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Cultural Consonance and Mental Wellness in the World of Warcraft: Online Games as Cognitive Technologies of ‘Absorption-Immersion’

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Title: Cultural Consonance and Mental Wellness in the World of Warcraft: Online Games as Cognitive Technologies of ‘Absorption-Immersion’
Authors: Snodgrass, Jeffrey G.
Lacy, Michael G.
Dengah, H.J. Francois II
Fagan, Jesse
Keywords: cultural consonance
World of Warcraft
massively multi-player online games (MMOG)
LC Subject Headings: Ethnology
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Citation: Cognitive Technology, Vol. 16, Issue 1
Abstract: We use survey data—interpreted through ethnographic interviews and our own game-playing experiences—to model the way culture impacts the therapeutic dynamics of play in the popular online game World of Warcraft (WoW). To do so, we utilize cognitive anthropological understandings of ‘cultural consonance’ (Dressler and Bindon 2000)—that is, the extent to which individuals embody or fail to embody socially shared and sanctioned models of success. We find that players who report more individual ‘consonance’ with culturally shared models of ‘real-life’ or offline success are more likely to play in healthier ways as assessed through players’ self-reports of the impact of WoW on their life happiness, stress relief, and patterns of problematic play. We uncover both direct relationships between an individual’s relative degree of cultural consonance and these wellness outcomes and also indirect ones mediated by ‘absorption-immersion’ (defined as the extent that players feel like they are in a virtual world and in some cases actually their character). Overall, we suggest that WoW—and more generally multiplayer online role-playing games (‘MMORPGs’ or ‘MMOs’ for short) of which WoW is one example—can be thought of as cultural-cognitive technologies promoting a partitioned or ‘dissociated’ consciousness (Lynn 2005) in which players can attribute dimensions of self to in-game characters for potential psychological benefit or harm.
Pages/Duration: 33 pages
ISSN: 1091-8388
Appears in Collections:World of Warcraft - Mana'o collection

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