MMOs found to promote 'sociability,' researchers say


After examining the form and function of what’s known in the trade as MMOs – massively multiplayer online video games – an interdisciplinary team of researchers concludes that some games “promote sociability and new worldviews.”

The researchers claim that MMOs function not like solitary dungeon cells, but more like virtual coffee shops or pubs where something called “social bridging” takes place. They even liken playing such games as “Asheron’s Call” and “Lineage” to dropping in at “Cheers,” the fictional TV bar “where everybody knows your name.” “By providing places for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function much like the hangouts of old,” they said. And they take it one step further by suggesting that the lack of real-world hangouts “is what is driving the MMO phenomenon” in the first place. The new conceptual study was published in early August in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication under the title, "Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name: Online Games as ‘Third Places.’ "

While they continue to draw fire from many critics, MMOs attract more than 9 million subscribers worldwide, who spend on average 20 hours a week “in-game.”

“To argue that their MMO game play is isolated and passive media consumption that takes the place of informal social engagement is to ignore the nature of what participants actually do behind the computer screen,” the authors wrote. Still, they suggest that heavy game play might not be healthy in the short term for people who need strong connections, since it could take the place of strong offline relationships. “It’s really a question of what kind of balance the person has in their life,” Williams said. "For that reason, online spaces are not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon that can simply be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ " The authors suggest that now may be a good time to reconsider how new media are affecting people. “Perhaps it is not that contemporary media use has led to a decline in civic and social engagement, as many have argued, but rather, that a decline in civic and social engagement has led to a ‘retribalization’ through contemporary media.”

This is great news, as I can now justify scientifically the wasting of the enormous number of hours, nay, days, months, I spent playing EQ,AC,WoW,CoH/V,EQII, and all those “beta tests”. ;)

Improved sociabilty? Yes. Improved sex life? No.

  • Alan

My headline is probably more accurate.

Perhaps one day we can be hermetically sealed into pods filled with hypoallergenic gel, feeding and breathing tubes, and an interweb connection directly to our brains. That would enable us download porn (straight to our brains!), telecommute to work, watch amusing web videos, and play our favorite MMOs all at the same time. You could cure cancer, read about Seanbaby’s latest exploits and level your 32nd alt to level 70 in no time. I’m sure there wouldn’t be many side effects… that a thousand hours of acupuncture wouldn’t cure anyway.

Personally, I am going to hold out for a flying car instead.

A friend of mine–who could be a royal asshat at times–once said this to me: The good thing about EQ is it taught me to be nice to people.

Funny, playing MMOs has only increased my distaste for people in general.

I scanned the study and it’s useless crap.
They’re defining sociability as the opportunity to socially interact not anything to do with having social skills. After figuring out that playing MMOs count as social interaction, they conclude that playing MMOs increase social interaction. It doesn’t even address if MMOs increase social skills. The point about exposing people to different world views is true though.

The RightWrong Counter-Study:

My old dorm roommate played more MMO’s than I’ve ever known anyone to play. Another roommate ( it was a triple ) was one of the most popular guys on the floor, and people would often hang out in our room. Tyler, the MMO roommate, would sit in a corner and put his headphones on to play EQII or DAoC. Try to talking to Tyler would go like this:

“Hey Tyler, how did your day go?”

“I hit level 27”

Among other gems… Absolutely the worst socializer I have ever seen. Big kid yet totally disturbed by everyone else.Totally nice guy though.