Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Online Games Provide Social Connection

Players Are Socializing, Not Shunning People, Researchers Say
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 18, 2006 -- Online video games may have some social perks, a new study shows.

The study, published in the July edition of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, focuses on large, collaborative games called MMOs (massively multiplayer online games).

Players may spend hours absorbed in those games. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're antisocial, write Constance Steinkuehler, PhD, and Dmitri Williams, PhD.

Steinkuehler is an assistant professor of educational communication and technology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Williams is an assistant professor of speech communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

"Spending time in these social games helps people meet others not like them, even if it doesn't always lead to strong friendships," Williams says in a UIUC news release.

The researchers reached that conclusion after studying new MMO players for a year and interviewing players of the games "Asheron's Call I and II" and "Lineage I and II."

Game World

The games served as a fun, neutral place where people got to know each other, at least a little bit -- sort of like a coffee shop or a pub, the researchers note.

One player wrote, "I don't have to worry about how I look or if my hair or clothes are okay" when playing MMOs.

Another told fellow players about catching a cold after his girlfriend's cousin kissed him. That story prompted a string of questions about the kiss. "She kisses me on the cheek," the player replied.

Williams and Steinkuehler noticed a lot of "bridge" conversations -- chats between players who don't have a lot in common, except their game.

"Bridging" is mainly seen among new players, while longtime players tend to be more intense and less chatty during games, the researchers note.

Bridging can be broadening, but even so, MMOs can't replace real-life relationships.

"For the individual seeking emotional and substantive support, they are far less socially useful -- at least in the short term," the researchers write.

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
Dark chocolate bars
Slideshow
 
teen napping with book over face
VIDEO
concentration killers
Slideshow
 
man reading sticky notes
Quiz
worried kid
fitArticle
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Woman opening window
Slideshow
 
Woman yawning
Health Check
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
brain food
Slideshow
laughing family
Quiz