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February 17th, 2009, 02:46
Complete server logs handed over in the name of science.
Dmitri Williams introduced the project and described how researchers have been approaching various game developers over the years. He paraphrased the conversation with Sony as:
"What do you collect?"
"Well, everything—what do you want?"
"Can we have it all?"
"Sure."
The end result is a log that includes four years of data for over 400,000 players that took part in the game, which was followed up with demographic surveys of the users. All told, it makes for a massive data set with distinct challenges but plenty of opportunities.
More information.
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February 17th, 2009, 02:46
Did that include the chat logs? That'd make for a pretty massive privacy issue. Plus chat logs would be rough to do anything with, other than maybe count how many characters were typed on average. I hope they left those out.

Interesting stuff for sure.

Buried among those happy, average players was a small subset of the population—about five percent—who used the game for serious role playing and, according to Williams, "They are psychologically much worse off than the regular players." They belong to marginalized groups, like ethnic and religious minorities and non-heterosexuals, and tended to use the game as a coping mechanism.
!!!!!
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February 17th, 2009, 05:37
Maybe theyll finally be able to prove that MMO's drive you slowly batshit crazy
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February 18th, 2009, 13:14
"They are psychologically much worse off than the regular players." They belong to marginalized groups, like ethnic and religious minorities and non-heterosexuals, and tended to use the game as a coping mechanism.
How the hell did they figure this out from the datalogs?

update:
SOE says no private info was included in EQ2 research logs:
According to the official statement, which can be found after the jump below, none of the information in these logs was connected to any real names or what's known as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In addition, no player chat logs were shared with the researchers. Even in the situation where players voluntarily participated in a blind survey, the private information of those volunteers was kept confidential as well. Follow along below for the complete official statement from SOE.
I guess it's based on that blind survey.

There's a link in the comments to the full report also:
Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile

Authors:
Dmitri Williams (University of Southern California), Nick Yee (Palo Alto Research Center), Scott E. Caplan (University of Delaware)

Abstract:
Online games have exploded in popularity, but for many researchers access to players has been difficult. The study reported here is the first to collect a combination of survey and behavioral data with the cooperation of a major virtual world operator. In the current study, 7,000 players of the massively multiplayer online game (MMO) EverQuest 2 were surveyed about their offline characteristics, their motivations and their physical and mental health. These self-report data were then combined with data on participants' actual in-game play behaviors, as collected by the game operator. Most of the results defy common stereotypes in surprising and interesting ways and have implications for communication theory and for future investigations of games.

Conclusion:
The general demographic and motivations findings here have implications for the study of games in general, but they also offer challenges to existing theory and suggest areas where theory building is needed. Theory building occurs when we explain, predict and organize information about phenomena. Therefore, with a set of largely counterintuitive findings in hand, the next step is to develop and extend theories that fit these data. Given that many stereotypes about gaming suggested opposite outcomes, the research can go one of two ways. The first is to ask, as many have done (Herz, 1997; Jenkins, 2006; Williams, 2006a), why innacurate stereotypes about gamers formed and what other social and cultural work was taking place. The second, and ultimately more important task, is to develop theories which would predict these outcomes in the first place, unfettered by (but aware of) cultural baggage. Why, for example, are older female players playing at the highest rates? Why are older players playing more when younger people are thought to have more free time? Why are these gamers physically healthier than nongamers? Why do minorities play at lower rates? Why do so many players not practice religion? Did game play cause the mental health outcomes or vice versa? Theories must be developed or adapted to answer these questions.

There are methodological considerations as well, which are equally important as the booming world of players interacting online becomes increasingly distant from traditional lab settings. Looking ahead, the use of game-server data offers the possibility of longitudinal in-world behavioral measures. Therefore, the logical next step is to gather these data and to develop metrics of player behavior that can be used in theoretical models. These models will likely include the traditional communication topics of effects, community, gender, race and user psychology. Lastly, the use of unobtrusive behavioral data is a boon to researchers seeking to test models without having the act of testing impact the results. This approach is far from the traditional laboratory model and could be a great improvement in the external validity of games research, a shortcoming that has long left the work open to criticism (Goldstein, 2005). With the baselines established here, the study of MMOs can proceed to more nuanced investigations of specific theories and processes. And as Kafai's work has shown (Kafai et al., in press), when done in cooperation with game developers or with increasingly accessible tools, games can be used as controlled experimental platforms in their own right.
While they're at it, a study of anger in NMA should also be conducted.
Last edited by hishadow; February 18th, 2009 at 14:15.
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February 18th, 2009, 14:21
Can we have the logs, too ? I'd be interested in it as well, seriously, although in my case it wouldn't be not much more than a mere hobby …

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February 18th, 2009, 14:27
From a pre-print report from Dmitri Williams website:
Looking for gender (LFG): Gender roles and behaviors among online gamers

After providing consent, players completed an online web-based survey that took about 25 minutes. There was no cover story for the instrument, and players were not offered money as an incentive. Instead, they were promised a special in-game item as compensation. This item, the “Greatstaff of the Sun Serpent” was created by Sony for this unique use. According to the Sony team, the item was made to be desirable for players of all levels because of its rarity and its usefulness in combat for any player, and proved to be a valuable recruiting tool for the survey. A total of 7,129 players (5,719 males and 1,406 females) participated in the survey in just over two days.
So much for an unbiased report! lol…
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February 18th, 2009, 17:02
Wow, they managed to get funding for this "research"? Some institution or another obviously has money to burn and too few brain cells to share between their decision-makers.
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