Doing virtually nothing: awareness and accountability in massively multiplayer online worlds
To date the most popular and sophisticated types of virtual worlds can be found in the area of video gaming, especially in the genre of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). Social interaction is central in these virtual worlds and takes place primarily through a system of simulated face-to-face interaction among characters involving 3D "avatars" (or virtual bodies) and text chat. However, despite the impressive visual realism of the avatars and 3D environments of the latest games, their interactional realism so far is less developed: social interaction is often awkward and surprisingly unnatural. In real-life face-to-face, ordinary social activities are "accountable," that is, participants use a variety of kinds of observational information about what others are doing in order to make sense of others' actions and to design appropriate responses. The ability to publicly observe other participants conducting a variety of types of seen-but-unnoticed behaviors enables participants to achieve tight coordination in interaction. Such behaviors include: 1) the real-time unfolding of turns-at-talk, 2) current conversations with others, 3) current embodied activities and 4) direction of eye gaze. But despite the fact that today's games provide virtual bodies, or "avatars," for players to control, these avatars display much less information to other players than real bodies do. In this paper, we discuss the impact of the lack of each type of information on players' ability to mutually orient their attention and tightly coordinate their activities. We then offer guidelines for the design of more natural systems. (DOI:10.1007/s10606-006-9021-4)
Moore, R. J. ; Ducheneaut, N. Doing virtually nothing: awareness and accountability in massively multiplayer online worlds. Computer Supported Cooperative Work. 2007 June; 16 (3): 265-305.