Nearly 60 terabytes of info gathered from more than 400,000 Everquest 2 players has been made available to scientists studying a variety of topics, from social interactions to machine learning.
A meeting last week of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that Sony, when approached about access to the game's data, simply said, "Sure, why not," when asked if it was available for research.
One researcher, who's studied shopping cart abandonment at Amazon as "a virtual event without a real-world parallel," found himself with an enormous set of data regarding similar behavior - individual players dropping out of a game, what that meant for their peers and for the community on the whole.
Another scientist studying social interactions was able to examine how and why players became involved in partnering or trading interactions, and how the actual players physical proximity to one another (same time zone, or geographic area) affected that. He also found that, even adjusting for their low representation, women were more likely to avoid interacting with other players. Wonder why.
The data set spans four years and is so large that researchers have had to inspect large hunks of it rather than writing algorithms that pass through the entire database. But they have come up with some very detailed pictures of the user base:
The average age of players turned out to be 31. "These aren't just pasty white teenage boys in a basement-to be sure, they're there, but they're not typical," he said. The older players tended to play more than the kids and, although the total hours played seem large, he said that the time mostly displaced either TV watching or movie going. And the surveys showed that those who viewed TV news in the first place continued to do so, suggesting that gamers really slotted EQ2 into their entertainment time.
Mostly, the gamers seemed healthy; their body mass index was better than the US average and, although they were slightly more depressed than average, they were also less anxious.
Buried among those happy, average players was a small subset of the population-about five percent-who used the game for serious role playing and, according to Williams, "They are psychologically much worse off than the regular players." They belong to marginalized groups, like ethnic and religious minorities and non-heterosexuals, and tended to use the game as a coping mechanism.
Science Gleans 60TB of Behavior Data from Everquest 2 Logs [Ars Technica]