Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peering into the virtual world

Worldwide nearly 45 million people play virtual reality games such as Everquest II and Second Life and the amount of (real) money involved would make this parallel world the seventh largest economy in the world. As relationships in these games leave a digital trace it is actually easier to track social networks in this world than in the 'real' one. A study by researchers at Northwestern University in the U.S. looked at which kind of people played Everquest II and how they related to each other using data from the game and questioning 7,000 participants. They found that players tended to underestimate how much time they spent playing the game and were more likely to say they were depressed than the rest of the population. Women preferred to play with men but were the most dedicated and satisfied users and players were substantially older than the teenage stereotype. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that players tended to play with people that they knew or who were from the same geographical area; people 10km from each other were more likely to be partners than those 100km away from each other.

You can find out more about this research at


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