A recent comment from Elia von Oeyen Tupou led me to the blog, Videogames for Academics, which is full of fascinating insights from Elia's dissertation thesis.
It seems that Elia has spent a lot of time playing WoW (World of Warcraft, and in particular it was very interesting to read the post 'To my WoW friends' about the effect that stopping gaming had upon online friends, etc. It was interesting to note just how much importance some players place on interactions in the game. I'm sure that this is something that will be difficult for non-gamers to understand. I related to it as I used to be serious table gamer, playing a variety of RPGs with friends, when I was a teenager.
During several years, I used to get together to play with friends every Wednesday afternoon (from 15.00-23.00), on Fridays from 18.00-23.00, and every Saturday from 13.00-23.00. Thinking back to this now, that is an awful lot of time spent in imaginary worlds! It strengthened friendship between me and my fellow gamers, and our little group became inseparable. We also gained a reputation at school, and people started talking about "the strange experiments we were doing" together. Eyebrows would also be raised if people overheard our conversations, as we talked about our characters and what they were doing or had done as if they were real. And, of course, my parents and their friends would wonder and worry about the unhealthy amount of time that their son was spending at a table with his friends, rolling dice and consulting rulebooks. Didn't he want to go to discos like other teenagers?
I stopped playing when I went to university, but I can still understand how absorbing RPGs can be.
Elia also links to another interesting article 'Living a Virtual Life' in Game Studies,the international journal of computer game research.
Among other things, this article mentions a survey undertaken about the type of person who becomes involved in this type of game:
"Usually, players had experience with computer games before they came to Ultima Online. More than three-quarters of the participants of our survey had previously played computer role playing games (85 percent) or computer adventure games (67 percent) and more than one-third (39 percent) had played other MMORPGs. Though many players had previous experience with MMORPGs, the number of users playing more than one game at the same time was negligible. Users rarely indulged at the same time in more than one MMORPG. This is understandable given the necessary investment in terms of time."
I have decided to collect all of these links, insights, etc, as well as documenting my own investigation in Second Life , etc. using a wiki: gaming-EFL