The social fabric of virtual life (ERC Starting Grant)

A longitudinal multi-method study on the social foundations of online gaming (SOFOGA)

Period January 2010 to December 2014
Conductor Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt
Assistance Emese Domahidi, M.A., Dipl.-Psych. Malte Elson, Dipl.-Medienwiss. Johannes Breuer
Institution Department of Communication
Funding European Resarch Council (ERC)
Tags Online-game-worlds, GameLab, Social Order in Online-game-worlds,
Media Effects Research, Methods of Communication Science


Through the EU excellency program “Starting Independent Researcher Grants" the European Research Council (ERC) has positively evaluated a proposal by Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt, recommending it for a grant of 1.84 million Euro.

The reviewers and the expert panel ranked the five year project, The Social Fabric of Virtual Life: A Longitudinal Multi-Method Study on the Social Foundations of Online Gaming (SOFOGA) as being "outstanding" – the highest evaluation given. Starting in January 2010 a broad analysis of the real-world and game-world experiences of online gamers will be made possible with the support of the ERC. This multi-method project, with a dedicated six-member research team, will be implemented at the Universität Münster.

This project shall analyze:

  1. how social order in online-game-worlds is generated and how it is sustained
  2. how the gamers’ real-world is influenced by the social order of the online-game-world
  3. how the experience of the online-game-world is influenced by the real-world

The project’s holistic approach includes different analysis steps on the macro, meso, and micro level of the respective field. These analyses will be carried out in the real-world as well as in the virtual-world of online-gamers.

Besides the interaction processes between the macro, meso and micro level, analysis of the political and economic background of online-game-worlds is planned.


The project is designed as a longitudinal multi-method study. The respective field in its breadth and variety shall be analyzed with traditional methods such as a large scale telephone survey (CATI based 'omnibus' study), a subsequent three-wave-panel survey, discussions in focus-groups, network analyses and qualitative surveys, as well as with innovative methods.

The project has a methodological pioneer character because it is the first time that online-gamers will be observed in their game-world (immersive research) for extended periods of time. Using Avatars, the researchers will observe events inside the game-world.

In order to observe the in game behavior, the 'real life' reactions of the gamers, and their physiolocial reactions, a laboratory (GameLab) will be built.