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Through the Looking Glass

In a recent survey, I asked players whether they had ever learned anything about themselves from their MMO experiences, or whether their experiences in an MMO had ever changed how they thought about themselves or their perspective of the world. About 400 MMO players responded to this particular question, revealing some interesting perspectives on what they have learned from their experiences in an MMO.

MMOs are interesting social spaces in several ways. First of all, there are almost no other social spaces in the physical world where people from such different demographic backgrounds and life experiences collaborate on a regular basis. The age range in most MMOs goes from 10 to 70. In a typical 5-person pick-up group, you may have a high-school student, a war veteran, a professional home-maker, a law professor, and a retired bank manager. In our education and work systems, we typically only get to talk and work with people who are incredibly similar to ourselves. This is actually seldom the case in MMOs. Another thing that bears pointing out that there are almost no social spaces in the physical world where teenagers routinely get to work with adults as equals. But not only does collaboration occur, teenagers routinely lead groups of adults, give them orders, and partly schedule their leisure time in MMOs. Learning how to work with and lead a diverse group of people is an important social skill, especially for teenagers.

Beyond the demographic landscape, MMOs also expose us to stressful group conflicts, leadership opportunities, and moral dilemmas, among other scenarios, that we may be less often exposed to in our day to day lives. Another interesting part of MMOs is the compressed time in several domains. While it may take decades to rise to the top of your profession in the real world, it is possible to reach max-level in some MMOs with just several months of casual playing. The rate at which guilds form, fragment, and dissolve may also allow some players to try out and understand how to lead and manage teams in ways that may take much much longer in an actual office. In short, MMOs may offer players experiences in roles and positions that they may not have access to in the physical world.

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Posted on March 20, 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

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