My dissertation is currently being examined, so I have been holding out on posting it. But there has been a whole new round of 'the Internet is bad for you' talk that makes me get my knickers in a twist, so I will give you all a sneak preview.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said MySpace and Facebook led young people to seek "transient" friendships, with quantity becoming more important than quality. He said a key factor in suicide among young people was the trauma caused when such loose relationships collapsed.
"Friendship is not a commodity," he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
He added: "Friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right".
The fact is he has this ENTIRELY wrong and I have data to prove it. My research project involved, among other things, a 50-question survey that asked participants to describe the online gaming experiences (City of Heroes/Villains), with a focus on grouping, social dynamics, skills development, and yes, friendship and belonging. The results were staggering, even to a gamer veteran like me. For one thing, I got almost 10,000 responses in 3 weeks (this was in 2006). For another thing, there were several open ended questions in the survey. I got responses like this:
The long time it takes to progress during the later levels has greatly improved my patience as of late, allowing me to stay calmer under stress as a side-effect. Separately, forming and organizing pick-up groups has given me a venue to practice my leadership skills, and to a lesser extent my organizational skills. I've had co-workers and friends notice the improvements in patience and organization repeatedly, and the few that have been around during a situation leadership was called for noticed my improvements in that area as well.
The fact that I am in charge of an super group in both City of Heroes and City of Villains has encouraged me to take a leap in my job: I've applied for a management position. I doubt I'd have ever even made the attempt had I not been in a position of leadership within the game.
Being in a super group comprised of people from all over the world has taught me to be patient when dealing with others and compromise my position on things. I often hold high positions in super groups/guilds and need to be patient with its members. This has transferred over to real life where I've learnt to be more patient with others in a work environment & a social one.
Needing to plan and prioritize has been a big thing for me, as has communication (though I've always found text-based communication much easier than face to face, which is easier than voice with no face a la Teamspeak). I've also found that I can deal with real life social situations better by being able to analyze them as if they were in game situations. (But I'm autistic, so my RL social skills have always been a bit lacking. Having a simplified model to compare them to has been a
boon to me.)
My chief reason for playing City of Villains was because I could not, physically, do much else. I was recovering from a traumatic brain injury and was going stir-crazy with the few hours a day I was actually conscious. This gave me a way to interact with RL friends because I was unable to get together with them. From there, it stemmed off into a way to communicate with them, and form other friendships. I have met several people from my super group at various locations, and that alone
is worth the playtime.
I have 10,000 of these comments, some even more poignant than those I just quickly grabbed.
Here is my proclamation: digital game/social spaces have the power to be the most transformative social experiences some humans have ever had, indeed sanctuaries from our physical lives, as Ted Castronova has suggested. This is sad, but it is true. What Mr. Archbishop has wrong is the notion that because it's not physical it's somehow not real. Wrong! This falls in the category of 'don't talk about things you know nothing about!'
I'm also gonna write Obama too and tell him to lay off the videogame criticism. Wonder if he will read my diss?