The 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.

See also:

- Police State
- Play Spaces / Military Spaces

External Links:

- Learning in MMOGs by Constance Steinkuehler
- Cyber-Race by Jerry Kang

The Daedalus Gateway - The Psychology of MMORPGs

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