City of Heroes players, did you ever think your beloved old world would be the subject of academic research? Olle Sköld from Uppsala University in Sweden recently examined the extant City of Heroes community in an “interpretative case study” in order to “explore how virtual world communities employ new media as a repository to record information about their past.” For seven months beginning with the shutdown announcement date on August 31st, 2012, Sköld analyzed everything written on the City of Heroes Reddit to see just how people in a digital space keep the spirit alive, document their adventures, and promulgate memorykeeping. Reddit, guys. For science. He kinda deserves an award just for that.
The principal finding of the study is that the CoH community, with varying levels of intentionality, documented a range of pasts on /r/cityofheroes, relating to CoH as a game world, a site of personal experience, a product, a nexus of narratives, and a game. The analysis also lays bare the community’s memory-making processes, in which the documented conceptions of CoH’s past were put to work in the present, informing community action and viewpoints.
Reddit was chosen, by the way, because it wasn’t subject to the whims of NCsoft and suffered no drop-off in activity in the early months after the game was actually closed down. Sköld notes that the “CoH community voluminously documented CoH as an audiovisual space,” and he even mentions the boost City of Titans got from the united community.
The full paper, Documenting virtual world cultures: Memory-making and documentary practices in the City of Heroes community, was published earlier this year and is available online behind the usual academic paywall. Now go. Hunt. Kill Skuls.[Source: Emerald Insight: Journal of Documentation, Volume 71, Issue 2. With sincere thanks to our tipster, Chris.]