Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Playing with Progression, Immersion, and Sociality: Developing a Framework for Studying Meaning in APPMMAGs, a Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Playing with Progression, Immersion, and Sociality: Developing a Framework for Studying Meaning in APPMMAGs, a Case Study

Article excerpt


In a game with no graphics, sound, or story, how do players find or create meaning for their in-game actions?

Whereas there is much research on player meaning-making in immersive, difficult, high-time-commitment games, there are relatively few studies on meaning-making in games with none of those features. The larger goal of this project is to determine the nature of meaning-making in these unusual games. The goal of this paper is to introduce APPMMAGs, build a theoretical framework for studying meaning-making in APPMMAGs, and then apply that framework to a sample APPMMAG to show how the framework operates.

This paper begins by describing APPMMAGs, followed by a discussion of terms and context, a review of relevant scholarly work, and a proposed theoretical framework. The background reading and framework are grouped into three areas: the rhetoric of progress, the rhetoric of immersion, and the rhetoric of sociality. The rhetoric of progression suggests that players must advance through a game to experience all of the available content. The rhetoric of immersion posits that games have to provide a rich experience that pulls the user in. The rhetoric of sociality argues that games must include social aspects and even social features and requirements. The scholarship in each of these areas explains the phenomenon, exposes the power of these rhetorics, and expresses the need for further work in this area. Abstract Persistent Progressive Massively Multiplayer Asynchronous Games (APPMMAGs) represent a class of games that are understudied and are fertile ground for the exploration of meaning-making through cultural rhetorics.

The Testing the lens section provides an example of APPMMAG meaning-making by examining a player who primarily pursues in-game achievement. The Discussion section applies the proposed framework to the achievement player's account. The conclusion provides a summary of the discussion and some ways to generalise the findings, and the Future work section suggests ways to move the framework forward.

Common language and theoretical frame

The purpose of this section is to provide the reader with some context on APPMMAGs and their players, to contextualise this project within the existing literature on the subject of meaning-making in APPMMAGs, and to explicate a framework that can be used to study them going forward. First, a definition of APPMMAGs is presented along with a few illustrative examples. This is followed by several overarching concepts that inform the rest of this study: meaning-making, cultural rhetorics, and subversion. Next, the cultural rhetorics of play that make up the framework, and aspects of subversion are described. Finally, the rhetorics of meaningful play in APPMMAGs are discussed.


APPMMAGs are Abstract games, similar to chess, in that there is little story and no vividly-expressed game world. They are Persistent in that the game world exists and dynamically changes even when players are not present. APPMMAGs are Progressive in that the player's in-game representation, or avatar, progressively gains power and ability, changing what actions are available to the player within the game. These games are Massively Multiplayer Asynchronous because they allow many people to play within the same world but not necessarily all at the same time.

There are thousands of APPMMAGs, and many can be found by browsing one of the many free browser-game portals (such as,, and In game development terms, they are extremely cheap to develop and maintain, and they can be very lucrative (The Telegraph, 2009). Some examples include Torn City (Chedburn, 2004), Travian (Travian Games, 2004), and Farmville (Zynga, 2009).

Torn City (Chedburn, 2004) is abstract in that it is text based with few images and little narrative. The game world is expressed by a series of hyperlinked webpages differentiated largely by a banner image and a location title. …

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