Research: Loners are the exception, not the rule, among video gamers

Video gaming enthusiasts have long battled popular stereotypes of being antisocial misfits, basement-dwellers and loners. That's not true, says a study of online social behavior by researchers at North Carolina State University.

"This won't be a surprise to the gaming community, but it's worth telling everyone else," said Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at N.C. State and the lead author of the study. "Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm."

Taylor's team, which included colleagues at York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, traveled to 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom to observe the behavior of thousands of players, and take a detailed survey of 378 players. The research was focused particularly on players of MMORPGs such as Eve Online and World of Warcraft.

At the gaming events, "Gaming didn't eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it," said Taylor, noting that they also watched, chatted online and drank socially. Notably, gamers did not distinguish between the time they spent playing a game or the time they spent watching it played. "It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity," Taylor said.

Gamers' social behavior was consistent "regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player's behavior in the online game was altruistic," he said. "For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline."

The paper is called "Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings" and is published online in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.

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