Social interactions in MMORPGS take the form of in-game communication, virtual behaviors, and the development of interpersonal and group relationships. In massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), cooperation between players to accomplish difficult tasks is often an integral mechanic of gameplay, and organized groups of players, often called guilds, clans, or factions, emerge. Sometimes the relationships players from within the game spill over into friendships or romantic relationships in the material world. In other instances, romantic partners and groups of material world friends find that playing together strengthens their bonds.
Online dating is a system that enables people to find and introduce themselves to new personal connections over the Internet, usually with the goal of developing personal, romantic, or sexual relationships. An online dating service is a company that provides specific mechanisms for online dating through the use of Internet-connected personal computers or mobile devices. Such companies offer a wide variety of unmoderated matchmaking services, most of which are profile-based.
MMORPG players take on an avatar, a humanoid graphical representation of themselves, in the game. Players usually have great latitude in designing the physical appearance, gender, and race of their avatar. Players also select their role, profession or class, each of which comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Games scholar Nick Yee classifies avatars into two categories, a projection or idealization of one’s identity or an experiment with a new identity. The avatar, as a representation of the self, creates the first impression and is the first means of communicating with other players.
In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego or character. An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc. It may take either a three-dimensional form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and other online communities. Avatar images have also been referred to as "picons" in the past, though the usage of this term is uncommon now. It can also refer to a text construct found on early systems such as MUDs. The term "avatar" can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user.
Nick Yee is an American researcher who studies self-representation and social interaction in virtual environments. Yee earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Haverford College and received his Ph.D. in communication from Stanford University in 2007. He is a research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center in California.
Communication between players typically takes the form of typed chat and the animated gestures and expressions of the avatar.
A study by Nicholas Yee, titled The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships and Problematic Usage, found that combat-oriented collaborations can become very complex. Typical battle scenarios involve groups of four to eight users facing sophisticated artificial intelligence. Strategies decided upon via communication via typed conversations, and individual actions, based upon their individual personalities, may risk others in the group.Unlike many real world situations, MMORPG users can choose team members and find like-minded others. While some individuals may be outcasts in the real world, they can become whomever they want in these virtual worlds, and can find other players with similar interests and personalities. In one survey, 39.4% of males and 53.3% of females felt that their MMORPG companions were comparable to or even better than their real world friends. PBS Frontline's documentary, Growing Up Online, found that humans seek not only mental and emotional connections, but also physical presence. For some, MMORPGs can provide valuable lessons that then can be applied to the outside world. However, reliance on the internet, or possible internet addiction may also lead to "physical" social isolation.
Video game addiction (VGA) has been suggested by some in the medical community as a distinct behavioral addiction characterized by excessive or compulsive use of computer games or video games that interferes with a person's everyday life. Video game addiction may present itself as compulsive gaming, social isolation, mood swings, diminished imagination, and hyper-focus on in-game achievements, to the exclusion of other events in life.
In a study performed by Nick Yee, 39.4% of male respondents and 53.3% of female respondents rated their MMORPG friends as comparable or better than their material world friends. There are a number of theories about why strong relationships form in virtual worlds.The players in these environments are likely to already have much in common. For example, in one study 36% of respondents work in the IT industry and 68% of respondents have experience with table-top role-playing games. In addition to sharing professional and entertainment interests, players are also likely to share common personality traits associated with these fields.
The high-stress crisis scenarios that groups encounter in combat-oriented play, paired with player’s emotional investment in the environment, may build trust among the players.MMORPG’s also rely on fantastic metaphors and cultural myths, including ideas of chivalric romance, that encourage idealization of persons and relationships.
The restricted nature of the communication between players may allow a sender to carefully craft their self-presentation and the receiver may inflate the relatively few pieces of communication into an idealized picture of the sender. Because avatars are capable of only a subset of human gestures and expressions miscommunication or slippages in coordination (i.e. communication that is overlapping, missed, or late) do occur.
Although perceptions of these virtual interactions are often inaccurate, the lack of cues and increased control over how a player presents themselves sometimes facilitate romantic relationships.In-game marriage ceremonies are one way that players express affection for one another. An in-game marriage may also represent a strategic alliance or other storytelling mechanism.
However, some relationships initiated in the game environment carry over to the material world. According to Nicholas Yee, 15.7% of male MMORPG players and 5.1% of female MMORPG players physically dated someone they met in an MMORPG.
In MMORPGs, players can choose what type of character they want to play and design their appearance. One potential positive side effect of that is difficulty in stereotyping, as all players have equal ability to design themselves, regardless of their initial appearance.There is also the potential for "identity tourism". The choice to enact oneself as a light-skinned male elf, say, could allow a black female player to appropriately role-play her character in the desired fashion without being rejected by the community. Anonymity may encourage deviance from the game's objectives and the group's decisions, as most MMORPG players feel safe from repercussions in the material world.
Many players of both genders find themselves gender-switching while creating an online avatar. This allows for more freedom of expression in ways that real life cannot incorporate. Despite the gender of the player, studies show that players tend to adhere to the gender roles of their avatar's gender and even purposefully choose to be that gender because of how it changes the way they are treated.Some players express that they gender-switch because they get to experiment with looks and behaviors they would not get to in real life. Gender-switching on the internet is not a new phenomenon and has been occurring since the early days of online interaction. Even still, players often claim that gender-switching, despite imposed or purposeful gender-role-fulfillment, has helped to change their outlook on gameplay.
MMORPGs function as communication platforms not unlike established social media like Facebook. As such, the CIA expressed great worries about the use of MMORPGs as a secret communications channel for terrorists. On February 15, 2008, the office of the Director of National Intelligence provided Congress with the Data Mining Report. In this report the existence of the so-called Reynard Project was disclosed. The aim of the Reynard Project is described as follows:
"Reynard is a seedling effort to study the emerging phenomenon of social (particular terrorist) dynamics in virtual worlds and large-scale online games and their implications for the Intelligence Community. The cultural and behavioral norms of virtual worlds and gaming are generally unstudied. Therefore, Reynard will seek to identify the emerging social, behavioral and cultural norms in virtual worlds and gaming environments. The project would then apply the lessons learned to determine the feasibility of automatically detecting suspicious behavior and actions in the virtual World. If it shows early promise, this small seedling effort may increase its scope to a full project."
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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world.
An internet relationship is a relationship between people who have met online, and in many cases know each other only via the Internet. Online relationships are similar in many ways to pen pal relationships. This relationship can be romantic, platonic, or even based on business affairs. An internet relationship is generally sustained for a certain amount of time before being titled a relationship, just as in-person relationships. The major difference here is that an internet relationship is sustained via computer or online service, and the individuals in the relationship may or may not ever meet each other in person. Otherwise, the term is quite broad and can include relationships based upon text, video, audio, or even virtual character. This relationship can be between people in different regions, different countries, different sides of the world, or even people who reside in the same area but do not communicate in person.
A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific social media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals. Some of the most pervasive virtual communities are online communities operating under social networking services.
A virtual economy is an emergent economy existing in a virtual world, usually exchanging virtual goods in the context of an Internet game. People enter these virtual economies for recreation and entertainment rather than necessity, which means that virtual economies lack the aspects of a real economy that are not considered to be "fun". However, some people do interact with virtual economies for "real" economic benefit.
Educational games are games explicitly designed with educational purposes, or which have incidental or secondary educational value. All types of games may be used in an educational environment. Educational games are games that are designed to help people to learn about certain subjects, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand a historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play. Game types include board, card, and video games. An educational game is a game designed to teach humans about a specific subject and to teach them a skill. As educators, governments, and parents realize the psychological need and benefits of gaming have on learning, this educational tool has become mainstream. Games are interactive play that teach us goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They satisfy our fundamental need to learn by providing enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion in the game itself while the learning takes place.
A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment which may be populated by many users who can create a personal avatar, and simultaneously and independently explore the virtual world, participate in its activities and communicate with others. These avatars can be textual, two or three-dimensional graphical representations, or live video avatars with auditory and touch sensations. In general, virtual worlds allow for multiple users but single player computer games, such as Skyrim, can also be considered a type of virtual world.
Furcadia is a free-to-play MMOSG/MMORPG or graphical MUD, set in a fantasy world inhabited by magical creatures. The game is based on user-created content with emphasis on world building tools, exploring, socializing, and free-form roleplaying. Furcadia hosts a large volunteer program called the Beekin Helpers, allowing players to help with community moderation, welcoming new players, handling in-game technical support, running in game events, creating art for the game itself, accessing and updating the game's website, and bug hunting. Furcadia holds the Guinness World Records title for the longest continuously running social MMORPG and in addition to being one of the first games to heavily encourage modding and let users build virtual worlds for themselves, it was also one of the first freemium online games. In 2008, Furcadia was reported as having over 60,000 players.
Habitat is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by LucasArts. It is the first attempt at a large-scale commercial virtual community that was graphic based. Initially created in 1985 by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar, the game was made available as a beta test in 1986 by Quantum Link, an online service for the Commodore 64 computer and the corporate progenitor to AOL. Both Farmer and Morningstar were given a First Penguin Award at the 2001 Game Developers Choice Awards for their innovative work on Habitat. As a graphical MUD it is considered a forerunner of modern MMORPGs unlike other online communities of the time. Habitat had a GUI and large user base of consumer-oriented users, and those elements in particular have made Habitat a much-cited project and acknowledged benchmark for the design of today's online communities that incorporate accelerated 3D computer graphics and immersive elements into their environments.
An online game is a video game that is either partially or primarily played through the Internet or any other computer network available. Online games are ubiquitous on modern gaming platforms, including PCs, consoles and mobile devices, and span many genres, including first-person shooters, strategy games and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).
An online text-based role playing game is a role-playing game played online using a solely text-based interface. Online text-based role playing games date to 1978, with the creation of MUD1, which began the MUD heritage that culminates in today's MMORPGs. Some online-text based role playing games are video games, but some are organized and played entirely by humans through text-based communication. Over the years, games have used TELNET, internet forums, IRC, email and social networking websites as their media.
Internet identity (IID), also online identity or internet persona, is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. It can also be considered as an actively constructed presentation of oneself. Although some people choose to use their real names online, some Internet users prefer to be anonymous, identifying themselves by means of pseudonyms, which reveal varying amounts of personally identifiable information. An online identity may even be determined by a user's relationship to a certain social group they are a part of online. Some can even be deceptive about their identity.
Cyberpsychology is a developing field that encompasses all psychological phenomena associated with or affected by emerging technology. Cyber comes from the word cyberspace, the study of the operation of control and communication; psychology is the study of the mind and behavior.
The Bartle taxonomy of player types is a classification of video game players (gamers) based on a 1996 paper by Richard Bartle according to their preferred actions within the game. The classification originally described players of multiplayer online games, though now it also refers to players of single-player video games.
Transformed social interaction (TSI) is a research paradigm and theoretical framework related to social interaction in virtual environments.
The hyperpersonal model is a model of interpersonal communication that suggests computer-mediated communication (CMC) can become hyperpersonal because it "exceeds [face-to-face] interaction", thus affording message senders a host of communicative advantages over traditional face-to-face (FtF) interaction. The hyperpersonal model demonstrates how individuals communicate uniquely, while representing themselves to others, how others interpret them, and how the interactions create a reciprocal spiral of FtF communication. Compared to ordinary FtF situations, a hyperpersonal message sender has a greater ability to strategically develop and edit self-presentation, enabling a selective and optimized presentation of one's self to others.
The Proteus effect describes a phenomenon in which the behavior of an individual, within virtual worlds, is changed by the characteristics of their avatar. This change is due to the individual's knowledge about the behaviors that other users who are part of that virtual environment typically associate with those characteristics. Like the adjective protean, the concept's name is an allusion to the shape changing abilities of the Greek god Proteus. The Proteus effect was first introduced by researchers Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailenson at Stanford University in June 2007.
The Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University. It was founded in 2003 by Jeremy Bailenson, associate professor of communication at Stanford University. The lab conducts research for the Communication Department.
Technoself studies, commonly referred to as TSS, is an emerging, interdisciplinarity domain of scholarly research dealing with all aspects of human identity in a technological society focusing on the changing nature of relationships between the human and technology. As new and constantly changing experiences of human identity emerge due to constant technological change, technoself studies seeks to map and analyze these mutually influential developments with a focus on identity, rather than technical developments. Therefore, the self is a key concept of TSS. The term "technoself", advanced by Luppicini (2013), broadly denotes evolving human identity as a result of the adoption of new technology, while avoiding ideological or philosophical biases inherent in other related terms including cyborg, posthuman, transhuman, techno-human, beman, digital identity, avatar, and homotechnicus though Luppicini acknowledges that these categories "capture important aspects of human identity". Technoself is further elaborated and explored in Luppicini's "Handbook of Research on Technoself: Identity in a Technological Environment".