Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

First Advisor

Michael F. Dahlstrom


Video games represent a fast-growing medium and researchers are exploring their social influence, especially regarding the risks associated with gaming. Most studies have focused on an expert's view, rather than exploring how users themselves perceive and mitigate such risks. This qualitative study fills this gap by conducting in-depth interviews with 18 players of the browser based Massively Multi-player Online (MMO) strategy game, Lord of Ultima, in order to generate a mental model of how gamers see the risks associated with playing a MMO game. Results suggest that the primary risks in the minds of the gamers are loss of opportunity and time due to pathological gaming, cyber bullying and sexual harassment, and risks due to sharing financial information or due to malicious software. The study explores the motivations and perceived benefits derived by long-term players of the game, and explores the role of trust, group effects and player perceptions of risk in players' risk mitigation strategies. Some behaviors and consequences that experts would consider a risk are considered a benefit by gamers; this has implications for risk communication strategies around gaming. It also points to the importance of considering the user model of risks. Additionally, much of the literature conflates two genres of video game that likely exhibit unique effects. Many of the risks identified in MMO Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) were not considered relevant by long-term players of this game, since participants attributed those risks as being associated with the use and manipulation of a three-dimensional avatar in MMORPGs. Thus, this study extends the focus of inquiry away from the usual MMOPRG genre to explore the overlooked browser MMO genre of video games.


Copyright Owner

Sarani Rangarajan



File Format


File Size

80 pages