Questing: UC Irvine Gets $100,000 to Study World of Warcraft

Research Week continues with the happy announcement that the Unversity of California – Irvine received a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant to study World of Warcraft. The hundred grand gift from the federal government will go to study the social and cultural aspects of online gaming – mainly how strangers come together and agree on workable groupings for quests and combat.

For more on U.C. Irvine's study and how it's going to answer some of the lingering questions related to online gaming, jump below the fold.

From the very interesting article:

The research will take a closer look at the relationship between strangers and friends in WoW.
In particular, [Bonnie] Nardi will be looking at the differences between Chinese
gamers and American gamers and which details are paid more attention by
each group. The research will also determine what significance the
differing ratio of male to female players has in both countries.

This is tangential to the article we posted earlier this week on whether anti-social behavior in gaming ruins immersive experiences for those who adopted game lore or culture. Nardi's research hits on an area that has been mostly overlooked except for some coverage in T.L. Taylor's MIT research book Play Between Worlds: whether women and men experience online gaming differently, and whether this impacts how they play.

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I'd be interested to see the methodology for how Nardi and her research team will achieve this, if only to combat those who argue that spending money on virtual game studies is a waste of scarce resources.

The idea that the cultural and social interactions of players in online games is somehow less important or less valid than real-world interaction is simply a stereotype that has not yet faded.

In the end, the article has it right: Anthropologists study social and cultural interactions and their effect on behavior.

Virtual worlds are no longer a niche industry – tens of millions of people from every age group and race play them at all hours of the day and night, on every continent in the world.

What do you think? Are virtual worlds a valid form of creative and social expression?

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