I'm behind on blogging. I have an extensive writeup of Monday and part of Tuesday to do. They will be post-dated, but eventually posted.
Today, the BiD lab speaker was Nic Ducheneaut, speaking about massively multiplayer online games; namely, the interactions and social structure formed by players of World of Warcraft. This talk attracted a wide array of new faces, including a girl who had hair down to her legs. I wanted to tell her that her hair was awesome and impressive, but had to leave for class. But I digress.
It turns out that WoW is a great platform for research, since there are long-lived groups, piles of quantitative data, and consistency of the game over different cultures (US, Europe, and Asia servers all have the same game structure). It also turns out that the US players are more careless, have less organized groups, and in general, seem to take the game and social structure less seriously. The US players die more than those in Hong Kong or Taiwan, despite spending less time in combat. Takeaway: the US is reckless.
Players tend to start out playing solo a greater percentage of the time, but as they progress, they spend more and more of their time in groups. Part of this is the way the game is structured - as tasks grow harder, you eventually reach a level cap, so the only way to continue to increase strength is by adding numbers to your group.
I found it fascinating that the majority of guilds did not survive more than 6 months, which suggests that organizing and maintaining a guild is a challenging task (which isn't so surprising, really). Further, about 90% of players are in a guild with 35 people or less. Back in the days of raids that required 40 players, this meant that game content was inaccessible to the majority of players. Now, Blizzard has changed to 20-man raids, which helps make them more approachable. The larger guilds have very military-like structures. I suppose that's what they are, in-game.
Players also are moving toward indirect socialization, much in the way that Facebook and Twitter are more passive forms of interaction than those of old. Nic made no judgment of this interaction, simply a statement of fact. He also mentioned Putnam's Bowling Alone, which made me think back to that excellent political science class I took.
All in all, very fascinating work.
Now I'm doing my midterm, for real. Explanation will come in a post-dated entry.