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Article

On the connection between real-world circumstances and online player behaviour: The case of EVE Online

Plos One. 2020. No. 15(10). P. e0240196.
Belaza A. M., Ryckebusch J., Schoors K., Rocha L. E., Vandermarliere B.

Games involving virtual worlds are popular in several segments of the population and societies. The online environment facilitates that players from different countries interact in a common virtual world. Virtual worlds involving social and economic interactions are particularly useful to test social and economic theories. Using data from EVE Online, a massive online multi-player game simulating a fantasy galaxy, we analyse the relation between the real-world context in which players live and their in-game behaviour at the country level. We find that in-game aggressiveness to non-player characters is positively related to real-world levels of aggressiveness as measured by the Global Peace Index and the Global Terrorist Index at the country level. The opposite is true for in-game aggressiveness towards other players, which seems to work as a safety valve for real-world player aggressiveness. The ability to make in-game friends is also positively related to real-world levels of aggressiveness in much the same way. In-game trading behaviour is dependent on the macro-economic environment where players live. The unemployment rate and exchange rate make players trade more efficiently and cautiously in-game. Overall, we find evidence that the real-world environment affects in-game behaviour, suggesting that virtual worlds can be used to experiment and test social and economic theories, and to infer real-world behaviour at the country level.