Investigating “leakage” as a social issue of online gaming

If you play Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) such as World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, Matrix Online and the likes, please spend a few minutes with our research to have a say in shaping the future of online gaming. You can participate now at http://schoolof.info/mmog/. Here’s the press release we prepared:

On Oct 2004, Microsoft announced that pre-orders for Xbox-exclusive title Halo 2 passed 1.5 million in the United States alone, breaking videogame records and guaranteeing first-day revenues higher than any movie in history.

Given the popularity of games, much of the concern about the social effects of gaming has to do with what we refer to as “leakage”. This idea can be seen in David Cronenberg’s film “eXistenZ”, where a highly immersive multiplayer online role-playing game leaves players straining to differentiate the game world from the real world.

The mass media depicts “leakage” with everything from the Littleton school shootings to the death of an infant neglected by his game-playing father (Karp, 2001). Likewise, leakage in the other direction, the real to the game world, has be seen through many game research literature.

A research team at the School of Informatics, from the University at Buffalo (SUNY), addresses the issue of how such “leaks” between the real-world and the game-world might affect individual identities. This formal research into the social impact of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMORGs) is entitled “Playing Myself: The persistence of self-image in MMOGs”.

Through an online survey at http://schoolof.info/mmog/ , this research hopes to gain an understanding about the social impact of online gaming and to help provide reference to the formation of public policy. For gamers, this study allows them to engage in a conversation of what gaming means to them and to consquently help shape the future of online games.

If you have any questions about this study, you can contact the project leader, Alexander Halavais. You can reach him by email: halavais@buffalo.edu, or by telephone: 716-645-2141 x1192. When the research is complete, a copy of the initial findings will be made available at http://schoolof.info/mmog/ .

6 thoughts on “Investigating “leakage” as a social issue of online gaming

  1. Leakage? Why the new terminology? Isn’t that just escapism or psychiatric delusion? Or even a kind of role play understaken to block out the dull monotony of real life? This can be seen in the popularity of cosplay/trek/starwars conventions. And quite often these days, you read about A-list stars ‘immersing’ themselves in some role that they will be portraying in their next blockbuster by joining a strip club or by living rough with bums.

    making a connection between what I perceive as obsessive roleplaying and real life violence or incidents seems a tat far fetched to me. The blame game has been played over so many times. Whenever some ‘nice kids’ did something really bad, mass media always tries to link it to some heavy metal singer, violent film or video game.

    With all the media hype, you’d think that if there weren’t video/computer games around, violent crimes and nasty evil doers will instantly vanish. But you’d probably be *ahem* dead wrong. Instead of counting frags in a FPS, they’d perhaps be creating their private pet cemetaries like one Mr Jeff Dahmer did before moving on to greater things…

  2. My take on this is that video games don’t kill people… people kill people. In any case, while we’re not trying to stereotype gaming as a negative influence on mankind, neither are we really taking sides. Rather, this research intends to find how our identity emerges within different realms (virtual vs. physical). Any discoveries within this gaming medium would certainly be applicable to other media as well, such as television shows, etc.

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