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Frequently asked questions about the MMO research project

Who are you?

We are 15 college undergraduates enrolled in a course on massively multiplayer on-line games at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. We have been playing Everquest II for the past four months, with characters ranging in level from 10 to 30. Our primary characters are members of the guild The Vindicators on the Antonia Bayle server.

What are you doing?

We are using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore sociological issues associated with massively multiplayer virtual worlds. Each student in the class is pursuing a different research question. Topics include: player assumptions about character appearance, the motivation for gaming as evil characters, educational applications of virtual worlds, generational dynamics in on-line play, the use of MMOs for psychotherapy, the newbie experience, social functions of guild membership, and the ways in which virtual worlds might affect our dreams.

Who will see these results?

At the end of the semester, we will share our findings with Everquest II players and with the broader community of gamers. All student papers and presentations will be linked to the course site and made available to anyone with an Internet connection. We will also post links to the papers in the web log Terra Nova and affiliated forums.

Have you had any training in research ethics?

Yes. We have studied ethical principles guiding social science research, and we have paid close attention to the grey-areas surrounding data collection in virtual worlds. We have been tested on our knowledge of these issues, and each student has formulated a checklist of questions for evaluating the ethical parameters of his or her proposed study.

Has this course been reviewed by the human subjects board at Trinity University?

Yes. This course has been formally approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Trinity University.

What principles guide your research?

We are committed to several guiding principles:

  1. We will approach all members of the gaming community with respect and honesty.

  2. We will obtain informed consent from all who chose to participate in the study.

  3. We will not divulge or report any information shared in private conversations without obtaining explicit approval from the person being quoted.

  4. We guarantee confidentiality to all study participants.

  5. We guarantee anonymity to all participants who do not wish to have their identities made public. This means that we will preserve the anonymity of game players and their game characters by using pseudonyms and removing all identifying information from the transcripts.
  6. We will not do anything that could potentially harm participants.

  7. We will not interview anyone under the age of 18 without receiving explicit parental consent.

  8. We will give something back to the community by making our results available at the end of the semester.

If I have further questions, who should I contact?

If you have any questions or concerns about this project, please contact the course instructor (Dr. Aaron Delwiche) at


Procedures governing the use of human subjects in research. Excerpt from the Institutional Review Board policy guidelines at Trinity University.

"Ethical decisionmaking and Internet research." Recommendations from the working committee of the Association of Internet Researchers.

"What constitutes 'ethical participant observation' in MMOG ethnography?" Discussion thread in Terra Nova initiated by Constance Steinkuehler on October 15, 2004.