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Oct 10, 2003



Interesting data, Nick, as always. I wonder if there's a comparable study about chatroom-based relationships and if you'd see any identifiable variances between the figures. A friend of mine (who was a Blackhawk pilot in Somalia, fwiw) met his wife in a MUD and they are now happily married and have two really cute kids. I'm sure the other readers have similar stories and you've probably received a ton of them from your surveys.


One thing that's not in your data is how many people are drawn into these games by pre-existing real life social contacts (friends, co-workers, family), as compared to coming in cold by reading about them or seeing the box on the shelves.

I actually know the answer to that one, but can't share it (proprietary to my former employers). It's an...intriguing bit of info, in commercial terms anyway.



Dave, I think you've actually told us. You just haven't given us the numbers...


I've always said of virtual world meetings that in the virtual world you get to know the mind of the player/person before the physical presence. That's the reverse of meeting someone in a bar, or other real world situation. And it leads to a different sort of aback-taking at times, though people you might otherwise never get to know, you already know, and can remain friends with, even if you find yourself physically unattracted.

It's analogous to 18th-19th century epistolary romance in a lot of way, though, so it's not really a new phenomenon.


Time, Attention and Affection are always real, whether the world is virtual or not. Any media that allows these attributes to manifest is going to generate relationships. What's really a surprise is that there are people who are amazed by this.



Since Dave can't post his data, I'll point to what I know from my surveys: http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000550.php?page=2 (3rd graph on the page). The gender differences are quite striking.

-- Nick


Wouldn't it be in the interest of the designers to impose strong ex ante sorting mechanisms based on personality affinities? If I could point to one thing that drives me out of worlds, it would be my inability to avoid people who aren't at my level of maturity. (I'll leave it to readers to put a number on what that level actually is. :P )

SWG's group-finder lets you filter based on, among other things, music tastes. Great idea. On the other hand, there was no category for 'Industrial', and when I checked 'Classical' I found exactly zero groups.

I guess in the end we will have implicit filtering once we have enough worlds. People will seek a congenial atmosphere and those who come together will implicitly have similar tastes.


I'm ashamed to admit (sorry, Raph) that SWG is still just an entry on my Amazon wish list. But this group finder feature is really a strong selling point. During my abundant spare time, I've had some of Ted's difficulties locating the right social scene in a lot of VWs -- it was easier in MUDs. A lot of nice folks out there on EQ, DAOC, TSO, but no one believes I'm actually doing serious academic research...

Is there a "cyberlaw geek" filter, Ted?


At one point T.L. Taylor and I thought about forming a nerd guild in EverQuest. It was one of those "I'm on Xev, you're on Bristlebane, but we should group up" kind of deals.

The next big release is probably going to be EQ II, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe we could choose a Terra Nova server at launch (and possibly forma guild) so that everyone in this rather odd community could connect from time to time while checking it out.


The idea that Word Of Mouth is the most important attribute to the success of a commercial endeavour, especially in entertainment, isn't new. Many To Many just pointed to some research on the subject. What's unusual in online games is the potential for us to exploit this through our indirect social controls.

Just the most brief of examples: How many of those girlfriends/wives from Nick's survey got brought into the games because their SO's group needed a cleric? What if recruiting newbies was an explicitly rewarded activity in the game?

And a less commercial question: What are the ethics of manipulating social forces and incentives for profit?



"What if recruiting newbies was an explicitly rewarded activity in the game?"


It is very common for Guilds to engage in this type of activity or have it as a permanent reward structure. For it's part Ultima Online got to the design phase on one such system: The Virtue of Humility.

I believe I may have some discussion threads on it saved. This (still planned) virtue generated an enormous amount of heated debate. A good number of players thought that while veterans reach a plateau where they can help a new player a lot, they can also very efficiently cheat, mislead, lie, steal and grief and overall ruin a new player's experience.


"What if recruiting newbies was an explicitly rewarded activity in the game?"

Actually in There.com this is true. For the most part there are only three ways to get currency, buy it, make something and sell it, or help newbies on the trial plan to convert to members. There is also a Newbie Helper skill ladder that is a pre-requisite for applying to receive currency for recruiting newbies.


A Tale in the Desert uses game mechanics to reward converting trial newbs into paying players too. You walk a newb through the process of learning the basics, and at the end of that he or she has the option to build you, as mentor, a shrine in thanks. Accumulating these shrines builds you credits you can spend later for nifty abilities. You also are required to have a certain number to qualify for some tests in order to gain promotion in some lines of development.

From what I saw, it works pretty well as designed. Sure, some players use multiple accounts to manipulate it, but they have to PAY for the accounts to gain the benefits.


Heh, still up for that in-game meet Ted. I think there's a sizable group of us around - certainly enough to at least make a drunken dwarf racing event some night in EQ ;)

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