MMO’s, a personality shift?

I’ve often wondered in what way do MMO’s alter our personality, not only while we are playing them, but also how it changes us in the real world. Does our personality that people see every day change, the more we “jack in” to our virtual worlds? I think in some ways it does, with mixed results.

As an example, I’ll refer to my friend “Steve”. He was a very introverted person in high school, not social at all, had very very few friends. Not a bad kid in any way, just quiet and kept his head down. I sometimes worried if he would ever grow out of it, and open up just a little bit more, or he would have a very hard time outside of college. Enter 1999 and Everquest.

“Steve” was in college, still pretty much the same person he was, before he met Evercrack. The next couple of years were like watching a caterpillar emerge from the chrysalis and wondering what the butterfly would look like when all was said and done. He managed to keep his grades up, but was logging in about 6-8 hours of EQ a day. Wake up, EQ, class, EQ, lunch, EQ, classes, EQ, study, EQ, sleep. Rinse, lather, repeat. I would have been worried, but then again, I was doing pretty much the same thing, ‘cept in my case my off time was spent at my school’s gaming club, playing D&D, Shadowrun, and Battletech until the wee hours of the ‘morn. *ahem*… *coughs uncomfortably, hoping parents don’t read that little bit.*

After a few months, I began to notice “Steve” playing EQ less and less each day, and starting to go out and just… talk to random people. Dorm neighbors, classmates, professors. People that up until now would have been very hard for him to strike up a conversation with. I asked him what had changed, and he shrugged and said “My guild said I should get away from the game and meet more people.”

I looked at him, almost confused. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.” He replied, and smiled. I started then to realize the power of these MMO’s, to be able to actually help change someones personality. It was almost a total shock to see “Steve” out and about, meeting girls, going to parties, getting involved in clubs. In his case I think it was a life-changing experience. My situation I think is a little less striking, but still noticeable.

In my 10+ years of MMO playing, I think I have become in a lot of ways more cynical, sarcastic and snarky. I know, it doesn’t sound possible. But in high school and a good portion of college I was just a simple, happy kid who enjoyed life. But I’ve found that over time, my sense of humor has definitely taken a dark turn, and my comments tend to smart-assed as often as they are intelligent. Obviously no one lives in a vacuum, and there are always other factors at work. However I personally have noticed this change when I started playing EQ. Perhaps it was the community, perhaps it was the people I befriended, but it has always made me wonder: has it affected others as much as “Steve” and I? I would like to hear other’s experiences, so please let the discussion begin.

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~ by trollonfire on October 24, 2007.

4 Responses to “MMO’s, a personality shift?”

  1. This article was such a good one…I had to add mine to the mix. My uncle is a great example of how an MMO actually helped him for the better. Back during the heyday of EQ (when he and I used to play for most of the night) he managed to stand strong in a time in his life when he was emotionally and morally vulnerable. He had been working in a company where some of the coworkers had been sleeping around with each other, which sadly lead to the company’s eventual downfall.
    Thanks to the “escape” of EQ, he was able to distract himself from most of what was happening at work…and when the company finally fell, he was one of the few left standing. People had gained extra respect for my uncle for his ability to “stand strong” despite what was happening around him. He mentioned that online gaming was a wonderful way to keep his mind where it needed to be, and that sometimes distraction can be a GOOD thing.

    As far as myself? I really believe online games have helped me become more social and especially more resourceful. They force you to make decisions quickly…they force you to coordinate and interact with others during intense times (Onyxia anyone?). I feel like perhaps I’m more focused on my goals in real life as a result of my need to focus on goals in-game. I find it hard to believe we delve the deepest dungeons or brave the highest mountains in-game without retaining at least SOME measure of that determination seeping into our real-world lives somehow.

  2. I went through basically the same experience your friend did. I’ve always been somewhat of a recluse, but online gaming has helped me learn to be social. First, it connected me with others who enjoy my usually-solitary passtime: gaming. Once I was placed in the same boat as these strangers, it wasn’t as intimidating as real social situations because there’s no eye contact, body language, and that sort of stuff.

    Online communities can be a stepping stone between solitude and face-to-face socialization. In fact, online gaming, blogging, social network sites, instant messengers… they can all represent different steps toward real social skills and comfort. I don’t think that’s the only way online games can help, but it’s definitely an important one.

  3. Jonathan – that sucks, seriously. I’ve never had that problem at work, thank goodness. I’ve had plenty of hot co-workers I *wish* I had that problem with though… though not the “causing company to go under” kind.

  4. […] Personality – Do MMOs change your personality? Reference to a post from Troll on Fire. […]

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