Tribes: The Study of an Online Community
Tribes is an online multiplayer game where different missions, worlds, weapons, and players combine to create a defend and destroy kind of gaming experience. Players use mouse, key, and voice commands to target and destroy the enemy as they sneak around trying to capture the other team’s flag and return it to their own base. But it is more than just agame that these players have created with Tribes. They have created a whole online community with an interactive website leading to discussion forums and chat rooms, where the action really takes place.
Call it a behind the scenes look at Tribes. Teams are put together, players are taught and assisted, and even more so, long-lasting friendships are made. I studied the discussion forums ofTribalwar.com and continually entered the Tribal war chat room hosted by the server irc.dynamix.com for a period of two weeks. I found an online community full of life constantly being infested with anything from small talk to serious gaming talk.
In the article “Log on and Shoot,” Katie Hafner discusses online gaming becoming a sort of addiction. She claims it is turning into a “virtual party”and that oftentimes the game becomes the underdog when conversation takes over (Hafner 75). And this, Hafner says, is the kind of stuff that gaming networks want. They want to have the social environment it takes to create an online type of community for gamers in order to keep their clients and players devoted (Hafner 75).
T ribalwar.com states that the “Most users ever online was 212 on09-23-2002 at 04:20 AM” (tribalwar.com). Take note of the time. With that many people actively using tribalwar.com in the early hours of the AM, it is only plausible that every time I read the discussion forums there were never less than 150 members and guests currently active. Every post had responses. MIRC is the program in which the Tribes chat room server is put to use. Irc.dynamix.com is aspecifically registered server for individual channels based around Tribes and the Tribes community. As Hafner says, “The trick now [for interactive games over the Internet] is to create ‘social worlds’ rich in graphics for games of all kinds, featuring chat spaces where players can boast to one another, commiserate over a defeat or just pass the time of day” (74). In the tribal war chat room there werealways 150-200 people present, with approximately 25 to 35 participating in conversations at a time. I often left my guest name signed on over night and remained idle, only to wake up to a whole assortment of conversations. It is this kind of dedication and commitment of constant involvement that it takes to make an online community and keep it alive and well.
One thing that often took placewas, as expected, discussions about Tribes. Through MIRC, players learn scripting and programming. Scripts were often exchanged so players could learn how to do things faster. Players teach each other everyday about how to perfect their aim or graphics. At one point I intervened during a conversation asking if anyone was willing to talk with me about Tribes as an online community. Masquerade talkedone on one with me and offered this, “All you have to do is ask anyone how to use a certain line of code for programming or html or java and they can easily tell you what and how it works” (#tribalwar 10/16/02). Oftentimes in the chat room all kinds of terms extremely foreign to me were being tossed around.
“#Estrogen is in siege mode atm,” player Daemon posted at one point (#tribalwar10/15/02). I figured out that #estrogen was another chat room hosted by irc.dynamix.com consisting of females. Later, talking to another player, I realized that ‘atm’ was an acronym for ‘at the moment.’ “Siege mode” still remains an unfamiliar term to me. Another time I was reviewing conversation in the chat room I found that a player named Vang had said, “I’m about to start DdoS on wctoc. I need...
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