Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 23, June, 2010

Mark Ward

Avatars and Sojourners: Explaining the Acculturation of Newcomers to Multiplayer Online Games as Cross-Cultural Adaptations


Only in recent years have formal theories of immigrant and sojourner acculturation been developed. Could these theories be employed to study the acculturation of newcomers into the virtual cultures of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs)? These gameworlds are inhabited by millions of people worldwide and have emerged as societies with their own cultural myths, schemata, argot, and communication practices. As such, new players may be viewed as sojourners who employ communication to acculturate themselves into the society of the gameworld, accommodate the cultural Others they encounter, and negotiate viable identities. After reviewing theories of cross-cultural adaptation—including Nishida’s schema theory and Kim’s integrative theory—and what they predict regarding the intercultural communication strategies of sojourners, this article shows how game studies research confirms that new MMOG players deploy communication in the predicted manner to achieve acculturation.

Key words: cross-cultural adaptation, immigrant acculturation, identity negotiation and management, intercultural communication, schema theory, massively multiplayer online games

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