Massively multiplayer online games as living laboratories: opportunities and pitfalls
In this chapter, I draw on our experience collecting and analyzing behavioral data in online games to discuss the validity of using online games as experimental sites for social science research. In particular, I argue that assuming the existence of a direct mapping between online games and more familiar “real world” spaces might be overly optimistic in some cases, but perhaps less than one might initially think. More importantly I argue that wherever the mapping breaks down, it should also be possible to explain why and to subsequently factor out the confounding factors, which makes using online games as experimental sites a valid proposition provided it is done carefully. My arguments are based on the data we collected, in an attempt to ground the debate rather than arguing about the merits of these environments as a research platform in the abstract.
Ducheneaut, N. Massively multiplayer online games as living laboratories: opportunities and pitfalls. Online Worlds: Convergence of the Real and the Virtual, edited by William S. Bainbridge. London: Springer; 2010; 135-146.