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Online Dating with World of Warcraft

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/24/fashion/24avatar.html

Many people are familiar with World of Warcraft (WoW) as a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), where players create their own unique character, battle monsters, join guilds, complete missions, and strengthen their characters with armors, weapons, and level-ups. With a focus on killing monsters, leveling up characters, and obtaining high-quality weapons and armors, it is hard to believe that WoW would turn into a social network where players form lasting relationships with other players they do not know and may never meet in real life. However, one of the main reasons why WoW is such an addicting and time-consuming game is that people can socialize with each other and develop a network of friends. Many missions in WoW do require players to form teams, and thanks to the voice communication software installed in the game, players can not only collaborate and strategize but also talk about their interests, hobbies, and daily activities with each other during their free time. In a way, WoW is no different from Facebook or any other social network, as players would eventually develop their own network of friends. This is one of the most addicting parts of WoW, as players would spend the majority of their time on WoW either socializing with their “friends” or going on missions to strengthen their characters.

The social aspect of WoW has led to an interesting phenomenon that recently received a lot of attention. A New York Times article (see link above) documented several WoW players who have developed romantic relationships with other WoW players. In many cases, it would start out with two players completing a team mission, and afterwards, they would end up conversing with each other. Eventually, they would form a strong bond with each other, and soon afterwards, they would make plans to meet each other in real life, where they can further develop their relationship. Some would went so far as to propose to and marry the person they met on WoW. The behaviors of these players are similar to that of users who go on online dating sites, which is what WoW is becoming, as more players start developing romantic relationships with each other.

As unusual as that sounds, it is not uncommon for two people to fall in love on WoW. The networks we see in WoW are similar to the friendship graphs we learned in class at the beginning of the semester. Players represent the nodes, and their ties to other WoW players represent the links. In WoW, many of these links are formed when players team up and go on group missions, and because WoW requires players to form teams on numerous missions, it is very easy for players to develop their own social networks within WoW. As in any social network, there are always going to be strong and weak links, as well as positive and negative links, between players. Players who spend more time on WoW have stronger and more positive links with other WoW players and are more likely to develop romantic relationships with other players. Therefore, it is not unusual for WoW players to find “love at first kill”.

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