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



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The Demographics of Game Choices

And finally, another functional divide in most MMOs is between dealing damage and healing damage. In this particular question, I focused on spell-casting and whether players would prefer a damage spell or a healing spell. Here, the gender difference is quite clear. Female players prefer healing spells over damage spells. There is also a mild age difference. Older players tend to prefer healing.

Added Note (03/25/2007): I wanted to add briefly how complicated these gender findings can be, and how they might be a reflection of other variables. For example, we also know that female players are more likely to be playing with their romantic partners. And it makes sense that a player's preferences might be shaped by their game-play history. Is it possible that men "encourage" their romantic partners to play healing/support classes to help their own playing styles? Or for example, women are more likely to be playing in the same room with someone else playing. Might this contextual difference lend itself to preferring more social modes of play? So I would caution against interpreting the graphs in this article as being purely driven by gender (i.e., women are biologically hard-wired to prefer passive, supporting roles), but rather, as the complicated outcome of gender, cultural, and contextual differences.



So, I'm an undead healer...what does that make me?

Posted by: Eliv on March 25, 2007 10:37 AM

Seems like the patterns just reflect contemporary v. traditional society- more techno-savvy, shades of gray (blurred evil/good) young players v. older, back to the basics players (?)

Posted by: Ash on March 25, 2007 12:37 PM

My feeling is that, more than the presence of others causing the gender distinction in these results, a gender distinction exists here which is the cause of both the tendency for females to play together with others in real life, and the tendency for them to be more nature- and healing-oriented. The typical role of females in western society, historically, has been a supporting and nurturing one; I think it's most likely that the results of this study reflect the continuation of that social arrangement in our choices.

I'd be interested in looking at how these results are reflected across ethnic breakdowns. Analyses of gender distinctions in IT education show a strong male favouring among long-term North American residents, but no noticeable favouring among Asian or Middle-eastern students. Assuming there is no biological bias across these ethnicities, if these results were more neutral in Asian and/or middle-eastern gamers, that would seem to show that this article's results are motivated by a social distinction between North American men and women., I hope that's in some way comprehensible.

Posted by: Mark on March 25, 2007 9:40 PM

Interestingly enough, BOTH me and my wife play Priests - but her priest is geared to survive more and heal more while mine is geared to disable opponents better... not just our stats but even our equipement and skill selection reflects this.

While we obviously do not fall into the category of couples where I would encourage her to make a priest to keep me alive *grin* the gender based deviation is striking.

I cant give a good explanation for why this happened except that it seemed the natural choice - we never sat down to discuss how our priests will be different. Perhaps in my case it would be because I made my priest after hers - so I can argue that I was trying to fill in the gaps so together we'd be more useful to our guild - but honestly speaking - I'd have made my priest the exact same way even if she wasnt there.

Posted by: Gautam on March 25, 2007 11:57 PM

I completely agree with the additional note - I play WoW because my fiance asked me to try it, and at the time his guild was short of priests so he recommended I roll one - I do not for one second regret my decision but it's a very interesting theory

Posted by: Tabitha on March 26, 2007 4:23 AM

I also strongly agree with the postscript.
As a female healing priest, I can assert that there is a huge seduction/demand/wish for a pocket priest by what seems like every male dps character in the game. I don't know if it has to do with gender or character attractiveness, or if it has to do with increasing the chance of survival, all of the above, none of the above or something else.

Posted by: Healz on March 26, 2007 9:39 AM

Originally I tried a priest to give another class a whirl. It was/is a good contrast to playing my warrior. What I discovered was how much easier it was to get into groups for questing and to begin raiding higher level instances. In other words, lots of groups were looking for healers which provided me the opportunity to group almost any time I wanted.

Posted by: Mohel on March 26, 2007 10:19 AM

Interesting. Although I dont think there is anything unexpected about the results. My wife and I play together. Not always in the same room. Her play style has definitely evolved. We start by trying to make characters the we believe will be fun. Then those characters always morph to better suit our group dynamic. We are playing Vanguard ATM. I like evils and play an orc dread knight while she likes goods and plays a wood elf shaman. It had to be "something pretty that heals". I generally make the run and do the faction binge to play with her. She's played a fighter before and doesnt like the "direct conflict approach". At this point I've taken to creating my chatracter to compliment hers if we are just playing as a team.

Posted by: Rumdrum on March 26, 2007 10:36 AM

I play WoW. I play Horde... simply because the Alliance races are so incredibly incredibly boring. Also, I've played Warcraft 1 2 and 3 with expansions, and always preferred the Horde side.

My girlfriend is also playing WoW, Hordeside. And she also prefer the Horde over the Alliance for the same reason. The Alliance races are plain and boring.

Posted by: Mindie on March 26, 2007 11:06 AM

If we took all the classes that fit neatly into "magic" (whether DPS or healing) or "melee" categories, can we assume from the results on "Affinity" that there would be a lot more women among the squishy cloth-wearing magic users and a lot fewer in the sword-wielding melee group? It would seem so...and would we find that men generally prefer melee classes, or are their preferences not as clear-cut? I don't remember if those two big distinctions between class type and gender have been discussed here before. Anyway, all of my characters in WoW wear cloth and I was wondering if most other women find shadowbolts and fireballs more appealing than stabbing and slashing stuff up.

My first character was a priest (holy at 60) that I raided with for a few months but got burned out (and bored) with. Now my main is a warlock and I'm enjoying every minute I can with her before the inevitable nerf. ;)

Posted by: tunnymowg on March 26, 2007 11:14 AM

If there is a mold for women to mostly choose magic/healing classes, I sure don't fit it. I always go for something melee, mostly fighter, sometimes a thief. And I prefer the offensive side of that too, not the tanking side.
I do like to play elves though.

Posted by: Norah on March 30, 2007 11:25 AM

Interesting guide. In my guild in World of Warcraft we have seven females in total. We have three playing with their spouses. Two of those are playing healing classes. The reamining five are playing damage dealers. We're probably the exceptions that confirm the rule, though.

Posted by: fluffster on April 1, 2007 7:28 AM

When I took this survey, the "good" versus "evil" question troubled me. What do good and evil mean in the context of MMOs? In WoW, for instance, to claim that the Alliance faction is "good" and the Horde is "evil" would be absurd, especially when it is widely asserted that there is a higher level of player maturity on the side of the Horde. Does the preference for "good" and "evil" refer to one's IC or OOC behavior? And on servers where roleplay is not relevant (like most WoW servers) what could "good" or "evil" mean at all?

Posted by: JP on April 2, 2007 10:46 AM

this was very interesting to look at.

most guys like melee, but me, i like to fight and heal some too. I have a human paladin. Whenever i do an instance or go on the BGs people can count on me to heal and cast protectio spells on them and also be able to fight at the same time.

what i have realized with horde against alliance it that, when i had a horde tauren druid, it was like everyone that was alliance was my mortal enemy. now i have an alliance character, it made me not like the horde people, even the players that would be kind. The story board of the warcraft games and WoW really take effect on how you play the game and interact with people around you.

Posted by: therilli (WoW) on April 2, 2007 5:02 PM

I think a lot of those results are very tied to race - Most games present race as your first choice. Then if we make the assumption that women are going to favor 'beautiful' races (which generally means very thin), that means they're going to choose elves.

With elf as a choice and with the assumption that character creation is giving you this choice first, then everything else follows. Elves tend to be nature oriented, and also tend to favor magic and healing in most fantasy MMOs. As such, if you want to have a 'beautiful' character, many times you're practically forced into those archetypes and roles.

If you want to be a 'tough' melee or DPS character, you either are stuck with an 'ugly' model (the galka/firbolg/tauren/whatever) or you're playing a less-than-ideal race for the role.

I'll admit to no small amount of vanity when it comes to picking characters, and because of that I've very rarely played melee characters, and in all those cases I was playing a non-primary melee that the traditional 'melee' race was excluded from (a Celt Champion, or a blood elf paladin), or playing a less-ideal melee (my mithra warrior).

Posted by: Heather Sinclair on April 2, 2007 6:45 PM

Hmmm, interesting. I'd never thought about how race might fit in but it does make some sense. People do seem to love elves - but I am in the minority there because I think they look kinda freakish and creepy with their giant flipper ears and psycho glowy eyes. The blood elves are somewhat more attractive than the night elves, but I wouldn't roll one at this point because none of my friends I play regularly with play horde side.

I do admit to a touch of vanity when it comes to character creation. Since I didn't like the night elves, my priest ended up being human (the "prettiest" race available for that class). But - had that not been my first character, I would have been more aware of the racial talents and would have known how valuable fear ward is, so in hindsight I would have made a dwarf. So "prettiness" doesn't trump everything for me. It's actually not all THAT important when I think about it...I just like my characters to look somewhat attractive and appealing. And whether a particular race is "very thin" or not doesn't enter into the equation for me at all. That's only one part of attractiveness. Almost all of my other characters have been gnomes. They are my favorite race. Too bad there aren't any healing classes for gnomes...

Posted by: tunnymowg on April 11, 2007 8:57 AM

Interesting survey, but I don't think it really addresses the whole. In WOW at least, there are so many more aspects to the game rather than Healing VS Melee ; Good vs Evil. I have a total of 29 toons spread across the servers and only 7 or 8 devoted to damage or healing. Some of my toons are multi-class types, Druid, Shaman and paladins. Some are specialty types (Warrior 19 Twink, High end crafters, etc.) My favorite class would have to be My NE Druid. How do these classes fit in in the over all whole?

Posted by: Ramerez Madoran on April 17, 2007 6:39 AM

There seems to be a relatively direct corrolation between age to good/evil tendancies and age to healing/damaging tendancies. This makes sense, as the younger players prefer injuring the opposing team and getting more action; such as an "evil" player, as opposed to the older players who are more lenient to helping and watching out for their own team.

Posted by: Dylan O'Ceallaigh on April 18, 2007 5:55 PM

I think there is credence to the idea that males are asking their partners to play healer characters, leading to a higher female percentage. I asked my girlfriend to play a healer so I could play a monk in vanguard, and a healer is a requisite for virtually any MMO duo.

Posted by: Zeothul on May 7, 2007 7:20 PM

Interesting stats. I play all 10 classes in Guild Wars, but monk was the last class I made purely out of necessity to understand why some monks don't do their jobs well and what entails being a really good monk. I've never played as healer in any of the RPG games in all my 22 years of gaming experience. I'm more of a damage dealer, and I enjoy pounding enemies to a pulp, melee/range/caster... you name it. Healing takes the fun out of things, coz I find I miss a lot of the action as I'm focusing more on keeping the team alive, though playing "God" to some people excites them more. The power to resurrect sure is one satisfying factor. Since my monk is the last class I made, I've already familiarize myself with all the missions well enough and leave the killing to the rest. And yes...I surprise even myself...I'm a pretty good monk. :D

Posted by: Raye on May 7, 2007 11:10 PM

I came back here because I had to add to my comment made long ago and far away :)

My wife came here and saw my comment - she was highly offended at being typecast as a "chick" (quoting her... not my words)

For the last 6 months now she has ONLY played frontline tankers and my poor priest is dragged around to heal/buff her. It's all Nick's fault.


Funnily enough, we seem to be having even more fun now than before...

Posted by: Gautam on May 8, 2007 12:29 AM

What is interesting in our guild is the number of people who are male irl and yet take on female characters...

(mine's a feral nelf druid btw - female)

Posted by: Lililth on May 11, 2007 12:39 AM

Well Doesn't MMORPG stand for "Millions of Men Online Role Playing Girls"?

Posted by: oldbilluk on June 4, 2007 8:53 AM

Female here. I always play the rogue class...thief, assassin, ninja, rogue, burglar, scout--whatever it's called in a particular game, I gravitate irresistibly to the melee-based stealth class. I also always choose "human" as race, or as close to a normal human as I can, and model the character roughly after myself within the game's limits. I try to make the avatar more or less attractive, but am not obsessive about it--it's more important that she looks sneaky, mischievous, and clever rather than "pretty." Obviously the avatar is a strong projection of my mental self-image, somewhat idealized.

And I hate elves. Can't freaking stand them, male or female. I'm sure part of that is the normal hatred of elvenkind that results from spending any amount of time in the presence of fantasy fans, 86% of which wish they, too, were elves. XxXLegolasXxX, DrIzZzT, etc.

I think my bias for rogues correlates strongly with my real-life personality--I like being right in the action, but being the center of attention bores me and eliminates the possibility of making snarky comments, creating mischief, circumventing the rules, etc. I hate nuking, healing, and tanking, but love the finesse of melee combat that rogue-type classes tend to necessitate: twitch reflexes, quick wits, tactical use of a large pool of skills. This class also seems to attract math nerds, moreso than any other class I've seen, and I love the theorycrafting and min/maxing stats, skills, gear, etc. Rogue classes also tend to have a lot of control over battle while grouping, whether by controlling aggro, initiating special group moves, debuffing/CCing/pulling, or just leading the way in raw damage and setting the standard for other DPS classes. Which mirrors, in an abstract way, how I interact with people in the real world when set to accomplish a task: sort of subconsciously taking control of the situation and directing people to work together efficiently, setting the pace, putting in an intense effort on my own behalf, but tending to shun the role of primary leader. And I love the survivability of the class--the ultimate control over confrontation: choosing to escape by trickery! If only in real life, too.

When I need a break from the intensity, I enjoy playing a hunter/ranger-type class, but hate having to deal with pets/familiars (despite loving them in the real world) and the fact that ranged classes tend to be useless in close combat--once a mob closes in, I feel like I have no way to control it or escape. In groups, it's a blast, though.

I admit that the usually high DPS output of rogue classes is a big attraction, but in games where the rogue isn't an especially great DPSer, I can't bring myself to play a warrior/barbarian-type melee fighter--without stealth and other rogue skills, the class feels so helpless and dependent to me. I love being able to solo content as a rogue that is probably not what the devs thought possible, or going places others can't go alone. Rogues seem like the most independent class to me, which again, appeals to me in reality, as well.

I'm curious what draws male players to stealth classes, though. I'd guess some are the same my reasons, but probably more passive-aggressive tendencies too, in relation to PvP, ganking etc.?

Posted by: Villainelle on June 20, 2007 10:45 AM

In response to the above post, I believe men's motivation to play rogues is similar, but simpler. I, for one, would never think to form a sentence containing both "rogue" and "a lot of control over battle when grouping". Rogues have well-defined core competencies, such as "stealth" and "annihilate people from stealth", and those resonate with independent people who like the idea of playing a specialist class.

Also, I'm totally with you on the idea that the math involved is part of the fun of playing a rogue - rogues' stealth attack multipliers and bonuses lend themselves well to the kind of mathematical abuses that leave people's jaws agape.

Posted by: Man on July 19, 2007 8:43 AM

I forgot to mention that the alternative, the Hunter, is popular among those willing to sacrifice the visceral thrill of getting their hands dirty for additional versatility and survivability.

Posted by: Man on July 19, 2007 9:05 AM

I'm female, and I play a variety of characters on WoW. My main character is a dwarf female priest, but I also play a night elf hunter. I like just about all classes, but my least favorites would probably be warlock or warrior. Not much of a mage fan either. I do like rogues, but I don't play them very often. The bit that they aren't that welcome in groups sometimes bothers me.

I like healing, but I especially like healing well as a dwarf female. On my server they aren't very common and it's something of a novelty when one shows up. Some people think they're kind of ugly, but I don't think so. They can be more attractive than other characters. To be honest, I really like tanking a lot as well. I have a night elf druid that I'm in the process of leveling as well. I wish there were other races allowed for druids besides just tauren and night elf though...

My main thing is that I like to be leader a lot and have a decent amount of control over the battle. I tend to be a bit more gung ho about battle than most. My favorite ability for warriors in charge for a reason. :) However, I have to say, the ability to solo well is an absolute must.

I wish there were more characters that were highly valued in groups, but could also solo extremely well.

Posted by: Lara on July 20, 2007 6:30 PM

I have been playing WoW for a few months now, and I have the most fun playing classes that are versatile and multifaceted as opposed to specifically for one aspect of the game. My three highest-level characters are a Paladin, Druid, and Hunter, all of which are hybrid classes. This was not a conscious decision, it just happened. It may have something to do with my preference to be self-reliant and less involved in groups.

The attractiveness factor of a character matters little to me. I am much more in favor of trying race/class combinations that I can enjoy and play in the long-term. I tend to go for cliches (the Night Elf Druid, Human Paladin, etc.) as opposed to the more bizarre race/class combos (Gnome Warrior, Dwarf Rogue...) not because of any attractiveness, but rather because those races generally have the better, more focused statistics and racial features for those classes.

As for Good vs. Evil...well, I prefer evil, if only because good is so utterly predictable most of the time. My very first character on WoW was a Blood Elf Warlock, almost as malevolent and mean-spirited as it gets. I have since more or less abandoned that character in favor of my Human Paladin, which is about as benevolent as it gets.

Posted by: Treima on August 28, 2007 5:40 PM

In my experience, the vast majority of female players I know are older and tend to be healers. I believe your addendum was very appropriate; many of them play with their husbands (or were introduced to the game by their husbands). It makes perfect sense to me that they would be "encouraged" to play a support class. As an interesting sidenote, the majority of the female players I know who are my age - early to mid 20s - actually play warriors. Females who were in my highly advanced Black Temple raiding were less likely to play healers as well, and, in fact, our main tank was a woman.

Posted by: Katherine on November 12, 2007 11:00 AM

I´m a female, and prefers to be a tanker, warrior, fighter, and so on. Power gaming and perfectionizing hack´n slash skills is definitively what makes my day. Strength, dexterity and agility - slicing and cutting smooth like hot blades in butter..!

Remember when they gave the tanker in Asheron Calls II healing skills. How stupid isn´t that?! You´re in the middle of the action, and people starts screaming "heal me! heal me" - and angrily wants an explaination about why you let them die...Oh, yeah.

I hate elves and magicians, and would feed the damned pompous creatures to the nearest beast if I could.

Posted by: Dai on February 11, 2008 2:24 PM
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