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User-driven role-playing in Final Fantasy XIV: immersion, creative labor, and psychosocial well-being




Tate, Rachel, author
Snodgrass, Jeffrey G., advisor
Kwiatkowski, Lynn, committee member
Diffrient, David Scott, committee member

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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) give each user the starring role, drawing them into the game's story and world through their character avatar. Some, however, take role-playing (colloquially, "roleplaying" or "RP") further by constructing deep and complex narratives for their characters and pitting them against others in new and often spontaneous stories that emerge from collaborative efforts. This research looks at the RP community in the MMO Final Fantasy XIV in order to understand how and why RPers choose this form of play in a game already rich with activities. Specifically, I aim to shed light on the relationship between RP and psychosocial well-being. Drawing on perspectives from game studies, media fandom studies, and positive psychology, this research examines RP through a tripartite model of avenues towards well-being: play, flow, and sociality. A mixed-methods approach is used to gather ethnographic data through participant observation and interviews while also sampling broad patterns through a field survey. A cognitive anthropological "cultural models" consensus and consonance methodology allows for the culture of RP to be assessed in its capacity to reinforce and encourage positive experiences for its participants. Findings suggest that RP is a fulfilling activity because of its ability to enhance immersion and flow in the game world and the meaningful social connections that are forged through creative collaboration. However, RPers who are lonely or who become overinvested in the activity are more likely to have negative experiences if they cannot learn to play in an adaptive manner.


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virtual worlds
Final Fantasy XIV
subjective well-being


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