Presentation at multi.player 2011 by Rachel V. Kowert (University of York). Full title: "Party animal or dinner for one: Are online gamers socially inept?"
I found this talk fascinating. Rachel started from the stereotype of online gamers as being socially inept, and set out to try and prove it.
The literature has so far been inconclusive, with some papers finding that gamers are socially inept in comparison to non-gamers, others argue that some may be more socially savvy (given the amount of time spent interacting with a wide variety of different people). Still others found no conclusions. So it looks like this is an interesting area to work in.
They predicted that the lack of visual cues in the online world would result in an effect on the social skills of the gamers, which is an interesting suggestion. I wonder if that would mean that people who are used to playing lots of online games would therefore behave differently in online groups than playing offline. Maybe I should clarify my expectations around the players of our game?
She asked people to fill out the entire social skills inventory (SSI), which apparently has 90 questions. I should have a look at that, it may provide some interesting data (although pretty weighty for a maybe? and spendy!). She found that overall the gamers did have lower scores on the SSI, but not across all of the attributes so the stereotype of global social ineptitude is not supported. However, one of the sub-scales that did show significantly lower results was emotional sensitivity, suggesting that gamers struggle to interpret the body-language of other people.
In order to define whether someone was a gamer or not, she asked them. A simple and straightforward approach. I think that's a really interesting idea. She did list out in the future research question a suggestion that the gamers may just have been conforming to their perception of the stereotype in their responses (which are self-report, so could be subject to bias). I think that's a really interesting idea, particularly with the social identity stuff I've been looking at. I think you could do some really interesting stuff with asking them at the end of the survey, or along with how many hours, and see if there are any differences. I really should explore that further.