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Posts with tag psychology

Nick Yee's new book delves into the psychology of MMO players

Researcher Nick Yee, who has often enlightened us on the subject of MMO player psychology, hasn't been on our radar much since the Daedalus Project went into hibernation (no, not druid-inflicted) back in 2009. Since then, he's done some interesting research with PARC's PlayOn Group, but without hearing much from him in 2013, we had wondered if he'd found a new favorite research subject and had left us behind. But now we can cut out the /weeping, because Yee has released a new book called The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us--And How They Don't. Here's what it's all about:

Using player surveys, psychological experiments, and in-game data, Yee breaks down misconceptions about who plays fantasy games and the extent to which the online and offline worlds operate separately. With a wealth of entertaining and provocative examples, he explains what virtual worlds are about and why they matter, not only for entertainment but also for business and education. He uses gaming as a lens through which to examine the pressing question of what it means to be human in a digital world. His thought-provoking book is an invitation to think more deeply about virtual worlds and what they reveal to us about ourselves.

If you've enjoyed reading Yee's previous work, we think you'll enjoy this, too. You can pick up a hardcopy on Amazon now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

Does playing WoW increase your social competence?

A study that looks into how playing World of Warcraft effects players' social competence and loneliness, done by the Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, was recently released by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. To players, especially those who are shy or socially anxious, it's no surprise that getting into the game can be an easy way to socialize -- but our perceptions of the game are a long way from scientific evidence. This study surveyed 790 high school students and found an indirect correlation between those who played WoW and those who were more socially competent. From the study itself, "Adolescents who play WoW vary more in their communication partners, leading to an increase of social competence and a decrease of loneliness."

This study is a long way from concrete proof one way or the other, but it's nice to know that WoW might not be outright bad for our social skills.

[Via NZGamer]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

15 Minutes of Fame: Counseling people who happen to play games

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Do your friends, family or coworkers still cling to old-fashioned notions of video games as the provenance of social misfits and those who can't stay focused on the demands and rewards of real life? Take heart -- there are professionals out there who understand the gaming perspective and are working to help normalize gaming as mainstream pastime it has actually become. One of the many leading the charge is WoW player and master's-level psychology student Erinia of Cenarion Circle, whose track toward becoming a licensed mental health counselor includes helping both players and other mental health professionals understand the pulls, demands, and concerns of players who enjoy games like WoW.

Erinia has discovered that magic sweet spot where work, play, and a passion for all of it come together. "Am I an exceptional player?" Erinia asks. "Probably not, but WoW has opened up a lot of doors for me in the real world." We would accuse the lady of understatement here; click past the break for more on counseling, World of Warcraft, and new perspectives on how to help troubled people -- who happen to enjoy playing games -- understand themselves.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Anthropologist Bonnie Nardi on WoW culture and art

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

We've written before at and even here in 15 Minutes of Fame about attempts to study World of Warcraft culture from a sociological, psychological or anthropological point of view. In all of these cases, the researchers in question have logged time playing WoW as part of their research, albeit some with greater degrees of immersive success than others.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Bonnie Nardi, a University of California-Irvine expert in the social implications of digital technologies and author of the rather blithely titled My Life as a Night Elf Priest, not only rolled the token raiding character in order to observe the curious behavior of the raiding animal -- she actually enjoys WoW in its own right. Rather than cautiously sniffing WoW culture only to generate another wide-eyed, ZOMG-look-at-this-funny-lingo report from the digital field, Nardi dove deep enough to play in four different guilds: a casual raiding guild; a raiding guild composed of fellow academics; a small, casual guild; and her own friends-and-family guild. Our two-part interview with Nardi, packed with opinion and cultural analysis, reveals a witty approach to WoW culture that successfully combines academic insight with the familiarity of a seasoned player.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Psychologist and games researcher John Hopson

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

What keeps gamers hooked on their game of choice? Chances are, it's an element of the gameplay that was teased out with the help of games researcher John Hopson. The experimental psychologist and beta program head for Microsoft Game Studios examines what makes gamers do the things they do and then designs ways to keep them happily doing just that -- most recently, in titles such as Shadow Complex, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.

All that, and he's a WoW player to the core. "I mostly play in the two semi-official Microsoft WoW guilds, and lately I've been a hardcore player in a casual's body," he notes. "My wife and I had our first child a few months ago, so we've both dropped raiding and have been levelling alts instead since that doesn't require a fixed schedule. So far, we're both up to 5 level 80s apiece. :)" We thought it was time to turn the tables on Hopson, a loyal reader and occasional commenter at, and ask him for his perspectives on WoW from the inside out.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

[1. Local]: Psychology

Reader comments -- ahh, yes, the juicy goodness following a meaty post. [1.Local] ducks past the swinging doors to see what readers have been chatting about in the back room over the past week.

It's an interesting coincidence that so many quotables this week had something to do with our mental processes. For example, when Brian Wood pretended to interview Ghostcrawler for Scattered Shots, the faux-Ghostcrawler said the following:
Anyway, so the chimp has a lever, and when it pulls the lever it gets a piece of lettuce. Chimps like lettuce; it's tasty. So the chimp loves the experiment to death. Pull the lever, get more lettuce, eat the lettuce and pull the lever. Then after a while, the researchers change things up. One time, the chimp pulls the lever and gets a grape. Chimps love grapes; they're way better than lettuce. But then the chimp pulls the lever again and it goes back to getting lettuce. Now the chimp gets pissed off and throws the lettuce at the researchers.

So just a minute ago the chimp was loving the lettuce, and now it's insulted to be given that garbage. The lettuce didn't get any worse or any less tasty, but the chimp's perception of the value of the lettuce changed. MMO players are even more extreme -- in an MMO if the players even hear that we considered giving grapes, they'll suddenly be insulted with the lettuce that they loved until that point. So while we can't avoid every nerf, we really try to avoid as many as we possibly can.
Brian's favorite response was from Undra:
Ghostcrawler promised me a grape!
Promises, promises. I promise we have more psychology related comments and some that only slightly have to do with what's in our noggin. And I also promise no mention of sparkle ponies. Well, except that one. I broke my promise while making my promise. Wrap your noggin around that.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, [1.Local]

How we learn the jargon

We get a lot of requests here on the site from researchers trying to study you World of Warcraft players. Everybody with a research grant, apparently, wants to study you -- your psychology, your interaction, and the relationship you have with your avatar. We get so many requests, actually, that we usually have to pass -- we're not smart enough to choose which ones are legit and which ones aren't, and if we posted them all, we'd do nothing but post requests for survey answers all day. But I like the way alckly has done her research over on WoW Ladies LJ: she posted a question about WoW jargon, and you can see everyone's answers right away.

We definitely have lots of jargon to go around, from LFG to twinks to PuGs and a lot more. But what's most interesting about all of these answers, to me, is the way it spreads. There's a little bit of Googling and research going on, but really it's a very social thing -- you see "wtb" in the trade channel, and then you ask someone you know what it means (rather than looking it up somewhere else). Thus, definitions of the terms are very organic: "pst" could mean "pssst, here's a whisper" or "please send tell," and yet because they both mean the same thing, both meanings propagate. Likewise, usage tends to be a very social thing -- the person who types "LFG strat need heals" won't type "would u like 2 go to strat?"

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends interview: Dr. Hilarie Cash of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program

We've talked about Internet addiction before a few times here on the site, but it's always been through the lens of the media. Certainly there are players of WoW and other games out there who play the game so much it's affecting their lives, but most of the cases we've heard about have been a little over the top -- parents crying that their children are lost, kids playing nonstop and picking up bad health and social habits from this horrible game.

And so, when we heard that there was a new center opening for Internet and gaming addiction in Washington State, we decided, instead of just listening to the media reports, to sit down with the co-founder herself and have a more thoughtful conversation about gaming addiction: how and why it happens, how they're trying to fight it, and how it's portrayed, from both a media and a gamers' perspective. Dr. Hilarie Cash has been working with Internet addicts for 15 years -- she's the cofounder of two different addiction clinics, including the new reSTART Center, and the co-author of "Videogames & Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control." You can read our exclusive interview with her by hitting the "Read more" link below.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items, Interviews

Studying WoWcology, where psychology and WoW meet

I've been meaning to write about this WoWcology blog for a few days now, but there's just so much there -- reader Skeuk is guilded up with a PhD in Psychology, who's writing not only about the guild's day to day battles, but also about how the deeper tenets of psychology can be seen in our Azerothian gameplay. This post about group dynamics is extremely interesting -- if you've ever suffered through some bad PuGs in your time, you can see the different stages of group development, and you can probably even figure out where your PuG fizzled out in the "storming" stage or made it all the way through to the "performing" part of the cycle. Fascinating stuff, for sure.

Unfortunately, posts aren't coming too often, and it seems like Dr. Amalea -- who for some reason refers to himself in the third person at times -- understandably has other things to do besides keeping a blog about World of Warcraft and psychology. But maybe if we send them a little traffic, we can convince him to keep it up regularly, as what's there now makes for some really interesting reading. It's really interesting that a lot of the stuff we're dealing with the game now -- forming PuGs, guild drama, even loot distribution, has all been studied by psychologists for years and years before World of Warcraft ever existed.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Instances, Raiding

Compulsive gaming a social problem, not an addiction

Slowly but surely, people are finally starting to gain an actual understanding of gaming, and it's a nice thing to see. The BBC recently reported on gaming addiction with some insight from Keith Bakker, the head of a clinic in Europe targeted at helping gamers. 90% of gamers who spend long hours gaming, he says, aren't addicts at all and addiction counseling isn't the right treatment. Compulsive gaming is a social problem, not a psychological problem.

This is a sentiment many gamers (the non-compulsive kind, mind you) have held for a really long time. Games aren't the problem for young gamers. Poor parental care is a problem, environment is a problem. Communication is important. Healthy environments are important. Games for teenagers tend to be an escape, a place to go where you don't necessarily need to deal with real problems at that age, like social issues, personal troubles, stress and anxiety.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

Cyberpsychologists study WoW social behavior

When this article was first submitted as a tip to WoW Insider, we laughed at it because of its cheesy headline: "1 in 3 World of Warcraft Players Attracted to One Another." People can form personal connections on the internet? Paging the obvious police! Or, as one blogger wrote, "Coming up, Channel 13 takes you inside the APA -- and what you find there might startle you: up to 75% of all Americans say that they prefer grape jelly to accompany peanut butter on their sandwich."

But when I actually read the article, I found that it wasn't all torrid e-romances and "ZOMG, don't people know that WoW isn't real?" There were some pretty interesting facts there, all taken from a UK study of 912 self-selected MMORPG players. Notable tidbits:

  • Forty percent of respondents said that they had talked to people in MMOs about personal issues that they wouldn't discuss with people they knew offline.
  • Forty-three percent of respondents had met with online friends in offline situations.
  • Twenty percent of players said that their gaming had a negative impact on their relationships with non-gamers.
  • Yep, "one in three" players found themselves attracted to another player. And it might surprise you that this was much more common among female players (42 percent) than male players (26 percent.) And what really surprised me is that ten percent of players said they had developed a physical relationship with someone they met in-game! Wow.
  • The average respondent played online games 23 hours a week.

So what conclusions did the researchers draw from this study? A lot of gamers -- particularly women -- use online games as a way to socialize and meet people in a non-judgmental environment. And if over forty percent of gamers have met their guildmates in real life, and ten percent have actually gotten into a live, flesh-and-blood relationship because of gaming, we can't all be maladjusted, antisocial rejects.

What do you think of this study? Has WoW helped or hindered your social life?

Filed under: Virtual selves, News items

Researchers at the University of Texas studying World of Warcraft [Updated]

A tipster informs us that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are conducting a study to try to determine the "personalities and motivations" of people participating in World of Warcraft and other online games. And they're asking for our help! So if you have 10 or 15 minutes of free time, why not go fill out their MMORPG Survey? (Or if learning about the personalities and motivations of yourself and fellow players doesn't interest you, there's another study running at the university that seeks to understand how people interact in online environments. However, I've got to warn you, that one will take 20 to 30 minutes of your time.) The survey itself looks like a standard personality test, and, I have to say, is pretty uninteresting. However, I'm quite interested in seeing what sort of results they come out with in the end -- and if you're as curious as I am participating will only lead to more varied results in the end.

: There is a great deal of discussion in our comments about the possibility of this site being a scam of some sort. While I agree that the domain name of the site is fishy, the content looks completely legitimate. (And, yes, I did run through this on my personal computer before passing it on to you.) With the original and subsequent e-mails we've received about the site, I would say it's legitimate. However, I have removed the link to the site pending further verification.

Update 2: After trading e-mails with Austin Harley (yes, through a valid University of Texas mailing address), one of the researchers involved in the study, I am convinced that this is, in fact, a valid project. Of the odd hosting arrangement, he says:

A good friend of mine offered to build a web page for my site and link it to an already functional database he had. He said this would be easier on him than building one off a webpage on the utexas server so I happily agreed since he was really doing me a huge favor. I had no idea so many people were worried about a potential scam or that my site would cause such a stir.

Update 3: To further assure anyone's concerns, I have talked to a member of the UT faculty overseeing this project, who, again, assures me that this is a legitimate study.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

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