Current Issue: Vol. 7-1 (03/09/2009)



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The Demographics of Character Creation

MMORPGs are designed to elicit personal and emotional investment. On a superficial level, we can point to the time investment that many MMORPG players put into these immersive worlds. On a deeper level, we can point to how players derive tremendous satisfaction and infuriation from their character’s successes and failures. And because players are personally invested in the character and the world, every decision they make within the construct becomes personally revealing.

Let’s consider a fairly crude example of getting at the complexity of projection. Most games make the character creation process as elaborate and fun as possible – an attempt to create a sense of uniqueness and individuality that is entirely yours. In a recent survey, respondents were asked to select the attributes they favored most in character creation among 4 choices. The gender differences were significant and for the most part expected.

Male players favor physical attributes that have an effect in physical combat, while female players tend to favor mental attributes that contribute to support spells and non-physical combat. Looking at the age differences, we find that younger players tend to prefer the STR/END and DEX/AGI while older players favor WIS/INT.

This has fairly interesting implications in terms of the individuals that make up a group in the game. The data suggests that the primary and secondary tank classes tend to be composed of younger players, while the offensive and support spell-casters tend to be composed of older players.

But the data on age differences is itself interesting. Notice that there is not much differentiation among attribute preference among players between the ages of 12-17, and that the differentiation occurs slowly after this point – the preference for STR/END and AGI/DEX decreases while the preference for WIS/INT increases.

As MMORPGs become more sophisticated and allow more character customization and in-game social decisions, the ability for these environments to elicit personally revealing information increases. As opposed to traditional techniques for projective personality testing (like the Rorschach inkblot test), the MMORPG also gives us an existing computerized framework for easily collecting this data. One could easily imagine tapping MMORPGs for personality assessment and screening techniques in the future.


In my humble opinion...

These results are not that surprising. Throughout my 4+ years of playing MMORPG's, I have been subject to many younger players (I am 28/M) where it seems their main objective is to project their character as someone they would like to be. (i.e. someone more powerful, with strength to overcome the odds). Being that they are younger, it appears that, perhaps in their ignorance or inexperience, they prefer to project strength and power over wisdom and intelligence.

Another interesting observation is this: Strength and Power are a much more natural attribute of real life. Whereas, wisdom is gained through experience, and intelligence is earned through hard word, patience, and dedication - Attributes that younger players lack.

Posted by: Calail on May 3, 2003 5:32 PM

The results are revieling I think. I began playing D&D at a very young age (around 12). I began my playing days by making the biggest most powerful character I could. I find myself now (I am 29 with 3 kids) playing more technically challenging classes that require thought and timing to play well.

Of course I still like the old hack and slash every now and again but, I have definatly out grown that type of character.

Posted by: Redman on May 3, 2003 11:54 PM

Yes, I was not surprised at all as I saw this data. Young players mostly want to be the Superhero wielding the "Grandsword of Slay Anything". I was like that in the beginning of my RPG career (17 years ago). Wisdom and intelligennce are gained by experience, real life experience that younger players lack. Sometimes they even loathe it (perhaps due to puberty related "skirmishes" with their parents). Being a superstrong hero could overcome the odds of being less intelligent and wise in their opinion...

Posted by: Fruusch on May 4, 2003 5:36 AM

Let it not be said that ALL younger players prefer huge, bumbling super-strong oafs. The _same_ percentage of 12-17 players (23.6%) prefer STR/END as do WIS/INT. That generalization also discounts the whole AGI/DEX group.I (bieng 15), play a character based on INT. Although there is not such a marked gap between WIS/INT and STR/END as there is in older player groups, Its not quite so fair to say that all younger players prefer STR/END, not at all.

Posted by: Vojoc on May 4, 2003 11:32 AM

Meez thinkin dat maybe duh smartest peeps in RL play big strong stoopid troll warriors, so az tuh take a break frum bein sooo smart alluh duh time in RL. It takes sumwun calm cool and colllekted to be an effektiv tanker, while it seems dat most uh dos wann-be samrty-pants have a hand a-hoverin oveh duh panic button. Not to mention they seem tuh take any threat to theyz "powerfuh intullect" personalz like and become combative whiney ego-ists. Furthuh mo', i don't think tduh ladder has nuttin tuh do wid what age deys are in RL eithuh. But it rilly not fair for me to judge, aftuh all, I wuz born perfikt, with brainz and fyzikal powuh and spitchual hoomilityz and gud gud sense o'humor too!

Posted by: Jawbreaker on May 4, 2003 12:19 PM

When I game, I play to escape the drama of real life. I play strong tank style female chars, that would hack the proverbial Edwardian knot to bits before ever stopping to untie it. The complete opposite of myself in real life.

I favor physically powerful chars, I prefer to charge into battle with my trusty sword or axe, I enjoy being a 'meat shield' and making a wall for my mage companions to shoot spells from behind. I like being the distraction. I like being the hero.

Posted by: Lilija on May 5, 2003 12:31 AM

The findings of this part of the survey sound very reasonable. In my case the opposite was true - my first RPG characters as a child were magic users, and as an adult they are melee oriented. As a kid, I wished magic was real. As an adult, I appreciate the opportunity to vent my aggressions upon imaginary things and people instead of real ones.

In an MMORPG, it's fun to play a character that defies stereotypes. My primary character is a halfling warrior female, one of only a few on the server.

Posted by: Phreda Biggles on May 5, 2003 2:16 PM

The information presented here looks reasonable, but lately I find myself diverging from the pattern. I've been spending a lot of time creating "oddball" characters, half-orc bards or sorcerers, elven barbarians, and other that are even more strange. I guess breaking the mold and trying to roleplay something a bit out of the ordinary is something I've picked up while I matured as a gamer.

Posted by: Cianwn Gelebraes on May 5, 2003 11:28 PM

Cianwn - that's exactly what the data shows as well. Older players are more likely to have no preference for a particular attribute - fitting your pattern of having a more diverse range of characters.

Posted by: Nick Yee on May 6, 2003 12:50 AM

The results show a tendency, but the numbers alone aren't enough. They do not, e.g. give good choices for people who like to play typical hybrid classes, like paladins, bards Etc. Speaking personally I tend to favor endurance no matter what class I play, and I think the Body versus Mind scale you present is far too simplistic (not to say too dualistic). Paired with the other statistics you have they may give interesting results though - like e.g. the results that show that the average female player is older than the male.

Posted by: Piip on May 6, 2003 2:10 AM

While more younger players may play the straightforward type classes (fighter) which are more in the action, this isn't to say they are the best at it. They may be not as apt to understand the range of spells that spellcasters use.

While the older people may be more apt to pick the "support" classes that aren't all about glory (the uber tank would be dead if it weren't for the healer keeping him alive. But people tend to forget about the healer, and center on what a great tank the fighter is). It is, however, very annoying to be playing with a less intelligent, or less aware tank player, who likes the panic button, or who doesn't protect the weaker "support" people.

Nice data, most comments seem to ignore the "no preferance" column though. This column could mean many different things, possibly that the person plays a variety of classes, and will pick the stat most needed for their class. Personally, I start a game as a fighter class, and then move on to some type of magic user as I understand the game.

Posted by: General Anders on May 7, 2003 4:45 PM

Personally, I do not have a favoured attribute when I create a new character. The attribute I choose to put points into depends completely on the class, so that my character benefits the most from it; e.g. when I created my wizard, I raised chiefly his intelligence attribute; when I created my paladin, it was stamina.
The results evoke the impression that most players choose first their favoured attribute, then the class that incorporates the attribute the most.
In fact, I first choose the class, then the attributes that fit the class. The class and the attributes most players choose are completely linked to each other. Only depicting one of these as in the result above leads to wrong conclusions.

Posted by: Irden on May 22, 2003 6:16 AM

I think that results prove what the interview questions wanted them to, which is that younger players tend to pick certain types of characters and play in specific ways and that older people do the opposite (rather binary if you ask me). I play hybrids, primarily tanks that cast a bit but I find that primarily it is the older players who feel jilted or slighted or inadequate in RL that tend to play the most obnoxious characters. These folks play both casters and tankers and are almost always unreliable in groups (leaving people waiting, pulling before everyone's ready, casting too soon, etc.) I think the real question is how much personal power do you bring to the game and how much are you trying to compensate for how you feel in RL as opposed to in-game.

Posted by: Natoma on June 24, 2003 9:33 AM

What can I say. I think this survey one of my guild members told me to view is very incorrect and a wider search needs to be taken before making the statements that "younger players" (I’m a 20M) favour strength and Agility over Wisdom, isn't a very accurate statement. Most MMORPG’s is based on Classes. For example. Everquest, DAOC, Anarchy Online, Asherons Call all have set templates, so it's not a matter of what primary attribute the player favours 9.9/10 the player will pick the character he wishes to play over the virtual Game field and you just spend points in the stats which the preferred class requires you to spend.

I myself personally love to player kill, so when I choose a game I will create numerous templates to get the feeling of the game and then after 2 weeks of experimenting create my character suited to that Scenario (I.e. what can kill players the quickest). It's about what you want the character to achieve. This is certainly not based on age, but rather the role people wish to play, and have found the majority of male tanks are 20+ and Females tend to focus on Agility. That's my findings. The truth is. If you can't round up all of the MMORPG community online you'll never truly be able to know what age range is accurately playing which due to insufficient Statistical data.

Posted by: Azazzel on July 14, 2003 5:02 AM

Actually, I prefer a Wizard, with lots of Intellect. In every MMORPG I've played, I always ended up sticking with the purest form of Magic-wielding caster. I do prize intellect over strength and power, but one of the things I enjoy most about my EverQuest Wizard is the ability to do the most about to damage in the least amount of time. I have said to many people, that no one else can even come close to doing the damage of a pissed off Wizard. A Wizard can do more damage out of simple irritation then most melee charactors can do in a towering rage. To me that represents Power. Your test considered Strength and Power the same, but that's not always true. Rogues and Wizards, while they usually prefer AGI or INT, still represent in alot of cases more power then the largest strongest Ogre you've ever seen.

Posted by: Korael on August 24, 2003 8:10 PM

Just a few quick points.. I'm not sure you can link agility/dex with strenghth/end that easily, because the appeal of agile classes is often the stealth ability, not the focus on agility/dex attributes.

Also, it isn't clear that healing/support classes are included with wis/int because a lot of games regard them differently, prefering to reserve wis/int for mage archetypes.

Posted by: Jam on May 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Perhaps another point to be made is the contrast in playstyles between melee (typically strength / agility / endurance) and non-melee (typically intellet / wisdom).

Melee classes are typically more straightforward than caster classes, are easier to solo, and don't really show a large difference in terms of solo vs. group play. Thus, melee classes are overall, easier to play.

A ranged or caster class often requires the player to group or requires drastically different playstyles or skill usage. Comparison between a shadow priest and a holy priest in WoW is a perfect example.

The point here is that the younger players either do not have the ability or desire to grasp a particular class / playstyle / etc., and thus choose something easier, barring purely aesthetic choices.

Older players typically want a class that is more complex or more group oriented, because they typically play games with a different attitude than younger players. Adults seek out relationships and understanding in games, while youth typically play only for enjoyment or "cool" factor. (At least it seems this way from my observations.)

I don't know how much one could attribute the age difference in class choice to actually *prizing* different statistics over others. I'm a big fan of wisdom and intellect, but I prefer melee classes in most cases. I don't enjoy being soft and squishy. ;) The paladin seems to be a good mix of both worlds for me.

Perhaps another issue, and one that's definately an issue for me, is that older people are better able to trust people around them to fill a particular role. As one gets older they become less egocentric, and thus they are able to get a better view of the "big picture", and understand that not only can they not *do* everything in a group, they don't *need* to do everything in a group. When you're in a working environment in which you rely on other people to work on various aspects of your own assignments, you're better able to respect other people's abilities to fill various roles vs. trying to be the hero or do it all yourself.

I guess you could say that the "brute force" mentality is less prominent in adults because of working environments which prize intellectual gifts vs. physical strength.

Continuing with the above: A healer class knows that they will have trust the tank to keep the mobs off them, and a mage class does as well. An older, more mature player would probably understand the relationship between the various group roles better than a younger player, and thus would be better able to *fill* other roles in the group other than the tank. I suppose this last bit builds on my earlier comment about the contrast between melee and caster / ranged / support playstyles.

Posted by: SiG on June 2, 2005 2:22 AM

Whenever I play any RPG, I usually like to balance out my party to include plenty of muscle to protect my soft little spellcasters.

But in MMORPG games, I tend to lean towards playing Rogues and sometimes hunters.

Finally, in DnD, I like to explore a multitude of different classes, like The Binder or Psion class.

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