“Americans, both young and old, play video games at an ever-growing rate. Today’s adults, unlike those who dropped game play in the 1980s due to public shame (Williams, 2006a), play more than previous generations. 40% of adults are now regular players, compared to 83% of teenagers. The average player age is now 33, propelling the industry to $7.4 billion in U.S. sales in 2006 (Entertainment Software Association, 2007). The result is a population engaging in this medium as an acceptable mainstream activity. And as the Internet has become a larger part of everyday life (Wellman & Haythornthwaite, 2002), so too have networked games. 67% of teens now regularly play some game online (Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005). Online games bring people together as they use their cell phones, their computers and their gaming consoles to access not only games, but other people. The most social and high-profile of these spaces are persistent virtual worlds—games that are always on, in which players maintain a regular character who grows and changes, and in which many players participate in long-term social groups (Griffiths, Davies, & Chappell, 2003; Yee, 2006). These worlds, called “massively multiplayer online games,” or MMOs, are vibrant sites of community (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006). Yet even as participation in them rises to several million players in North America alone, research on their players and their impact has remained relatively scant. Ethnographic and experimental investigations of player ‘guilds’ and communities have explored the social dynamics and relationships that exist (Taylor, 2003, 2006; Williams, Caplan, & Xiong, 2007), but systematic and generalizable research has remained elusive, largely due to the difficulties of securing access to players within the walled gardens of for-profit companies. The current investigation represents the first case of access to proprietary in-game player data. With the active cooperation of a major game operator, the current study surveyed players and unobtrusively collected in-game data on their behaviors. This combination of demographic, attitudinal and behavioral data generated a true player census of a virtual world. The paper presented here explicates players’ demographics, their playing patterns as related to those demographics, and their motivations for play. Many of the results defy both stereotype and theoretical predictions.”
Who plays, how much, and why? A player census of a virtual world, Dmitri Williams, Nick Yee, Scott E. Caplan. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 993-1018, Published Online: 2 Sep 2008 (via Gamers Play Against Type, USC news, which has this in it: “In addition, while women made up only 20 percent of players, they logged more time in the game than their male counterparts. ‘The hardcore players are the women,” Williams said. “They play more hours, they’re less likely to quit.'” Take that, fanboys. )
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