Some Online Games May Enhance Sociability

Reuters Health – Video games involving multiple players serve as informal gathering places akin to old-time pubs and coffee shops, and can thereby boost the players’ social connections, researchers argue in a new study.

In their report, Constance Steinkuehler of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dmitri Williams of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign question the perception that kids who play computer games are isolating themselves, at least when they are playing so-called massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).

“By providing spaces for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function as one form of a new ‘third space’ for informal sociability,” Steinkuehler and Williams write. While such sociability won’t offer “deep emotional support,” they add, it has the benefit of exposing players to a wide range of viewpoints and a more diverse social environment.

The effects of the Internet on society are still being debated, the researchers note in an article in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Some claim the Web allows people to build connections and communities, while others say such virtual links are just a poor substitute for the real thing.
The researchers sought to investigate the role of MMOs, in which players inhabit “avatars” or on-screen representations of characters within virtual worlds and chat with other players by text or voice, in players’
social lives.

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