Eric Ellis


The phenomenon of user-generated content and modification for video games, known as modding, is increasingly common, but why individuals are motivated to engage in significant work for no pay is still poorly understood. Drawing upon the Communities of Practice theories proposed by Jean Lave and Ettienne Wenger, this paper explored the similarities and differences between a community of addon software developers for Blizzard Entertainment's popular Massively Multiplayer Online Game, World of Warcraft, and other Free/Open Source Software communities. Through a series of ethnographic interviews, and an online survey of addon developers, research found the addon development community describes itself primarily as devoted game players rather than software developers, motivated primarily by a desire to fill personal in-game needs, and only later, by the more unclear rewards of contributing to the Community of Practice surrounding addon development Similarly, though addon developers have a strong affinity with many practices and attitudes toward intellectual property espoused by F/OSS communities, they have ultimately coalesced around shared practices which encourage and honor individual ownership of intellectual property, rather than more "free" distribution models. Considering these findings, a new understanding emerges for a specific type of Community of Practice, termed a Community of Passion, that allows future research to more clearly identify and describe a playful and passionate approach to productive activity increasingly seen not only in online gaming communities, but also in other settings such as the emergent Maker communities where creativity and democratized production are valued.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational technology; Computer games -- Programming; World of Warcraft (Game); Video games -- Social aspects; Communities of practice

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Polin, Linda;