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Online gamers meet life-long friends and partners in virtual worlds


Three quarters of online role-playing gamers make good friends with the people they meet in their virtual worlds, with almost half meeting in real-life situations and one in ten going on to develop physical relationships, according to a new study. The research, carried out by researchers at Nottingham Trent University, and being published in the US journal CyberPsychology and Behavior, finally dispels any myths of online gamers as asocial, introverted loners.

Other findings to come out of the study, Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers, included more than 30% of participants finding themselves attracted to another player; and 40% choosing to discuss sensitive issues with online friends rather than their real-life friends.

One in five participants believed that Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) had a negative effect on their relationships if their partner was not a player, while more than two-thirds felt they had a positive effect on their relationships with those who did play.

Females were significantly more likely than males to be attracted to other players, and were far more likely to go on to date them. Most females gave therapeutic refreshment as their main reason for playing, whereas most males stated 'curiosity, astonishment and interest' as reasons.

Around a third of gamers reported they could be more themselves in the game than in real life.

The study, which looked at almost 1,000 online gamers from across the world, found the average number of hours played per week was 22.85. The most popular MMORPG in the study was World of Warcraft, with almost half of participants naming it their favourite game.

Professor Mark Griffiths, from Nottingham Trent University's School of Social Sciences, said: "This study has revealed many aspects of MMORPGs that were not known before. Previous research has suggested that gamers are socially inactive, but MMORPGs are actually extremely social games, with high percentages of gamers making life-long friends and even partners."

He added: "As well as making good friends online, 81% of gamers play with real-life friends and family, suggesting MMORPGs are by no means an asocial activity, nor are the players socially introverted.

"The virtual world that these games offer, allow players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, age, or other factors. They also offer a place where teamwork, encouragement and fun can all be experienced."


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