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Addiction and the Structural Characteristics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games
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Addiction and the Structural Characteristics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games

August 22, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

Demographics of MMO game players

What we know about gaming comes primarily from Yee’s studies, particularly his
Daedalus Project. While nearly all of the information collected by Yee came by way of selfselected respondents seeking out his surveys, the many thousands of people attracted for his studies have made his data likely the most widely cited in academic work on game player demographics.

In terms of employment, 50.0% of respondents were shown to work full time, 22.2% were full-time students, and 13% of female players referred to themselves as “homemaker.” Additionally, the number of female MMO players seems to increase with age, surpassing the number of males in the 23-28 age range, and in each subsequent age range (Yee, 2006). Yee argues that this data dispels the notion that all gamer players are unemployed, male, and young; rather games have a universal appeal.

Other findings from Yee are that 60.9% of respondents had played for at least 10
contiguous hours, this effect being roughly equivalent along age groups. 15.8% of men and 59.8% of women play MMOs with a romantic partner, while 25.5% of men and 39.5% of women play with a family member, suggesting that women are primarily being introduced to MMO games by a spouse or family member. Most importantly, Yee points out, “…the data demonstrate that MMORPGs appeal to a very wide demographic and that this appeal is strong and elicits high time investment from users.” (Yee, 2006).

Comparing the Social Networks within MMOs with those of the Mafia

“…the mafia initially grew out of an ancient honor system where elders were entrusted to negotiate in conflicts and pass judgments that the others were obliged to adhere to. The fact that Sicily historically has been targeted by outside interests such as the Spanish and fascists has also contributed to a need for organized resistance against outside oppression. The transition into a criminal organization came later, possibly more or less because the mafia realized that they could use their powerful organization to achieve fortune for themselves. This pattern is repeated in EQ [EverQuest]. The strong emphasis on reputation in the creation of social networks grows out of a need from the players to self-govern their gaming environment in order to secure a positive experience in the presence of potential disturbances and a simultaneous absence of an effective and reliable governing system. But ultimately these networks are also used to take shortcuts through, or trick, the formal rules of the system.” (Jakobsson & Taylor, 2003)

Comparing EverQuest’s prominent framework for social structure, the guild, to the
social structure of the mafia should seem laughable at first. The above quote however
illustrates and contextualizes ways in which play style shifts strongly within MMO games, favoring these social networks as players approach the highest levels of in-game
achievement. Put another way, where a player’s guild, online friends, and real-life
connections at early stages of play provided the support required to succeed, at the end-game they become the connections that allow a player to dominate.

Figure 4. The members of both social and goal-oriented guilds will occasionally line
up for group photographs.

Here it begins to become apparent that Yee’s (2006) conceptions that deal with
interaction (how much a person talks, shares feelings, etc.) and perhaps also individualism, a person’s preference toward playing on their own, may need to be expanded. In the mafia, family provides a strong foundation for commitment. You stick with your family, and they stick with you. Jakobsson and Taylor are here arguing that MMO games work similarly, where people who know each other outside of the game have a much higher commitment to each other than to friends that they know strictly through the game.

The idea here was then to split up communication between these two types of connections; real-life friend, and strictly online friend (individuals or guildmates), and then to rework these criteria in order to better reflect levels of interaction. Individualism was expanded from Yee’s group/solo criteria in part due to this emphasis on interaction. If some players prefer playing with reallife friends, and others with online friends, then perhaps those that prefer no interaction at all differ in equally significant ways.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

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