Researchers from the universities of Wisconsin and Illinois find that massively mulitplayer online games can "promote sociability and new worldviews."
The study, based on Lineage 1 and 2, and Asheron's Call 1 and 2, finds that MMOG's serve as virtual "third places." Defined as "the physical places outside the home and workplace that people use for informal social interaction." The researchers argue that this can make the social experience in MMO's akin to that in a local pub, and that the diversity of the players can introduce "new worldviews."
"Game play in MMOs is not a 'single solitary interaction between an individual and a technology,' but rather, is more akin to playing five-person poker in a neighborhood tavern that is accessible from your own living room ... Spending time in these social games helps people meet others not like them, even if it doesn't always lead to strong friendships. That kind of social horizon-broadening has been sorely lacking in American society for decades."
Raph Koster, co-lead designer of Ultima Online and avid gaming pundit, praised the study, and noted that both of the researchers involved are avid MMOG gamers.