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Players and Their Pets

Players and Their Pets: Gaming Communities from Beta to Sunset

Mia Consalvo
Jason Begy
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Players and Their Pets
    Book Description:

    In the world of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs),Faunaspherewas but a blip on the screen in its short public life from 2009 to 2011. Its devoted players, many of them middle-aged women, entered a world that did not build on common fantasy or science-fiction tropes. There was no evil to defeat or realms to conquer, only friendly animals to care for and pollution to fight.

    InPlayers and Their Pets,Mia Consalvo and Jason Begy argue that its very difference makes it critically important-even more so than the large, commercially successful games such asWorld of Warcraftthat have all too often shaped game studies discourse. Consalvo and Begy demonstrate how the beta period of an MMOG can establish social norms that guide how the game is played. They also show how a game's platform creates expectations for how the game will work and who is playing it-and what happens when those expectations clash with the reality. Even while telling the story of this particular game and its predominantly female players, however,Players and Their Petscautions against oversimplifying players based on their gender.Faunasphere's playerbase enjoyed diverse aspects of the game, for varied reasons.

    No other game studies book tracks the entire life cycle of an online game to examine how the game evolved in terms of design as well as how its player community responded to changes and events. The brief life ofFaunaspheremakes this possible.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4224-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: A Different Kind of World
    (pp. 1-18)

    Odds are you’ve never heard ofFaunasphere, and in this, you wouldn’t be unusual.Faunaspherewas a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG)—a genre dominated by games such asWorld of WarcraftandEverQuest. Unlike these games, however, Faunasphere did not have hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands, of players. WhereasWorld of Warcrafthas been running (at the time of this writing) for about ten years, andEverQuestfor fourteen, Faunasphere was open to the public for less than two years. The game was ultimately closed because its developer, Big Fish Games, considered it to be “economically...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Introducing the Caretakers
    (pp. 19-36)

    In studying first text-based multiuser dungeons (MUDs) and more recently fully three-dimensional massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), the latter a descendent of the former,¹ online games researchers have largely focused on worlds that employ a fantasy-themed fiction. Here and throughout this book, we mean “fiction” in Juul’s sense of the term: as the aspects of a videogame, especially its setting and characters, that “cue players into imagining worlds.”² MMOGs such asEverQuest³ andWorld of Warcraft⁴ often feature magic and swords, with Tolkienesque races such as elves, dwarves, and humans. Players typically choose a character, race, and class (such as...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Those Were the Days: Interacting with Beta Players
    (pp. 37-60)

    Just as most massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are designed without an end, it can also be difficult to identify when they begin. While all games will announce an official launch day when the game is open to all players, those official dates are often months if not years after the game actually went online. Most contemporary MMOGs now have closed alpha sessions and both open and closed beta periods in order to test run the world. During these periods, the games are not always consistently available, and they are definitely not open to the wider public. Such worlds may...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Shifting Platforms and Troubled Ground: Faunasphere and Facebook
    (pp. 61-76)

    Even as beta players performed a key role in establishing the atmosphere and player community inFaunasphere, the platforms on which the game appeared also impacted how players engaged with the game and each other.Faunasphere’s initial launch as a stand-alone browser-based application drew its early players from Big Fish Games’s existing pool of customers, who were already familiar with a web interface for finding and purchasing single-player casual games. That platform proved stable and relatively successful, yet it was quickly supplemented via another platform—Facebook. It would be surprising if Big Fish Games had not planned that augmentation from...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The End of the World
    (pp. 77-94)

    On March 15, 2011, at 1:11 p.m. EST, residents ofFaunaspheresaw a network disconnect error message flash on their screens. Big Fish Games had pulled the plug onFaunasphere. Shortly after the error message appeared, players gathered in self-created forums and a Facebook group (all set up in advance) to express their grief, share memories, and decide on what they would do next. Big Fish Games had given them a month’s notice of the world’s impending closure (or “sunset” as such closures are called in the game industry), and so players were able to gather, commiserate, and plan their...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “Why Am I So Heartbroken?”: Exploring the Bonds between Players and Fauna
    (pp. 95-114)

    We know that individuals in many massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and virtual worlds develop attachments to the spaces and people they spend so much time with, but players ofFaunaspherepresent a different way of understanding online gameplay—one that challenges dominant theorization about such spaces. In part that’s due to the particular fiction and gameplay design ofFaunasphere, which addressed players not as avatars within a space but as caretakers of many fauna that could be raised and cared for across different spaces. That shift led to differences in how players saw their role in the game and...

  10. CONCLUSION: Saying Goodbye to Rock Garden
    (pp. 115-122)

    It’s an unusual experience to write about a game that can no longer be played, with forums that have officially disappeared. Player memories linger on, and the game’s most dedicated fans continue to reminisce, although in dwindling numbers and with increasingly less frequency. Details become fuzzy about how certain gameplay elements functioned, and things that seemed innovative or novel at the time now are either passé or so widely embraced as to be unremarkable. YetFaunaspherewas (and remains) a special game and an important experience for a variety of reasons, and our study of it has significant ramifications for...

    (pp. 123-132)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 133-140)
    (pp. 141-142)
    (pp. 143-148)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 149-152)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-153)