Ask Dr. Rachel: MMOG players are generally easier to access for academic research

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Will video games will make you lazy? Do you have any suggestions for what kinds of games would be great to play together with my young family? Should I let my young child watch me play games that are rated M for Mature?

Every month, our in-house scientific expert, Dr. Rachel Kowert, will address your questions about video games, video game effects and media studies, such as the ones above in her regular column, “Ask Dr. Rachel.”

Why is there an academic preference to focus on MMOs? -Teacher from London

Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or MMOs, are often chosen as the “genre” of choice among researchers for a variety of reasons, such as their general popularity among gamers and notoriety for having games with a large number of players. It also likely has a lot to do with the accessibility of MMOG players and gaming communities. That is, large communities of MMOG players are relatively easy to access through in-game chat features and related forums, making them ideal candidates for social science research.

That said, researchers that focus on MMOs are usually careful about noting that the findings may be specific to players of these kinds of games and not necessarily generalizable to the broader game playing population. For instance, there are likely to be many differences between the average player of World of Warcraft and the average player of Zynga Poker on a range of variables, such as as average play time, general demographic information and/or geographical location.

My child wants to spend every available moment gaming and socializing online. Will this make him socially awkward?   – Parent from Illinois

While the stereotype of online gamers center around the image of a socially awkward individual, these stereotypes are not grounded in research. In fact, research has not found any significant evidence to suggest that playing online games (even a lot of online games!) degrades offline social skills in any significant way.  In fact, playing online games may actually help to hone and develop social skills, such as those associated with leadership.

Do you have a question you would like to ask Dr. Rachel? Send your question to via twitter to @linacaruso using the hashtag #AskDrRachel and your question could be featured in next month’s column!

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