The National Science Foundation has given informatics prof Bonnie Nardi $100,000 to study why Americans go crazy modding World of Warcraft, while Chinese players don't. Nardi has some preliminary thoughts on the difference:

“(The) Chinese have invented some interesting ways to play with the in-game economy (not the real world economy). Ways that I have not observed here in two years of studying ‘World of Warcraft.’ “Chinese players are more attuned to the aesthetics of the game. At least they mention them more in interviews. They talked more about color schemes, animations, architecture, and so on more than American players. “There seem to be fewer female players of ‘World of Warcraft’ in China. On the order of 20 percent here and 10 percent there. “Here and in Europe and Australia/New Zealand people play with parents and even grandparents. Not in China. The older generation dislikes video games. People here play with brothers and sisters. But in China people don’t have brothers and sisters for the most part, so friend relationships are very important.

(Image by Morgan Sherwood) (Photo by Stacina)