start page


It's easy to think of the worlds created by MMORPGs as independent entities, far removed and isolated from the real, tangible world. You hear the phrase "It's just a game" both from the insiders and the outsiders. There are players who use the phrase to assert that the game is benign and a new technological past-time. And there are outsiders who use the phrase to question why people would do silly things, such as get married or sell virtual items, in a make-believe world.

But you also hear the phrase "It's not just a game". When outsiders utter this phrase, it is almost always in association with a negative real-life situation - marital infidelity, suicide, familial irresponsibility, depression and so on. These outsiders argue that some of the blame should be placed on these games. On the other hand, there are players who also say this phrase. These are the individuals who believe that the worlds created by MMORPGs are not independent of the real world. In one way or another, their virtual lives have affected their real lives for better or worse.

And in telling their stories, these players answer the critiques of the other insiders and outsiders. To the players who say that MMORPGs are simple past-times, they show them that your virtual life is not always independent of your real life. To the outsiders who think it's plain silliness, they sweep away the superficial interactions to reveal the deeper meaning of what appears trivial. And to the outsiders who want to condemn these games, they tell some happy endings that the media will never care to sensationalize because nothing tragic happened.

What follows is an interweaving of stories submitted by MMORPG players. In each story, a player describes how their virtual lives and identities have altered their real lives and identities for better or for worse. And by telling their own personal experiences candidly without being polarized into superficial stances of black or white, these players hint at the true complexity of virtual worlds.

Copyright, July 2002, by Nicholas Yee.
mmorpg study, online research, nicholas yee, psychology of mmorpg players, psychology of mmorpgs, understanding virtual worlds, psychology of everquest players, understanding everquest players, stories of mmorpg players, stories of everquest players, EverQuest, EQ, Dark Age of Camelot, DAOC, Ultima Online, UO, Acheron's Call, Anarchy Online, AC, AO, personal experiences of mmorpg players, adolescent identity, virtual worlds, virtual society, virtual identities, virtual lives, how do virtual worlds affect the real world, how do virtual lives affect real lives, real self, real selves, playing an mmorpg with a partner, husband and wife, growing and learning from everquest, growth from mmorpgs, addiction to mmorpgs, addiction to everquest, positive things from mmorpgs, how mmorpgs change people, headline suicide, does everquest cause suicide, mmorpg stories, tried to quit everquest, try to quit mmorpg, addicted to everquest, addicted to daoc, online friends are better, tell secrets to online friends, virtual worlds, virtual community, virtual communities, virtual constructs, virtual societies, virtual relationships, virtual social networks, online community, online communities, online societies, cyberculture, cyber-culture, relationships in cyberculture, online communication