Reviewing the potentials of MMOGs as research environments: A case study from the strategy game Travian

PLoS One. 2023 Feb 15;18(2):e0281114. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281114. eCollection 2023.


Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) provide many opportunities for scientists. Previous research ranges from personality trait prediction to alternative cancer treatments. However, there is an ongoing debate on whether these virtual worlds are able to represent real world scenarios. The mapping of online and offline findings is key to answering this question. Our work contributes to this discussion by providing an overview of the findings from network-based team and leadership research and by matching them with concrete results from our MMOG case study. One major finding is that team size matters. We show that high diversity in the type of teams is a major challenge, especially when combined with the immense amount of data in MMOGs. In our work, we discuss these issues and show that a well-grounded understanding of the data and the game environment makes it possible to overcome these limitations. Besides the team size, the aggregation periods play an important role. Regarding MMOGs as research environments, we show that it is important to pay close attention to the specific game-related contexts, the incentive structures, and the downside risks. Methodologically, we apply support and communication networks to show the influence of certain group-based measures (e.g., density, transitivity) as well as leadership-centered characteristics (e.g., k-core, group centrality, betweenness centralization) on team performance. Apart from our findings on centralization in communication networks, we are able to demonstrate that our results confirm the theoretical predictions which suggest that the behavioral patterns observed in MMOG teams are comparable to those observed in offline work teams.

MeSH terms

  • Leadership
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Motivation
  • Social Networking
  • Video Games*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.