Many graduate students, professors and researchers have been studying MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) in recent years. They have approached various games and explored very diverse questions related to identity, collaboration, expertise, performance, religious experience, character building, impacts of game-play in day-to-day life, etc.
I spent recent weeks creating a list of the articles, bibliographies, books, thesis or memoirs about MMOs and other video games, in order to publish it on this blog. The list keep getting longer and longer, and I often get absorbed into reading much of this very interesting material.
Although researching video games might seem trivial, there are many reasons why it is legitimate to pursue it. And as is often the case with research, the relevance may reveal itself only once the results are obtained and associated with issues that hadn’t previously been considered as related.
Research about video games provides great insight into player attitudes towards communication, collaboration and community building in relation to factors such as diverse cultural background, gender, age or skill levels. It has highlighted just how much players actively transform the games and even the gaming industry through cheating, hacking, community building, the creation of mods, add-on creation, wikis, forums and detailed statistics about game mechanics, to name a few.
Such research has also revealed that playing video games, although they were initially considered as pure entertainment, can help people live better lives, be happier, make friends, develop skills and reflexes, and even learn attitudes from characters they play through. I have written about this briefly on two occasions (1 and 2).
These may be either positive or negative attitudes, and of course gaming can lead to some more negative consequences, such as gaming addiction, which is still not very well understood. In most extreme cases, it’s considered that playing violent games can create outbreaks of aggressiveness in individuals that have certain predispositions. This, however, needs to be well investigated and some experts have already started looking into it. It is over simplistic to accuse video games of creating aggressors without properly investigating and documenting cases where aggressors were known to be fans of violent games.
Other valid reasons to study video games will undoubtedly become more evident as more research is published. The video game industry itself, surely, has known for a while how to benefit from it.
Until my bibliography is finished, you can have a look at Mark Chen‘s dissertation defense about World of Warcraft. It provides interesting details about how gamers create strong communities, collaborate, and influence game creators.