Meaningful real-life relationships in massively multiplayer online roleplaying games
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Information Processing Science, Information Processing Science
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Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games are extremely popular with millions and millions of players spending large portions of their free time in these virtual environments. Still the social value and the meaningfulness of the relationships formed within them are questioned by most non-gamers and even some gamers. In the past even academia was mainly concentrating on the negative aspects of gaming but lately the value and meaningfulness of these relatively new social environments have been getting more and more attention. This thesis presents a phenomenographic study on how the participants experience meaningful real-life relationships in MMORPGs and how they perceive the effect of the game as the channel for those relationships. The gathered data revealed four qualitatively distinct ways the participants experienced meaningful real-life relationships in MMORPGs: in-game friendships, beyond the game friendships, comparable to real-life friendships and romantic relationships. These levels have a hierarchical relation in the sense that the previous level has the potential to develop to the next. Likewise, four distinct ways to perceive the effects of MMORPGs as the channel for relationships were identified in the data. The participants expressed views spanning from one end of the spectrum to the other, ranging from highly positive to potentially negative. MMORPGs could be seen to have a highly positive effect by making different aspects of the relationships easier. In other cases MMORPGs could be seen as just another place to meet people, just a means to an end same as any other medium. MMORPGs could also be considered to be limited when compared to the physical world as a channel and as a result the connections were perceived to be less real in purely online setting. Additionally, MMORPGs were noted to have the potential to become harmful to relationships. The main contribution of this study are the categories; the levels of relationships and the categories of the effects of MMORPGs as a channel. They can provide a fresh approach into the topic for academia. As for practice, they validate the MMORPG developers’ efforts of encouraging formation of social relationships.
© Eetu Mansikkamäki, 2014. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.