The Evolving Virtual Relationships: A Longitudinal Analysis of Player Social Networks in a Large MMOG
41 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 18, 2011
How do social networks formed in MMOGs change over time? Are online relationships merely random, short-lived encounters or lasting and substantive connections? This study aims to examine the dynamic processes of relationship formation, maintenance, and demise in online worlds. Drawing from the theoretical framework of organizational ecology and network evolution, this study focuses on the effects of three sets of evolutionary factors in the context of social relationships formed in the online game EverQuest II (EQII): the aging and maturation processes, social architecture, and homophily and proximity. A longitudinal analysis of tie persistence and decay demonstrated the transient nature of social relationships in EQII, but these ties became considerably more durable over time. Also, character level similarity, shared guild membership and geographic proximity were powerful mechanisms in preserving social relationships.
Keywords: network evolution, social networks, MMOG, link decay
JEL Classification: Z00
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