Massively multiplayer games can be a global melting pot. Hop into “World of Warcraft” or “Guild Wars” and your North American warrior can rub shoulders with an Australian healer.
But more often than not, online gamers are more apt to hang out with people in their neighborhoods than people on the next continent, says a new study. The analysis, which tracked the playing habits of 7,000 people in Sony Online’s “EveryQuest II,” says gamers game with people they know: friends, friends of friends and family.
If you looked at the roster for Brotherhood of Oblivion, you’d see that this seems to be the case: a significant part of the “core” group are a bunch of co-workers (and a girlfriend or two-hi!). Many of the others happen to be nearby, and we’ve since come to know them IRL-the rogue who prompted my most infamous post has been over for a LAN party before.
But there’s any number of them from further corners of the world that I’ve never met. If you look at previous guilds I’ve been in, I either knew none of them, or only one or two.
It’s not just raiding guilds, either-if you look at my smaller, more ‘homey’ RP guilds, I didn’t know any of them, either! There’s always a few units inside a guild that know each other-siblings, significant others, a couple of friends-but those tend to be smaller parts of the whole, from what I’ve seen.
Is my experience just that off?
“These aren’t necessarily the new weirdos, these are the weirdos that you already knew,” says Williams, who is an assistant professor of communications at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School.
That comment just made me lol.
Another finding: Players who reported being depressed was disproportionately high in “EverQuest II.” But there’s a second sentence to that bullet point: Depression was particularly pronounced among those who played on role-playing servers.
Contractor, ever the scientist, says there are two explanations for depressed people playing the role-playing servers on “EverQuest.” One is that role-playing games make people depressed. But he thinks the more plausible answer is that these role-playing sanctuaries are an outlet for people with depression, a way to escape into a completely different character.
If these games can provide tools for people who have depression, or are feeling isolated in real life, it’s an opportunity for release, he says. “These are promising avenues for helping sections of society that may feel disenfranchised in the offline world.”
No, they just stumble into my RP sessions and infect it with their emo.