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Through The Looking-Glass

Finally, respondents were asked whether they felt that they were more of "who you really are" in the MMORPG than in real life. There were no significant gender differences.

The multiple regression results show that players who enjoy socializing and who use online games as a form of escape feel their online identities are closer to "who they really are". The same is true for Introverts. This finding helps us make more sense of the earlier data (on page 1) where we found that Introverts are more likely to behave differently online. Looking at these two data points together, it suggests that while Introverts behave differently online, their online identity is actually more of who they really are. This seems to imply that online spaces allow Introverts to overcome some social or psychological barriers that prevent them from being who they want to be in the physical world.

Note (11/30/2007): Small changes were made due to errors spotted by Mage5625. The story around Introverts/Extraverts got a little more interesting.


Posted on February 21, 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)


I wonder if the correlation between age and similarity of game-play to real personality is also related to a greater understanding of ones own personality that comes with age and maturity.

The graph seems to top/bottom out at the 23-28 age bracket and remain relatively constant. That happens to correspond with an age range where MOST people are on their own, living full adult lives.

Another way of stating that is that I'm not sure the average 12-17 year old is mature enough to realize that, in fact and regardless of what s/he thinks about the difference between their in-game personality and their real personality, they actually are quite similar in-game and out.

Posted by: Zymurgyx_MT on February 22, 2004 6:34 PM

The divergence with age doesn't surprise me. I believe older players have a greater RP background than younger players.

Older players "grew up" on MUDs, table top RPGs, etc. so they are not strangers to playing 'in character'. Many older players got into these kind of games for that very reason, to RP. They choose a character for aesthetic reasons.

Most games today are either solo player PC games, or console games. They focus on personal achievement and 'scoring'. So, I think yonger players simply see their character as a means to an end. Also, their interaction with others often seems be OOC information gathering on rules, strategies, etc.

I think as time goes on you will see the gap between the ages close.


Posted by: Bob K. on February 23, 2004 4:29 AM

I agree with Zymurgyx. I've had the experience on more than one occasion of saying to some very immature player, "When I was a kid like you..." and having them respond, shocked, "How did you know I'm a kid?" The youngsters have no idea how clearly their personalities come through despite any efforts to the contrary.

Posted by: Megara on February 23, 2004 8:20 AM

Younger players tend to be In Character, just by the fact they generally are being themselves. The role-play isn't developed often but their character immersion is.

For many 'adults' the RP is why they go to the game. Even those that are there for the mechanics tend to have an innate respect for where they are.

Posted by: Mark on February 23, 2004 5:01 PM

I found this fascinating as well.. My first reaction to the fact that so many people behaved similarly was 'what's the point then'?

I've always been someone who looked at RP as roleplaying SOMETHING_ELSE. If you're roleplaying yourself, you aren't really roleplaying.

Perhaps the fact that older people roleplay less then (given that definition of roleplaying), perhaps thats another reason why there are far more younger people playing, since it is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

Also, many people tend to play games, even RP targeted ones, without doing any roleplaying, and you might be getting some false-positives in here who think that 'not roleplaying' == 'roleplaying like i am in RL'.

I'm new to the site, so forgive me if I come off ignorant or present views that are at ends with or explained by previous research :)

Posted by: Kevin on March 11, 2004 9:08 PM

I think that some people dont realise that they are in fact role playing. If a game gives you a little more confidence to (for example) say something you wouldn't normally say, that is a form of role playing. They play the "self" they want to be, and play the self whom they would like to appear to others. I think it is hard for some people to realise that their outgoing RP Character isn't who they are in RL.

Posted by: Rebecca on April 5, 2004 12:01 AM

on the contrary....i beleive that the reason people roleplay, at least to the older class of so that you have a chance to do the things you can't, either due to "legal" or "physical" or maybey even mental limitations...if people reacted like they do in game as they do in real life there would be alot more people running around with swords chasing each other down so they can get each others "lOOT" and be "l33t"...even the younger generation has no capacity for doing theese things in real life...they aren't there really is more of a setting experience for me...i like the "fantasy" feel of games that i play so i do..not for the fact of being someone different...but being "somewhere" different...and being able to interact differently because

Posted by: brandon on April 8, 2004 9:05 AM

I totally agree with Brandon above. I play these games not really to become someone different, but to be "somewhere different". A place with adventure and excitement, something that you just can't find in the real world.

I think it's more fun actually to play who you really are in a RP game. You can expierence what it would be like to be in that world as yourself; for the most part that is. I too just like the "feel" of fantasy games, they bring to the table a whole other world to portray yourself. It's all in good fun =)

Posted by: James on April 21, 2004 11:45 PM

That's very interesting to see how gamers have changed the initial way of role playing.

Whereas table players tend to try new personnalities in a world that they already know well (medieval world), new players tend to be more attracted in discovering new and original worlds.

This may be a reason why new MMORPGs try to create new and original worlds and why they don't live as long as table RPGs used to last (D&D ?)

Posted by: Vincent on March 19, 2005 8:07 AM

When I create a character in a game, I tend to make it look similar to me without thinking about it, however my younger brother, always makes his players very different

Posted by: Alex on June 22, 2006 11:37 AM

Wait, I don't get this.

"The multiple regression results show that Introverts are more likely to behave similarly while Extraverts tend to behave more differently. Also note that Age and Extraversion do not correlate (r = -.02)."

In the Multiple Regression Results for Behavioral Similarity, Age is .13 and Extraversion is .12. Now behavioral similarity seems to increase with age from the graph above the table, so since Extraversion has almost the same value, similarity should increase with Extraversion as well. But you said Extraverts tend to behave more differently. Was the Extraversion value supposed to be -.12 instead of +.12?

Posted by: mage5625 on November 30, 2007 4:39 PM

Mage5625 - Thanks for spotting that and commenting on it. I went back and re-ran the regressions to double-check. It turns out the data is right and the write-up is wrong.

For "behavioral similarity", Introverts actually behave more differently online, but the twist is that the "who I really am" data was right. Introverts feel they are more of who they really are online. So this means that Introverts behave differently online, but their online identities are more of who they really are. For Introverts, they feel they can't be who they really are in the physical world, but they can make it happen in online games. For Extraverts, there's less of a discrepancy in the physical world, and consequently, less of a need to remedy that in the virtual world.

So the story is actually a little more interesting than it was before. Thanks again for catching this.

Posted by: Nick Yee on November 30, 2007 9:56 PM
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