MMOGs have the capacity to function as a form of a new third place for informal sociability.
This is the finding of Constance Steinkuehler and Dmitri Williams over at the Universities of Wisconsin-Madison and Urbana-Champaign) respectively in a paper they have released titled: Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name: Online Games as “Third Places”.
They argue that pariticipation in such virtual “third places” appears particularly well suited to the formation of bridging social capital – social relationships that, while not usually providing deep emotional support, typically function to expose the individual to a diversity of worldviews.
Tasty Research gives a good definition of a third place:
The first place is your home, where you can relax and be comfortable. The second place is where you usually are when not at home — work; work provides social interaction and sense of community. Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks introduced third places as somewhere besides home or work where people can socialize and feel comfortable.