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Online Game Cheating Tempered By Player Community

by Matt Miller on Jan 08, 2014 at 06:40 AM

A new study published in the journal of Behavior and Information Technology offers some interesting details about the way that online gamers behave. Contemporary wisdom suggests that anonymity is the biggest factor that enables and encourages bad behavior from online players, but this new study offers a more nuanced picture, suggesting that group dynamics of other players in the game can dramatically affect how individual players act.

The study, “Group identification as a mediator of the effect of players’ anonymity on cheating in online games,” by Vivian Hsueh-Hua Chen and Yuehua Wu, may be a long title, but it’s also a notable study for those of us who play MMOs. The study looked at over 900 teenagers and examined their gaming behaviors. Playing with strangers in an anonymous setting was found to be highly predictive that the player would engage in cheating. However, cheating was also largely influenced by the social groups the player engaged with. If a social group was prone to cheating or not, the individual player was more likely to do the same. 

In addition, male gamers were found to cheat more frequently than female gamers. But female gamers were more likely to alter their behavior and begin cheating because of the social group’s actions. You can read the full study here

Have you observed changes in your own behavior, or your fellow players, because the rest of the community in a game acts a certain way? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

[Source: Taylor & Francis Group]


Our Take
It’s easy to brush off findings like this as common sense conclusions – of course an already negatively charged gaming community is more prone to encourage negative behaviors from its players. However, empirical studies like this one help to show clear lines of prediction and correlation that can guide developers to make better games, and help gaming communities recognize what is necessary to improve. Moreover, this particular study offers a valuable lesson – even in an anonymous setting, there is value in encouraging good behavior amidst the group, as it can have a powerful effect on individuals.