Sink or Swim? Learning and Social Capital in Massively Multiplayer Online Games.

Joshua Clark


Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) present participants with complex and multifaceted worlds complete with their own language, rule structures and conceptions of success or failure. How do players adapt and learn to survive in this environment? What are the long-term implications of various learning strategies for social development within the game? This paper seeks to answer these questions through a self-reported survey of 541 players from the popular MMOG EVE Online. The survey responses were drawn from three distinct fan communities. Analysis of participant responses revealed that while joining in-game training organizations as a student did not significantly affect social capital development, the decision to act as a mentor to newer players did. In addition, findings reinforced previous research about importance of voice communication and permeability of the in-game/outside game barrier with respect to social relationships. These findings offer insights into the relationship between commercial MMOGs and the social process of learning within computer mediated environments.