p407-ducheneaut - CHI 2006 Proceedings Games and...

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“Alone Together?” Exploring the Social Dynamics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games Nicolas Ducheneaut 1 , Nicholas Yee 2 , Eric Nickell 1 , Robert J. Moore 1 1 Palo Alto Research Center 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA {nicolas,nickell,bobmoore}@parc.com 2 Virtual Human Interaction Lab Stanford University, Stanford, CA nyee@stanford.edu ABSTRACT Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) routinely attract millions of players but little empirical data is available to assess their players’ social experiences. In this paper, we use longitudinal data collected directly from the game to examine play and grouping patterns in one of the largest MMOGs: World of Warcraft. Our observations show that the prevalence and extent of social activities in MMOGs might have been previously over-estimated, and that gaming communities face important challenges affecting their cohesion and eventual longevity. We discuss the implications of our findings for the design of future games and other online social spaces. Author Keywords Online communities, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, social dynamics, activity metrics. ACM Classification Keywords H5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): Miscellaneous. INTRODUCTION Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) have become a phenomenon of growing cultural, social, and economic importance, routinely attracting millions of players [22]. The “social factor” is often advanced to explain their popularity: in the words of one player, “it’s the people that are addictive, not the game” [12]. Indeed, most of the activities offered by a MMOG (e.g. developing a character, fighting monsters) are already present in single player games. What makes a difference for many is apparently the shared experience, the collaborative nature of most activities and, most importantly, the reward of being socialized into a community of gamers and acquiring a reputation within it [8, 24]. But while HCI researchers [3, 5, 6, 16] and others [1, 4, 8, 23, 24] have begun to investigate these popular entertainment communities, there is still surprisingly little data available to understand how MMOGs function as social worlds. In particular, most of the current online gaming research tends to be based on self-reports obtained from the players using interviews [23], surveys [16], or ethnographic observations [3, 20]. Except for [6], no studies are based on data obtained from the games themselves . To address these limitations we study social activities in MMOGs based on longitudinal data collected directly from games. We use this data to compute “social accounting” [2] metrics allowing us to assess, for instance, how often players group with each other and how this affects their progress in the game. This provides us with a solid empirical foundation to better understand these complex social worlds. In this paper, we report on our study of World of Warcraft, the most popular MMOG in the United States. We focus on three aspects of the game: play time,
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p407-ducheneaut - CHI 2006 Proceedings Games and...

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