In line with the recent discussions we had here about the role of voice in virtual worlds (see for instance this post, and more recently this one), some new research by Greg Wadley from the University of Melbourne adds more empirical data to the debate. The findings are summarized in this paper but click below to read Greg's own summary of his findings:
"During 2006/7 two colleagues and I conducted research into voice communication by MMORPG players. Our methods were qualitative (interviews etc) rather than quantitative. Our subjects played DDO and WoW for two months and participated in interviews and focus groups in which they discussed their experiences. This style of data-collection runs the risk of introducing problems with subjectivity and generalizability, but it is good for exposing unexpected issues. Our study could be seen as complementary to Dmitri's work on voice in WoW, since we examined the same phenomonenon using a different method.
We presented our results in a paper at a conference last December. Briefly, we found the usefulness of voice to be context-dependent. It works well when used by small groups of players, who already know each other, and are collaborating in fast-paced coordinated activity such as raids (ie, the MMORPG scenario that most resembles a team FPS). But when group size, type of activity or number of channels varies, the usefulness of voice may vary. Some players are uncomfortable using voice with strangers, or when playing a character of different age or gender. And voice channels allow in-game communication to pass into the player's surroundings: for example, a player's family and guildmates may unwittingly share the channel. In the paper we compare these findings to prior research on computer-mediated communication. Of these findings, the interaction between communication medium and role-play is the least clear. Our subjects differed in their opinions of what role-play is, and whether typical MMORPG players are engaged in it.
Using similar methods I am currently researching the use of voice in Second Life."