Nottingham Trent University has dispelled the myth that online gamers are socially a bit backwards, GamesIndustry.biz is reporting.
The results came from a new study published in the US journal CyberPsychology and Behaviour.
"This study has revealed many aspects of MMORPGs that were not known before," said University spokesman Mark Griffiths. "Previous research has suggested that gamers are socially inactive, but MMORPGs are actually extremely social games, with high percentages of gamers making life-long friends and even partners."
Looking at nearly 1,000 online gamers from around the world, researchers found nearly three quarters of them made good friends with people they met while playing. Nearly half have met in real-life situations, and one in ten went on to develop physical relationships.
The Social Interactions in Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers study unearthed figures pointing to an average play time of 22.85 hours a week. The most popular game being, unsurprisingly, World of Warcraft.
The study also determined that more than 30 per cent of gamers found themselves attracted to another player, and that 40 per cent chose to discuss sensitive issues with online friends rather than real-life ones.
"As well as making good friends online, 81 per cent of gamers play with real-life friends and family, suggesting MMORPGs are by no means an asocial activity, nor are the players socially introverted," continued Griffiths.
"The virtual world that these games offer, allow players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, age, or other factors. They also offer a place where teamwork, encouragement and fun can all be experienced."
EverQuest II recently made the headlines as two players tied the knot at the Fan Faire 2007 event in the US, followed minutes later by a virtual marriage in-game.