Keynote presentation at multi.player 2011 from Yvonne de Kort (Eindhoven University of Technology). Full title: "How to win friends - gaming as a socially situated experience".
Started out by looking at the player experience of games, and found that the social context was key to the players' enjoyment but that this was ignored in most models. When they referred back to the motivation and needs models (e.g. Maslow) these always featured the social aspect, but this was not part of any game models/theories that were around.
They started looking at social presence. She mentioned Biocca 2003, which I think is a reference to "Towards a more robust theory and measure of social presence" and I should probably read.
They did a whole load of experiments to see what made people feel more or less together as they played. Interestingly they found hearing each other matters more than seeing each other. She referenced an Australian project called "Men's sheds: Men's needs" where they have found that men talk best shoulder to shoulder, when they are working on something, not face-to-face. Apparently collaborative games vs competitive makes no difference.
She said we clearly like to talk to each other, but we need a reason to start talking. So the men in their sheds can start talking about the work they are doing, and games for gamers can do the same thing. They found that if a variable affected the social presence of the other players, it affected both the enjoyment of the players and the engagement. We apparently win friends by sharing!