What do players do when they can’t talk to each other directly? Argue on the forums, it seems to be. We studied the forum users of the popular card game Hearthstone, looking at how they negotiated the use of emotes.
Players argued, negotiated, ranted and preached about the proper use of the emotes, frequently disagreeing on what they actually meant in different contexts. Some players seemed to long for a set meaning for the different emotes, but there didn’t seem to be any way to reach a consensus on what that meaning would be, since different people used them differently.
Our research focused on BM or Bad Manners, which is a word used to mean anything the players find offensive in the game. The developers of Hearthstone try to remove offensive and negative behaviour from the game by limiting how players can interact with each other. It only seems to work partially: players use the few means possible to creatively be offensive to each other. The right emote just at the right time can be as annoying as anything you could write in a chat.
Some players had the opposite problem: because there is no way to make sure whether the intention behind an emote is polite or not, they interpret all emotes in the most negative way possible, seeing everything in the game as trolling. It seems that anything can BM if you have the worst expectations.
Want to read more? Go see:
Arjoranta, J., & Siitonen, M. (2018). Why Do Players Misuse Emotes in Hearthstone? Negotiating the Use of Communicative Affordances in an Online Multiplayer Game. Game Studies, 18(2). Retrieved from http://gamestudies.org/1802/articles/arjoranta_siitonen