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



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It's A Matter of Perspective

Past data had suggested that gender differences are driven by different motivations for participation. In very broad strokes, female players are more drawn to relationship-oriented activities while male players are more drawn to achievement-oriented activities.

The perception and use of an avatar - as the primary means of agency in online environments - might be expected to be shaped by the motivations for participating in the environment. In particular, goal-oriented users may be more likely to treat avatars as tools/pawns to achieve goals, thereby encouraging a preference for 3PP that objectifies and externalizes the avatar, whereas relationship-oriented users may be more likely to treat avatars as representations of themselves in a social environment, thereby encouraging identification and treating the avatar as the self through 1PP. This would also be supported by the age differences given that younger players tend to be more achievement-driven. In other words, I argue that more fundamental motivational differences are driving the gender and age differences.

To test this line of reasoning more directly, users who preferred 1PP vs 3PP were compared on their motivations for playing based on an assessment derived from a previous study. Users who preferred 3PP scored higher on Achievement (t = 5.5, p < .001) and Grief (t = 8.5, p < .001), and lower on Relationship (t = -8.0, p < .001) than users who preferred 1PP, which supports the hypothesis.

To tease apart the relative importance of age, gender and the motivations, a logistic regression was performed using 1PP/3PP as the categorical predicted variable. The Relationship motivation emerged as the most significant predictor (t = 7.7, p < .001), followed by age (t = 6.2, p < .001), Grief (t = -5.0, p < .001) and then gender (t = 2.38, p = .002).

Thus, it appears that the observed gender difference is being driven by underlying motivational differences between users who play to form and sustain relationships and users who objectify the environment and other users for personal gain. In either way, what is clear is that motivational differences are linked with preferences for perspectives in these environments.

While causality can't be directly inferred from this data set, the opposite claim that default (or fixed) perspective shapes motivations for playing doesn't easily explain the observed gender differences.



This is an excellent write-up. I would be one of the males in the minority group which selected a preference with 1PP. This preference was present because, during my time playing Everquest, the first person was almost a neccesity(sp) for certain areas, such as climbing the icey labyrinth of Velketor for example. The needed footing and straffing was made much easier in this case, while at the same time you're actually playing from your character's eyes, becoming your character, enhancing aspects of the addictive experience.
Other MMOs I've played, such as DAOC, EQ:OA, FFxi, and Horizons don't have nearly as much focus on character footing, so for practicality, it's not required.

Posted by: AlphabetMan on July 13, 2004 3:20 PM

I'm male, and firmly set on 1PP. This mostly comes from my love of the immersiveness of first person shooters and the fact that I don't have a "floating camera" complicating things. Watching my character's choppy battle animations don't excite me either.

The only time I've ever switched to 3PP is for the occassional screenshot or to check out what my character looks like holding a gun or new clothing/armor. I love this feature on SWG the most, with the camera adjustment convieniently on the mouse wheel.

Heh, there are far too many times I've come from the battleground and started to roleplay with my friends only to realize sometimes hours later I'm still wearing my helmet.

Posted by: Bryan on July 13, 2004 8:58 PM

I've always felt that 1PP is more immersive, tho I must admit I found myself using 3PP when it gave me an advantage to do so (like seeing something coming at me from behind). In some ways, I would prefer a game that not only was 1PP, but did not have a 3PP view, for the very reason that it isn't realistic. Of course, 1PP wouldn't be a disadvantage if it was as easy to look behind you as turning your head is in RL.

Posted by: Steve on July 13, 2004 9:14 PM

I greatly prefer 3PP in games. In real life, being stuck in first-person is acceptible, because my sense of hearing gives me some perception of what's going on behind me. In games, the sound effects are nowhere near good enough to give that perception, and further, games frequently place a premium on maximizing one's awareness of the situation. Consequently, first-person is inadequate.

Posted by: Carnildo Greenacre on July 13, 2004 11:50 PM

An interesting thing you will find is that both 1pp and 3pp advocates will often argue that their preferred perspective provides more profound immersion in the game world. Personally i find 3pp to be a more immersive representation of reality than 1pp. It's an interesting and inflammatory issue, as you can see often see on forums for games that are in early development.

That women prefer 1pp more than men is totally mystifying to me, though. I would have thought the opposite would be the case, based on the number of men who play first person shooters which i think have proportionately fewer female players than MMORPGs do.

Men are traditionally considered more visually oriented... maybe men like to watch their characters more. That would be a bit of irony, lol.

Posted by: Alistair on July 14, 2004 11:57 PM

Pretty much the guys before me have pretty much summed up the whole deal with perspective in terms of immersiveness and perception, however i would like to att one more straw to this discussion.

Many players have started not in mmorpgs, but in normal pc rpgs such as baldur's gate, diablo, rage of mages(although there's not that many ppl who know it) etc. Basically in them you are forced to a 3-d person perspective and can't do anything about it. This force of habbit is the same reson why so many eq players prefer 1-st person keyboard movement.

Personally i started with the 2D rpgs and my first mmorpg was UO where you have no choice but to use mouse to move and watch the character from the height. I guess you can tell which i'm more used to :)

Posted by: Gandy on July 15, 2004 12:48 AM

Was there any data collected on the gender of the characters viewed in 3rd person perspective. I'm interested in wether the male preference for 3PP corolates with the greater likely hood that males play opposite gender characters at a higher ratio.

Posted by: Fenmarel on July 16, 2004 3:39 AM

I personally find that 1pp is by far limiting in the experience in the game, as I enjoy watching my char /dance /emote run and jump. It seems very boring to not witness the occurances you can put a char through, like combat for example is so boring without seeing the animations invovled with the casting or sword swinging or the bow fire.

I don't know if I totally agree that Males preferr to use 3pp because of being able to move a pawn around. Some of us just enjoy seeing how we are personified in the game as other people would. Although I do enjoy achievement of gaining levels or crafting skills, I find the economics and interpersonal relationships that can develope through trade and grouping. Watching my char craft something is just as important to me as doing the crafting, even if it's the same animation over and over again, it makes you have the feeling you are actually doing something.

While the information from this study does have some decent information that may support your hypothesis I suggest further sampling be taken to verify the real motives behind 1pp or 3pp. Perhaps there is more to the overall picture than what was presented in your findings.

Thanks and keep up all your efforts, It is great to read about other gamers and see how diverse or how alike we can be.

Posted by: Daniel on July 16, 2004 5:46 AM

Fenmarel - I did have a question on whether main character was of opposite gender, but the differences between people who preferred 1PP or 3PP were not significant (~16-18%).

Posted by: Nick Yee on July 16, 2004 10:17 AM

It seems like this question begs for a logistic regression analysis - would help to quantify the age/ gender question by providing odds ratios that could be tested for significance. Very interesting and well thought out research though - kudos.

Posted by: Ty on July 18, 2004 4:44 AM

Hmmm... I might be the first female playing mostly on 3PP to comment this one and while I suppose your conclusions are right for most people, as a minority it made me wonder why I play on 3PP since I'm more of a social-oriented player. It's probably a combination of two reasons: a) I'm very navigational and like maps a lot -- it is very important to me to see where I'm going and what lies around at all time. b) I enjoy the fantasy element, my characters are usually all but human and I like to look at them and see they move and act and, as an extra reason, c) I'm fashion conscious so I like to see what I'm wearing ;). I guess the first and main reason totally supports your theory while the last one only confirms a female stereotype... Anyways, and this ocurred to me just now, I do not roleplay and I wonder if you found a very direct connection between roleplaying and perpective.

Posted by: Sofia on July 20, 2004 8:25 PM

what about those that have no preference, like me? I enjoyed doom. I enjoyed starcraft. I grew up on zelda, but now I play Morrowind.

I hate marketing, it over-simplifies.

Posted by: anon on July 22, 2004 6:12 PM

I have found I prefer the 3pp in most MMORPGs. I switch to 1pp and often get frustrated with the inhibited view and lack of animations to watch.

Also, it helps me stay in character by actually knowing what my character is. (It's hard to RP a Trandoshan if you keep thinking like a human)

Funny thing is, these are almost the same reasons other people play 1pp. I guess it's a perception thing.

Posted by: Allan on August 2, 2004 5:28 PM

I really like 3pp because of the full visual effect of "seeing" yourself compared to just looking through your eyes. Also, most people are not looking for realism in a MMORGP so I would have thought all ages,genders,game types ect., would have voted for the 3pp instead of 1pp.

Posted by: Jared on September 2, 2004 1:02 PM

What I think might clarify this study more is a breakdown game by game. The reason I say this is that some games do first person better than others. A game is usually designed for one or the other. Most mmo's are designed primarily for 3rd with 1st just thrown in in for specific situations or as a secondary option. Once the game chooses a primary view I think the it is then balanced around expecting the player to have it. I.e. situations like how encounters and terrain are set up. The player then tends to pick the more advantageous view for the game.

All things being equal, I prefer 1st person for the immersion and feel I have over my character movments. Howerver all things are usually not equal and 1st person tends to be poorly implemented in most mmo's. It would be interesting to see the results if a responsive John Carmack type physics engine was used in a MMO and then maybe the percentages would change.

Posted by: Rick on September 9, 2004 4:41 PM

I've seen immersion and perspective mentioned already, but I think one significant thing that was missed was the level of complication.

In a 1pp game, when you want to look left you move the mouse left.

In a 3pp game, when you want to look you might want to move your character OR you might want to move the camera. This of course requires a whole set of keys dedicated to navigating the camera and that in itself, for some, is quite a challenging task.

Good spacial relational skills are very helpful, and those that have them wouldn't imagine someone else having trouble quickly figuring out hitting this button, at this position, when my character is in this position, will situate the camera perspective to the angle I want. Just like typing, some of are quick, while others hunt and peck.

Oh, there's also a statistical male/female divide for possessing those spacial relation skills.

Posted by: Sevson on September 9, 2004 5:04 PM

Being male and having just ended the wow stress test I have to admit I played almost exclusively in 3pp. I tend to play games completely without sound (I prefer to listen to music and game sounds can bother people around me), so it's really important to see everything around you. Also in a party situation it's very important to be able to see what monster is attacking who and whether you have to run off and save the mage right *now* ;). As for immersiveness.. I think that (at least in wow) it's much better in 3pp. You can control the camera very easily and intuitively (at least to me) by holding your left mouse button and then look all around you easily. It's much more interesting to see your character running into battle from the side, take a look at new player-submitted SS's from wow, it's no wonder they are all from 3pp.

Perhaps a stereotype-reinforcing explanation of your data is simply that females are less of powergamers then men are so they are more willing to go with 1pp even if it means they are not as effective in combat situations? Not sure I really believe that but just to point out that if you want to reinforce a stereotype you can do so easily heh.

Posted by: Coriolis on September 12, 2004 7:10 PM

I started playing mmorpgs with UO years ago and i just enjoy looking at my character and comapring her outfits with everyone else. you just can't do that from a first person perspective. I guess it depends on which game you started with.

Posted by: David on September 18, 2004 8:50 PM

Does anyone have documentation to show that gaming scenarios written to address students as themselves are more effective than having students identify as an avatar (a different name, race, etc.) when trying to inculcate behavior into that student?

We are writing training scenarios that will be used as distance learning refresher training for students (mostly male) in various subjects including values and ethics. Students will be making decisions based on these scenarios and seeing the consequences played out in video-game style Flash(tm)animations. Some of these scenarios got "into the pipe" written as telling the student "You are such-and-such a character, what will you do under such and such a situation?" before I was part of the project.

My argument is that this sidetracks the entire purpose of the training because the student identifying as someone else/an avatar will be able to distance from the choices and behaviors in the same way that youths accused of crimes modelled on video games they play say "It wasn't me doing the violence, it was just an avatar/game."

I think this is an essential point but others are dismissing it without some documentation. I freely admit having a bias toward my point of view and will probably argue with whomever says I'm wrong, but am hoping there's supporting info out there to prove I'm right. :) Thanks in advance. Please e-mail responses to If you feel this is posted in the wrong spot, please forward to the appropriate person directly or feel free to repost in the appropriate forum. Thanks.


Posted by: paulandpup on February 1, 2007 11:36 AM

"Women always prefer 1PP across all age groups" - since you've excluded the option "prefer both equally" it's hard to tell if this is a mistake. The graph shows clearly that women always prefer it more than men, but below the age of 23, girls' preference for 1PP is still below half, so it might be a mistake, but it might not...

Posted by: mage5625 on December 2, 2007 2:18 AM

I am another minority - a female who prefers 3PP. I haven't thought about why before, but for me it feels more natural. I suspect it's my longer gaming history and simply being used to 3PP. That said, I do enjoy seeing my character move and fight and all that, and am still able to immerse quite well. Who knew an issue like this could be so fraught and complex! Great stuff.

Posted by: Beverly on December 2, 2007 3:09 PM
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