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.

More from Polygon

Enemy Starfighter: Homeworld from inside a fighter

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gameplay trailer

  • Diablo 3 - Xbox One vs. PC comparison

  • Hearthstone - Military Quarter gameplay video

  • Elite: Dangerous Overview video

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.