Imagining Future Worlds
The most currently-used personality assessment tools of our age are questionnaire-based inventory statements usually with 5 or 7 answer options. The statements are typically of the similar to the following:
- "I usually doubt othersí intentions."
- "I make plans and stick to them."
- "I believe in the importance of art."
There are many problems that these kinds of assessments have to deal with. First of all, the point and social acceptability of the statements are usually very obvious, and itís easy for individuals to "cheat" on these assessments, especially when they are given in a job screening assessment where questions like the following are typically used:
- "I donít mind telling a lie if I know I can get away with it."
- "I take orders and follow them."
The other problem is that different people view the 5 or 7 point scale differently. The scales are usually labeled with "Strongly Agree" or "Strongly Disagree" as the extremes. Some people will never use the most extreme choices, while others use them liberally. In a large aggregated data set (on the order of 100 samples or more), these differences do not affect the outcome analyses much, but when comparing individual to individual, itís impossible to tell how much the response bias factored into the results. Itís also not possible to just mathematically scale the responses because some people do indeed feel more ambivalent about the statements.
In an MMO space, we can think about personality assessment in an entirely different way. We project our own personalities into anything we are emotionally and personally invested in. The reason we know that players project and express their personalities in the game is because we know how much most players care about their avatars, and the successes and failures they encounter in the game. And when we are personally invested in an activity, every decision we make in that space becomes personally revealing.
The MMO world also provides us with a way to directly access and store any relevant personality information. We are no longer in the realm of needing to ask people to rank how they feel about something. We can just measure it unobtrusively. And because we are the ones doing the measuring, we donít have the response bias to worry about. Consider the following kinds of data we could collect from current MMORPG players:
- Assertiveness: How often a player hedges what they say in group/public/private chat. A hedge is a use of a phrase that softens the objectiveness of the sentence, such as "I think", "What if", "IMHO", "Perhaps if we tried" Ö
- Gregariousness: We can measure the sum of all the players that have been in the same group as the player and then divide this by total hours played.
- Leadership: The weighted sum of all the times the player has been a group leader, a chat group leader, a guild leader etc.
- Close Bonds: The number of all private tells sent and received divided by total hours played.
- Extraversion/Adventurousness: A measure of how likely a player stays in the same zones as opposed to constantly being in different places. A measure of need for familiarity.
- Social Network: Calculating how many other peopleís buddy lists this player is on. Mapping whether this player is a hub or outlier. Could also do this the long way with private tells sent and received.
-There are also things we could measure that are not immediately clear what they imply, such as the proportion of gender-bended characters, whether the player typically creates "tall" or "small" avatars in games that allow more detailed customization, as well as race selection.
Of course one assumption we are making is that people behave and act as they really do behave and not some extended masquerade. But the thing is that we all wear masks in real life so we can fit in to our social context. In a sense, even though people may act differently in the virtual world than the real world, we have good reason to believe that how they act in the anonymous and safe space of virtual worlds is truer to who they are. In fact, people are more likely to masquerade in the real world where they are constantly judged by their family and peers.
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