MMO platform has the potential to be used for many non-entertainment
purposes. Most contemporary personality assessment tools require
self-report from individuals, and most of the surveys used are obvious
in what they are trying to assess. MMORPGs are unique in that they
can track a person’s behaviors and generate an in-depth profile over
time. Could we imagine MMORPGs as unobtrusive
personality assessment? Or consider the leadership and management
abilities required to lead a guild of over 30 people. Could we use
MMORPGs as a tool for job candidate screening?
Virtual worlds also offer a way for social science research to
address questions that may not be possible (or ethical) to study
in real life. Economists or sociologists may be interested to explore
what breaks an economy or community in order to learn what the crucial
elements of real world economies or communities are. Psychologists
could manipulate an individual’s avatar such that other people
see a more attractive or unattractive face in order to study the
underlying mechanics of self-fulfilling prophecies.
It is also important to note that virtual worlds have embedded
ideologies. Every world provides a worldview on whether female bodies
are sexually objectified, whether certain “races” can simply
never get along, whether laissez-faire economic policies benefit
everyone. As the social and economic simulations in these worlds
become more complex, they may take on roles as ideological tools.
They could also be used for social engineering. The apparent racial
diversity of any virtual world can be engineered. The social contact
hypothesis suggests that racial prejudice is decreased through personal
contact with members of other races, but is social engineering something
that should be built into virtual worlds?
There are many ways one can conceptualize MMORPG environments.
They are places where alternate identities are conceived and explored.
They are parallel worlds where cultures, economies, and societies
are being created. They are environments where the relationships
that form and the derived experiences can rival those of the physical
world. They are new platforms for social science research. They
are places where people fall in love, get married, elect governors,
attend poetry readings, start a pharmaceutical business, and even
commit genocide. Whatever MMORPGs are, or will become, one thing
is clear. They are not just games.
- Play Spaces / Military Spaces
in MMOGs by Constance Steinkuehler
by Jerry Kang