The research has destroyed critics' claims that online games are responsible for wrecking relationships and encourage anti-social behaviour.
The worldwide study of 1000 hardcore gamers found that 43 per cent had met with online friends in real-life situations and over 70 per cent of both male and female gamers had made good friends while in-game.
"As well as making good friends online, 81 percent of gamers play with real-life friends and family, suggesting (computer games) are by no means an asocial activity, nor are the players socially introverted," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Professor Mark Griffiths, co-author of the study, as saying.
Professor Griffiths said the study demonstrated that the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) were great socially interactive environments and provided the chance to create strong friendships and emotional relationships.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 912 MMORPG players from 45 countries, with World of Warcraft being the most popular MMORPG. The participants spent an average of just under 23 hours a week playing the games.
Around 30 percent said they found themselves attracted to fellow gamers while a further 40 percent said they would prefer to discuss sensitive personal issues online with friends. Another 10 per cent of all participants said that they developed a physical relationship with someone they met in a game.
"The study showed MMORPGs can be extremely social games, with high percentages of gamers making life-long friends and partners," said Prof Griffiths.
"It was concluded that virtual gaming may allow players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality and/or age," he added.
The researchers have published their findings in the US Journal CyberPsychology and Behaviour.