The latest issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication includes an article exploring how MMOs are becoming "third places." This established term comes from home and work being the first two places people people congregate; Starbucks credits much of its sprawl on exploiting the coffee shop as a third place, rather than pushing customers out the door.
Assistant professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign extensively discuss how we're meeting each other more often in game worlds. They say the interaction gives a useful sense of community and may even be replacing physical third places. The writers argue that while the online communities aren't the same as those in-person, they shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant.
We've always enjoyed the multiplayer aspects of gaming and playing games with friends, even if just passing off the controller. With frequent press about games and MMOs as the latest scapegoat, we like seeing articles like this taking a deeper look into into how these worlds are constructive.