The digital dollhouse: Context and social norms in the sims online

Rosa Mikeal Martey, Jennifer Stromer-Galley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


This article investigates the relationships between norms and the rich visual environment of the multiplayer game The Sims Online (TSO). Literature suggests that people exhibit normative behavior in online environments. The complex actions and interactions possible with the game's avatars and a minimal game structure make TSO an evocative online space in which to examine social interaction. Through participation and observation, we examined conversation and avatar conduct in TSO and found norms for verbal and nonverbal behavior that governed both text and avatar use. These norms are related to offline expectations of politeness and etiquette associated with visiting and hosting in people's homes, and they correspond with the visual dollhouse-like environment of TSO and its characters. This game is a special context where social norms are clear and powerful, affecting not only players' game play but also their social interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-334
Number of pages21
JournalGames and Culture
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Avatar use
  • Multiplayer games
  • Online games
  • Social norms
  • The Sims Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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