Graduation Date

5-2022

Document Type

Capstone Project

Project Type

Qualitative Study

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Program

Occupational Therapy

Program Chair

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR/L

Faculty Advisor

Karen McCarthy, OTD, OTR/L

Abstract

To date, most research on massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) has focused on the effects playing MMORPGs has on players’ health and wellness. The virtual environment of MMORPGs has yet to be explored as a space where meaningful occupations occur. This qualitative study explored the virtual environment using a transactional perspective in order to define the qualities of virtual worlds, how transactional relationships operate more clearly within these virtual worlds to construct occupational meaning, and subsequently to provide a foundation of qualitative data to support future research including virtual worlds. The sample included six MMORPG players with experience playing either World of Warcraft, RuneScape, or Guild Wars 2. Based on player interviews and participant observation, four themes related to the construction of meaning within online gaming emerged from the data: the gaming environment, the collective occupational experience, the individual occupational experience, and game transactions. Players described how customizable individual experiences, as well as the communal nature of gaming, motivated their engagement in MMORPGs. The virtual environment was described as providing immersion in place through interaction with other players, environmental items, and engagement in in-game occupations. The following five transactional agents were identified as contributing to the construction of meaning within MMORPGs: the player, the player community, third-party content creators, game industry manufacturers, and developers. These findings provide occupational scientists with an increased understanding of the qualities of virtual environments and how meaning is constructed within virtual occupations for MMORPG players.

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