Young people in virtual worlds
Much of my research has examined why young people, often called as digital natives, engage in virtual worlds on a continuous basis and purchase virtual goods and premium access to the platform. I have specifically focused on platforms that can be categorized as social virtual worlds. Social virtual worlds, in contrast to gaming-oriented virtual worlds, focus on social interaction between the users, do not include a narrative goals for the users, and do not include level-ups portraying character advancement.
In many of my studies in the area I have examined the role of motivation, social influence, and the user interface of the service as the factors predicting the sustained user engagement and purchasing from different angles.
My work on virtual worlds started in 2008 with my doctoral dissertation project. The empirical data was collected from Habbo Hotel. Habbo was in the early 2000s the leading virtual world for teenagers with more than 10 million monthly active users. Due to the massive adoption of Facebook and the introduction of Facebook’s gaming apps, the popularity of Habbo started to decline in the early 2010s.
Virtual worlds were never adopted by the masses in a similar way like for example Facebook or YouTube. One reason for this could be that the value-added of the avatar-based navigation in an audio-visually rich environment was not fully materialized due to technical constraints and the learning effort required from the users. Now, when virtual reality technologies are developing rapidly and new commercial applications are being introduced frequently, it is very interesting to see if virtual worlds will make a comeback in some form and/or components of virtual worlds will be introduced to platforms such as Facebook.
Mäntymäki, Matti & Riemer, Kai (2014) “Digital natives in social virtual worlds: A multi-method study of gratifications and social influences in Habbo Hotel”, International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 210-220.
Mäntymäki, Matti & Salo, Jari (2015) “Why do teens spend real money in virtual worlds? A consumption values and developmental psychology perspective on virtual consumption” International Journal of Information Management Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 124-134.
Mäntymäki, Matti, Merikivi, Jani, Verhagen, Tibert, Feldberg, Frans & Rajala, Risto (2014) ”Does a contextualized theory of planned behavior explain why teenagers stay in virtual worlds?” International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 567–576.
Mäntymäki, Matti & Salo, Jari (2011) Teenagers in social virtual worlds: Continuous use and purchasing behavior in Habbo Hotel. Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 6, pp. 2088-2097.