Measuring social dynamics in a massive multiplayer online game

Michael Szell, Stefan Thurner
2010 Social Networks  
Quantification of human group-behavior has so far defied an empirical, falsifiable approach. This is due to tremendous difficulties in data acquisition of social systems. Massive multiplayer online games (MMOG) provide a fascinating new way of observing hundreds of thousands of simultaneously socially interacting individuals engaged in virtual economic activities. We have compiled a data set consisting of practically all actions of all players over a period of three years from a MMOG played by
more » ... 00,000 people. This large-scale data set of a socio-economic unit contains all social and economic data from a single and coherent source. Players have to generate a virtual income through economic activities to 'survive' and are typically engaged in a multitude of social activities offered within the game. Our analysis of high-frequency log files focuses on three types of social networks, and tests a series of social-dynamics hypotheses. In particular we study the structure and dynamics of friend-, enemy- and communication networks. We find striking differences in topological structure between positive (friend) and negative (enemy) tie networks. All networks confirm the recently observed phenomenon of network densification. We propose two approximate social laws in communication networks, the first expressing betweenness centrality as the inverse square of the overlap, the second relating communication strength to the cube of the overlap. These empirical laws provide strong quantitative evidence for the Weak ties hypothesis of Granovetter. Further, the analysis of triad significance profiles validates well-established assertions from social balance theory. We find overrepresentation (underrepresentation) of complete (incomplete) triads in networks of positive ties, and vice versa for networks of negative ties...
doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2010.06.001 fatcat:j5j2dibsmrgmdmnublwlxeukgq