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STUDENT'S ONLINE RESEARCH ATTRACTS ATTENTION OF FUTURE EMPLOYER
It all started with a computer game. Several years ago, Yee and a few friends started exploring the game EverQuest, a so-called 3-D massively multiplayer fantasy role-playing game. Yee was drawn into the game's virtual world, complete with its own diverse species, economic systems, alliances and politics. His fascination with EverQuest evolved into an academic interest as well, and eventually it became the basis of his senior research project.
A psychology major with a concentration in computer science, Yee developed an online survey in which he culled both quantitative and qualitative data from some 18,500 responses submitted by 3,300 gamers of EverQuest through the Internet. He examined everything from the age and gender of participants to the psychological components of the game's social interactions. The process and Yee's results offer what Haverford professor Doug Davis calls "an example of what teaching with, through, and for technology can accomplish." Davis adds that the research has received the attention of journalists; psychologists, one of whom asked permission to replicate Yee's study using a different game; and professionals.
Because of his online research, a research arm of Accenture (formerly Anderson Consulting) sought Yee out, flew him to Chicago to give a presentation on his work, and extended him a job offer. Yee begins working for Accenture's Center for Strategic Technology Research (CSTaR) next month, where jobs are usually reserved for those with graduate training in computer science. He will be the only employee in the group with a background in social science.
The people at Accenture apparently recognized Yee was on to something unique. "Even though MMORPG's (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) have been around for about two years, there has been very little research done on these games, apart from the question of whether game violence leads to real-life violence," Yee says. "No one had looked at the more psychological and sociological aspects of the game quantitatively."
Altogether, Yee posted 19 surveys on the Internet between September 2000 and April 2001, each building on the responses of the previous survey. He has posted detailed findings on his web site (www.nickyee.com) and continues to organize and analyze the data he has collected. "The way that I was collecting data online, using HTML forms, is definitely a new way of doing psychological research, which usually takes place in a lab setting," Yee explains. "The database of information is useful because it allows access to both the big numerical picture and individual qualitative responses."
His results indicate that female players find the game appealing and
continue playing for a different set of reasons than male players. For
example, female players find the social interaction of the game more appealing
than the male players do, while male players enjoy the sense of power
the game gives them. Yee also found that female players are more likely
to feel that their EQ friendships are better or comparable to their real-life
friendships. Yee explains that "Female players are more willing to
build relationships in the game, whereas male players are less interested
in doing so. Male and female players have different motivations for playing,
and they become attached to the game for very different reasons."