September 8, 2011
Communication Professor Chris Paul published “Optimizing Play: How Theorycraft Changes Gameplay and Design” in Game Studies, the international journal of computer game research (Vol. 11, Issue 2, May 2011).
Theorycrafting is the search for the optimal set of strategies with which to play the video game World of Warcraft (WoW). Paul discusses the implications of theorycraft, maintaining that this player-created practice has fundamentally changed how the game is played and reshaped the relationship between players and designers.
As new tactics are tested, developed, and discussed, players improve their odds of success. When new approaches are successful, they are often copied, imitated, and integrated into other styles of play, effectively becoming new norms for the game.
“The emergence of theorycraft is not only telling about the WoW playing community, but also offers key insights into gaming and game studies as a whole,” Paul said. “The WoW community is robust. Players are interested enough to develop approaches to change how they play the game.”
In this case, theorycraft is a discursive construction that changes how World of Warcraft is played and could potentially change games in general.
Paul received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and joined the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2008. His research focuses on applying tools rooted in rhetorical analysis to elements of new media, especially video games
The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college in Seattle University. The Communication Department offers specializations in digital communication, digital production, journalism, strategic communications, international/intercultural communication, and media studies.
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