• Snodgrass, Jeffrey G
  • Lacy, Michael G
  • Dengah, H J Francois I I
  • Fagan, Jesse


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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)



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