Researchers hit a virtual gold-mine recently when they asked Sony for backlogs of data for Everquest 2. Much to their surprise Sony handed over over 60 Terabytes of textual data regarding player interactions, chat, and character behavior. The end result is a log that includes four years of data for over 400,000 players that took part in the game, which was followed up with demographic surveys of the users.
From the original article:
Thanks to a partnership with Sony, a team of academic researchers have obtained the largest set of data on social interactions they've ever gotten their hands on: the complete server logs of Everquest 2, which track every action performed in the game.
Researchers ranging from psychologists to epidemiologists have wondered for some time whether online, multiplayer games might provide some ways to test concepts that are otherwise difficult to track in the real world. A Saturday morning session at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science described what might be the most likely way of finding out. With the cooperation of Sony, a collaborative group of academic researchers at a number of institutions have obtained the complete server logs from the company's Everquest 2 MMORPG.
As the researchers who are dealing with this new resource describe it, it's one of those "be careful what you wish for" situations—with nearly 60TB of data, the standard procedures for tackling social data sets just aren't up to the job.
Dmitri Williams introduced the project and described how researchers have been approaching various game developers over the years. He paraphrased the conversation with Sony as:
"What do you collect?"
"Well, everything—what do you want?"
"Can we have it all?"
So if you thought someone was watching you this whole time...well...You were right...Tom. You were right. (Obvious ploy to scare the crap out of any Tom's who read this)