Noctis on August 2, 2008 3:56 PM

That's 2 cleevr by half and 2x2 clever 4 me. Thanks!

Posted by: Kenisha on January 3, 2012 12:22 AM
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