Dear Steinkuehler and Williams,
Unlike the widely popular belief that people online are isolated individuals, many are actually helping people engage in social interaction online. Many institutions are quick to blame technology for the lack of social engagement. As you have argued, people can find a way to supplement the in person social engagement with online communities. These online communities serve as a “third place” meaning places for people to socialize like how people socialize in person at bars, restaurants, and other social places.
Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) are a perfect example of these “third places” but they even go a little further. Rather than just communicating with others, players sometimes become interdependent on each other to complete tasks. People are not only socializing with others, but they are beginning to develop relationships and bonds with others from around the world.
I believe a major reason people are beginning to join these online communities is due to the autonomy and convenience of them. Some people feel uncomfortable approaching new people and starting a conversation. But in the virtual world, you are able to hide behind the avatar and pseudonym. You said in your article that it is very rare for people to use their real names and I can understand why. People also join these communities because it is convenient. People can log on anywhere and at any time when there is a computer and Internet available. When people have time to kill, they can easily jump online and not have to worry about their real life appearance or obligation to stay on. These worlds are also appealing to some because ones offline identity does not play a role to their online identity.
It is interesting to know that regular users have developed a unique atmosphere to the game and play a role in shaping newcomers. This shows that the game has really developed a sense of community. When you go to any restaurant, you get a feel of the kind of place it is from the beginning and I think that is what is happening in these games.