Contrary to popular belief, being in a guild in an MMOG doesn't turn you into an antisocial loser. It can actually be quite beneficial to your health - if you can control yourself, that is.
Those of us who keep company with the geekier of geeks might be familiar with the sting of being blown off on a social engagement for something far more important: "Sorry guys, I can't come over and play Rock Band while drinking an entire case of Mountain Dew Game Fuel, I've got a raid with my guild in World of Warcraft."
It's easy to say that forming personal and social attachments to friends in MMOGs is an unhealthy thing, especially when it's you who's getting the shaft because of it, but according to a new study coming out of Australia, being in a guild and having genuine emotional ties to the people in that guild can actually be good for your psychological well being.
"Players often form friendships with each other, and while adventuring together in the world, fighting monsters and slaying dragons, they often discuss what is going on in their offline lives with these friends," Huon Longman, a researcher at the Queensland University of Technology said. "I found the more benefit [gamers] drew from these online relationships the less they had negative psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and stress."
Of the 200 World of Warcraft players surveyed, Longman says that most kept their habits within sensible bounds: 20 or so hours of play a week. 10%, however, were going way beyond that, as far as 83 hours per week in one case. These people weren't seeing any of the benefits Longman found in the others. "They weren't receiving any more social support from the game and they were receiving a lot less from offline and they had significantly more negative psychological symptoms," he said.
So that's what one scientist says. Is it true for you? At this point I'm probably averaging maybe half of what Longman says is an average playtime per week, and I don't have many friends in-game, but in my more dedicated days I can certainly say that WoW wasn't bad for my social life. I did talk about my real-life problems with guildies, and communication's always a good thing, so yes, I suppose it could have had its benefits. Having people to help you get those phat loots isn't so bad either.