Video game enthusiasts may also be social butterflies. Despite the stereotype, many gamers are not the antisocial loners playing World of Warcraft while locked in their rooms that many believe. In fact, gaming actually makes players more social, says a new study.
Researchers from North Carolina State University, York University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology tracked gamers and surveyed them at more than 20 events in Canada and the United Kingdom over the course of the study. These events ranged from 20 people playing in a bar to gamers at Internet cafes to large events with more than 2,500 participants at a convention. The researchers focused on Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs.) In every scenario, they found that gaming enhanced the social activity and encouraged socialization between the players, rather than discouraging it.
“We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” said Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the study. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”
While in the midst of games, the players also participated in a wide variety of social activities. (Other research also suggests that video games may improve an individual’s ability to multitask.) Whether it was drinking or chatting online, gamers kept involved in plenty of whatever side social activity available to them while participating in their games.
However, the study also affirmed one stereotype in its findings. The majority of the people playing the games and participating in the research were men. The study listed demographic profiles of the participants involved, a common aspect of most studies that look at human beings as a part of the research. The vast majority of study participants were white males with a median age of 23 to 25. The second most common background was found to be persons of Asian descent. The average participant was of a middle or upper middle class background with around at least secondary school education, many with trade school or undergraduate education.
About 12 to 16 percent of the study sample consisted of female volunteers. The researchers did their best to get as many female participants as they could to participate in the study, but fewer than one in five of the study participants were women. The researchers noted that it was very difficult to recruit female gamers for the research project, regardless of whether a male or female researcher approached the potential study participant. Many of the women who did participate in the study survey attended the events with a male companion, often a relative, friend or partner, the researchers noted. They said their female sample was larger than what they observed in the field.
While the paper has been published, more research into the area will continue. The study only looked at gaming in Western culture. Taylor expressed interest in continuing this research outside of Canada and the United Kingdom.