Third Place

I had been doing a little research ( aka using *googlefoo) to develop an idea for another post and I found this post by David Gagnon “Blizzards World Of Warcraft as a social space”  exploring “third places” as defined by Oldenberg a sociologist in  1999 in his book ” The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community” David expands on the concept  of   Virtual worlds being a ‘Third place” by refering to WOW.  The Idea of a virtual world as a Third place was  the main idea behind  “In Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) name  ‘Steinkueler and Williams’

Third Place – as defined in Wikipedia ( because my local books store didn’t have a copy of Oldenbergs book in stock) as being a 3rd social space that is separate from home and work. “Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.”

I’ve had some places I would like to think were Third Places in  my time.  For a little while there was a pub that had a cheap steak night on a Friday when you bought a beer,  there was long  tables and  long benches, and I spent many a friday night after work rocking up to this place knowing that at any moment a familiar face and or a friend would walk through that door.  I never felt ‘alone’ there was engaging conversation,  and good people.  Did it foster creative interaction? I’m not sure,  but the fostering of ideas, and intelligent conversation and some really odd discussions, and the odd game to two,  it was a lot of fun.

Regulars in Third Places

I think Wow is a  third place to me. It’s just there. It’s a place to hang out,  always has something to do, and lots of familar people.  However as a ‘third place’  my sence of community comes more from my blogging then I get from WOW in game. It has been difficult to maintain a real relationship/friendship from Wow.  There is/was a few almost reals relationships, but finding that genuine,    sit in the pub with you and have a beer regularly/catch up for coffee / talk regularly / believe you  are important enough in someones life,  not your toon, be friends forever it’s rare. So many of our relationships in game are very much temporary, and it takes alot of work to keep it going when you do not have wow in common.  The few relationships I consider as real are important to me.

However I have been aware of the shallow nature of some friendships  and this become so much more apparent when they get annoyed and faction change without telling you. ( that is one example)  and others just drift………. off……..       Or I  have upset them to the point conversation is awkward, or I get removed from their life completely. Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I am looking for a Third place somewhere where it’s not. I expect to find real people in a virtual place because I think I project the ‘real’ me into a virtual place. *


Third places are supposed to be places of creative interaction. I could liken Wow as being a Third Place most clearly as a’ place to foster creative interaction’  mainly because I think things like the blogosphere is part of that creative interaction ( other examples would be  Artists, Machinma, Add on developers)  and these communities are almost a ‘Third Place on their own.  I don’t get involved in this community maybe as often as I should. We stay connected through each other and our blogs and comments,  through witter,  the Blog Azeroth Forums, podcasts. ( We have stayed away from Facebook so far)  Yet  we rarely band together as a singular community on our own.  We have our own factions, and cliques. I guess regular tables we sit it.   Maybe it’s just too big and you need to sit somewhere. However  WOW indirectly is responsible for our blogging – and hence then fosters our continued creativity.

Attracting new members

 One of the criteria for a Third Place  according to Oldenberg is

“Regulars – Long term members should project a mood and attract new members.”

David posts some chat logs from trade  while leveling a character a character of his own, as below, and puts the message into a category as to the intent behind the message as evidence of community.

However  he didn’t include the responses to these messages, and in light of a qualifier of the Third Place  as above,  ‘projecting a mood and attracting new members’   I have prepared standard responses, to  some of the trade questions/statements

Chat Log from Game


1. 6//29 16:03:19.213  [2. Trade] Larrow: Why do people use trade for LFG? Discussions about the norms of player use of in-game’s tools
2. 6/29 16:04:19.690  [2. Trade] Glados: Looking to ask the help of a guildless person Requests for advice
3. 6/29 16:05:32.562  [2. Trade] Clinhin: lol thats bull%^&*, the extended maintenance realms wont come up until tomorrow Commentary about the game’s infrastructure
4. 6/29 16:06:10.676  [2. Trade] Nickademis: im looking to get in a guild my lvl65 Requests to join a team
5. 6/29 16:06:36.615  [2. Trade] Bloodsabre: what’s the best raid build for DK and rogue Consultation on game strategy
6. 6/29 15:46:37.840  [2. Trade] Kimaran: EVERYONE REPORT FROST FOR SPAM Group self-governing

This is how regulars would have responded to the questions asked in trade.

1. GTFO Noob

2.  Would mostly get no response.  I am assuming they want people to sign their guild charter. However he has offered no incentive to sign one eg “Paying 10 gold to sign Guild charter” and hasn’t even been clear about what he wants.

3. Possibly agreed to by other trade chat commentors –  eg ” stupid blizzard’   or ‘ I want a day’s free play”

4. Mostly probably no response. A level 15 is useless to a raiding guild, he may get a response from the local “Lets see how many people we get can get guild”

5. He might get refered to EJ, or people will try to give him misinformation to mock him. Generally the public response will be  – this is not the place to ask questions like that, and he should have done his own research.  He might get a few private whispers directing him to a place to get the information, and if he is really lucky and listens maybe one person willing to take the time to help him out

6. Frost  will probably respond “F U ” and or “Everyone report Kimaran for spam”

Basically it is shameful that trade could be perceived as the normal way we interact in the game, but it is the main hub of communication in this ‘third place’ yes we can survive without it, but it’s the only thing that unifys a faction in that we all have access to it often, or any time we are in a city, but really it is also the dregs of our ‘society’   There is  generally no projection of a good mood, and certainly isn’t  welcoming to newer players.  You mean get friendly to strangers? 

“Can you help me please”..    a new player asks


” I need 1o gold ….”



I think Guilds, and to varying degrees ( depending on how friendly your guild is) guild chat is the only place available in game for fostering this sence of belonging and welcoming to new players.

Has trade chat ever made you feel welcome?

Once upon a time I’m sure someone had this nobel idea of creating a guild for newbies. A place they could ask stupid questions. Get help and so on.  We rely very much on being adopted by more experienced players to teach us the ropes now.  This is my friend ‘Jack’ he is scub, but he’s me mate, so be nice”  You are nice to Jack because his friend is helping.  You would not want Jack in your guild without his friend. 

I was invited to my first guild by a  GM who was looking to create a safe place where he could play WOW with his two children, and was looking for friendly, nice people to fill it.  Most of us where noobs,  but we learnt and  I got to grow up in a happy environment, and I only left when I went looking to stretch my wings into more serious content and I learnt that the rest of the world wasn’t like my 1st guild.  If my 1st guild had been bad my wow experience would have been different.   

Your Third Places

Regardless about this relationship failing business  – because I do know that people do find and maintain good realtionships in game, in conclusion I would count WOW as a ‘Third place’ for me. I’ve not tried too many more MMO’s – I haven’t wanted to, but for now I can’t see anyone else offering the things I do get out Wow as a game, entertainment, a creative outlet, interaction with real people,  and of course challenge, and somewhere to go.  However I think you cannot replace reality with a virtual environment, and being able to sit at a real world ‘Third Place’  ( PUB)  after work ( yeah for no raiding) with my best friend and perve on all the men in business suits with a beer in our hands Is just as awesome.  

I no longer have my Friday ‘Third place’ with cheap steak, but I am sure there will be others along the way, but for now,  WOW is my biggest “third place” is it yours?

*shall be expanding on this at a later post.

6 Responses to “Third Place”

  1. 2 KiwiRed October 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    My third place these days is a video chat site, where I chat (usually just in text) with the other regulars while I play the room jazz from my slowly growing collection of mp3s (although I make it a point to remain clothed while cammed up, unlike a few of the participants who’re more… in touch with their inner exhibitionist). These days WoW has effectively turned into single-player game for me, at least in terms relations with others in-game (although there’s a handful of ex-guildies I chat with in passing); interactions with others are usually limited to random LFDs with people I’ll never see again, or trying to beat the auctionbots. (I think creating my vanity guild has been an act of acceptance of this new personal status quo)

  2. 3 Bristal October 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I totally count WoW as a third place. I’m married, I have good relationships with work people, but I really don’t socialize much. I really don’t want to. My wife and my dog and my home are all I really need to be happy.

    I got into video games 4 or 5 years ago primarily to appreciate the technology. I played Oblivion for a year. Loved it. But when I finally tried WoW, I realized how “alone” I was in Oblivion.

    When I log in to WoW, even if I don’t chat with a single person (and I usually don’t), it’s just comforting knowing there are other people there. It is just like going to a coffee shop to read. I don’t really want to talk to anyone, but I really like being with them, anyway.

  3. 4 Syl October 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. I think it hits on a topic I’ve brushed myself recently, about WoW having become a lot more than just an MMO to many. It’s a place to go relax with people you’ve known for years and feel connected to, it’s a ‘commodity’ you’re paying for every month almost in the same way you pay for all your other monthly services and fixed expenses. Even if you don’t actually ‘play WoW’ in an active way (by engaging its content), you’re likely to keep paying it to have it available, to keep in touch with your communities there, to have access to that third place you described.

  4. 5 MollyBerry October 19, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Great article as usual! I find that I am constantly having to explain the social and personal draw to an MMO- wow in particular- and this seems to sum it up. Yes, wow is my third place. Though I like BFBC2 as well…but I don’t chat much- mostly just headshot people and run them over with a tank 🙂

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Third Place « Pugnacious Priest's Warcraft Blog -- Trackback on October 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm
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