Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

John Skvoretz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurel Graham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cecil E. Greek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Adriana Iamnitchi, Ph.D.


friendship, gaming, identity, MMOs, sna


This study traces the boundaries of online-based social networks and its possible extensions and intersections with offline social networks. It focuses on the Massive Multiplayer Online gaming community. Most online gaming research has only addressed one side of the equation, i.e., the online aspect of social interaction, omitting the offline context. The primary objective is to look at both offline and online social contexts of gamers. The analysis suggests that overall offline ties are slightly more important than online. Still, this does not imply that online ties are not meaningful at all. The length of their online relationships plays a significant role in how participants qualified their ties. Most participants who had not met face-to-face were willing to meet their online ties. They also reported sharing personal and everyday life matters with their online social network at a lower rate of their offline network. Time spent with online relationships stemming from online gaming and a cooperative environment is more likely to be considered higher quality time.

According to this study’s sample, in general terms, there does not seem to be a strict difference between what they consider a meaningful relationship when it comes to online or offline social ties. There were participants on both sides of the spectrum. One side considered their online contacts more meaningful due to their ability to look for and find others with similar interests with more ease, while the other side made a case for their offline ties. An aspect that played a role as a deciding factor was the affordances that each medium provided. Most of the participants did agree that meeting others online was more accessible and more conducive to developing a meaningful relationship. Offline ties were slightly more likely to be considered more significant than their online counterparts. The modality by which one interacts with others is not as important as the content of the interaction. Offline interaction does present a more precise approach to forming ties, due in particular to the exposure factors; however, as telecommunication technologies become more advanced and ubiquitous, the difference between online and offline becomes smaller. Interactions in MMOs shows a marked difference from other online social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), in the sense that exchanges in MMOs can be continuous and allow for faster development of rapport in a shared joyful environment.

Included in

Sociology Commons