A lot of players probably think that World of Warcraft breeds social skills, to the extent that contempt for one's fellow human beings can be considered a social skill. But according to Peter Stenberg of Umea University in Sweden, there are some actual developments taking place when you play. Stenberg has just released a thesis detailing the social developments he observed during his 250-day stint in the game, discussing the ways in which the virtual environment begins to blend into the real world and develop complex social structures.

As Stenberg puts it, the overall atmosphere of the game forms a collective and developed society apart from the real world, something he claims "challenges the rather persistent view of the computer game enthusiast as a lone figure with only a flickering screen for company." Of course, veteran players of MMOs have no doubt noticed a wide variety of social structures that develop within a game, but Stenberg's work is interesting if for no other reason than it's meant as a serious examination of the phenomenon.

This article was originally published on Massively.
Betawatch: April 15 - 22, 2011