Discord, a voice-based communication platform focused on gamers, has soared in popularity ever since its release in 2015. Along with a rapid increase in user count, the platform also saw a rise in public servers created for the purpose of providing a virtual space for people to meet and “hang out”. With the surge of people’s online activity in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, these social hubs are growing in size more than ever before, some of which having attracted hundreds of thousands of members. “ChillZone”, a Discord community with over 350.000 members in total as of 2022, is one example of such cases. This study examines the main reasons to which ChillZone members join, and more importantly, actively participate in the server. As one of the only platforms allowing voice-based communication in a community setting, Discord’s unique combination of affordances and how they play a part in facilitating community participation is a significant focus of research. As such, the present study asks the following research question: “How do Discord’s affordances encourage members’ participation in the ChillZone Discord server?” By performing thematic analysis on a combination of qualitative interview and naturalistic observation data, this study aims to draw out patterns to paint a holistic picture of the appeal of voice-based communities such as ChillZone. The data revealed four main motivations to participate in the ChillZone community, namely social contact, relationship among members, entertainment, and community values. The current study suggests that these four motivations are underpinned by intrinsically motivated gratifications, giving a possible passage of explanation to members’ prolonged participation in the community. It was also found that the unique combination of affordances, most notably the real-time, voice-based communication, synchronous content broadcasting, were able to create a sense of virtual social space among members, with enhanced social presence, allowing members to engage in activities that were otherwise impersonal or non-social, as well as the formation of high-quality relationships and connection that had traditionally been more associated with face-to-face relationships. Thus, the findings of the study indicate the emergence of new possibilities with VoIP communities, especially in terms of providing an alternative for real-life social interactions.

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Yosha Wijngaarden
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Vu Ha Dao. (2022, June 27). Why are Discord social communities gaining popularity? A case study of the ChillZone Discord server. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/64947