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Enhancing One Life Rather than Living Two: Playing MMOs with Offline Friends

Computers in Human Behavior
Elsevier BV
Publication Date
  • Massively Multi-Player Online Games (Mmog)
  • World Of Warcraft
  • Social Ties
  • Immersion
  • Problematic Play
  • Internet Addiction
  • Ethnology


We use ethnographic, interview, and survey data to examine problematic play within the popular online game, World of Warcraft, or ‘WoW’ for short. Research shows that players drawn to the interpersonal dimensions of online games are more prone to experience negative outcomes associated with their computer use. Our study suggests that it is not only whether online gamers seek meaningful social interactions that determine if WoW play becomes problematic, but exactly how players interact with others in online game-worlds. Specifically, levels of problematic WoW play depend on the extent gamers play with offline or ‘real-life’ friends and relations. Our survey data reveals both a direct relationship between playing WoW with offline friends and problematic online gaming and also an indirect one mediated by ‘immersion’ (defined as the extent that players feel like they are in a virtual world and in some cases actually their character). Interpreting these results through ethnographic and interview data, we suggest that playing WoW with real-life friends allows gamers to transfer in-game accomplishments and experiences into offline social networks. Rather than competing and conflicting with the world outside of the game, WoW played in this way tends to enhance gamers’ offline lives. Further, by keeping gamers in touch with perspectives outside of WoW, playing with real-life friends instills critical distance and greater awareness of how excessive play can damage offline commitments and relationships, allowing gamers to better monitor, evaluate, and ultimately regulate excessive game-play.

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