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From DotA to MOBA: The emergence and crisis of playful co-creativity in multiplayer online battle arena games

Jarrett, Joshua

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Authors

Joshua Jarrett joshua2.jarrett@live.uwe.ac.uk



Abstract

The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre represents one of the most popular, dynamic and influential spaces of digital play. Since the genres first commercial release in 2009 with the title League of Legends (2009 – present, Riot Games), MOBAs have played an integral role in pioneering ‘fair’ models of free-to-play, live streaming as a ubiquitous spectator activity and e-sports as an increasingly recognised mainstream industry. This thesis posits each of these trends as connected to the influence of MOBAs as a genre with a rich history in grassroots spaces of non-commercial play and participation. Adopting an online ethnographic approach, the thesis describes how the transition of the genre away from its non-commercial and collectivised origins has introduced an influential model of hybrid power relations characteristic of the affective economics that underpin many wider digital platforms.

Central to this thesis is the introduction of playful co-creativity as a conception for describing the productive role that play and closely related participatory activities exert in the vibrant activities of MOBAs. Through framing play as a co-creative practice that informs design, spurs participation, creates professions and sustains vast sums of affective value, the thesis asks how the political economy of playful co-creativity in MOBAs can be critically approached. The research mobilises approaches from game, fan and Internet studies to approach the complex set of relations encompassed by MOBAs.

The online ethnography of this research comprises observations, personal experiences, in-depth case studies and player responses from online open discussions on Reddit. In particular, the research focuses on three influential examples of MOBAs in the original Warcraft III (Blizzard Entertainment, 2003) custom game DotA, League of Legends and Dota 2 (Valve Corporation, 2013 – present). Through grasping the differing modes of governance in each of these games, the aim of this thesis is to exemplify how MOBAs are a genre imbricated with affective forms of playful interaction that both sustain and at times threaten the hybrid power dynamics of this heterogeneous genre.

Thesis Type Thesis
APA6 Citation Jarrett, J. From DotA to MOBA: The emergence and crisis of playful co-creativity in multiplayer online battle arena games. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from https://uwe-repository....ribe.com/output/1491316

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