Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Online Gaming Is the New Bowling League

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Online Gaming Is the New Bowling League

Article excerpt

CIVIL SOCIETY

Video games are good for you-and good for democracy, too. With all the talk of violence, addiction, and isolation, such an idea is not intuitive. But a recent study showed that online game communities provide access to social capital. "Online gaming has a positive efect not only on each gamer's life, but also on society as a whole," says Tetsuro Kobayashi, a social psychologist at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo.

"Online game players have been seen as nerds or socially less skilled, lonely people," says Kobayashi. This seemed strange to him, since gamers who have never met face-to-face manage all the communication, cooperation, and teamwork it takes to form clans and coordinate a castle siege. So in 2003 Kobayashi launched a series of surveys of Japanese players of Lineage, a massive multiplayer online role-playing mmorpg ). game ( Game participants come together online as knights, wizards, elves, and princes to battle ferocious monsters and, incidentally, to chat about whatever is on their minds: family problems, sexual issues, discrimination, or the latest drama at work.

Because these groups coalesce around a single interestthe game-they tend to be more socially and demographically diverse than real-life communities. Kobayashi surveyed perceived diferences in gender, age, occupation, residential area, way of thinking, lifestyle in ofline world, and opinions about world events. Whereas membership in community groups tends to be bonding because of physical proximity and shared values, such real-life groups also carry the risk of becoming exclusionary. …

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