A Wittgensteinian analysis of the meaning of “I” as it is used in MMORPG’s


I have an idea that I’d like to share: I believe that the meaning of “I” as it is used in MMORPG’s poses a very interesting kind of language game.  In fact, I think it’s so entertaining that I’m calling all of you who read this, and who happen to be an MMORPG player, to contact me with your thoughts concerning epistemic and/or ontological implications with respect to how it is you or players you know use the term “I” in MMORPG’s.

 This may seem a bit too broad, especially if you are not familiar with the way ‘epistemic’ and ‘ontological’ are used in academic philosophy.  If this is the case, but you’re still interested, then contact me and I can give you a more detailed explanation of what exactly I mean when I say that “the way “I” is used in MMORPG has significant epistemic and ontological implications for those who who use it”

Briefly, what I want to say is that when it comes to MMORPG’s, self-reference (the way a linguistic convention is used to denote the first-person), epistemic authority (the way a linguistic convention is used to empower, verify, or guarantee the truth and/or justification of the content of an expression), and/or agency (the freedom to think and/or partake in spontaneous, self-motivated meaningful acts) can take on very different functions within a particular community of speakers (gamers).

In short, I want user input! In a few days I’ll construct a questionaire for anyone who responds to this post with their email and name/nick name.  If you’re involved in this, you can then respond at your leisure, though I ask that you be reasonable in your response time (no more than a couple of weeks, please). 

I will then use your responses (as data) to construct a Wittgensteinian description of the relevant factors that go towards determining the meaning (i.e. how the “I” is used and/or how it’s used is explained) of the “I” and related expressions (e.g. “my”, “myself”, “mine”, and any other expression used to express character experience as personal experience).

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One thought on “A Wittgensteinian analysis of the meaning of “I” as it is used in MMORPG’s

  1. I agree that the language-game of MMORPG’s is significantly different from the every-day game. In fact, this is likely one of the factors that leads to the undeniable addictiveness of this genre.

    For example, the use of “I” in everyday speech often projects beyond the “actual” capabilities or circumstances of the utterer. But feedback from the world quickly aids others in negotiating around these inflations in the real world “game”. Thus, the language-game is heavily tempered by limitations of the world on the projections of language-users.

    But in an MMORPG, the “facts of the world” are constituted in a virtual sense, and the world provides limits and feedback on the projections of “I” used in language games that are very different from those offered in the world. A cognitive/reflex capacity can fill in for other general physical limitations and provide an entirely new array of ways that language-users can project themselves through the use of “I”. Given a cleaver enough 13 year old, the ephemeral “I” projected by your best virtual friend might meet no limitations on its ability to reflect a wise and learned individual.

    With the limitedness of virtual worlds, a young child’s ability to grasp something like a “totality of facts” could provide him with a certainty that reflects the epistemic relationship that a wise old man might share with himself. In other words, the relatively small “world” of an MMORPG could allow a much younger and wider cadre of individuals to assume inflated notions our standard meaning of “I”. I can see someone in an MMO using “I” as a projection of an all-knowing being, viz the virtual world simply due to that world’s limits.

    Obviously I have not even touched on the “core” of the issue, as there is certainly much more to be said about how much of the real world language-game spills into the virtual world. But, with the idiosyncrasies of online typing, we first have to ask how similar the language-game is to its real-world counterpart…

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