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Understanding the Virtual Community of G... > RESEARCH IN VIRTUAL COMMUNITY - Pg. 1715

Understanding the Virtual Community of Gamers conducted through official and unofficial Web sites which serve as markets where goods and money are exchange, where guilds are formed, and where informal social interactions take place. This is also where play- ers seek information about the game in terms of latest news, updates, tactics, shortcuts, and strategies. EQ is a worldwide leader in massively multiplayer online games, and it is North America's biggest mas- sively multiplayer online game. Since its launch in 1999, EQ and its expansions 1 have sold over 2.5 mil- lion copies worldwide. It continues to be one of the gaming industry's biggest and most influential titles (Radd, 2004), and it has been translated into seven languages. EQ is one of the largest and most dynamic online fantasy worlds ever created (Stratics, 2004). I chose to study EQ because of the incredible popularity of online gaming, which has numerous economic and societal implications. Verant Interactive, an independent online gaming development studio that emerged from 989 Studios (formerly Sony Interactive Studios), began developing EQ in 1996. It debuted on March 16, 1999 by Sony On- line Entertainment and has received numerous awards REsEARCh in viRtuAl Community Over the past years, research in the virtual community has grown and intensified. Moreover, with the expan- sion of CMC, these technologies provide a platform and new ways for global society to meet, communicate, collaborate, socialize, and shop (Burnett, 2000; Turoff, 1991). Much of these works involve case studies, ethno- graphic studies, or personal interviews with community participants where researcher's content analyzed textual documents from the context. For example, an interesting case study conducted by Radin (2001) looked at the issue of social capital and transformations of trust on a breast cancer Web site. Radin found that there was a three-stage process in which (1) newcomers "lurk" in an environment that is rich with breast cancer information and observed the community at their leisure; (2) participants are offered several ways to share personal disclosures, thus build- ing mutual trust; and (3) a variety of shared activities, both virtual and face-to-face helped to build trust. This study showed that these three stages are sequential in helping some participants increase their trust levels. U