Citation: Chen, Mark. Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). Peter Lang Publishing, 2011 Nov. 30. Print.
Summary and Recommendation: Chen’s ethnographic monograph, while within game studies, comes from an Education & Literacy background. The range of disciplinary influences on game studies has helped me gain perspective on how interdisciplinary game studies is. Chen made it very clear that he viewed games as a place where expertise was gained. He sees games and the skills players learn within them as having value outside the game, which he acknowledges is not a view that is widely shared. This point of view and his discussion of literacy provided a clear lens of how he was viewing the ethnographic work he was doing. While Chen doesn’t make it clear that this lens came after his initial research, his time spent in the game in terms of observation and decision to focus on the raid group points to this as being similar to traditional ethnographic study. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in ethnography in virtual worlds because he spends time clearly laying out the information around his study, allowing newer researchers to get a feel for setting up an ethnographic study in a virtual world.
Chen lays out a solid context for where and when his research took place. He immersed himself in World of Warcraft and his study took place within a 40 man raid group that raided together between October 2005 and July 2006. Chen does provide a clear explanation of his participant selection, including names of participants (with pseudonyms or usernames isn’t exactly clear) and how often each participated in the raid being studied. While there isn’t discussion how exactly the raiding group formed, some more context about the game might be necessary to understand why, especially since this isn’t a one guild raid group which is often found in WoW, moreso now that raiding group size has downsized dramatically. It would definitely be difficult for someone unfamiliar with WoW to really understand this process, which really isn’t a failing of Chen’s so much as the specific need for the researcher to be immersed within the environment being studied. His coding seemed particularly focused on his epistemological framework games as way to learn expertise and solve complex problems. His discussion of tools was useful, but did not include information about what player add-ons he had used throughout the process. It also isn’t specified what tool was used to do the voice recording or how conversations/video were determined to be worth recording.