New research suggests that online interactive game-playing, such as World of Warcraft, is not only “highly socially interactive” for most players, but on average, 1 in 3 players have found themselves to be attracted to another player.
The study found approximately 75 percent of players made “good friends” with someone else in the game environment.
Over 42 percent of women and 26 percent of men who play online games find themselves attracted to another player, the researchers found.
Nearly 40 percent said they would discuss sensitive issues with their online gaming friends, issues they wouldn’t discuss with their real-life friends. Women were more likely to do so than men.
The study, led by Helena Cole and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University in the U.K., was based upon a survey answered by 912 self-selected massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMOPRG) players from 45 countries.
Most subjects who answered the survey were male (70%) and played World of Warcraft (49%). City of Heroes, Ultima Online, EverQuest, Lineage II and RuneScape players were also represented in the survey. World of Warcraft was more popular among women participants (60.5%) versus male participants (44%). World of Warcraft is the largest MMOPRG today, with over 9 million players.
The survey found that the average time spent playing a game online was nearly 23 hours/week.
The mean average age of people who answered the survey was 23.6 years old and 28 percent of survey respondents were over 25 years old.
Researchers said that online game players revealed that that they feel “more themselves” online because they are not judged by their appearance, gender, age, or other personal information.
The study showed that nearly 43% of participants had met with online friends in real-life situations. The researchers wrote that this suggests that online gaming is a social activity or facilitates social activity. Ten percent of players said they developed a physical relationship with another game player.
Male players make more friends online, but females are more likely to meet with online friends.
Only 1 in 5 participants believed their online game playing had a negative impact in relationships with people whom they did not play with.
The researchers concluded, “The virtual world that these games offer allows players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because
of their appearance, gender, sexuality, age, or other factors. They also offer a place where teamwork, encouragement, and fun can be experienced.”
The study was published in the August 2007 issue of CyberPsychology and Behavior.
Source: Cole, H. & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4(10), 575-583.