Valentine Games: Anticipatory Flirting and Dating in a Tween Virtual World

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Breaking New Ground: Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA)

Publication Date



As online games and virtual worlds are becoming the digital public frequented by youth, they not only serve entertainment purposes but also for relationship building. Tweens, individuals between 10 and 13 years old, engage in anticipatory socialization by exploring dating and flirting in online environments. We analyzed logfiles of chat and click interactions, frequency of chat, and content of online newspapers in, a virtual world with 1.5 million registered users between the ages of 8 and 16. We find that, there are common patterns by which tweens in Whyville solicit and follow-up relationships, though these rarely last more than a few days. Additionally, we find a variety of opinions about Whydating and Whymarriage expressed in the Whyville Times, with most writers being against these practices. We conclude that, while the magnitude of flirtatious behavior in Whyville was extensive, it tended to stay on a surface level, imitating popular models and discourse of online flirting. Finally, we discuss the limitations of our methodological approach to qualitatively analyzing logfile data and suggest that our findings are limited to a particular space and time in the existence of Whyville and the tweens who populate it.

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