Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture


I’ve updated this ‘About’ section as of September 12, 2016. *Even more* has changed!

Hello and welcome to my intermittently updated blog about my research and interest in all things games (and beyond).

I am currently a senior lecturer in computer games at Teesside University where I teach undergraduates and postgraduates (graduate students) on games design, research methods in creative subjects (like digital art, concept art, animation, games design), and contemporary studies in games. I am also a member of the Digital Futures Institute at Teesside.

In addition, I am a Junior Research Fellow at Hatfield College at Durham University.


This was my update as of May 2014.

I am currently a post-doctoral research associate in cybersecurity and cybercrime within the School of Applied Social Sciences. (More will be posted about this in the coming months.)

This blog was initially created to support my work as a research PhD student at Durham University in the Geography Department. I completed and submitted my PhD in late 2012 and graduated in red in January 2013. I am currently adapting my PhD thesis for a general reading audience.

I feel like I have the best of both worlds here at Durham: a university and city with a centuries’ old tradition and love for scholarship and learning and an innovative academic department that is always ready to explore new questions and ideas. I can’t think of a better place to pursue this research into raiding guilds and online gaming and what it is telling us about modern culture.

I began playing and working on computer games over 13 years ago. I have played World of Warcraft since early 2006. This was my first graphics’-based game and I really enjoyed it. It was also a meeting place of divergent types of gamers. While there are unique and distinct features in all MMOs and all need studying, I have opted to locate my research within WoW and its raiding guilds for two reasons: as big as WoW is, it is still quite understudied, and as I am already well established within the raiding culture of WoW, I knew I could better connect with gamers in this environment.

I am doing this research because I feel that while the broader, more casual aspects of games are studied and there is a lot of work done on the social and interpersonal outcomes of games on broader society, raiders and raiding culture is less studied. Raiders form their own kind of ‘subculture’ and within it resides a clear set of expectations, standards, and norms. It is this culture that I hope to map and describe through my research. Through this work I hope to shed a light on what is real in raiding culture and the ways that raiders interact.

I am always happy to speak with *any* raider or raiding guild who would like to share their perspective on raiding and the raiding culture. We can set up interviews, have casual discussions, or use email as a forum–just let me know! :) Please feel free to contact me at t.l.cockshut[at]

20 Comments to “About”

  1. Sally (Muffey) says:

    Nice website, well done! Looking forward to reading more of your research.

  2. Excellent blog, good information is selected, more would be such.

  3. Hi there, really interesting stuff!!! I am really interested in this area of games-related research; just started a PhD down in York sociology department (not far from you!) on ‘play, work and professionalism in digital games’… It’s so good to know that there are others in the UK interested in this stuff … Sometimes I get the feeling that I am alone in thinking this stuff worthwhile for research :-( … Your website has made my day :-)

  4. Neil Wilson says:

    I’m more of a ‘casual’ Wow player, but this research is interesting. The hardcore raiding people are often a bit of a mystery to ordinary palyers, so shedding some light on their (possibly) obsessive chase for perfection is worth doing.

  5. @Thomas: Great news! Your research area sounds really exciting. I actually looked at the sociology department at York when considering where to do my PhD. Great university down there! Maybe we ought to plan some seminars or sessions for like minded people as I also feel quite isolated in my work. Not many doing it from a geography perspective, really.

    @Neil: Definitely the time a hard core raider puts into playing can seem mind boggling at times. I guess for me, it’s been about trying to see what qualities keep the raiding world going and what motivates people. Obsession can definitely come into play sometimes, from my observational experience.

  6. Dominique says:

    Hi Ladan,

    I’ve been playing WoW before for 3 years (I recently stopped to pursue other interest) in a raiding guild.

    It wasn’t the more hardcore raiding guild but it wasn’t a low-end either. The leaders/officers of that guild wanted people to be friendly to each other and I believe that this friendliness in non-raid content was creating this social web between the members which then achieved better in raids.

    I like your idea of studying the raid aspect of WoW because I think it is a social activity very different from PvP or other online aspects of gaming. From the point of view of the raid leader, I would relate that more to Project Management than playing a video game!

    Anyway, when you finish your Ph.D., can I get a copy of your Thesis?

    Good luck!

  7. Hey Dominique,

    Very nice to hear from you. :)

    I am definitely in agreement with you that social cohesion seems to be one of the more predominant requisites for guilds to succeed. No matter the level of raiding, if you don’t have a shared notion of social connection you will struggle.

    I am not quite sure what I’m going to do with my thesis once it’s done, but I was thinking about making it available to interested readers once it’s done (toward the end of this year). Could put you to sleep, though. Thanks for your interest! I’ll let you know :)

  8. Awesome!

    It’s great seeing more people look into raiding. I only know of two other dissertations on raiding, though, I’m sure there must be more out there. When I saw a friend tweet about this blog, I thought to myself, how could I not have met this person?? I wish graduate students from around the world had some way of better communicating or meeting each other who share similar interests, especially with others who are outside their home discipline!

    Anyway, don’t know if you already know about these:

    Chen, M. (2009). Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture, 4(1), 47-73.

    Malone, Krista-Lee (2009). “Dragon Kill Points: The Economics of Power Gamers”. Games and Culture 4 (3): 296. doi:10.1177/1555412009339731

    Walter, S. E. (2009). Raiding virtual middle earth: Collaborative practices in a community of gamers (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 2009).

    Williams, D., Ducheneaut, N., Xiong, L., Zhang, Y., Yee, N., & Nickell, E. (2006). From tree house to barracks: The social life of guilds in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture, 1(4), 338-361.

    Wolfenstein, Moses. (2010). Serious play: Exploring virtual leadership practices in the MMO World of Warcraft. Presentation at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Denver, CO.
    Taylor, T. L. (2009). The assemblage of play. Games and Culture, 4(4), 331-339.

    and my recent dissertation on WoW raiding

    One thing that’s clear is that raiding has changed since when I wrote about it. Perhaps a collaboration is in our future? :)

  9. Love the approach. During my time in the world of warcraft, and with unfinished background studies in psychology, science and philosophy, my mind has always drifted of in-game, pondering and measuring in-game behavior up against real life behavior, finding core emotions expressed in probably a less censored manner than you would see in real life, but at the same time more honest to the the true nature of whats inside of us at different times. I’ve fallen into thoughts on economics, leadership, addictions, control, peak performance, neuro-linguistic programming, change and evolution, and much more. On how some people persist as friends, while others don’t and why they did or didn’t. How addiction may still bring people into the game, when their burnt out and should take a brake and how this reflect on other types of addictions in real life. How people with concentration difficulties, manage to perform at peak level in this game, and where they in real life would never read up on something important for a test, here they may use hours before a raid to prepare and be sure to know the facts before the big test. The interactions are so many, and reflects so many real life behaviors in a direct fashion, and makes up for such a good platform for studies into human interactions. Even discussions with people who never played the game, or any similar game, is something of rare interest, but always a good fight.

    I would like to see a more collective community for this type of work, and love what you’ve done here so far. Keep it up.

  10. Hi there! I’m also a UK PhD student and former raider studying games. I’m in the department of Chinese Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I’d love to get your contact info – it would be lovely to talk to someone with shared interests.

  11. Wow! I’m very much amazed with this website. I’m currently an undegrad student in Puerto Rico and for my “Methods in Investigation for Psychology” class, me and 2 more people made a small research in gaming. My specific inspiration for it was the fact that I’ve been playing WoW for a year now and I would love to do more research in a graduate level about the aspects of the whole WoW community. I wish I would have had for my project the references that people beofre me have posted though. I would love to know more about the results of your research – Keep it up and good luck!


  12. Hello.
    I am curious, and perhaps I cannot find it on your website, but what is your hypothesis or research question(s)? I assume this is a qualitative study and I was curious as to what type of qualitative study it is e.g. ethnographic, historical, etceteras.

    I wish you the best of luck while you ‘write-up’ your materials. Having gone through the process I can attest it is (in some respects) quite an undertaking of time and commitment.

  13. I am currently doing my 3rd year psychology dissertation on “leadership in online games”.
    Having played a significant amount of WoW in my day and having ended up with a lovely raid leader as my partner from it, it seemed like the perfect area to look into for a research.
    Firstly, thank you for this site as it is very interesting and kind of kept me motivated that my research is worthwhile. And secondly, is there any chance you could share your thesis when you publish it?
    This game, its content and the way people work with it are a veritable gold mine for people attempting to research it and it would be very useful if all we gather could be pooled together for future reference and future generations to get a look at.
    Again, thank you very much and with you all the best!

  14. Hello Laden I am amazed with the website and I love everybit of it I am still playing WoW atm and even though my guild is not a hardcore raiding guild I still love to share my thoughts about the realm i play on sometime.

    I am a fan of this type of research myself and interested in it.

  15. Hello Laden,

    I’m doing a Master of Arts in Performance Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts, and as part of my research into groups and interaction I’ve turned my guild into a direct democracy and I’m observing what happens on my blog

    I think your research is quite interesting! Very extensive, too!

  16. My first choice was “New raiding content and raiding race”, without a doubt.
    The second was “New quests and PVP content” but changed it to “Going for some new level caps and achievements” as PvP is not what i am looking for at all.
    You can’t put questing and PvP in one option as they are totally different experiences.

  17. Hi Laden,

    I’ve just finished reading your article on the BBC News website about Mists of Pandaria, and upon reading the name of your thesis, I’d like to add my name to the list of people interested in reading it.

    I stopped playing WoW a few years back, but have been playing various MMOs since 2003, starting with Star Wars Galaxies, and most recently Beta testing Mechwarrior Online.

    In WoW, I was a member of a casual/social guild that did some raiding. We weren’t the best raiders, of course, but we were alright. One thing that I never got the hang of was the people in the top end ‘hardcore’ raiding guilds. I’m sure there were some friendly hardcore raiders out there, but every one of them that I spoke to seemed to have their heads so far up their own backsides they could see daylight (if you’ll pardon the expression). I could understand a bit of arrogance, but why did they spend so much time looking down on everyone else?

    In the past 9 years though, I think you are the first ‘Gaming Researcher’ I’ve ever heard of. It sounds like a fun career choice. How do I sign up? Lol.

  18. Hi Laden,

    My name is sam from It is a MMO research site focusing on in-game currency and virtual ecomomic.

    I came across to your site, and found that the content in your site is very interesting. I’ve seen that you are a gaming researher too.

    Are you planning on writing something about virtual economy? If you plan to write about it and need information or reference, we surely can help you with it. Here’s an example


  19. Hi Laden,

    I came across your site while doing research on my masters in sociology. I am looking at the concept of collective effervescence (Durkheim), with the help of Goffman and R.Collins, and whether or not group solidarity is a result of raiding. Any current literature you would recommend?

  20. Hi Ladan –

    My name is Dan Patterson – I’m a New York-based journalist. I really dig your work and would love to learn what’s become of your research. Would you have any interest in coming on a podcast to discuss raiding and academia? Here are a few of the interviews I’ve conducted:

    On a personal note, I have a good friend also doing PhD work at Durham. Seems like a wonderful place!

    Ping me any time. Thanks!

    - Dan Patterson


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