Study finds gaming augments players' social lives

Mar 27, 2014 by Matt Shipman
A study from North Carolina State University finds that online gaming is augmenting, not limiting, the social lives of players. Credit: Nick Taylor

New research finds that online social behavior isn't replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players' social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

"Gamers aren't the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they're highly social people," says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. "This won't be a surprise to the gaming community, but it's worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm."

Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.

The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of at the gaming events.

"We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online," Taylor says. "Gaming didn't eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.

"This was true regardless of which games were playing, and whether a player's behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the and still socialize normally offline."

The researchers also found that gamers didn't distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.

"It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity," Taylor says.

Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he's interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.

Explore further: Grand Theft Troll? Anonymity encourages bad behaviour in online computer games, but group discipline wins the day

More information: The paper, "Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings," is published online in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… 1111/jcc4.12054/full

Abstract
As research on virtual worlds gains increasing attention in educational, commercial, and military domains, a consideration of how player populations are 'reassembled' through social scientific data is a timely matter for communication scholars. This paper describes a large-scale study of virtual worlds in which participants were recruited at public gaming events, as opposed to through online means, and explores the dynamic relationships between players and contexts of play that this approach makes visible. Challenging conventional approaches to quantitatively driven virtual worlds research, which categorizes players based on their involvement in an online game at a particular point in time, this account demonstrates how players' networked gaming activities are contingent on who they are playing with, where, and when.

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5 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2014
While I agree that it is a false stereotype, I think their sample size is a bit biased. If you're anti-social, introverted, hate crowds, etc. you'll be less likely to go to an event "in real life". There are also difference in gamers that like to play single player RPG's like Skyrim compared to the massive multiplayer online RPG's like WOW and EVE that are mentioned in the article.

Gaming could provide a common ground for those with such traits to expose themselves to others more than they would normally. But that's just speculation on my part.