Dragon Kill Points: The Economics of Power Gamers
Krista-Lee M. Malone
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
August 18, 2007
Games and Culture, Forthcoming
World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG). The end-game of WoW consists of complex encounters requiring large, highly organized groups (called raids) in order to be successfully engaged. This complexity has led to the common practice of organizing raiding guilds (self-governing communities of players within a MMORPG). Raiding guilds often have a hierarchical political structure in which leaders must be able to legitimate their political position in order to demand participation of their members. In a symbiotic relationship of political structure and individual desire, a guild must be able to guarantee advancement through the game in tandem with the individuals' acquisition of valuable items (loot). Loot distribution is problematic, however, because of the game mechanics involved. For each high level encounter the guild successfully engages, the amount of loot obtained is less than the number of players present. To compensate for this it has become common for raiding guilds to create or adopt intra-guild economic systems called Dragon Kill Point systems (DKP). It is DKP, I argue, that generates, in large part, the motivation and political cohesion necessary for a guild to be able to successfully engage the end-game content of MMORPGs. DKP is guild specific, but important nonetheless for its effects on value and reciprocity. It creates player obligation to the guild through a rationalized system intended to measure commitment. DKP is also unique in the way it straddles the boundary between MMORPGs and the physical world; for it is of neither domain.
Keywords: DKP, MMORPG, Guilds, Games, Value, Reciprocity
Date posted: August 20, 2007 ; Last revised: July 27, 2008