Understanding how the mind of a massively multiplayer online gamer works could be considered by some as the first step down the perilous road of insanity. Be that as it may, a variety of researchers have been drawn to the socio-behavioral impacts of MMOGs over the years, and the latest group to do so hails from a number of top universities in the US.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Southern California have teamed to take a look at Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest II in an effort to better understand social dynamics in real-world societies. As reported by the University of Minnesota's MN Daily, the results of the research show that online populaces have become large enough to accurately mimic traditional communities.
To arrive upon that finding, researchers collected data over a period of three years, analyzing users' server logs and click streams to track all actions performed by players in EQII. Due to the wide variety of tasks that players undertake, the research team found that they were able to use the game as an accurate proxy for studying human behavior.
The study notes that more than 300,000 players subscribe to EQII, spending on average 26 hours per week on Norrath's shores. That subscription figure, of course, represents a small fraction of World of Warcraft's 11.5-million-strong army, but who's counting?