Deconstructing Cosmetic Virtual Goods Experiences in Dota 2
Cosmetic items do not provide functional advantages in games, but, nevertheless, they play an important role in the overall player experience. Possessing predominantly socially-constructed dimensions of value, cosmetic items are chosen, discussed, assessed, and valuated in an ongoing iterative collaborative process by communities of players. In our study, we explore the case of Dota 2 and apply Topic Modeling to community-discussions data gathered from Reddit.com. We describe social experiences related to the valuation of cosmetic items in interaction and collision of various logics, including artificial scarcity, decomposition of visual effects, and connectedness to the game lore. Our findings connect the collective experience of players in the game and on online community platforms, suggesting that non-utility-based social value construction becomes an important part of game experience.