Virtual Worlds Survey Report: A Trans-World Study of Non-Game Virtual Worlds –Demographics, Attitudes, and Preferences

Virtual Worlds Survey Report:

A Trans-World Study of Non-Game Virtual Worlds –

Demographics, Attitudes, and Preferences


Download the full report here: Virtual Worlds Survey Report


This Report presents results of a virtual world (VW) survey conducted in the summer of 2012, and subsequent analysis through summer of 2014. The aim of this study was to enhance our understanding of demographics, attitudes, activities and play preferences across a variety of non-game, social virtual worlds, also referred to as metaverses. The need for this study arose out of our observation that, while multiple surveys have been conducted on these aspects of a variety of different massively multiplayer games (MMOGs), only a few single-world, topical surveys have been conducted of equivalent non-game worlds, such as Second Life and Our past qualitative and mixed-methods research in multiple virtual worlds indicated that there were significant differences in both demographics and play patterns between open-ended worlds and the more studied game-style worlds. The survey included over 800 denizens of 36 different virtual worlds – recruited via Facebook, virtual world forums and blogs, as well as inworld networks – and focused on four key areas:

  • Demographics: including age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital and family status, income and employment status, religion, region of residence, and disability
  • Avatar Presentation: including form, dress, role, use of alts, and cross-gender play
  • Activities and Play Patterns: including amount and times of day spent, favorite activities, and social interactions including dating, sex, and the fluidity of relationships between virtual worlds and real life
  • Creativity and Commerce: including creative activity, real estate ownership, virtual item transactions, virtual currency transactions, and income from virtual world activities

The report also includes a comparative analysis of similar results from game-based surveys to better understand the similarities and differences between these forms of virtual worlds. We conclude with a summary of the findings, a description of a planned supplement dealing with responses to open-ended questions, and suggested topics for further research. This report covers primarily multiple-choice questions across these subject areas, and a summary of responses to open-ended questions. A subsequent supplement will be released with more detailed analysis of open responses.


  • Celia Pearce is a game designer, author, teacher and researcher with expertise in multiplayer games and virtual worlds, as well as independent and art games, and games and gender. This study was conducted while she was an Associate Professor of Digital Media at Georgia Tech; she has recently joined the faculty of Northeastern University as an Associate Professor of Game Design.
  • Bobby R. Blackburn is an independent game designer and research consultant. He began working on the VW Demographic survey while earning a BS in Computational Media from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a focus toward game design and development. He helped research, author, and launch the survey instrument, managed advertising and recruitment, conducted data cataloging and analysis, authored tables and diagrams, and co-authored the final report.
  • Carl Symborski is a Chief Engineer at Leidos, Inc., where he is a program manager and technologist leading science and technology programs, including training games-related research programs. His research interests include serious games, virtual communities, and computer networking.

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Releases Spring 2014

Check out our releases for Spring 2014:

Mermaids MMOG

Final NETWORKED Build:


Re:Activism Atlanta

{egg} Public Playtest

Re:Activism Atlanta

Releases Fall 2013

Check out our releases for Fall 2013:

Ellis Island MMOG

Mermaids MMOG

Online Release:

Tiamat Media ARG

GVU Demo Day 2013

Join us October 30th for

Demo Day 2013

Come see what Digital Media at Georgia Tech is up to!

As part of the GVU Research Showcase, the Digital Media program at Georgia Tech will present innovations in its three core areas of Arts and Entertainment, Civic Media and Knowledge & Creativity. In addition we will host an information session for prospective students. Please join us and join the debate on the future of digital media.

Information Session for Prospective Students, Wednesday, October 30th, 1- 2, Technology Square Research Building, Room 132

Events Demo, Wednesday, October 30th, 2-5, Technology Square Research  Building, 3rd Floor

RSVP for Information Session Here:

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Celia Pearce talks about the Design Values of the {egg}

Dr. Celia Pearce talks about the design values that make the Emergent Game Group {egg} at Georgia Tech unique. Recorded on the 21st of October 2013 at the Experimental Game Lab in Atlanta.

Multiplayer Game and Virtual World Research Portal

This is a project in-progress to aggregate all the major research on MMOGs and virtual worlds. We will be expanding this project in the coming months to include other contributors to assist us in keeping our research up-to-date.

Creative Collaboration in Online Worlds—The University of There: Project Overview

Creative Collaboration in Online Worlds is a yearlong study conducted with a grant from the National Science Foundation to learn how players collaborate, teach and learn in virtual worlds. The study focuses on The University of There, a player-run virtual university within the virtual world We have been participating in classes and other events, attending staff meetings, and interviewing staff, students and faculty. The findings will be released in a series of papers, the first of which was presented at DiGRA 2009 in London in October of 2009. The paper can be found here.

Celia Pearce, Principal Investigator

Graduate Research Assistants
Pauline Chan (Spring-Summer 2009)
Katherine Mancuso (Summer-Fall 2008)

Celia Pearce & Tom Boellstorff on Metanomics, March 2, Noon Pacific

METANOMICS: Av-Culturation

METANOMICS: Av-Culturation
Host Robert Bloomfield and guests Celia Pearce and Tom Boellstorff
Monday, March 2, Noon to 1 PM Pacific Time
Hear the Podcast
Read the Rebuttals