MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) have been around longer than any of the social media sites we use today. With this in mind, I’m actually surprised that social media practices didn’t start even earlier than they actually did. In an MMORPG, players design a their own characters and interact with other people around the world to complete certain tasks. The most successful games usually give players many options to create their avatars. You can be tall, short, fat, skinny, white, black, dog, cat, robot, girl, or boy. Just like creating a profile on Twitter, and Tumblr and create whatever persona on the internet that you might necessarily have in your everyday life. I find that most of the same rules may apply on MMORPGs as social media sites. The article “Expressing My Inner Gnome: Appearance and Behavior in Virtual Worlds” by Shyong (Tony) K. Lam and John Riedl dives into the social interactions on the game and relates them to real world interactions. The study found that many of the same gender rules that apply in our everyday lives also apply in the game. Shocking.
As a seasoned player of multiple online games, no I am not afraid to admit it, I have found it extremely difficult to really evaluate player interactions on online games. Players tend to either create characters that are more a hyperbole of their real personalities, or create entirely new characters that personify everything that they couldn’t be in real life. A lot men play girl characters, and some women play male characters. A general rule I have found is to usually write off any female player has male until proven otherwise. There are so many factors that go into a massively played game that hinders any thorough behavioral studies. Players might play a certain way because they like the way the armor a certain character gets rather than something they would usually move towards on other types of games. But my views on MMORPGs behavioral studies are just the same as they would be about social media studies. Everyone is different and with a computer screen to hide behind they are given the power to be just about anything they choose to be. We lived in the real world, and now we can be our own gods online. It would take some serious variable differentiation to really study the behavior of online players.
In conclusion, of course there are stereotypes and some psychological studies that can really give you some insight into the behavior of online gamers. Yes, attractiveness usually means more positives in social interaction than not, but on an online game there are just too many variables to look at to really define online gaming interaction. I’m 6’3 and have usually been the tallest of my friends which is a trait I actually relish in, but online I play a 4 foot teddy bear looking character on one game, and I play a girl character on another. How would you look in a virtual world with complete character personalization?