In Their Own Words: The Social Component
As Therapy or Outlet
Several players described how these online environments provided social outlets that they do not have access to in real life. For them, MMORPGs served a much needed social function.
Making friends is great, you meet people from all over with whom you would normally have no contact, as I am disabled and am stuck at home most of the time, the ability to get out and meet people and have fun together goes a long way in lessening the trapped in stuck 24/7 feeling that people expect you to feel [EQ2, M, 36]
In real life I'm very shy, but behind a computer screen I feel I can talk freely, partially because of the fact that I don't have any personal connections and obligations to people. Also, I feel more secure talking to in-game friends about personal problems than people I know in real life. [FFXI, M, 18]
I like meeting new people and socializing - at least, I do in game. Socialization has always been something I felt I was terrible at in real life. Inside the game all the visual cues handed down through society are lost - we're reduced to verbal communication only - I've found that medium far easier to handle. I feel far less afraid when I'm dealing with people in this kind of environment. When I was younger, I was very quiet and reserved. Games like these helped me learn how to talk to people and how to interact -- more importantly, they've also helped me learn how to be a leader. I've grown up playing games where social interaction was a major component. At 15 I would have been shy and awkward, unable to speak around people I didn't know well. At 25, I'm in command of a team at work and I have no difficulty talking to new people. I still feel shy, but I've learned to hide it better. Making friends has always been something I loved to do, but due to my difficulty being comfortable with socialization it was something I could not do easily. Gaming has helped me learn what goes into making friends, and some of my best I first met in-game. In addition to being a team lead out in real life, I run a guild of approximately 80 people in-game. In the game I feel like one of the popular kids must have in high school; everyone knows me, people are happy to see me, I have a community that is happy when I'm around. I have these things offline, now, also, but the online communities are there 24/7. I can't explain why it's so nice. [FFXI, M, 25]
I started playing DAOC while I was recovering from two devastating years of depression. I was once a very confident and social person, but I felt like I'd forgotten how to interact normally with others, and had lost a lot of my social self-confidence. I thought that role-playing a character would be a good way to 'practice' my social skills. It worked very well! My DAOC character met a wonderful guild of people, and I became very popular with other people in the game just by being the friendly and fun-loving person I am. Being one step removed from my 'real' self gave me the distance I needed to discover who I actually am again, and helped me recover my confidence ('People do like me!') and my sense of humor. [WoW, F, 28]
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