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Gamers are not anti-social basement dwellers, study finds

"Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm," professor says.

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Gamers are not anti-social basement dwellers as some would presume, according to the findings of a new study published recently. Researchers analyzed the behavior of thousands of online gamers--most notably those who play MMOs like World of Warcraft--and determined that anti-social behavior is an oddity, not a regular occurrence, and that playing online games can actually enhance a person's social life.

The study, Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings, was published in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

The researchers attended various industry events in Canada and the United Kingdom and observed the behavior of thousands of gamers. They then surveyed 378 gamers about how they communicated with others in both their virtual-world and real-world lives. What they found is that playing MMOs and other online games did not eliminate a person's real-world social interactions, but rather it supplemented and even at times enhanced them.

"Gamers aren't the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they're highly social people," NC State assistant professor of communication Dr. Nick Taylor said in a news release about the study (via CNET). "This won't be a surprise to the gaming community, but it's worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm."

Taylor also said that in-game behavior does not necessarily correlate to real-world behavior, as some studies have suggested. "For example, a player could utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline," he said.

This study was based on a Western audience, and Taylor said he's interested in conducting future research on the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures. You can read the full study here.

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