Reading Game/Text: EverQuest, Alienation, and Digital Communities

Eric Hayot, Edward Wesp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The essay begins with a review of a recent court case ruling that video games do not constitute "speech" in order to develop arguments about the relationship between "media" (which communicate) and "activities" (in which, U.S. District court Judge Stephen Limbaugh argues, any communication is "purely inconsequential") . Focusing on the online role playing game EverQuest, the essay contends that the combination of game like structures in EverQuest with certain kinds of expressions (spoken by "virtual" bodies) means that the form cannot be read exclusively either as literature or as a game. Drawing on Benedict Anderson's Imagined communities, the essay attempts to discern those structural elements in EverQuest that might be understood as shaping or creating large scale forms of experience (much as the novel, as Anderson argues, gave its readers a new experience of simultaneous time that allowed them to identify in national terms with people they could never hope to know or meet) . The essay intends this broadly structural hermeneutic to illustrate the manner in which those things that make EverQuest a game establish the terms by which it participates in culture. Its reading of the gameTs structure (which is expressed, finally, in the code that makes the software) is designed to map out the expression of that software's intelligence as it interacts with the individual people who play the game (and who do so, almost always, on the gameT s terms) . The essay ultimately argues that EverQuest is an important site for the articulation and experience of cultural and political value, of broader understandings of communities and what they mean, and of the question of "literature" (or, more broadly, "expression") in digital contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPostmodern Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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