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Analysis of the Social Distance in the Game World and How to Manage It

Summary

Social distance, the gap between different groups, exists almost every society. In video games, since it is a virtual world consist of many different players, there is also social distance between existing users and new users.

Sentience measured the social distance in a MMORPG game and found that the gap between existing users and new users makes the new users leave the game. We suggest ways to manage the social distance and increase the LTV of new users.


About social distance model

Social distance is the distance between different groups of people; social class, race, gender, or sexuality, which is often influenced by the culture. It is opposed to locational distance. While race, gender, or sexuality is unknown in the virtual world, social class, which can be expressed by the level of the player’s character may generate the social distance among players. Since the social distance often makes new users leave the game, the understanding of the relationship between the game player's inherent motives and sustainability is a crucial factor in the success of the game.


The existence of social distance in Everplanet (Nexon)

Everplanet is a Korean MMORPG service provided by Nexon. In Everplanet, the users join hunting parties and hunt monsters with their avatars. As a high-level avatar can cast a stronger spell and wield a stronger sword, the level represents the power and social class among the players. The gap between players with high-level avatars and low-level avatars shows the social distance.

The existence of social distance in games often hinders new users from playing. If the social distance is not managed, the system may collapse rapidly. As the number of new users decreases, the gap between new users and old users gets bigger, and the number of new users will reduce.




We demonstrate

the existence of social distance model in MMORPGs as the real world does. By investigating the game users’ activities in MMORPGs, we found that social distance affects the user’s behavior in games and it decreases players’ utility.

The analysis results suggest that social distance can initiate positive feedback of abandonment, resulting in the rapid collapse of the number of players.


Execution

We demonstrate a computational model which investigates the sustainability of MMORPGs from the social distance perspective by considering the major differences of the virtual world in an MMORPG and the real world.

This study offers a relatively new approach by combining characteristics of MMORPG and social distance with both a computational model and empirical support.


Insights

MMORPG managers seek to maximize the number of players, rather than the production of the participants. By considering such characteristics of MMORPG in our model, we argue that this study can offer new perspectives and insights for understanding economic and social phenomena in the virtual world.